Ellen Sharam's Olive Green Skirt

Contributed by: Griffith Pioneer Park Museum

Ellen & Charles Sharam on their Wedding Day, 1895 Front view of skirt Side view of skirt Skirt detail showing black beaded braid Charles and Ellen Sharam's family pictured in front of their farmhouse at Kunat, Victoria, ca. 1906 Charles and Ellen Sharam (seated) with three of their children,  Stan, Jean and Dave Ellen Sharam Ellen Sharam and her sister Emily Childhood home of Charles Sharam. Parents, Christopher and Ellen and children in Petticoat Lane, Penola, 1853. Before hem repairs Repaired hem - lining visible Charles Sharam's family Charles and Ellen Sharam Ellen's Birthday celebration Ellen Sharam (left) with three of her sisters
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Griffith Pioneer Park Museum
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

    1878 - 1900
  • Place of origin:

    Penola, South Australia, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This bustle-style skirt was made and worn in the late 1870s by Ellen Eleanore Sharam, nee Wennerbom.  With its deep flounce and black, beaded braid, the skirt is a fine example of the elegance of the era and the importance of decoration on clothing, even for day wear.

Born in Penola, South Australia in 1861, Ellen was the second child of Alison and Charles Wennerbom.  Her father had emigrated from Sweden, and her mother from Paisley in Scotland.

As a young woman, Ellen learnt the traditional needlework skills which enabled her to become a dressmaker.  In her late twenties, at her brothers’ suggestion, she moved from the family home in Penola to Junee, New South Wales, to establish a dressmaking business.

In 1895 aged 34, Ellen married Charles Sharam, a childhood friend from Penola.  Charles owned a farm at Kunat, Victoria, and it was here that they made their home, raising five children.

This well-worn skirt must have been a favourite, as it was kept and stored for many years.  In 1969, Ellen’s son, Charlie Sharam, donated the garment to the Pioneer Park Museum, which he had founded in Griffith, New South Wales.

Author: Heather Waide, April, 2013.


This skirt from the late 1870s has a bustled silhouette emphasizing the small waist of the owner. The front of the skirt is a fitted A-line shape. The back of the skirt has an added panel and two godets which shape the bustle.

A deep circular flounce forms the skirt hem. The flounce follows a scalloped shape where it joins the skirt with a 40mm wide black beaded braid decorating the seam line.

The skirt is made from a dark olive green woven fabric, with an embossed herringbone pattern. The fabric pattern on the front of the skirt is vertical with the flounce pattern cut horizontally, changing further round the skirt. The waistband is a 30mm wide matching woven braid closed at the centre back with two heavy hooks and eyes.

The skirt has no side seams. It has six waist darts, two at the front and four at the back. The extra panel inserted at the centre back is folded into a deep tuck covering the centre back placket opening. Attached on both sides of the panel are two godets which finish on the hipline.

The skirt lining is a heavy shiny brown coloured cotton. This stiffened lining helps keep the front of the skirt straight and the fullness at the back. The lining has fewer seams than the skirt fabric. The skirt and lining have been sewn as one.

On the inside of the skirt a 10mm wide bias facing of the skirt fabric covers the join between the skirt and the flounce. It has been machine stitched. The black beaded braid is hand stitched to the skirt.

History and Provenance

Ellen Sharam’s parents:

Ellen Sharam’s father, Charles August Wennerbom was a Swedish sailor.  He arrived in South Australia in 1840, ‘jumping ship’ at the small seaport of Robe.  His first night on Australian soil was spent in the Robe gaol – the only bed and shelter to be found.  Charles then trekked overland through the bush, following the track taken by Chinese immigrants on their way to the Victorian goldfields.  Charles eventually found work as a shepherd on a large sheep station, and later was able to buy land for vegetable growing in the new settlement of Penola.

Ellen Sharam’s mother, Alison Ellen Balnaves, emigrated with her parents and two siblings.  In 1844, they sailed from Scotland on the Bucephalus.  All members of the family, including the children, were skilled handloom weavers from the town of Paisley.  Following the industrial revolution, weaving sheds filled with powered looms took the place of small cottage industries, and individual families such as the Balnaves lost their work. Eventually settling in Penola, South Australia, in 1858, the family opened a general storekeeping business.

Charles Sharam’s parents:

Charles Sharam’s father, Christopher, was born in Britain in 1813.  He was a bootmaker by trade.  In 1836, aged 23, he found work as a seaman on ships trading between the South Sea Islands.  In 1845 he came to Portland, Victoria, where he found employment on a large pastoral station.  Here he practiced his trade of bootmaking, and also guarded flocks of sheep against attacks.  Some time later, he moved to another station in the newly developed state of South Australia, where he continued to make and repair boots for the station hands.  With his red hair, fiery nature and fighting prowess, Christopher Sharam was a well-known identity in the early days of South Australian settlement.

Charles Sharam’s mother, Ellen, emigrated with her family from Sussex, England.  They sailed from London on 5 April 1842 aboard the barque Platina.  On arrival in Australia, William Patching, Ellen’s father, worked as a farm labourer on a large station.  Ellen worked in the station homestead as a housemaid.  It was at this time that Ellen met Christopher Sharam.  In 1848, when Ellen was 15 years and Christopher 35, they married.

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Ellen Sharam's (nee Wennerbom) family:

Alison Ellen Balnaves (1840-1921) Born in Paisley, Scotland.

Charles August Wennerbom (1833-1911) Born in Sweden.

Alison Ellen Balnaves and Charles August Wennerbom married in Penola 17th February, 1859.

Their daughter Ellen Eleanore Wennerbom (1861-1959) was the second of 13 children. Born in Penola, South Australia.

Ellen Wennerbom grew up in Penola, helping her mother with their large family, and learning fine dressmaking and needlework skills.

Later in life, she moved to Junee, New South Wales, to work as a dressmaker.

Following the sudden death of her friend, Isabella Sharam, Ellen corresponded with her husband, Charles, a childhood friend from Penola.  Some time later, Charles asked Ellen to marry him.  They were married in Melbourne on 26 December, 1895, and set up their home at Charles’ farm in Kunat Victoria.

Children of Ellen and Charles: Charlie 1897, David 1899, Stan 1901, Jean 1902, Christopher 1906.


Charles Sharam's family:

Ellen Patching (1833 - 1910). Born in Scotland.

Christopher Sharam (1813 - 1890). Born in Britain.

Ellen Patching and Christopher Sharam married on 10th March, 1848.

Their son Charles Sharam (1853-1941) Born in Penola, South Australia.

Christopher Sharam built a family home in Petticoat Lane, Penola.  A slab timber cottage constructed without nails, the roof formed with large pieces of bark.  It was the first such dwelling in the new bush settlement.  Soon after, Christopher built a second cottage to accommodate their growing family.  Christopher worked from their home, making and repairing boots and saddlery.  Together Ellen and Christopher had 15 children, Charles being their fourth.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

Education in early Penola, South Australia:

The first official school education in the south-east of South Australia, became available in Penola during 1855, when Mr Michael O’Grady opened his school with 40 students.  The older children from the Sharam family were among the students at the school.  School fees were charged at this time with free public school education not available in South Australia until 1892.

In 1860, the owners of nearby Penola Station, Margaret and Alexander Cameron, decided to seek a governess to educate their children.  Not long after, their 18 year old niece, Mary MacKillop, arrived from Melbourne to take up the position.  While teaching the Cameron children, Mary also invited children from other families employed on the station to join the classes.

During Mary’s stay she met the local Catholic priest, Father Julian Tenison Woods who was the only cleric in the wider district at the time.  After speaking with Father Woods, Mary found they shared a wish to be able to provide education and opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged children in the village.  Some years later, in 1866, Mary opened a school in a disused Penola stable.  It was open-entry and accepted all students, regardless of whether or not their families could afford fees.  Later, Father Tenison Woods built a new stone schoolhouse and, together with Mary, founded the Order of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.  Following this, many schools were opened in the isolated bush settlements of South Australia, then other states, and even across the Tasman in New Zealand.  On October 17, 2010, the extraordinary work of Mary MacKillop was recognised and she became Australia’s first saint.

Where did this information come from?

This information came from Museum records and discussions with two of Ellen Sharam's granddaughters.

Wennerbom family history was obtained from written records.

Sharam Family history was obtained from the book 'The Pride of "Christie's Row" - Sharam Heritage, Penola written by Betty Byrne and Jill Fox. Published in 1981.

Sharam Family photos were obtained from family members.

Penola history was obtained from the Penola Visitors Centre, South Australia.

Mary MacKillop history was obtained from the 'Mary MacKillop Penola Centre', South Australia

This garment has been exhibited

The garment has been displayed at Griffith Pioneer Park Museum.

  1. Place of origin:

    Penola, South Australia, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Ellen Sharam nee Wennerbom

  3. Worn by:

    Ellen Sharam

  4. Occasion(s):

    This skirt was possibly worn while Ellen was working as a dressmaker.

  5. Place:

    Penola, South Australia.

    Junee, New South Wales.

    Kunat, Victoria.

  6. Designed by:

    Ellen Sharam

  7. Made by:

    Ellen Sharam. This skirt is well worn with the fabric and lining quite thin on the front of the skirt.

    The waistband shows considerable wear.

    The skirt was stored in a garage for many years before coming to the museum. It is quite faded in places and has suffered insect damage which has been repaired where possible.

  8. Made for:

    Ellen Sharam, nee Wennerbom.

Trimmings / Decoration

The skirt is decorated with a 40 mm wide black beaded braid. This has been attached to cover the join between the flounced hem and the main body of the skirt. The braid has been stitched on by hand.


The waistband is a strongly woven braid, 30 mm wide.

Fibre / Weave

The skirt is a very dark olive green colour.

The fabric is a heavy linen-like woven fabric with an embossed herringbone pattern.

The lining is a shiny brown heavy cotton fabric.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


The skirt is machine sewn. The seams have been overcast with hand stitching. The black beaded braid is attached with hand stitching.

The centre back panel and godets have been stitched to the main skirt section. The lining has been shaped from this and has less seams. The skirt and lining have been made together as one with seams at the back.




Hem of skirt has had modern repairs.

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


The main body of the skirt is on the straight grain.

The flounce is on the straight grain at the centre front of the skirt but changes due to its shape.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


The skirt has a centre back placket opening. Two heavy black hooks and eyes form the closure on the waistband. Another hook and eye is located further down the placket.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The skirt lining is a shiny brown heavy cotton fabric.


Waist 610 mm
Hem circumference 3700 mm
Front waist to hem 1010 mm
Back waist to hem 1110 mm
Convert to inches

The skirt hem is formed by a flounce. This joins to the main body of the skirt in a scalloped pattern. The deepest part of the flounce is 390mm with the narrower parts 340mm.

The waistband is a 30 mm wide piece of woven braid.

Additional material

Other related objects

1. One dark blue velvet boned fitted top worn over a bustled skirt. Some lace has been removed.

2. A black boned fitted top with the sleeves missing. This blouse has a white lace yoke and upright collar. The bodice has black diagonal pleats on the front and back with some decorative black lace.

Ellen has reused pieces from these garments.


Evidence of repairs

Conservation work has been carried out on the skirt. The flounce has insect damage which has left the fabric with holes and shredded sections. Black net has been used to stabilize and enclose these areas to avoid further deterioration.

Insect damage

The skirt has insect damage to the flounce.


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


  1. Fading
  2. Brittle
  3. Frayed
  4. Holes
  5. Worn
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