Historical information

In the words of the donor, Betty Stone, "This gown was originally made by my great grandmother Sarah Ellis (nee Chamberlain) Lees of Wangoom, Warrnambool. Later, the gown was altered by her daughter Ann (nee Lees) Dale who also used it for the christenings of her five children in the 1890's, and later still, for some of her grandchildren.

Sarah Ellis Chamberlain, born in Thriplow, Cambridgeshire, England on 31 July 1844, sixth child of Joshua and Susan Chamberlain, was ten years old when she arrived in Australia with her parents and siblings in January 1855. Ten years later, in 1864, Sarah Chamberlain married Lees Lees, a skilled stonemason who had migrated from Saddleworth, Yorkshire. Lees Lees purchased land in McGregors Road, Wangoom, Warrnambool where he operated a successful stonemasonry, contracting business until his death in 1912. The Lees farm, which eventually consisted of about fifty acres, was situated adjacent to both the Chamberlain and Dale farms.

Sarah Lees was a meticulous homemaker who also fashioned and sewed clothes for her seven children. A photograph of the eldest child, Anne, taken in 1868, depicts her wearing a dress and pantaloons sewn by her mother. Sarah also crocheted lace curtains for her home in addition
to large tablecloths and other articles.

According to family legend, the skirt of this christening gown was part of the original gown hand-sewn by Sarah (nee Chamberlain) Lees which was used for the christening of her children. The gown was later passed on to her daughter Anne (nee Lees) Dale who, also an expert needlewoman, replaced the bodice and used it for the christening of her five children born between the years 1890 and 1899. Still, later, at least two children of the third generation (Sarah Lees' great-grandchildren) also wore this gown when christened at Christ Church Warrnambool.

Sarah (nee Chamberlain) Lees died in 1932, aged 87 years, at her daughter Anne Dale's home in Latrigg.
Anne (nee Lees) Dale died in 1948 aged 83 years, at her home in Latrigg."

(Note: For additional information please refer to Betty Stone’s book “Pioneers and Places - A History of three Warrnambool Pioneering Families” ie. Chamberlain, Dale and Lees Families)


This item is associated with the families of Chamberlain, Dale and Lees. These families are listed in the "Pioneers' Register" for Warrnambool Township and Shire, 1835-1900, published by A.I.G.S. Warrnambool Branch.
The item is a fine example of late-19th-century needlework and handmade domestic items.

Physical description

Christening gown made by Sarah Ellis. White with unusual Broderie Anglaise yoke. The long-sleeved garment has a gathered waist and a long skirt. The front centre of the skirt has a floral Broderie Anglaise and cut work panel insert.Circa 1860's. From the 'Chamberlain Dale Lees Collection’, donated by Betty Stone