Thursday, 10 January 2013

The Pontypool Balloon Samplers

I am departing from the "folk art" aspect of this blog to talk about a remarkable group of Welsh samplers.  They haven't any of the motifs I have come to associate with Welsh samplers - they are quite unique and very easily recognised.

Pontypool was an important industrial centre in South East Wales and had numerous schools listed in 19th century Trade Directories, S. Westbrook's Schools being one of them.

In my years studying samplers I think I have identified around six of these samplers, some are in museum collections, others in private ownership and one is for sale at the moment.  Another is on Page 161 of the new sampler book by Elizabeth Feller published by Needleprint.  This is the link to the Needleprint site where you can order the book and flick through the preview pages and see this sampler.

Though I  haven't managed to access images of them all, here are three to give you a flavour.  I will try and bring others to you in future posts.

This one is in the collection of the National History Museum, St. Fagans near Cardiff and has mainly biblical scenes.
This sampler which is in the Collection of Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York, has some common motifs such as the tree with birds and the balloon but more romantic scenes and then at the base a Chinese scene with a Pagoda.
This has even more romantic scenes and many similar motifs

The above sampler is for sale and if you follow this link to You will be able to see more  detailed pictures showing the intricate stitchery.

Pontypool was famous for its Chinoiserie decoration on tin and if you study one of its famous trays their patterns may well have been the source of some of the Chinese scenes on these samplers?

A Pontypool Tray of the Regency period Circa 1820 The Chinoiserie fashion espoused by the Prince Regent was used as a basis of decorating a wide range of domestic articles, including tea sets, trays and jardinières,

And what of the balloons?  According to the Madelena site who have done some research, Charles Green, the celebrated UK balloonist, made his 200th ascent in 1835. The following year he made man’s first ever cross channel flight.  So this seems a good reason for the balloon's appearance on these samplers?


  1. those are very beautiful, the patterns remind me of blue willow china.

  2. wow they are so beautiful x

  3. What an amzing group of samplers!