William Charles Wentworth court costume

Contributed by: Sydney Living Museums

Court Costume. Photo: Historic Houses Trust of NSW Court Costume detail.
Photo: Historic Houses Trust of NSW Waistcoat featuring embroidered floral emblems.
Photo:© Alex Kershaw Breeches.
Photo:© Alex Kershaw Detail of breeches showing buckle and three buttons. Photo:© Alex Kershaw
  • Australian dress register ID:

    293
  • Owner:

    Sydney Living Museums
  • Owner registration number:

    V91/11-1:4
  • Date range:

    1855 - 1865
  • Place of origin:

    Vaucluse, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

    Male
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Object information

Significance statement

The coat and breeches are of fine dark blue wool and silk cloth. The waistcoat is ivory silk. The buttons are of cut and polished steel. The edges of the front panels of the waistcoat are embroidered with the floral emblems of England (the rose), Scotland (the thistle) and Ireland (the shamrock). A bicorn hat, of black silk with marcasite and cut-and-polished steel decoration, was carried folded flat under the arm.

This court costume was made for William Charles Wentworth (1790-1872) shortly after his arrival in England in 1855 and subsequently worn when he presented the draft Bill for Responsible Government of New South Wales to Queen Victoria. It was preserved by descendants of Fitzwilliam Wentworth (1833-1915). It was worn by family members at re-enactments [details from the Nielsen-Vaucluse Park Trust photographs]. The court suit was presented to the Historic Houses Trust in c1990 by William Charles ('Billy') Wentworth IV (1907-2003), having been on loan to Vaucluse House over a number of years.

The formal costume worn by men at the royal court throughout most of the 19th century had become fixed in terms of its style around 1780 during the reign of George III. The Lord Chamberlain oversaw dress regulations and published guides to correct attire. Coats were of the French 'frock' style, with a military-inspired 'standing' collar. Colours varied, but were generally darker shades of claret, mulberry, brown, blue or black. Waistcoats (without collars) were shortened from the thigh length skirts of the 1760s to waist length with a square cut base flared below the last button. Breeches were to just below the knee, and were worn with silk stockings. For military officers full dress uniform was acceptable. Scarlet collars and cuffs distinguished livery for the household staff.

A tailor's (?) description of male court dress is given in the Gentleman's Magazine of Fashion, 1841:

"Court dress: A blue coat cut a la Francaise, stand collar, single-breasted, slopes away to tails (no cut in). Pocket flaps embroidered in gold, also collar and cuffs. White satin waistcoat, gold buttons, corners sloped off. Breeches white cassimers. Band at knee embroidered in gold and fastened with gold buttons. Shirt frill of lace and lace ruffles."

Author: Scott Carlin, February 2007.

Description

Court costume of William Charles Wentworth, including waistcoat (part 1), breeches (part 2), coat (part 3) & hat (part 4). The waistcoat has two small front pockets and is made of ivory silk with buttons of cut and polished steel. The edges of the front panels of the waistcoat are embroidered with the floral emblems of England (the rose), Scotland (the thistle) and Ireland (the shamrock). The breeches and coat are made of fine dark blue wool and silk cloth. The breeches have two side front pockets and the right pocket has an additional small pocket inside. A bicorn hat made of black silk with marcasite and cut-and-polished steel decoration and a black Petersham(?) ribbon.

History and Provenance

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

Preserved by descendants of Fitzwilliam Wentworth and worn by family members at re-enactments.

  1. Place of origin:

    Vaucluse, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    The court costume was presented to the Historic Houses Trust in c1990 by William Charles ('Billy') Wentworth III, descendent of the original owner WC Wentworth, having been on loan to Vaucluse House over a number of years.

  3. Worn by:

    Reputedly worn by William Charles Wentworth (1790-1872).

  4. Occasion(s):

    To present the Constitution for Responsible Government of New South Wales at the Court of St James, London, 1855.

  5. Place:

    London

  6. Made by:

    It was almost certainly commissioned by WC Wentworth from a London tailor.

Trimmings / Decoration

Left side of coat, has six diagonal military-inspired stripes. The outer fabric, possibly black velvet, is almost completely worn and lost, showing faded black(?) cord which was the internal structure of the stripes. This cord is itself splitting and has some losses.

Ribbon

Petersham(?) on the hat.

Embroidery

Edges of the front panels of the waistcoat with the floral emblems of England (the rose), Scotland (the thistle) and Ireland (the shamrock).

Fibre / Weave

The coat and breeches are made of fine dark blue wool and silk cloth. The embroidered waistcoat in browns, greens, creams, reds and blues is made of ivory silk. The hat is made of black silk and black Petersham(?) ribbon.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

London, England.

Label

"RIDPATH & MANNING" - inscribed on buttons of the breeches

"VIRNIN & B(?)ONE" - inscribed on verso of steel base of the pocket breeches buttons

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

Waistcoat - Steel buckle fastens the back. Five buttons right side of waistcoat centre front, same fabric as front panel.

Breeches - one buckle and three buttons of cut polished steel on outside seam of the bottom of each trouser leg which are in excellent condition. Six painted black metal buttons front centre (5 small 1.4cm diam top 6th button 1.8cm diam, note 3rd from bottom button is loose.) Six buttons 1.8cm diam around waist circumference. Two small fabric buttons 1.3cm diam. on front side pockets. One is loose and the other is fraying.

Coat - three cut steel buttons on each outer facing coat sleeve. Three cut steel buttons under the false pockets towards the back of the coat. Six cut steel buttons right side of fabric centre front. Two metal hook and eyes to fasten coat centre front. Two false buttons above coat tail split.

Hat - drawsting inside.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Waistcoat - Front panel ivory silk, back panel cotton fabric. Lined with coarse woven fabric Buckram(?).

Breeches - silk lining.

Coat - ivory silk pleated lining. Shoulders have padding inside lining.

Hat - card for stiffening, wool padding and cloth lining.

Measurements

breeches coat hat waistcoat
Girth
Waist 1040 mm 1120 mm
Cuff 280 mm
Vertical
Front neck to hem 335 mm
Back neck to hem 1010 mm 515 mm
Inside leg 540 mm
Outside leg 815 mm
Horizontal
Cross back 355 mm
Convert to inches

Hat - overall height: 175 x width: 430mm.

Dress Themes

Reputedly worn by WC Wentworth 1790-1872 to present the Constitution for Responsible Government of NSW at the Court of St James, London, 1855, and was almost certainly commissioned by WCW from a London tailor. The court suit, preserved by descendants of Fitzwilliam Wentworth and worn by family members at re-enactments.

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

Vaucluse House collection, Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales.

Gift of The Hon. William Charles Wentworth IV, AO and the Wentworth family, 1991

Link to collection online

Condition

Waistcoat - Overall good condition. Fabric is discoloured and yellowing. Small pin holes and rust stains. Steel buckle is tarnished. Back shoulders has two small stains. Silk lining is shattering and evidence of past damage due to losses. Dark brown stains on inside lining. Front panel top left section foxing(?) and rust stains. Slightly soiled appearance to edges of garment.

Breeches - Overall in good condition. The buckles are tarnished on the prongs and verso. Silk lining is shattering. Pockets are discoloured and some small holes/losses to the fabric.

Coat - Overall good condition. Centre front fabric, collar and sleeves are faded. Evidence of original colour can be seen under the sleeves of the coat. Silk lining is shattering and fraying, particuarly the edges, losses to fabric and rust(?) stains. Stitching is loose around the back of the collar. Left coat tail centre internal pleat fabric is split.

Hat - Fabric is worn with losses to edges and folds of fabric particularly at corners of the hat across the top arch. Marcasite and cut-steel decoration - tarnished and worn. Petersham(?) ribbon is discoloured. Interior cloth lining is discoloured (originally black now browning).

Evidence of repairs

Waistcoat - Small stitching repairs to stablise fabric (1988).

Breeches - Silk lining edges have been encapsulated to stabilise fraying and loss. Stitching repairs to seam inside leg. The back centre thigh region small spot repair to fabric and the fabric is wearing thin just above this repair (1988).

Hat - Repairs to the fraying and worn edges have been stabilised with fine encasing stitching (1988).

Insect damage

Coat - Insect/pest damage centre top of coat tail and bottom area of left coat tail has been stitched to stabilise.

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

Damage

  1. Discolouration
  2. Frayed
  3. Holes
  4. Parts missing
  5. Stained
  6. Worn

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