Australian dress register ID:300
Owner:Jervis Bay Maritime Museum (formerly Lady Denman Heritage Complex)
Owner registration number:1992.10
Date range:1914 - 1952
Place of origin:England
This dress and apparatus are representative of the traditional diver's equipment in use from the early 1830s until the 1960s. It is also representative of a past era in the history of oyster farming, an industry that is still important to the economy of the New South Wales South Coast.
It is unusual to have such a complete set of diver's equipment in relatively good condition and with such strong provenance covering three generations. Author: V Hatton/ G Hinton, 1 August 2011.
A full diver's outfit: helmet, dress, boots, lead weights, underclothing. Also apparatus and accessories includingsingle cylinder double-action air pump and air hose, lead weights and knife with sheath, all manufactured by Siebe Gorman & Co Ltd.
Twelve-bolt helmet with square-shaped corselet and matched twelve-bolt diver's dress and boots. Woolen guernsey, long johns and stockings.
History and Provenance
Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?
Tim Wray, mentioned that "panic is very bad for divers". He described how, on one occasion when he descended to the river bed with a fast tide running, he was dragged around head of the support boat and feared that his air hose, which was not reinforced, might kink. He felt panicky so he he lay on the river bottom until he calmed down. To get back to the ladder he had to haul himself around using the oyster basket as a support as he could not signal with his lifeline.
How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?
This equipment was used primarily to collect mud oysters and was also used in laying submarine cables. It was superseded by the development of the much safer and mobile scuba gear from the late 1950s onwards. Gradual improvements in methods of oyster farming during the mid-1900s replaced the need for diving to collect oysters.
Where did this information come from?
Information was supplied by the previous owner (Bill Wray) in an interview with Vera Hatton at Woden Valley Hospital, Australian Capital Territory in 1992. Mr Wray suffered from decompression sickness for many years and this eventually caused his death.
Subsequent information has been added by his wife.
This garment has been exhibited
The divers dress and equipment are on permanent display at the Lady Denman Maritime Museum. The underclothing is available for viewing by appointment and will be displayed from time to time.
Place of origin:
The Diving Suit was used in the Shoalhaven, New South Wales, almost exclusively in the Clyde River, Batemans Bay. The helmet and accessories including lead weights, air pump and hose were used by three generations of the Wray family. Tim Wray Jnr, who took over the diving from 1952 until 1959, ordered the dress underclothing and boots through catalogue from Siebe Gorman, an English company. Most of the other items, notably the helmet, were purchased and used by Tim's grandfather (Tim Snr) from Siebe Gorman in 1914 and also used by his uncle, Bill Wray, in the 1930s-40s.
Tim Wray Snr and Bill Wray (helmet only), Tim Wray Jnr (full suit).
Used in Shoalhaven River, New South Wales
Fibre / Weave
heavy - medium double texture oak bark tanned twill with smooth red square-shaped vulcanised Indian rubber at collar and around wrists
guernsey, heavy hand knitted natural wool;
pants, heavy machine knitted natural wool;
stockings machine knitted natural wool.
Cast gunmetal, 12 bolt with square-shaped corselet
Two piece sole (lead and wood). Thick leather uppers and brass toe caps.
- Natural dye
- Synthetic dye
The dress is machine sewn with glued canvas strengthening patches at crutch, front of legs below knee to feet and on feet.
Underwear is hand knitted.
Siebe Gorman label has separated from the dress
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
|Sleeve length||670 mm|
|Inside leg||730 mm|
|Outside leg||1470 mm|
|Neck to sleeve head||125 mm|
|Cross back||590 mm|
|Underarm to underarm||820 mm|
|Convert to inches|
- Water damage