Wyong’s World War One treasure survives the inferno

A precious piece of local history has been safely in storage since being rescued from the smouldering ruins of the Wyong District Museum at Alison Homestead in December 2011.

Tea Cloth 1915_0397

For Belgium 1915 from Wyong – embroidered signature teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

On the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW1, and on the eve of work commencing on the Museum rebuild, this delicate piece of fabric sealed behind glass has been cleaned of layers of soot and grime and was displayed at the Wyong District Pioneers Dinner on Saturday 18 October, 2014.

The gold frame is slightly charred and blistered on the bottom edge – evidence of just how close we came to losing this unique item to the fire which claimed so many of our heritage items.

It is believed the square teacloth was made by several local women to raise funds for the Belgian Relief effort. The names on the cloth appear to be signatures as they are not all written in the same hand, and then embroidered over in red thread.

Tea Cloth 1915_0416

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

 

It is likely that people from the Wyong district paid to have their name embroidered on the cloth. The tablecloth was then auctioned by means of an art union prize on Belgian Day, 14 May 1915, to raise further money.

There are over 180 names on the cloth, most are well-known Wyong pioneers and settlers such as: Bailey, Barker, Beaven, Boyd, Chapman, Duggan, Earl, Gascoigne, Gavenlock, Hunt, Sharp, Smith, Tonkin, and Waters to name a few.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

This irreplaceable treasure will, once again, take pride of place in our Museum when the rebuild is completed, we hope by October 2015.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

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SOURCES: Wyong Museum & Historical Society; NLA Trove; Australian War Memorial.

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