Wedding dress worn by Isabella Elizabeth Jobling

Contributed by: Port Macquarie Historical Society

Isabella Fenwick's wedding dress, 1846 Front bodice detail Front waist detail Sleeve detail Insect damage to lower skirt, 2 Aug 2010 Glue residue right back bodice, 2 Aug 2010 Glue residue left back bodice, 2 Aug 2010 Marriage Notice - The Sydney Morning Herald August 27, 1846 St Thomas' Anglican Church, built 1824-28, n.d.
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Port Macquarie Historical Society
  • Owner registration number:

    PMHM 2016
  • Date range:

  • Place of origin:

    Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement


This petite and pretty wedding dress is one of the oldest in the Port Macquarie Historical Society collection. Isabella Elizabeth Jobling [1821-1883] wore this dress for her marriage to Christopher Dawson Fenwick [1815-1895] on 4 August 1846 at St Thomas' Anglican Church, Port Macquarie. The marriage was announced by a notice in the Sydney Morning Herald. The wedding appears to have been a quiet affair consistent with Church of England ceremonies of the period.

The style of this dress is in its design, simple with few embellishments. The dress shows many of the elements of women's dress of the 1840s including a tight fitting bodice with a point at centre front and centre back fastening of hooks and worked eyelet holes. The dress is a fine example of organ pleating, a feature of women's costume from 1841 to about 1846. Piping has been used to define the main seams in the bodice also a feature of this era. Decolletage necklines were popular at this time, however the bateau neckline appears to be a compromise given the very small size of the wearer and her tiny bust. The dress may have been worn with up to 6 petticoats as was the fashion of the period.

There is no evidence here of the economic depression that was taking place in the colony at the time. The dress appears to be made of quality fabric and purpose made as a wedding dress. There is also no evidence of wear on the dress suggesting that it was not worn much or at all after the wedding. Given the size of the dress it is unlikely it would have fitted after childbirth or many other family members.

The most notable wedding dress of the 1840s was that worn by Queen Victoria for her marriage to Prince Albert in February 1840. Her dress was contemporary fashion of the period, cut on simple lines with a deep 'v' at the waist, piped seams and a low wide neckline.

Perhaps Isabella's wedding dress was fashioned on Queen Victoria's design.

This wedding dress was obviously special to the Fenwick family as it was kept and handed down. The dress evidences Australian regional fashion of the 1840s and references many features of women's dress of that period and helps interpret Australian women's fashion, courtship and marriage, and social history of the period.

Author: Debbie Sommers, 7th August 2010.


Cream silk damask dress with bateau neckline, v-shaped waistline and gathered skirt with 3/4 sleeves. The bodice is panelled with piped seam detail and has a fabric rosette on the centre bust line. The bodice is joined at the skirt in a gathered v-shape at front with a row of stitching on skirt giving a shirred appearance, these are actually organ or cartridge pleats. The skirt is 6 gore and pleated all around. There are two fabric rosettes at the centre back waist. The set in sleeves are straight with 3 pleats at the elbow for movement and a slit at the forearm, edged with a 5mm fabric binding.

Worn by Isabella Elizabeth Jobling [1821-1883] at her marriage to Christopher Dawson Fenwick[e] [1815-1895] on 4 August 1846 at St Thomas' Anglican Church, Port Macquarie.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Isabella Elizabeth Jobling [1821-1883] married Christopher Dawson Fenwick[e] [1815-1895] on 4 August 1846 at St Thomas' Anglican Church, Port Macquarie. The couple moved to Yarrowitch Station near Walcha, NSW where Christopher Fenwick had taken out a land lease of 30,400 acres in 1840. In 1861 the family moved to Europambela Station, also near Walcha.

The couple had 10 children - Margaret b.1848, Annie b. 1850, Isabella b. 1851, Frances b. 1853, Percival b. 1855, Christopher b. 1856, Henry b. 1859, Frederick b. 1860, Evelyne b. 1862, Arthur b. 1864.

The donor Miss Barbara Fenwicke, daughter of Percival Fenwicke was living at Europambela Station when she donated this dress in 1968.

Note: Some family members altered the spelling of their surname to Fenwicke as evidenced by Births, Deaths and Marriage records.

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

There are no stories about this dress, however Isabella Jobling and her courtship with Christopher Fenwick are mentioned briefly in Annabella Boswell's journal written whilst Annabella was living at Lake Innes, Port Macquarie during the 1840s.

On 27 December 1844 Annabella wrote: "...On Friday the Misses Jobling came to spend a week with us. They are very nice girls, but so very tiny, the tallest scarcely five feet....", and on 29 December 1844, "...but our chapter of accidents was not yet complete, for Mr Fenwick put Gustavus on his horse, which he led, but forgot to take any notice of him, being too much engrossed in paying attention to Miss Jobling. The consequence was that Gustavus fell off and sprained his wrist..."

It appears that Isabella met her husband Christopher Fenwick whilst holidaying at the Lake Innes property of Major Archibald Clunes Innes, near Port Macquarie in 1844. Following her marriage Isabella left the Hastings area to reside with her husband at their properties near Walcha and the Fenwicke family are still living in that area today.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

Isabella Jobling was born in Ulgham, Northumberland, England and migrated to Australia with her father George Jobling [1791-1852], mother Margaret and siblings Annie and George Reed in 1839. The family settled at Gooloowa, a property located at the junction of the Hastings and Maria Rivers near Blackman's Point, Port Macquarie. Isabella Jobling was a very small woman judging by the dimensions of this dress and the recollections of Annabella Boswell confirm this.

At the time of Isabella's marriage, Port Macquarie and much of NSW was in an economic depression, Annabella Boswell describes the years 1845-1846 in her journal, "...The country was still in a very depressed state; transportation has practically ceased and, everywhere the want of labour was severely felt...Many people who had once been prosperous had lost all they possessed..."

According to Marion Fletcher in Costume in Australia, the woman of the 1840s presented an air of fragility and her whole appearance was demure. The 1840s was a period of pretty clothes without the flamboyance of the 1830s or the over ornamentation that followed in the 1850s.Organ or cartridge pleating was a feature of the years 1841 to about 1846, piping was used to define all the main constructional seams and sleeves were bias cut.

Where did this information come from?

Archives and collection records of the Port Macquarie Historical Society, Annabella Boswell's journal, Births, Deaths and Marriage records - NSW, Ryerson Index, newspapers including the Sydney Morning Herald.

Annabella of Lake Innes Port Macquarie

Griffin Gwen (Ed) Port Macquarie Historical Society Inc. 2003

Costume in Australia 1788-1901

Fletcher Marion, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1984

Marriage a la Mode

Tobin Shelley, The National Trust, Great Britain, 2003

Hatches Matches and Dispatches

Clark Rowena, National Gallery of Victoria, 1987

This garment has been exhibited

The Wedding Dress was last exhibited in "For Better or Worse" - Women and Weddings of the Hastings, a temporary exhibition held at the Port Macquarie Historical Museum from August to December 2005. The exhibition was one of a number of exhibitions developed as part of the 'Her Story' thematic study project in the Port Macquarie Hastings area. Earlier display history of the dress has not been recorded.

  1. Place of origin:

    Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Isabella Elizabeth Fenwick (nee Jobling) and handed down through the family until its donation to the Port Macquarie Historical Society by Miss Barbara C Fenwicke [1900-1990], Isabella's grand daughter in 1968. Original acquisition number was C447.

  3. Worn by:

    Isabella Elizabeth Fenwick[e] (nee Jobling)

  4. Occasion(s):

    At her marriage to Christopher Dawson Fenwick[e]

  5. Place:

    Port Macquarie

  6. Made by:


  7. Made for:

    Isabella Fenwick (nee Jobling)

Trimmings / Decoration

A fabric rosette decorates the centre front bodice, with two smaller rosettes decorating the back centre waist. Top stitching on the skirt gathers near waist gives a shirred decorative effect to the skirt.


Self fabric piping on front and back bodice seams


3 tucks on each sleeve at elbow

Fibre / Weave

Cream damask silk has been used for the dress and fabric rosettes. The bodice is lined with a fine cream cotton and the skirt and sleeves are lined with a stiffened or sized linen.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Hand stitched throughout. The bodice seams are straight stitched with over-sewn edges. There are double seams at front waist 'v' to add body to the skirt gathers.

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


The front bodice and sleeves are cut on the bias. The back bodice and skirt pieces are cut on the straight.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


Metal hooks and hand stitched eyelet holes on bodice back with a tape loop at neck and a metal eye at waist.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Stiffened or sized linen has been used to line and stiffen skirt and sleeves. A fine cotton has been used to line the bodice.


Neck 820 mm
Chest 755 mm
Waist 580 mm
Hem circumference 2700 mm
Front neck to hem 1230 mm
Front waist to hem 990 mm
Back neck to hem 1230 mm
Back waist to hem 1000 mm
Sleeve length 350 mm
Neck to sleeve head 60 mm
Cross back 350 mm
Underarm to underarm 360 mm
Convert to inches


There is staining to the skirt in places and some holes in the fabric at both shoulders this may be from hanging at some stage. There are also 4 glue residue marks on the back bodice near neckline in the shape of sticky tape.

Insect damage

Some evidence of insect holes on skirt.


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


  1. Holes
  2. Stained
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