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The Bonnets Project:

The Bonnets Project:Exploring the legacy of the wisemanWomen of the Hawkesbury and Hunter districts of nsw

Two womens day bonnets from the nineteenth century: Through whose hands have they passed? What is their heritage significance? The Bonnets Project was initiated to answer those questions.

Photograph: Marilyn Wood 2016

In 2015 Lynn Collins gifted two linen day bonnets to the Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury Historical Society Inc. (DLHHS). Lynn was given the bonnets by her dear friend who had died some years earlier, Jennifer Crawford Brown. Photograph: Jan Kofron 2015

Lynn handed the bonnets over to the societys secretary, Jan Kofron, in 2015. The occasion coincided with the 160th anniversary of the completion of the sandstone Wesleyan Chapel at Gunderman. Once a Methodist chapel, it is now the home of the DLHHS.

Photograph: Marilyn Wood 2016

Sharon Moore and Rebecca Cardy, the grant and heritage officers from Gosford City Council, have supported the Bonnets Project from its inception. As part of the DLHHS celebration of the chapels anniversary, Gosford City Council funded research into the bonnets provenance and pioneer heritage.

Photograph: Marilyn Wood 2016

Jan met with Hillary Davidson, historical clothing and textile expert, at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. In Hillarys opinion the bonnets dated to the second half of the nineteenth century, as most of the stitching was machine made. This dating made it unlikely that the bonnets were made by either of Solomon Wisemans wives.

Photograph: Jan Kofron 2016

To clarify their origin Marilyn Wood, President of the DLHHS, began the painstaking task of researching the Wiseman family tree. With Lynns help, and the wizardry of the Ancestry program, Marilyn was able to establish beyond doubt that Jennifer Crawford Brown was a direct descendant of Solomon Wiseman through his daughter Marys line.

Photograph: Marilyn Wood 2016

Jennifers ancestor, Mary Wiseman, married Thomas Crawford in 1832 and they initially lived with Solomon and his second wife, Sophia, at his home at Wisemans Ferry. There Thomas became the licensee of the The Branch Inn, the successor to Wisemans Sign of the Packet. Solomons home and hotel, overlooking the Hawkesbury River, remain important landmarks in the district.

Internet photograph of Jennifer Crawford Brown with Solomon Wisemans portrait in the Wiseman Ferry Inn. Arranged by Marilyn Wood 2016.

Although the bonnets heritage had been established it was still unclear who made the bonnets, who wore the bonnets and how they came into Jennifers possession. Further research uncovered that Marys daughter-in-law, Amelia, was widely known for her sewing ability. It is likely she made the bonnets for her two unmarried sisters-in-law with whom she lived in the Wiseman-Crawford home.

Photograph: Marilyn Wood 2016

Surely there are many stories that the bonnets can still reveal. It is a privilege however to work on a project that links our present community to the Wiseman family. Their name is permanently commemorated by the ongoing presence in the Hawkesbury district of a ferry, a road, a village and a landmark hotel.

Photograph: Marilyn Wood 2016

Thanks and acknowledgements to:

Lynn Collins for her very generous donation of the bonnets and the information she has provided; Hillary Davidson for her expert advice; Jan Kofron for her photographs and ongoing support behind the scenes; The current licensee of the Wisemans Inn Hotel and his staff for access to the hotel premises and their enthusiasm for Wiseman family research; The Dharug and Lower Hawkesbury Historical Society Inc. committee members who support this research and conservation project. The Brisbane Water Historical Society Inc., especially Kreenagh Yelds and Kathleen Ness, for their encouragement and the use of one of their vintage sewing machines. The Grants and Heritage Departments within the Central Coast Council (previously Gosford City Council) for their encouragement and financial contribution towards the project .