About Museum

Exhibit from the Museum

 The Benalla Costume and Pioneer Museum was founded in 1967 by the Benalla and District Historical Society. From early in this history it was decided to specialise in costume and the Museum now contains an extensive collection acquired by donation and purchase. It is the only public costume museum of its type in Victoria.
The collections
Apart from the above mentioned displays the Museum also has three main collections and one significant donation. These are:

The Hamill Collection
The Topp Collection
The Hargrave Collection
The 1770s Sacque Dress

The 1770s Sacque Dress
The Sacque style dress is made of embroidered cream silk brocade, hand embroidered with red and pink flowers and green leaves. It has a fitted bodice, fitted elbow length sleeves, paniered skirt, slight train.
Handed down from Glasgow wearer through female descendants and given to the museum in 1995, in pieces. Reconstructed from original pieces except for the right sleeve and cuff which were made from accompanying remnants. All had been kept folded in tissue in an ordinary cardboard box for years.
 The Sacque Dress

Mary Hamill's dress, with photo behind

 The Hamill Collection
Owned by Mary Hamill (nee Rigmaiden) an English army officer's bride in India in 1844, and who came to Melbourne in 1862. Widowed in 1871 Mary put away most of her beautiful clothes. She died in 1908. A portrait of Mary is shown when any of this collection is on display. Also included in the collection are: ten gowns and three capes, some crinolone and one bustle most ornately trimmed.
 
The Topp Collection
Like so many women of her day, Leila Topp (1864 - 1954) played the piano, wrote poetry and painted in oils and water colours. She was born in England and came to Melbourne as a small child. The garments in the collection belonged to both Leila and her mother, Mrs Charlotte Ellis Sanders. Leila married Arthur Manning Topp in 1884 and they lived in South Yarra all their married life. The clothing remained in wardrobes, untouched for a great many years before she died in 1954 at the age of ninety. The Topps' had two sons, Arthur Albert and William Blanchard Topp.
For twenty years, Shirley, wife of Arthur Douglas Topp, Leila's grandson, and five friends used the garments in fashion parades to raise money for charity. They were donated to the Museum in the 1980s. The collections consists of 12 dresses, 6 capes as well as shoes, jackets, skirts and coats.
 
 
The Hargrave Collection
This comprehensive collection is of one family's garments from the 1890 through 1930s. The collection was donated in 1995 by Mrs Olive Hargrave of Yarrawonga. The Hargraves were a well known firm of solicitors and Olive had carefully preserved this marvellous collection including her wedding dress of 1936 (of a most unusual design) and a photo of her wearing it. The other female attire includes a variety of styles worn for day and evening wear, undergarments, a marvellous collection of shoes, parasols, as well as jabots and fronts. A small number of male garments includes a lawyers gown and wig.
 
 
The Museum building
The Museum started out occupying the former Mechanics Institute built in 1869. With major extensions carried out in 1988 with funding from the Bicentennial Celebrations further galleries were added and  opening times extended. With further funding provided by the New Zealand Government, the M J Savage tearoom was added in 1990, and finally a third Gallery was opened in 1997.
 

Benalla Costume and Pioneer Museum

 

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