In October, as part of Love Arts I attended a discussion about Lorina Bulwer and one of her tapestries housed in the permanent collection at the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds. Little is known about Lorina and her life apart from census records. Born in Beccle, Suffolk in 1838 to William and Ann, Lorina moved to Great Yarmouth some time before 1861. She ran a guest house with her mother until her death in 1871. Shortly after her mother’s death Lorina was placed in the workhouse where she was classified as a “lunatic”, she died a in March 1912 and her body was buried near the workhouse where she spent her final years.
Lorina and her work has been the subject of television programmes, research papers and exhibitions so I was excited to be offered the chance to view this fragile piece of textile in person. Something which the curatorial team have to approve. My research into Lorina and her work forms part of a larger collection of work about mental health that I began in early 2016 with Going Sane? An Archive.
The photographs online and in the presentation at our discussion were beautiful but not even the best photography does the piece justice. The vibrant colours and hand stitched details were incredible t look at. As an embroider myself I can appreciate the hours of work that must have gone into the piece.
From what we know about workhouses at that time there would not have been good lighting or the kind of fabrics Lorina used. As a group during the discussion we postulated that someone sympathetic to her may have given her fabrics and threads to use in her embroidery. We have no information about how the tapestry came to be rescued from the workhouse but it is an important historical document detailing the thoughts of Lorina at its time of creation.
Her are just a few of the images I took for my research that morning.