The largest exhibition at the Oxfordshire gallery to date, it opens this month and continues into November. A second part follows next autumn.
The bellows purse in question, c.1683, is one of several extant examples worked by English schoolgirls in the late 17th century.
Also featured are embroidered and cut paper work caskets and cabinets, embroidered and rolled paper work mirror frames, a variety of beadwork and accessories including pin cushions and embroidered nutmegs are all on offer. Many are by unknown hands.
However, some of the key works in the presentation are by a single known 17th century maker, Elizabeth Hall, and three generations of her descendants.
Educated at Shacklewell School, established by Quakerism’s founder George Fox in 1667-68, Hall created needlework caskets and a suite of other items similar those of her schoolmate Hannah Downes.
While the Downes collection was donated to the V&A in 1934, the Hall collection was purchased by Witney Antiques in 2016. Both had been passed down through the women’s families.
These works are rich, elaborate and colourful and their forms were copied by Hall’s children and grandchildren.
In the catalogue and a book which is planned to be released in September 2024 the firm examines how these exuberant works contradict what was previously understood about Quaker girlhood.
Other works, such as the ones shown here, show the scope of the work that was carried out under schoolroom instruction from the mid 17th-mid 18th centuries.