Centrepiece of the current display in Bexhill Museum’s costume and social history gallery is a sombre black dress which is easily the most significant item in its extensive costume collection.
The mourning dress worn by Queen Victoria for the funeral of her grandson the Duke of Clarence in 1892 was previously on extended loan to the museum. Now it has been formally donated by Jean Barnett and her family.
The Duke of Clarence, son of the then Prince and Princess of Wales, was one of the victims of the influenza pandemic. He died aged 28, on January 14th, 1892.
The museum had the opportunity recently to formally thank Jean Barnett and her family for their generosity. The gift is enabling the general public to see and appreciate this piece of history and will also ensure the dress is conserved for posterity.
At a reception in the costume gallery, museum chairman John Betts presented Jean with a bouquet of flowers. The dress had been owned jointly by Jean and her sister, Cheryl Jarrett. On the day, Jean was accompanied by her family who were visiting from Sydney, Australia: son Richard and daughter-in-law Beverley and grandchildren Cameron, Daniel and Chloe with Cameron’s girlfriend Lara Vandersluis.
Among the guests was Natalie Tilbury, who brought her research into Victoria’s dress along to present to the Barnett family.
Georgina Bradley, a museum board of directors member who heads the team of volunteers, said: “Natalie has a great interest in provincial museums and costume, she would hope to be a curator one day. She discovered Bexhill museum online, sent in her impressive portfolio of past studies and work to us and it was suggested that she pop in.
“We share much in common and she is coming again in September, if not before, to help the costume section further with research and conservation.”