Friday, 22 July 2016

The Ann Seppings nee Brereton Sampler

Rosemary Jewers 2016 - updated 2018

In the early summer of 2014, I was due to take a party of some 30 people to visit Brinton Hall in North Norfolk. Before undertaking the journey, I decided to do a quick Internet search, to see if there was any new information about the Norfolk Brereton branch that might be of interest to the party. To my surprise I found the following information and a link to a 'Norfolk Darning Sampler', made by an Ann Brereton. The company selling the sampler were based in Philadelphia, America and they had obviously asked someone to carry out background history searches into whom Ann Brereton was, and to learn more about her family.

I was determined to find out more about this Ann, as I wondered if she was really related to the Brereton family of Brinton in Norfolk. Their branch already celebrated two renowned needlewomen. Firstly, Anna Margaretta Brereton nee Lloyd, who is well known for her bed hangings and secondly Anna's granddaughter, Mary Dowell nee Brereton, who had pieced together the extraordinary 41 foot sampler, comprising of 1000 patterns on 400 different canvas patches.

The link I found was for the image of the sampler and a link to the seller Amy Finkel of M Finkel and Daughter of Philadelphia. On their website it stated,
"An unusual Norfolk darning sampler is currently on offer by Amy Finkel of M Finkel and Daughter at As identified by a note penned by the maker's son, Thomas Seppings, the sampler is the c. 1816 work of Ann Brereton."

On the Hudson Valley site there is also a photo of the backplate and a note written by Ann's son Thomas Seppings. 'Worked by Ann Brereton my dear mother when a child aged 9 years (1816) Thos Seppings July 1850.'

The Hudson Valley website then describes the sampler and the background information – some of which I have selected here, it was posted on 29th March 2014 by Joanne.

"Highly inventive birds/insects accentuated by metallic threads and egg-shaped darning patches on this work are unique among thus far identified Norfolk darning samplers. The only comparison might be the birds and insects worked with metallic threads in the unsigned sampler from the Feller Collection pictured on page 304 of Imitation and Improvement: The Norfolk Sampler Tradition."
 "The Brereton family was originally from Cheshire. In Norfolk the original family seat was at Letheringsett near Fakenham until it was acquired by the William Hardy family in the mid 1770's. In the 18th and 19th centuries branches of the Brereton and Seppings families were intermarried, making absolute identification of this samplermaker difficult. There is little doubt that she was probably from the area around Fakenham, about 25 miles northwest of Norwich, and two villages to the east/northeast of Fakenham -- Brinton and Briningham. Brinton Hall, a Georgian house in the village of that name, was rebuilt in 1822 by the Brereton family"
"In this part of Norfolk, as in other rural communities, business associations were strengthened by ties of kinship. For example The UK Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices' Indentures records that in 1770 a Thomas Seppings was apprenticed to John Brereton of Brinton, a Norfolk mercer."

When I first found the sampler advertisement, I spent ages searching, trying to make the family connection. To begin with, I found it impossible, because of the date on the back of the backplate - 1816. I knew that Ann Brereton, 1756-1840 was the daughter of Shovell Brereton and Mary Middleton. Shovell and Mary had four daughters, Ann, Cicely, Mary and Elizabeth, because they only had daughters, after Shovell's death, his brother, John and his descendants inherited Brinton.

I had seen a family tree and knew from records that Ann Brereton had married Thomas Seppings (1), I also knew that in the next generation, Mary Brereton (daughter of John Brereton and Anna Margaretta) had married a Thomas Seppings (2), but after many weeks, I finally managed to work out, that Ann Brereton, the sampler maker, was the daughter of Shovell. Her father, Shovell, was the brother of John Brereton who married Bridget Brett and his sister was Mary Brereton who married David Lloyd!

John and Bridget's son, also a John, married his cousin, Anna Margaretta Lloyd, daughter of Mary Brereton and David Lloyd. Ann Seppings was John and Anna Margaretta's first cousin. I was also able to establish that Thos Seppings (2), who wrote the note on the backplate, was the Thomas Seppings who married his cousin Mary Brereton – daughter of John and Anna Margretta Brereton!

Having been preoccupied with the date 1816,  finally the breakthrough came after weeks of searching. My extensive searches had been unable to find another Ann Brereton who married a Thomas Seppings and would have been aged 9 years old in 1816.

It was only when I contacted needlework specialists that they immediately drew my attention to the fact that the date was in a completely different hand and was probably added at a later date... in fact it was a red herring! I had looked at this date so many times, I had noted the rather scratchy upright handwriting, but I was obviously so absorbed by the date I believed it to be accurate. I couldn't believe I hadn't spotted it before and it didn't follow the flow of Thomas' handwriting. Thomas had written the label on the back in old age.

I was asked again for the date of Ann's birth, I checked my records, it was 1756. The experts were able to zoom into the on-line photo and confirming the sampler was a very early example of a Norfolk darning sampler. And, Ann Brereton's sampler, could date to about 1765, when Ann Brereton of Brinton, would have been 9 years old – although early, this did indeed fit with needlework they had seen of this period.

Having been given this information, the sampler is a very important discovery, as it links it to other family pieces, Anna Margaretta Brereton's bed hangings and the Mary Dowell sampler. Now the Brereton family of Brinton have three important pieces of needlework made by members of the family!

The Norfolk darning sampler was eventually sold, and was shipped back in the UK. I understand it is now back in the Brereton family, where it is admired and belongs!

Click on the image to enlarge the family tree and see how these three ladies are connected.

Information about the tradition of Norfolk daring samplers - the finely worked sampler designs were made by young ladies, during this period. The pieces and designs they had perfected were ideal for covering the holes in their fragile dresses!

Ann Seppings nee Brereton was the cousin of John and Anna Margaretta Brereton. Ann and Thomas Seppings1 had a son Thomas, who married Mary, the daughter of John and Anna Margaretta Brereton. Mary Dowell nee Brereton was the daughter of Randle Brereton and Sarah Barwick, and granddaughter of John and Anna Margaretta Brereton. Mary Dowell's uncle and aunt were Mary Brereton and Thomas Seppings 2. Rosemary Jewers is the 3 x great granddaughter of John and Anna Margaretta Brereton.

One further snippet that came to light while I was researching; there was another sampler being sold by the same Philadelphia company. This one was made by Mary Brecknell of Kidderminster, Worcester, England, 1723. Although Mary Brecknell was not directly related to the Breretons of Norfolk, her relative, Elizabeth Hale had married Wm Brereton of Brinton. Elizabeth Brereton nee Hale's father was John Hale her mother was Penelope nee Brecknell, they married 11 Feb 1764 at Belbroughton, Worcs. The following is taken from Robert Maitland Brereton's book: 'William John Brereton, William XL, of Brinton, J. P. and D. L. of Norfolk, married Elizabeth, daughter of John Hale, of Worcester, descended from Sir Matthew Hale, Lord Chief Justice.