Object name



Date made


Place made


Medallion sampler worked by Benjamina Rickman at Ackworth School in 1783.

Content description

Quaker sampler stitched by Benjamina Rickman at Ackworth School in Pontefract, Yorkshire in 1783. The sampler is worked in entirely in cross stitch, embroidered in purple silk threads on unbleached linen. The sampler is particularly small, approximately the size of a modern-day envelope. The sampler includes seven half medallion shapes and one quarter medallion. Medallion is the name given to the octagonally and half-octagonally framed geometric, floral, and faunal motifs that so frequently adorn Quaker samplers. This sampler's medallions include imagery like eight-pointed stars, hearts, stylised flowers, and crowns. Inside one of the medallions are the initials 'RA', perhaps referring to a classmate or a teacher. There is a pair of birds with sprigs in their beaks. Above the birds is the inscription 'ACKWORTH SCHOOL 1783 B RICKMAN'. Various letters of the alphabet, specifically D, E, F, G, J, P, Q, X, Y, and Z, are dotted around the sampler. The sampler is still stitched to its original backing paper.

'B RICKMAN' refers to Benjamina Rickman, the girl who stitched this sampler. Ackworth School is where she stitched her sampler and 1783 is the year in which she stitched it. This sampler is the earliest known sampler of this style from this school. Benjamina Rickman was a Quaker girl from Westminster, London who attended Ackworth School from 1780 to 1785. Her extract sampler, which is a very plain sampler featuring a moralising text, her name, and the year in which she stitched her sampler, is in the collection of Ackworth School.

Ackworth School was founded in 1779 in Pontefract, West Yorkshire for the children of poorer Quakers. Girls at the school were taught to make marking, darning, extract, and medallion samplers. This medallion sampler style is commonly thought to have originated at Ackworth School but was actually occasionally practiced by Quakers in Ireland, England, and colonial America throughout the 18th century before being adopted and popularised by Ackworth. It was taught at a variety of Quaker schools on both sides of the Atlantic from the late 18th century through the first decades of the 19th century.

Benjamina Rickman’s sampler is by far the earliest Ackworth medallion sampler, produced five years earlier than the next earliest example. As of 2006, the earliest known Ackworth medallion samplers were produced in 1790. A 1788 example made by Ann Coates was sold at auction several years ago. Benjamina’s very early example rewrites our previously held beliefs about the spread of this particularly Quaker sampler style and inspires questions about who brought this sampler style to Ackworth and when. This treasure from the RSN collection is an incredibly important piece of sampler history.


width: 16cm
height: 9cm





Catalogue number


Other numbers

RSN 2265
© Royal School of Needlework