Jess Boam from Richard Winterton Auctioneers with the 126-year-old wedding dress
Jess Boam from Richard Winterton Auctioneers with the 126-year-old wedding dress

A Victorian wedding dress being sold by a Lichfield auctioneer has shone a light on a love story from a bygone era.

The 126-year-old century ivory coloured silk and lace dress complete with lace veil, white leather boots and silk slippers goes will be sold at Richard Winterton Auctioneers on 6th November.

The bespoke outfit was made for the marriage of Emily Gertrude Haynes and Henry Hawson Jago in 1897 at Christ Church in Bootle, Liverpool.

The garments have been consigned by the bride’s granddaughter. She said:

“My grandmother, who was known to us by her middle name Gertrude, came from a typical middle-class Victorian family. She had three older sisters, none of whom married.

“They apparently led quite genteel lives, largely spent sewing lace and crocheting – probably all the lace and crocheted collars and cuffs being sold will have been sewn by them.

“It seems Henry, who was known as Harry, and Gertrude’s marriage was extremely happy and they had four sons, my father being the youngest and born in 1908.”

Harry was a postmaster, with the family moving from Liverpool to Yorkshire, then to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, before moving to Stranraer and Galloway in Scotland.

But tragedy struck when, in 1921, he developed appendicitis. An emergency operation was carried out on the kitchen table and he subsequently developed an infection, dying at the age of 52.

His granddaughter said:

“This was a tragedy for my grandmother, both emotionally and financially – there were no social services and she had no husband bringing in an income. And, of course, she had no training.

“She appears to have moved in with her sisters who by then were living in Kingston-upon-Thames and, as her only way of earning some money, went out to work as a cleaner, literally scrubbing other people’s floors.

“I suppose the sisters were living on whatever their parents had left, which would inevitably have dwindled over time. However, her eldest son was 21 and a teacher so he helped, as did all the boys as they grew up and got jobs.

“In later life she was back on a more even footing but, as was Victorian custom, she never wore colours again – her wardrobe consisted of black and grey, sometimes with white or cream blouses.”

Sarah Williams, senior valuer at Richard Winterton Auctioneers, said:

“I was delighted to not only see the beautiful late Victorian wedding dress complete with the lace veil, white leather boots and silk slippers but to hear about the life of the vendor’s grandmother.

“It was also wonderful to see what are believed to be the engagement photographs of Gertrude and her husband Harry as well as one of their wedding cards with the date of the marriage and the name of the church in Bootle.

“So often we get historical costume and textiles in for auction with no knowledge of their history and with this wedding dress, having provenance from a direct descendant has really brought the garments alive.

“Considering it’s 126 years old it is in remarkably good condition overall and the silk slippers appear unworn.”

Full details of the item can be found on Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ website.

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.