1866 Liverpool Black Velvet Cape

Era: Cultural background: Collection: Theme:Agriculture Clothing Economics Settlement Shops

Charlotte Bartlett's black velvet cape. Photograph by Kay Beatton
Charlotte Bartlett’s black velvet cape. Photograph by Kay Beatton

Liverpool Regional Museum, Liverpool, Australia.

Object Name
Velvet Cape.

Object/Collection Description
Women’s cape. Made from black velvet, satin, ostrich feathers and cording. The cape was made for Charlotte Bartlett. The cape is in good condition. Dimensions: shoulder line approximately 790mm X 390mm long.

Charlotte Bartlett c.1866. Courtesy of Liverpool Regional Museum

Charlotte Bartlett c.1866. Courtesy of Liverpool Regional Museum

Charlotte Bartlett c.1890. Courtesy of Liverpool Regional Museum

Charlotte Bartlett, c.1890. Courtesy of Liverpool Regional Museum

Charlotte Chapman was born in the Jersey Islands in the English Channel and came to Geelong when she was just two years old. In 1869 Charlotte Chapman married John Vigar when she was eighteen. John and Charlotte are the Bartlett family who lived at Collingwood House Liverpool. They had eight children, Reginald Hugh, Mabel Adelaide, Flora Elsie, Edgar Maurice, Samuel Vincent, Edith Lillian and Aubrey Claude and Walter Lionel.

John Vigar Bartlett c.1870. Courtesy of Campbelltown City Library

John Vigar Bartlett, c.1870. Courtesy of Campbelltown City Library

Originally engaged in the building industry, both the Vigar and Chapman families also became well known in the colony for their connection to the timber and mining businesses. In particular, the Chapman family was well known in the building trade of the Geelong area in Victoria. John and Charlotte attended a ball in Geelong in 1867 celebrating the opening of a new road bridge, designed by John and opened by the Duke of Edinburgh. John was the Secretary of the Colac Shire Council and Council Architect and Surveyor.

The Bartlett house 'Marlsford' at Campbelltown. Courtesy of Campbelltown City Library

The Bartlett house ‘Marlsford’ at Campbelltown. Courtesy of Campbelltown City Library

In the late 1880s or early 1890s, John became Government Architect, Surveyor and District Engineer in the Campbelltown/Airds District. The family could not find a house big enough for their eight children, so they rented Collingwood House, until they built a big house in Campbelltown.

John was a road and bridge builder, a timber merchant, had mining interests in Yerranderie in the Blue Mountains and a copper mine in New Guinea. He was often away from home for long stretches. Charlotte would have been responsible for running the property the when he was away. Charlotte was typical of nineteenth century women running the house, home and family, supervising domestic labour, supervising the children’s education, and made most of the children’s clothes by hand. She died in 1913, just before the outbreak of the First World War.

This cape was owned by Charlotte Bartlett and provides an historical link to their family and the late nineteenth century community of Liverpool.

During the 19th century the colonies depended heavily on imported clothing, just as Australia does today. British made goods were in particularly high demand, but by the end of the century American shoes, French and German fancy accessories, haberdashery and other specialist items frequently supplanted British made items. 1

By the 1850s an increasing variety of imported, ready made garments for women could be purchased in Australia. Most of these garments were informal, outerwear or leisure garments and there was little in the way of stylish gowns. Part-made evening and walking gowns (the skirts ready made) and some made-up gowns were also available. 2 As a result women’s garments retailed in urban and country areas were a mixture of locally made garments and imported goods.

The cape has historical significance as evidence of the growing prosperity in New South Wales and Liverpool in the nineteenth century as a result of the widespread exploitation of the environment. The cape has historical significance as evidence of the experience of women in middle class families in the nineteenth century and of colonial millinery and clothing retail practices. The cape is associated with the second phase of settlement in the Liverpool area and the establishment of communities that compounded intensive agriculture and the acquisition of land that completed the chain of events in the dispossession of the Aboriginal people.

The cape has aesthetic significance in the nineteenth century fashion and retailing industry, both overseas and in Australia.

The cape is significant for researchers as it relates to a specific family significant site in the Liverpool area.

The cape has significant historical associations with the settlement of Liverpool and the development of community infrastructure, intense agriculture and the role of women in 19th century Australia.

The cape is provenanced to Charlotte Bartlett and was donated to the Liverpool Regional Museum in the 1990s by Mrs Kay Beatton, great granddaughter of Charlotte Bartlett.

The cape interprets the exploration and expansion of the early colony at New South Wales. It also interprets the change from the brutal convict origins of European Australia to a migrant based market based economy. The cape has the potential to interpret the experience of the growing prosperity and the experience of women in Sydney in the later nineteenth century.


1 Maynard, M 1994, Fashioned From Penury. Dress As Cultural Practice in Colonial Australia Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

2 ibid


Broese, F 1998, Island Nation: Australia’s Maritime Heritage,

Coupe, S & Andrews, M 1992, Their Ghosts may be heard: Australia to 1900, Longman Cheshire, Sydney.

Hughes, R 1987, Fatal Shore, London.

Stories of Liverpool: 1788 – 1900 Teacher’s Notes, Liverpool Regional Museum, no date.

Stories of Liverpool: 1788 – 1900 Education Kit, Liverpool Regional Museum, no date.

Heritage Office & Dept of Urban Affairs & Planning 1996, Regional Histories of NSW, Sydney.

Heritage Collections Council 2001, Significance: A guide to assessing the significance of cultural heritage objects and collections, Canberra.



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