Eddison Family Christening Gown

Contributed by: Canberra Museum and Gallery

Christening Gown - Full View Christening Gown - Rear View Christening Gown - Collar Detail of Openwork Embroidery Christening Gown - Sleeve Christening Gown - Hem Detail of stitching around sleeve
  • Australian dress register ID:

    527
  • Owner:

    Canberra Museum and Gallery
  • Owner registration number:

    #2298
  • Date range:

    1910 - 1911
  • Place of origin:

    England
  • Gender:

    Male, Female, Child
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Object information

Significance statement

This exquisitely constructed christening gown is significant because of its well-documented provenance and connection to the Eddison family, a prominent family of the Woden Valley district, Canberra. Walter Eddison was allocated land occupying most of the Woden Valley as part of the Soldier Settlement Scheme. Unlike many participants of the scheme, Walter made a success of his venture farming sheep, breeding thoroughbred horses and operating a small dairy.

The Eddison family migrated to Australia from England after the First World War and the gown was used to baptise all of Marion and Walter Eddison's six children, including Pamela and Marion, who were born in Canberra. It is signficant because of what it reveals about the function of ceremonial clothing in Australia during the early 20th century. Rather than buying a new christening gown for each child, Marion used the gown again and again. This not only created a sense of tradition, using a treasured family piece for the celebrations, but it also had the advantage of saving money, passing the gown on to the next child. Re-use of ceremonial clothing was far more common during the early 20th century than it is in the present day. With each item representing a significant outlay in terms of cost or labour, reuse of clothing was not merely sentimental, but practical.

The family is also remembered for the death of all three Eddison boys (Tom, Jack, Keith) during the Second World War. The three brothers are publicly remembered in several locations around Canberra. In Woden, Eddison Park is named after the family and Yamba Drive after their original property. A plaque was laid at St John’s Church, Ainslie in 1946, while the Canberra Grammar School, alma mater of all three, named one of its school houses in their honour. The story of Walter Eddison’s emigration from England to Australia is displayed in the Horizons gallery and the story of his sons’ untimely deaths is currently on display in the Nation gallery, National Museum of Australia. 

Author: Amy Butterfield, 8.4.14.

Description

Christening gown made from white cotton and lace. Openwork embroidery decorates the front of the gown. Hem, collar and cuffs are ruffled and cuffs are fastened with ribbon.

History and Provenance

The christening gown belonged to the Eddison family of 'Yamba', a property in the Woden Valley (1920-1953). This christening gown was brought to Australia from England by Mrs Marion Eddison in 1919. Married in 1910 to English gentleman farmer and horsebreeder Walter Herbert Eddison, she and their four children (Tom, Diana, Jack, and Keith) emigrated with him to Australia in 1919, following his war service with the Australian Light Horse at Gallipoli and France, where he was gassed. After living first in Cooma, then at the Oaks Estate near Queanbeyan, the Eddisons moved with their now six children in 1926 to 'Yamba', a soldier settler leasehold in the Woden Valley, ACT. There they farmed sheep, bred thoroughbred horses and operated a small dairy. 

The children were educated locally, the boys at Canberra Grammar School, the girls at St Gabriel's School (later Canberra Girls' Grammar School). All three of Marion and Walter Eddison’s sons joined the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War and were killed in action. With the death of their sons, Walter and Marion Eddison moved to the suburb of Deakin in 1953, selling 'Yamba' to Dick Hyles.

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Marion Eddison married Walter Herbert Eddison in 1910. The gown was worn by each of their six children, born between 1911 and 1924, though only the couple's last two children, Pamela and Marion were born in Australia. 

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

Walter Herbert Eddison returned to Australia in 1919 with his wife Marion Louisa and their four children, Frank Leslie Herbert "Tom", Diana, Edward Dalkeith "Keith" and Jack Obaldeston, and Marion. In 1920 he took up 1400 acres (block 28) in the ACT, which he named 'Yamba', as part of the Soldier Settlement Scheme. 'Yamba' occupied most of the Woden Valley and is commemorated by The Yamba Club, (Southern Cross Sports Club), which stands near the homestead site. There is also a major road, Yamba Drive that runs through the Woden Valley. Eddison Park near Woden Cemetery also commemorates the family.

From 1920 until 1928, the family lived at 'The Oaks’ Estate in the ACT, while the Woden property was being developed. Marion's uncle, Jack Obaldeston purchased the house and 20 acres for her.

The 'Yamba' house was built in 1927 from materials leftover from the construction of St Gabriel's School (later Canberra Girls' Grammar School). The family moved onto' Yamba' in April 1928. They farmed the property until 1953, growing oats, lucerne, sheep and cattle, as well as raising horses, which was a passion of Walter's. 

Marion Douglas, nee Eddison, the family's youngest daughter, and her daughter Fionna Douglas, wrote about her family and other Soldier Settlers in the Woden and Weston areas in the book, Not Without My Corsets! : Oral histories of the families who farmed soldier settler blocks in the Woden Valley from 1920-1963.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

As a returned soldier, Captain Eddison was qualified to enter a ballot for land under the Soldier Settler Scheme. The blocks available to soldier settlers were small and some were concerned they weren't large enough to provide sufficient income to support the families cultivating them. In many cases, such reservations were proved correct and even the Eddison family struggled to eke out a modest existance. After the war, as the suburbs of Canberra expanded closer, farming families in the Woden Valley were gradually forced to leave their land, though the Eddisons abandoned their farm for personal, rather than solely financial reasons. 

Where did this information come from?

Marion Douglas, Fionna Douglas, Not Without My Corsets! : Oral histories of the families who farmed soldier settler blocks in the Woden Valley from 1920-1963; Catalogue entry on the Eddison Family Collection at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery

This garment has been exhibited

Exhibited as part of The Women Who Made Canberra at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery, 24 November 2012 - 17 March 2013.

  1. Place of origin:

    England

  2. Owned by:

    The christening gown belonged to the Eddison family of 'Yamba', their rural property in the Woden Valley (1920-1953), and was brought to Australia from England by Mrs Marion Eddison in 1919 when the family migrated. 

  3. Worn by:

    It was worn by their six children, born between 1911 and 1924. 

  4. Occasion(s):

    The gown was worn by each of Marion and Walter Eddison's six children at their christenings.

  5. Place:

    England and Woden Valley, Canberra

  6. Made by:

    Marion Eddison, who sewed and embroided the gown.

  7. Made for:

    The six Eddison children, who wore it at each of their christenings.

Trimmings / Decoration

Ribbon

White ribbon is used to fastened the cuffs.

Lace

Gown is decorated with lace around the collar and cuffs.

Embroidery

Openwork embroidery arranged in geometric and floral patterns decorates the front of the gown.

Fibre / Weave

Cotton gown is bleached white.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

The christening gown is believed to be an example of Marion Eddison’s skills in fine sewing and embroidery.

Label

No label on garment.

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

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

Two buttons fasten at the rear of the gown. Drawstring made from white ribbon fastens the cuffs. 

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

Measurements

Christening Gown
Girth
Neck 248 mm
Chest 815 mm
Cuff 38 mm
Hem circumference 1440 mm
Vertical
Front neck to hem 1061 mm
Front waist to hem 1007 mm
Back neck to hem 1062 mm
Back waist to hem 970 mm
Sleeve length 244 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 84 mm
Cross back 272 mm
Underarm to underarm 423 mm
Convert to inches

'Hem to Waist' measures from the bottom of the yoke to the hem.

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

Eddison FamilyPapers, Archives and Manuscripts, ACT Government Libraries - 

http://www.library.act.gov.au/find/history/search/Manuscript_Collections/Eddison_Family

Marion Douglas and Pamela Yonge collection, NationlaMuseum of Australia - 

http://www.nma.gov.au/collections-search/results?search=adv&ref=coll&collname=Marion+Douglas+and+Pamela+Yonge+collection

The National Museum of Australia, 'The toll of War' - 

http://www.nma.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/4709/FriendsDec03-toll_of_war_rf.pdf

Australian Womens Archive Project - 

http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE4853b.htm

Condition

Evidence of repairs

The gown is in good condition, though there is a slight amount of staining on the front of gown.

State

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

Damage

  1. Stained

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