Inside the Collection

The Bayldon Collection at the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum

Framed portraits of William and Eliza Bayldon
Image courtesy of the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum

For most of my adult life I had heard of all the things in my aunt’s possession.

Aunty Nan (Nancy Sewell nee Whaites) was a wealth of knowledge and loved to talk about her ancestors.

William Edward Bayldon who had been born in England was operating a chemist shop and owned farm land in Adelaide in 1840 when he married Eliza Leaman widow of James Birmingham Kelly.

James a ship’s surgeon and Eliza had arrived in Australia in 1838 on the Rajasthan but he died from TB in 1839.

After the birth of their first child Annie William moved his family back to England. A son was born on the voyage followed by four more girls and a son while working for the Luton Police. However he decided to move the family back to Australia and they arrived in Sydney in 1853 where William again had a chemist shop. Their last child Emily was born in 1855.

William then decided to move his family to Ulmarra on the Clarence where he purchased a considerable land holding where he and his sons bred cattle and horses.
In 1871 William was made a JP who travelled from Grafton to the Bellinger in this profession.

At some time he must have seen how good things were on the Bellinger so moved his family possessions and stock to an area that he called Boambie. Thus he was known as one of the first settlers in the area.

Emily went to Sydney to do her nurses training at the Lucy Osborne Hospital before she married widow Captain William John Whaites the first shipping pilot on the Nambucca. They had four sons and a daughter.

William and Eliza Bayldon
Image courtesy of the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum

In 2005 Aunty Nan phoned me to ask if I would contact the Sawtell Museum in the hope they would like the portraits of William and Eliza Bayldon. Aunty Nan was giving up her home and going into care.

As there is no museum at Sawtell I contacted the Sawtell Historical Society who suggested I talk to the Bayldon Public School.

Mr Walsh the Principal was overjoyed at the request and suggested that they be presented by Nan at the school’s assembly. Aunty Nan was so thrilled that along with the portraits she gave a talk on the life of William and showed the students the silk top hat (stilled stored in its metal box) that he wore when he was a JP. The story went in the local paper.

Along with the portraits and the top hat Aunty Nan brought several dresses that had belonged to members of the Bayldon family for me to keep. One of the outfits was a three piece blue and silver striped skirt, jacket and bustle cover all edged with blue silk fringing which she told me had been a wedding outfit.

Gown from the Bayldon collection
Image courtesy of the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum

After her death in 2008 her daughter told me that after sorting through Nan’s possessions there were more clothes that she would bring up. I knew I had no where to store any more garments so I contacted the Coffs Harbour Museum in the hope they would like them. They were very pleased to get the clothes due to the significance of the name Bayldon in the local area.

The staff at the museum were overjoyed at the quality and variety of items in the collection which eventually numbered over 100 pieces. Each piece has been photographed and given an identification number. The Bayldon Collection as it is known contains underwear, accessories, bags, scarves blouses jackets and skirts and one of the most unique garments is a very simple grey and white striped cotton day dress trimmed in blue cotton. Most cotton garments were used as rags and it is rare to find a cotton dress in such good condition.

Gown from the Bayldon collection
Image courtesy of the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum

A display was held at the museum with media coverage informing everyone of the wonderful collection that had been donated by the descendants of the Bayldon family. The Bayldon Public School had successfully gazetted for a name change to the William Bayldon Public School loaned the portraits to be included in the display. The school had had the portraits restored and they hang proudly in the main building.

Bayldon collection on display
Image courtesy of the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum

Since the first display there have been several pop up displays in which parts of the Bayldon Collection have been included. Two of which were bridal displays and the three piece wedding outfit drew quite a lot of attention especially because of the colour and condition.

Among other things from aunty Nan were photos which included one of Annie the eldest daughter of William and Eliza wearing the three piece wedding outfit.

All the clothes are now stored in archive quality boxes in the museum with acid free tissue paper separating the garments. The sleeves are padded with tissue and wherever there is a fold in the fabric a long sausage shape of tissue is placed to prevent damage.

Contributed by Cheryl Dal Pozzo, Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

Cheryl Dal Pozzo has contributed five outstanding entries to the Australian Dress Register Project. Her entries focus on a collection of garments handed down to her by an Aunt, and she uses her examination of these garments to explore her family history and their contribution to and place in a wider historical context. In this blog she provides the back story to this amazing collection.

6 responses to “The Bayldon Collection at the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum

  • Hello
    Do you have any information about William Bayldon’s time in Sydney? I believe that in 1894 he was living in Railway Parade in Petersham, in a house called “Leamansville”, obviously after his wife. It is for a history project I am doing on that area in that decade.
    Thank you very much
    Annette Craddock

  • Congratulations on sharing your family history. I grew up in Sawtell and my father went there before it was named Sawtell, and I didnt know this.

  • Love this article !!
    I’ve heard of Aunty Nan
    My father Walter Whaites great great aunt .
    Mum and dad attended Nan’s 90 th birthday in Sydney . This year it’s my own mum Daphne’s 90 th birthday .

    Genie Whaites

  • I’ve discovered this article this evening. I am a descendant of William and Eliza Bayldon. Their daughter Lavinia is my great-great-grandmother. It is so wonderful to know some details about my paternal ancestors!

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