In 1847 Sarah Pugmire finished her sampler. It consists of 4 verses taken from a hymn set above a very distinctive church with crenellated tower and Celtic cross above its choir roof. Beneath the church, Sarah recorded the fact that she stitched her sampler at Lady Musgrave's school. Since there are not many Lady Musgraves, even in England's aristocratic rich history, it was not a difficult task to trace Sarah Pugmire and Lady Musgrave to Edenhall, a small village near Penrith in Cumbria.
The name of the village comes directly from Eden Hall, the stately mansion of the Musgrave family. Beautiful parkland and an imposing entry lodge survive today, though the Hall was demolished in 1934 and the Musgraves departed their Eden for Australia. I visited the church, St Cuthberts, with my husband to see if I could discover more about the Pugmire family. The resemblance of the village church to the one in Sarah' sampler was overwhelming - the crenelated tower and Celtic cross were a joy to see. There was no trace of Sarah or her family outside or inside the church. Just before we were leaving, we noticed a modern kneeler with a tent-stitched image of the church and decided to photograph it. While we were kneeling down, we saw a tablet to Elizabeth Musgrave hidden behind a small table. With some soul-searching, for there was no one from whom we could ask permission, we carefully moved the table and gazed on the memorial to Sarah's benefactress. Elizabeth was widowed at an early age and devoted her life caring for her only a child, a daughter who suffered ill health and who died in 1844. Elizabeth was remebered for her charity, though no mention is made on the tablet of the school for the village children she founded and supported over the years. But the shock was to see the family coat of arms which bore the red gauntlet of border blood feuds. In fact, the Musgraves, we now know, were descendents of Sir Robert Grierson of Lag who was involved in a near massacre at Kirconnel and who was the model for Sir Walter Scott's 'Red Gauntlet'.
After a deep breath, our next task was to see if there was any sign of an old school - and again we were lucky. The old single-storey school still stands in the grounds of the school master's handsome house, though it is now someone's home. Because it was a fine day, the owner was in the garden and gave us a full history of the school and the village, and the tale of the mythical 'Luck of Eden Hall' - a chalice said to be from the time of Edward IV. It was discovered one night by a butler going in search of water from the well - he came upon a ring of fairies to whom the chalice belonged, and he seized it from them. In retaliation they uttered the following: Whene'er this cup shall break or fall, Farewell the luck of Eden Hall. Not all searches for the sources of samplers are so rich and colourful, but what wonderful journeys await once we start to look at samplers and their makers! You will be able to see Sarah Pugmire's sampler in a forthcoming book.