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Dress - Evening dress

From the Collection of Brighton Historical Society First Floor Brighton Arts and Cultural Centre (Old Brighton Town Hall) Corner Carpenter and Wilson Streets Brighton Victoria

A hand sewn cream, pale blue, orange and gold embroidered satin formal dress, the bodice dates from circa 1840. This dress shares a skirt with T0004.2, which dates from a different period.
The bodice features a wide shallow neckline finished with a beige coloured cord in two decorative lines. The sleeve is set on the true shoulder and is a short fitted sleeve with decorative gathering and two lines of corded detail. The bodice is shaped to the body with 2 sets of six fine knife pleats diagonally positioned narrower over the waist and spreading out over the bust. These pleats are secured with six double lines of stitching. The bodice finishes high on the waistline at either side and points down to a point over the centre front. The base of the bodice is finished with a piped edge and beige decorative cording. The bodice encloses the body at the centre back where it has holes that presumably would have held lacing. The back features four diagonal knife pleats finishing at the centre back and splaying out over the shoulders. The waistline at the back features only a very gentle point.
Object Registration
cecelia elizabeth adams, james smith adams, dress circa 1840, queen victoria, emma elizabeth mctaggart, elisabeth emma blackwell nee gardiner nee adams, major james edward blackwell., tower house, woodchester, gloucester, england, george henry somerset, james mctaggert, st dominic's priory, north adelaide, sophia adams later mother rose columba, thomas charles gardiner, rev. r.e. blackwell
Historical information
The donor and family of these gowns were long term Brighton residents, and the gowns were held by them as family heirlooms prior to donation to Brighton Historical Society. The gowns are believed to have been brought to Australia by a half brother James Smith Adams or a younger sister Sophia, of the understood original owners of these dresses, Elizabeth Emma Adams and Cecelia Elizabeth Adams, although they travelled to Australia separately.

Elizabeth Emma Adams and Cecelia Elizabeth Adams were the daughters of James Smith Adams (a Squire) and Elizabeth Emma McTaggart of Tower House, Woodchester in Gloucester. A property which Elizabeth Emma later inherited.

Elizabeth Emma Adams was born on 30th June 1828 at Tower House, Woodchester, Gloucester, England and died on 1st May 1909. Elizabeth created a scandal when she eloped with her first husband, Thomas Charles Gardiner at the age of 18, a marriage thats validity was later formally investigate and confirmed as valid but a second church wedding was also held. Thomas Charles Gardiner died in 1878. She subsequently remarried Rev. R.E. Blackwell but was widowed again by 1889.

Cecelia Elizabeth Adams was born on 17th December 1826 and died in 1902 a spinster recluse in England. At the inquest into Cecelia's death in 1904 it was revealed that she had clearly come from a family of means as her home was filled to the brim with highly valuable goods, many in boxes. She was buried in the family vault at Woodchester.

James Smith Adams was christened on 25th December 1780 at Woodchester and died 19 March 1860. His wife Elizabeth Emma McTaggart was born on 21st April 1793 in Calcutta and died on 23/12/1843.

Elisabeth Emma's second son, George Henry Somerset who inherited the Adams family estate dropped the i in Gardiner and added the maiden name of his grandmother. Therefore the family name has now become Gardner McTaggart.

Tower House, originally a monastery was converted into a stately home after The Reformation.

Sophia Adams became a nun in England in 1851 before migrating to Australia. In 1883 Sophia went to Adelaide and founded a Dominican Priory there (Believed to be St. Dominic's Priory in North Adelaide), using her inheritance to build the Priory's Chapel.
When Made
circa 1840
According to information originally provided by the donor, these two gowns were made for Elizabeth Emma Adams and Cecilia Elizabeth Adams, to be worn at the young Queen Victoria’s first “Drawing Room Ball” following the end of court mourning in 1838 for her uncle William IV who died in 1837. In 1838 Cecelia would have been 12 years old and Elizabeth Emma would have been 10 years old. It is possible that the dress T0004.2 was worn by one of the girls to this event. The dress is of appropriate dimensions for a child of that age although it’s design is very formal and adult. However, it is unlikely that either of the girls wore dress T0004.1 due to the size and styling of the dress. It is likely that the dress belonged to one of the girls but was worn at a later date. After the death of the girls mother their Uncle James McTaggert gave the girls much of his attention and may have taken one or both of them to such an event.
These Adams family entries have been updated by information provided by Dr.Herbert Gardner McTaggart, great-grandson of George Henry Somerset in April 2016. Mr McTaggert contacted the society after finding our entries online. Some further information is held by the society.
Last updated
8 Oct 2018 at 5:44PM