The Centerpiece of the current display in the 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 in 1892 of her grandson the Duke of Clarence was previously on extended loan to the museum. Now it has been formally donated by its owner Jean Barnett and her family.
The Duke of Clarence, elder son of the then Prince and Princess of Wales and grandson of Queen Victoria, was one of the victims of the influenza pandemic of 1889-1892.
Christened Albert Victor Christian Edward but known to history as “Eddy,” the Duke of Clarence had only just celebrated his 28th birthday when he died at the royal residence at Sandringham on January 14th 1892.
The museum had the opportunity recently to formally thank Jean Barnett and her family for their generosity for the gift is enabling the general public to see and appreciate this piece of history. The gift will also ensure that 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.
For Georgina Bradley, a museum board of directors member who heads the team of volunteers which runs the costume gallery and conserves the costume collection, the reception was a significant moment.
Among guests was Natalie Tilbury who brought her research into Victoria’s dress along to present to the Barnett family.
Georgina Bradley says: “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.
“She is studying for her Masters at London College of Fashion and is in contact with other museum curators.”
Aptly, refreshments for the occasion included Victoria biscuits and muffins.