In storage in the Victoria and Albert Museum on London is an amazing “coverlet” bearing a signature ‘Ann West’s work’, and the date ‘1820’.
There is a tale passed down through the generations that Ann worked at Longleat, the stately home of the Marquess of Bath and whilst there are no written records to confirm this story the coverlet has traditionally been associated with with Warminster which is very close to Longleat.
Both “Ann” and “West” are very common English names so it is difficult to establish the Ann who made the quilt although there are some clues to be found within the quilt itself.
The materials used in the quilt are offcuts from materials found in the popular blue and black tailored coats and scarlet army uniforms of the time.
There was a milliner named Ann West in the High Street of Chippenham who is mentioned in Pigot’s Commercial Directory of 1829. The 1841 census noted that Ann’s nephew who was a tailor lived with her.
Designed with a central panel of Adam naming the animals in the garden of Eden, surrounded by 64 square vignettes showing vivid scenes from Bible stories, and lively depictions of everyday characters and occupations.
One of the applique panels show a country play and agricultural workers.
Each panel acts as a window onto early nineteenth century life, and they include a depiction of a double wedding, a ‘Poor Sailor’, and a ‘Negro servant and Master’. The term ‘negro’ was used historically to describe people of black (sub-Saharan) African heritage. The term is repeated here in its original historical context.
One of the scenes is from Sarah Trimmer’s popular educational book, A Series of Prints from the New Testament (1790). Captions have been embroidered over the pictures, and the coverlet may have been intended as an educational device for children.
Images copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London
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