VISITORS to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum have been having a butcher’s at a collection of 17th-century English embroidery donated by a market trader.

The collection, one of the finest of historic English embroideries, has arrived at the Beaumont Street museum from an unusual source.

Micheal Feller runs M Feller Son & Daughter Organic Butcher in the Covered Market.

And when he is not cutting up carcasses of beef, he and his wife Elizabeth have been focusing on something more genteel, collecting historic embroidery.

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The couple, of Upper Slaughter, in the Cotswolds, have now donated the £500,000 collection to the Ashmolean.

The donation is in honour of Prof Christopher Brown CBE, who will retire as director of the museum at the end of the month.

Father-of-two and grandfather-of-five Mr Feller, 69, said: “My wife’s mother Margaret was a fantastic seamstress and planted a love of embroidery.

“She grew up in Ireland and the family used to make all their own clothes.

“After Elizabeth and I got married we started to collect embroidered cushions from the 19th and 20th century.

“They were all hand-done and that’s how the collection got started. Now we have given the pieces from the 17th century to the museum on condition that some of the items will remain on permanent display.”

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Feller’s Butchers in the Covered Market

Mr Feller said parties of American tourists used to visit their home to see the collection.

“Now the collection is at the Ashmolean lots more people will be able to see it,” he added.

The 17th-century embroideries include picture panels, samplers, costume pieces and Biblical scenes.

Mrs Feller, 69, added: “Thanks to my mother’s influence, sewing and embroidery has been a meaningful activity throughout my life.

“Our collection of embroideries worked by other people began with small needlepoint cushions and went on to include samplers, panels and a huge variety of other objects, all steeped in English history, and the stories of the people who made them, and that is what we love.

“Micheal and I are delighted these 17th-century embroideries have now found a home at the Ashmolean, where they will be cared for and enjoyed for many years to come.”

Prof Brown said: “I am profoundly grateful to Micheal and Elizabeth Feller for this gift. This collection has been built over many years through their passion and dedication.”

The Feller donation is being added to the Ashmolean’s existing collection of 16th and 17th century embroideries.

Items donated by the Fellers have been in the Beaumont Street museum’s Eye of the Needle exhibition, running until October 12.

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Items, above, in the collection include a lady’s cap, an embroidery depicting Esther and Ahasuerus and a pair of gloves from the 17th century

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