Friday, March 16, 2007

Sprigging School

I had such a lovely day yesterday that I have to share it with you.
By way of an introduction, my lace guild 'The Traditional Lacemakers of Ireland' led by Veronica Stuart won a Gold Medal in Italy last year for their research into the history of lacemaking.

This work resulted in the West Cork Lace Trail brochure published by the West Cork Leader Co-op Society.

Excerpt from the intro in the book:- 'Through the late 1800's to the early 1900's, lacemaking provided famine relief in almost every town in Cork. It was mostly taught through the convents and when a nun was moved from one convent to another she took and taught the lace in the next area. Each area adapted and made their own changes to the patterns and stitches. In West Cork countless pieces were sold to the passing liners.
Many orders were also received from royal families. No order was too big or too small as many families relied on their lace being sold to provide for their next meal.'

I haven't visited many places on the lace trail and yesterday was delighted to join guild members on an outing to the Rathbarry Sprigging school

I spent the morning visiting a lace class in Clonakilty where I continued with my Carrickmacross lace project. No tatting done today! I think I must dedicate a blog session to explaining how Carrickmacross lace is made. That's for another day.

West Cork I think has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and the area around the pretty coastal village of Rathbarry is lovely. The research for this part of the lace trail was mostly already completed as the Sprigging school which was in ruins had been reconstructed as a millenium project.

Sprigging is white embroidery usually worked on fine white linen and shaped like a sprig or spray.

The school was opened on 1825 by Lady Carbery who resided in the nearby Castefreke Castle. She employed a teacher who lived in the school. The building had two rooms, the kitchen and the school.

The teacher slept in the kitchen on a settle bed and laid green ferns on the floor.
She kept hens in a coup in the kitchen and ducks outside and at night after the pupils had gone home she brought the ducks into the school room.
On a visit to the school Lady Carbery decided that the school was not clean enough and had a summons served on the teacher by the local magistrate. When she was brought before the the judge she recited this verse in her defence.

"Your Honour, I have made lace for Lord Donoughmore, for ladies and gentlemen over a score. Then and never before was the charge of uncleanliness laid at my door"

The judge dismissed the case and she walked out like a lady.

The school was private and the students paid five shillings a term. On completion of their course they would then teach their skills to others.

Here we all are outside the school.

The school lies beside a fast flowing stream. the bridge over the stream is only newly constructed.

In 1825 access to the school was down these steps, lift up your skirt and cross the stream by stepping stones and up the steps at the other side.

The sprigging school is open every day of the year and is well worth a visit I certainly enjoyed mine.


  1. I love these trips you take me on, tatskool. Being in one room most of the time, it is like a breath of fresh air to have my little virtual travels. Thank you…xxx Bev

  2. Lovely post. You are so lucky to be able to go to such interesting places that have to do with lace. Thanks for sharing!


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