126-year-old wedding dress in Lichfield auction tells a Victorian love story
THE love story behind a Victorian wedding dress has been warming the hearts of antiques specialists at The Lichfield Auction Centre.
The 126-year-old century ivory coloured silk and lace dress complete with lace veil, white leather boots and silk slippers goes under the hammer with Richard Winterton Auctioneers at Fradley Park on November 6.
But it is the provenance from a direct descendant which has really brought the late 19th century garments alive.
The bespoke dress was made for the marriage of Emily Gertrude Haynes and Henry Hawson Jago on June 16 1897 at Christ Church in Bootle, Liverpool.
It has covered button detail along the back of the tightly-fitted silk bodice, long ribbon-edged layered gauze sleeves and a ruched silk and layered embroidered gauze full skirt, complete with a secret pocket hidden amongst its folds.
Today, the measurements would equate to a UK size 6/8.
Included are the embroidered veil and shawl, handmade leather boots with silk ribbon detail and a pair of silk slippers, with the latter appearing to be unworn.
The lot also features a collection of handmade lace collars and cuffs.
The garments have been consigned by the bride’s granddaughter, who lives in Repton, Derbyshire.
“My grandmother, who was known to us by her middle name Gertrude, came from a typical middle-class Victorian family,” she said.
“She had three older sisters, none of whom married.
“They apparently led quite genteel lives, largely spent sewing lace and crocheting – probably all the lace and crocheted collars and cuffs I brought in will have been sewn by them.
“It seems Henry – who was known as Harry – and Gertrude’s marriage was extremely happy and they had four sons, my father being the youngest and born in 1908.”
Harry was a postmaster and the family moved from Liverpool to Yorkshire, then to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, and then to Stranraer, in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.
But tragedy struck when, in 1921, Harry developed appendicitis.
The emergency operation to remove his appendix was carried out on the kitchen table and he subsequently developed an infection, dying at the age of 52.
“This was a tragedy for my grandmother, both emotionally and financially – there were no social services and she had no husband bringing in an income. And, of course, she had no training.
“She appears to have moved in with her sisters who by then were living in Kingston upon Thames and, as her only way of earning some money, went out to work as a cleaner, literally scrubbing other people’s floors.
“I suppose the sisters were living on whatever their parents had left, which would inevitably have dwindled over time.
“However, her eldest son was 21 and a teacher so he helped, as did all the boys as they grew up and got jobs.
“In later life she was back on a more even footing but, as was Victorian custom, she never wore colours again – her wardrobe consisted of black and grey, sometimes with white or cream blouses.”
Gertrude died in her mid-80s.
Sarah Williams, senior valuer at Richard Winterton Auctioneers, said: “I was delighted to not only see the beautiful late Victorian wedding dress complete with the lace veil, white leather boots and silk slippers but to hear about the life of the vendor’s grandmother.
“It was also wonderful to see what are believed to be the engagement photographs of Gertrude and her husband Harry as well as one of their wedding cards with the date of the marriage and the name of the church in Bootle.
“So often we get historical costume and textiles in for auction with no knowledge of their history and with this wedding dress, having provenance from a direct descendant has really brought the garments alive.
“Considering it’s 126 years old it is in remarkably good condition overall and the silk slippers appear unworn.”
The dress features in Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ Antiques & Home Sale on Monday, November 6, starting at 9.30am at The Lichfield Auction Centre, Wood End Lane, Fradley Park, WS13 8NF.
The catalogue can be accessed online line via our Auction Dates page a week before the sale and viewing in person takes place at The Lichfield Auction Centre on Friday, November 3.
Free home visits for large collections and house clearance quotations are also available.