Two-piece wedding dress worn by Martha Bolton

Contributed by: Museum of the Riverina

Martha's wedding dress - Dressed for the Occasion Skirt front - detail Bodice - detail The Reverend William Henry Pownall, who married Martha and Alexander
  • Australian dress register ID:

    34
  • Owner:

    Museum of the Riverina
  • Owner registration number:

    BGS2003.281 a (bodice) b (skirt)
  • Date range:

    1874
  • Place of origin:

    Unknown - most probably Australia
  • Gender:

    Female
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Object information

Significance statement

Historic Significance

Martha Devlin's wedding dress provides an indication of the type of wedding dresses worn by regional women of Martha's social standing in 1874. Unfortunately, little is known of Martha herself, with more having been recorded in the historical record about her husband. Alexander Thorley Bolton was a Stock & Station Agent in Forbes, and later Wagga Wagga. He was an Alderman in 1875 and Mayor in 1882 and 1883. Alexander was elected to the State Parliament as the Member for the District of Murrumbidgee but did not seek a second term.

Today, this dress stands as testament to Martha herself.

On a more personal level, reveals personal details about the wearer's size and height.

This is one of the earliest garments in the Museum's collection.

Author: Michelle A. Maddison, .

Description

Two-piece wedding gown, comprising:

a. Cream silk taffeta jacket, part of Martha Elizabeth Bolton's wedding gown. Cream cotton lining. Long sleeves with ruffled cream tulle insert at wrist area. Cream silk bow trim at top of ruffles, and narrow cream silk ruffle and braid trim at cuff. Round neckline, with centre front opening. Narrow cream silk ruffle and braid trim forming yoke at jacket front and back. Seven cream silk buttons at left hand edge, with six metal hooks stitched inside left front edge, opposing hand-stitched eyelets at right hand edge, to accommodate metal hooks. Metal hook and eye at centre front of waistband.

b. Cream silk taffeta skirt with cream cotton lining. Floor length skirt cut into train at back. Centre front of skirt has inset panel of horizontal pleats. Skirt attached to narrow cotton waistband.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Martha Elizabeth Devlin was born 10 May 1850. and baptized 16 June that same year. She was the daughter of James and Susannah (nee Hughes), the twelfth of thirteen children born to James Devlin.

She married Alexander Thorley Bolton on 22 October 1874 in a double ceremony with her sister Rebecca (Mrs Maurice Arthur Hyde Fitzhardinge). The couples were married at St. John's Anglican Church, Wagga Wagga, by Minister W.W. Pownall.

Alexander Thorley Bolton was born at Hexham (Hunter River district) in 1847. Seventh son and eleventh child of Rev. Robert Thorley Bolton, a member of an old Yorkshire family who came to Australia in 1840 and served the Church of England in the Hunter district. His parents returned to England in 1860 and he was left in the care of his older brother Constantine Francis. Came to Wagga in 1864 with his brother and at first engaged in private survey work. Was appointed as the first Borough Surveyor and Inspector of Nuisances at a salary of 70 pounds per annum when the municipality was established in 1870.

After their marriage, Martha and Alexander resided first in Tarcutta Street, then moved to the stately old home "Corinda" in Trail Street. During the 1880s, they had a home built at No. 118 Kincaid Street.

Martha and Alexander had four children: Allen Thorley, Constance, Lucy Nellie and Beulah. None of the girls ever married.

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

James Devlin (1808 - 1875) was the first settler at Ganmain Station, located approximately 20 km west of Wagga, on the north bank of the Murrumbidgee River. Martha Elizabeth was was his youngest daughter. She married Alexander Thorley Bolton on 22 October 1874. According to great-great nephew Stan Devlin, 'it must have been quite an occasion since it was a double wedding; her sister Rebecca Annie (1846 - 1936) married Maurice Arthur G. Hyde Fitzhardinge. Each of the girls had six bridesmaids with Archbishop Pownall officiating' [A Day Away from Villagio by Stan Devlin, Villa News September 2009]

Alexander and Martha had five children. They moved from Wagga Wagga to Sydney in 1891 and lived at Randwick until Alexander died in 1918.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This bodice and skirt is a good example of the type of wedding gown worn by the well-to-do pioneering families in Wagga Wagga.

Where did this information come from?

Information received from family members, particularly Mr. Stan Devlin in 2009. General family information also researched by local historian Sherry Morris (Index - Alexander Thorley Bolton, Devlin). Details (and brief family history) taken from the Wiradjuri Heritage Study ().

This garment has been exhibited

Martha's wedding dress is currently on display as part of the exhibition "Dressed for the Occasion: A History of Textiles".

  1. Place of origin:

    Unknown - most probably Australia

  2. Cost:

    Unknown

  3. Owned by:

    Martha Elizabeth Bolton (nee Devlin), 1874

  4. Worn by:

    Martha Elizabeth Bolton (nee Devlin)

  5. Occasion(s):

    Wedding, 22 October 1874

  6. Designed by:

    Unknown

  7. Made by:

    Unknown

Trimmings / Decoration

Tulle insert, ruffled at wrist area

Ribbon

Ribbon detailing across tulle inserts (sleeves)

Braiding

Braid trim at cuff and forming yoke at jacket front and back

Fibre / Weave

Eggshell (cream) satin, with white tulle and ribbon detailing

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

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

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

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

Additional material

Other related objects

There is one other object of high significance in the Museum which relates to the Devlin family. That is, the King Peter of the Murrumbidgee breastplate, c. 1830s-60s.

The Devlin family conferred a brass breastplate to Peter, a local Wiradjuri man, sometime during the 1860s (this date is thought to be much earlier by David Kaus at the NMA, following preliminary studies on the breastplate.) According to the Wiradjuri Heritage Study, this may have been of great significance, as Peter may have been the same man who together with Jemmie guided Charles Sturt from Wantabadgery to Mount Arthur.

Elsie Devlin, granddaughter of James Devlin, the original squatter on Ganmain Station, indicated that the wearers of such plates were very proud of them. If the King of England were mentioned, they would point to their plaque and say "me, I King here"

Condition

Some splitting and shattering of silk taffeta, especially around armhole areas, and on two upper sections of the skirt's front panel. Small hole in silk fabric at front right hand shoulder area. Some discolouration of cotton and silk fabrics at underarm areas, and some staining at skirt base.

One or two of the covered buttons appear to be missing.

Insect damage

Evidence of past insect activity.

State

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

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