Maria's sampler is interesting not only for the several key Norfolk components she has included, but for the fact those components are scrambled and combined with several non-standard motifs.
Let's begin with the relatively wide border, an undulating vine with pink buds alternating with yellow daisies. Despite thread loss along the edges, you can see how well the corners match along both top and bottom, although they aren't placed in the exact corners. The width of the border leaves a smaller surface area in which to complete the sampler, so it is again surprising that she spaced the top alphabet as she did - it can almost be described as undulating. A wide dividing band, again with an undulating floral pattern, includes strawberries, thistles and sweet William. Unfortunately, water damage here and in the cartouches below caused the dark silk to bleed into the ground.
The next section contains a sweet pink castle, or possibly a folly/church, with trees, field gates and small cottages on either side. The deer on Norfolk samplers are most often depicted in a supine position with their heads turned facing the tail. Maria's deer are proudly standing, perhaps even running, and are themselves topped with pairs of dogs.
The most unique element in Maria's sampler is a fishing scene, including a rushing river, fisherman, trees and best of all, bridge supports that look like giant spools. This fishing scene is practically identical to the one stitched by Hannah Hey, a 1784 sampler found on page 16 of Micheal and Elizabeth Feller's "The Needlework Collection, Volume 2". This is particularly interesting given the 27 years and 20 miles that separate the two needleworkers.
The bottom of the sampler has a band of three lozenges, although the ones on either end are deliberately incomplete. Maria was very considerate to provide us not only her name but her town and a date.
Size (W x H): 10 1/4 x 13 1/2 inches
Stitches: Cross, cross-over-one, eyelet, satin, straight, hem
Media: Silk on wool
As Joanne Lukaker discusses in her book (need), Mary and Maria were fairly interchangeable in England at this time. There are several Maria and Mary Ransomes christened in an appropriate time period in Norfolk, although none in Watton proper. Watton had more than one girl's boarding school so our girl could have come from anywhere in the county.