Historical information

Joseph Butterworth COOMBS (1842-1901), was an accountant who founded a successful mercantile trading company. At the time of his marriage to Caroline Mary MICHEL in 1969, Coombs had already purchased 10 acres of Studley Park. The acreage included land on the west of Fenwick Street that extended along lower Stawell Street to the corner of Yarra Street, all of it connected directly to the Yarra environs. A right of way to Studley Park Road was on the title, though Coombs went on to purchase more land, some of which faced Studley Park Road. In addition to owning the Studley Park acreage, Coombs later acquired 1,201 acres of land abutting the Acheron River. While retaining the Kew property he became a Taggerty Councillor and was Shire President for a time. J.B. Coombs died at Acheron Station in 1901 (aged 59 years). A few months after, tenders were called to repair the Kew dwelling, the Fenwick Street property now appearing in records with the name ‘Hope Mansell’. Caroline Coombs remained at Hope Mansell until she died in 1924, survived by three sons and five daughters. Not long after her death, advertisements appeared for the sale of the Studley Park land. The sale seems to have been a mechanism for distribution of the Estate, as the following year the original 10 acre holding was transferred to members of the family. The eldest daughter Mabel married William Younger who, with his brother Alexander, developed Younger and Mackie Courts, both south of Studley Park Road. [Research: Kerry Fairbank]


In 1961, the granddaughter of Joseph and Caroline Coombs, Mabel Isola (Younger) Grattan, donated ten 19th century dresses and parasols to the Kew Historical Society. The costumes, now known as the 'Coombs Collection', are the earliest recorded items of clothing to enter the Society's collection. Each of the items in the Coombs Collection, of which this item forms a part, is historically, aesthetically and socially significant. As a collection, the costumes includes outstanding examples of morning wear, day dresses, wedding dresses, and clothing accessories, providing evidence of outstanding dressmaker skills in Victoria during the mid to late Victorian period.

Physical description

Periwinkle blue afternoon dress made of finely woven wool with silk quilting to the yoke and cuffs. The one-piece outfit is fastened at front with large mother of pearl buttons. The dress includes a very long train. At one stage, the buttoning at the waist has been modified, presumably due to changes in the owner's waistline.