Emma-Sophia’s Limerick Gloves

As the first month of Spring draws to a close, the planting in the Georgian garden at No. 2 Pery Square has yet to bloom. However, currently on display in the pink room of the museum (the old dining room of the house) are three pairs of women’s Limerick gloves, embellished with floral embroidery. Visitors to the museum can view sewn cup-shaped flowers of a white tulip, or the bell-shaped buds of Lily of the valley, on gloves belonging to Limerick’s cultural heritage.

“I like to think of her as petite, fair and very graceful.” This quote from June O’Carroll Robinson refers to the original owner of the embroidered gloves, a Mrs Emma-Sophia Sherwill. June O’Carroll Robinson is the donor of the Carroll collection, a selection of family heirlooms and military memorabilia of social and political significance dating from the 1700s to the 1920s. The Carroll collection is displayed at The People’s Museum of Limerick. A video portrait of June and the previous home of the embroidered gloves in Andover, Hampshire can be viewed here.

Emma-Sophia Sherwill was June O’Carroll Robinson’s great-great grandmother. Carroll family records claim that Emma-Sophia was the daughter of Princess Amelia of the United Kingdom, fifteenth child to King George III. In 1817, Emma-Sophia married the Major General Sir William Parker Carrol. The couple settled in Tulla House in County Tipperary with family close by in Lissenhall near the Silvermines. After marriage, the couple had two boys, William in 1817 and John in 1819. At the age of twenty, Emma-Sophia tragically died of consumption in August 1819.

Popularly called ‘chicken skin gloves’, Limerick gloves are pale yellow in colour and are made from the skin of unborn calves, known as slinks in the leather industry. In the late eighteenth century, when the gloves were first manufactured, the use of this hide for accessories would not have been controversial or ridiculed. Rather, chicken skin gloves were a highly sought-after product by members of societal upper class. The Georgian and Regency era saw the well-to-do of both Irish and British society wear gloves whenever they left their homes. A purpose of this was the desire of high society to keep the appearance of their hands soft and

As a high-demand product, Limerick gloves were esteemed for their soft texture and high level of craftmanship. Chicken skin gloves form an integral part of the city’s glove-making history. Cornelius Lyons was the first maker of Limerick gloves in 1769. With a business based in Mary Street, Lyons’ gloves were famed to be so thin that a pair could fit into a walnut shell, and were only
suitable for one day’s wear. The delicate, raised needlework on the collection of gloves in the pink room lends to this idea of fragility. Though manufacture of gloves made from slinks extended to Waterford and Dublin and over to York in England, Limerick gloves were considered first-rate until the Lyons family ceased trade in the 1830s. A pair of Lyon’s gloves dating from 1816, originally owned by Princess Charlotte of Wales, are currently housed in the Museum of London.

Emma-Sophia’s gloves form part of the Carroll Collection and are on display in the pink room of the museum on the ground floor.

Thanks to team member Aisling for researching and writing this piece.

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