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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1540 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, embroidered with silk in tent stitch

  • Credit Line:

    Bought with the aid of H. J. Oppenheim

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58b, case 5

Object Type
This formal, heraldic purse associated with marriage has more significance than a purse used simply for money, or a 'swete-bag' used for carrying perfumed herbs to sweeten the atmosphere. Both men and women carried or wore pouches or purses. The long strings of this example suggest that it was intended to hang from the waist, but it is uncertain whether it was ever actually used as a container. English purses of this date are extremely rare and the survival of this one may be due to its formal role, which meant that it was rarely used and thought worth looking after.

Makers & Making
The workmanship of this purse is extremely fine with 1,250 silk stitches per square inch (194 per square centimetre). Most surviving canvas work is much coarser. Whether this suggests that a professional hand was involved or that the woman who made this was particularly skilled is not known.

Ownership & Use
Heraldic devices were displayed in many different ways, and their use on even small personal belongings such as this little purse indicates the important role that they had in proclaiming ownership and lineage. The heraldry on this purse reflects four marriages (that is, four family alliances), culminating in that of Sir Henry Parker and Elizabeth Calthorpe. This shows the significance attached to the family 'pedigree' by the parties involved.

Physical description

Four panels in a shield shape, each embroidered in silk in tent stitch on linen. It is decorated on all four sides with marshalled arms recording family alliances.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1540 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Linen, embroidered with silk in tent stitch


Height: 15 cm including tassle, Width: 10.2 cm, Depth: 15 cm

Object history note

Probably made to commemorate the second marriage of Sir Henry Parker (died before 1553), Knight of the Bath, only son of Sir Henry Parker, 1st Baron Morley, to Elizabeth Calthorpe, daughter and heir of Sir Philip Calthorpe, of Ewarton, Suffolk.

Descriptive line

Arms of the Calthorpe family

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

John Lea Nevinson, Catalogue of English Domestic Embroidery of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries, Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Textiles, London: HMSO, 1938, p.97, plate LXVIII
Clara Lamb, Robert M. Collins and Cedric J. Holyoake, English heraldic embroidery and textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum: a select list with introduction, (XIII International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences, London, 1976)
p. 27-28; illustrated on cover

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This purse is formed of four shield-shaped panels, each carrying coats of arms showing the arms of a husband (left) with those of his wife (right). The purse emphasises that the marriage of Sir Henry Parker (died before 1553) and Elizabeth Calthorpe was an important alliance similar to those of earlier generations of the family, represented on the other panels. [27/03/2003]


Silk; Linen


Embroidering; Hand stitching

Subjects depicted

Coats of arms; Heraldry


Accessories; Embroidery; Heraldry; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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