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A recent BBC Antiques Roadshow ‘special’ showcased the fascinating samplers made by Lorina Bulwer and housed in Norwich Museum.

I HAVE WASTED TEN YEARS IN THIS DAMNATION HELL FIRE TRAMP DEN OF OLD WOMEN OLD HAGS NO YARMOUTH PEOPLE HERE

The samplers were hand-sewn over 100 years ago  by Lorina Bulwer, a woman from Great Yarmouth.

Through her own angry words Lorina tells us about her family, neighbours and life. She clearly wants her words read and her story told – probably due to the difficult situation she found herself in and her belief that she had been terribly wronged.

Lorina was a resident in the Great Yarmouth workhouse lunatic ward when she made these letters in the form of embroidery samplers. Much of her text can best be described as ‘thought- disturbed’ and it is sometimes hard to follow what she is trying to tell the reader. But through these embroidered letters Lorina tells of her life, her family including the anger she feels at being incarcerated and labelled as a lunatic.

The samplers are a mix of dress and upholstery fabrics of varying quality,  and Lorina changes the colour of her embroidery to make sure it can be read against the background fabrics. With almost every word underlined and every word in CAPTIALS – the intention to communicate is clear.

If you’d like to know more about this resource of workhouse/social history; put Lorina Bulwer into an internet search engine – you’ll be drawn in by her fascinating but poignant story.

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