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Dress - Day dress

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

A silver and brown striped silk taffeta dress comprising separate bodice and skirt. The dress features a high round neckline fastening down the centre front with concealed hook and eye closures with ten (two missing) decorative brown silk velvet buttons. The front and back feature a briown silk velvet ribbon that forms a v shape from the shoulder to the centre front just below the bust and centre back below the shoulder blades. From the ribbon falls a brown and silver silk fringe approx seven cms deep. The bodice is shaped and boned into the waist and finishes in a deep v over the stomach. At the back the bodice is shaped to the body finishing in a smaller curved v over the small of the back. The sleeve attaches to the bodice at the true shoulder and falls in a pagoda sleeve to the mid forearm. The sleeve is also trimmed with brown silk velvet ribbon near the base of the sleeve. The full skirt is pleated at the waist, falling to the floor, longer at the back to accommodate the crinoline.
Object Registration
somerville, new street brighton, jessie somerville singer, edward singer, elizabeth martin, brighton, 1850s fashion
Historical information
A dress believed to have belonged to an ancestor of Mrs. Jessie Somerville Singer (nee Watson), 1849-1935. As the dress dates from circa 1850, it could have belonged to someone from one generation previous, possibly her mother Elizabeth Martin. Jessie Somerville Singer was the second wife of Mr. Edward Singer (1829 – 1904) of 'Somerville', New Street, Brighton Beach.

Edward's first wife, Maria, died in 1861; their son William died approximately 12 months later. In the 1861 census of North Bradley England, Edward was recorded as a carpenter journeyman. After these tragedies Edward, then aged 30, left England to start a new life in Australia. He emigrated as an unassisted passenger on the steamship 'Great Britain', departing from Liverpool and arriving in Melbourne in April 1863. Edward worked as a joiner and overseer for a timber merchant in Franklin Street, Melbourne.

In December 1869 he bought a property at 1115 Hoddle Street, East Melbourne, between Hotham and George Streets. At some stage he also acquired 1117 Hoddle Street. He also owned another property in Rushall Crescent, North Fitzroy.

On 10 July 1873 Edward married Jessie Somerville Watson, the daughter of William Watson and Elizabeth Martin. They lived at Hoddle Street for some years, later moving to Rushall Crescent, North Fitzroy before in the 1880s settling in what was then the semi-rural suburb of Brighton. Edward is recorded as working there as a joiner.

The house 'Somerville' was built by the Singers in circa 1880 at 100 (now 78) New Street, Brighton. The family moved there upon Edward's early retirement and lived there until 1941. 'Somerville' was sold, the house demolished and the land subdivided in the 1930s. Edward and Jessie appear to have lived comfortably.

Edward died on 30 July 1909. Jessie died on 11 November 1935.

Many members of the Singer family have lived in and around Brighton since Edward and Jessie first made their home there. The donor, Mrs. A. Rodin Cook is the granddaughter of Walter Francis Newing, who was Jessie’s grandson. Walter Newing had a small printing business in Bay Street and from 1910 lived at Kinane Street. He was secretary of the Life Saving Club that stood at the end of Kinane Street in the 1920s and 30s.
When Made
Circa 1850
Last updated
12 Aug 2019 at 4:32PM