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The Unravelling Fantasia of Miss H.




Mary Frances Heaton was a 19th century piano mistress who worked in Doncaster and London. Following an altercation in the street about late payment from one of her clients she was held in Doncaster Gaol overnight, deemed a dangerous idiot and admitted the next day by the local magistrates to Wakefield’s Pauper Lunatic Asylum without trial or conviction. She remained incarcerated for 41 years.

During this time with no means of defence or advocacy her creative resolve led her to embroider messages in fellow patients’ clothes and document her experiences and injustices through embroidery by creating beautiful and ornate stitched samplers (on exhibition in the Mental Health Museum, Wakefield). One sampler was addressed to Queen Victoria, another suggested an affair with Lord Seymour to whose children she had been Governess.

Images courtesy of MHM Wakefield

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