Beautiful tablecloth made 150 years ago by women at Sheffield poor home to go on sale at auction

A piece of exquisite needlework made by a team of elderly women in a Sheffield home for the poor 150 years ago is to go on sale at auction.

Tuesday, 17th November 2020, 2:34 pm

A beautiful tablecloth entitled ‘4 o’clock tea’ will go on sale at Tennants auctioneers in Leyburn, North Yorkshire this Saturday along with other items made by women at the same home.

The needlework dates from the late 1920s or 1930s and was made by residents of St Elizabeth’s Home for the Aged at Heeley Bank, Sheffield.

Run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, the home took in elderly men and women who were homeless, ill or destitute.

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The large linen and crochet tablecloth is decorated with teapots, spirit kettles and teacups.

Among the old ladies were talented needlewomen whose skills can now be admired in a rediscovered example of their work.

The large linen and crochet tablecloth is decorated with teapots, spirit kettles and teacups and comes with two matching tea cosies.

Seller Stephanie Brown said the items – which she came across while having a much-needed de-clutter – provided a fascinating insight into an aspect of Sheffield’s social history.

“Some readers may still remember the home or have had relatives who lived there,” she said.

The owner’s aunt, Sister Hildegarde, with residents in the sewing room where they made and repaired items for the home and chapel and also created more decorative textiles.

"The sale is a way to celebrate the accomplishments of some of Sheffield’s poorest residents.”

Along with the tablecloth and tea cosies come two photographs which show some of the women responsible for making the pieces.

One shows the owner’s aunt, Sister Hildegarde, with residents in the sewing room where they made and repaired items for the home and chapel and also created more decorative textiles.

Another photo includes Harriet, one of the women known to have worked on the tablecloth, standing on the left and smoking a clay pipe.

The tablecloth was made in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

Clay pipe smoking is long gone and the Little Sisters home was demolished in 1985, but the tablecloth was never used and is as crisp and clean as the day it was made.

It is to be auctioned, online, at Tennants’ next costume, accessories and textiles sale on Saturday, November 21.

It is lot 6132 and is offered along with other items made by residents of the Little Sisters Home.

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Harriet, one of the women known to have worked on the tablecloth, standing on the left and smoking a clay pipe.