Geelong is a community of collections and collectors. The City of Greater Geelong holds a rich and diverse Heritage Collection of over 12,000 objects. Spread across numerous locations throughout the region, the collection reflects Geelong’s history as a vibrant and progressive city.
The oldest artefacts in the collection date to the 1790s. There are mayoral chains, industrial machines, extensive maritime and wool collections. There is an ever-changing outdoor collection, which includes both monuments and public art. There are even confiscated contraband items from the old Geelong Gaol – handmade tattoo guns, shivs and drug paraphernalia.
In April 2020 the City of Greater Geelong finalised the report Our Heritage, Our Collection that lays the foundation for caring for managing and providing access to this extraordinary heritage collection.
We have hand-picked 100 treasures from the collection curated by the themes: Waggas, War, Wool and Work. If you would like to see other themes or objects on this site, jump to the about page to find out more and let us know.
We have hand-picked 50 treasures from the collection curated by the themes: War, Wool and Work. In time, more Geelong regional treasures will be added. If you would like to see other themes or objects on this site, jump to the about page to find out more and let us know.
This small woollen suiting wagga was machine stitched, backed with orange cotton and edged with brown navy and white striped braid. It shows how important old and disused suiting fabric was for quilt making during World War Two.
This coverlet was made for Chris Neyland by Rene Densham when he was born in 1953. The quilt was created from scraps of woollen fabric from clothing used in the family. It was used in Chris’ cot or pram when he was an infant. His aunt Lois Densham donated the quilt. Lois can remember the dark green fabric coming from a jacket she once wore and the blue tartan pieces from a skirt worn by Rene, her mother. Lois also remembers her mother being “a better piano player than a cook or a sewer”. According to her, the quilt was “made in the tradition of making do from a family who knew how”.
Discovered in an antique shop in 1990, this was believed initially to be the 1943 shield of the Navy Patrol Vessel ML 817 but later found to be from the 817 Squadron of the Navy’s Air Arm. Originally a Royal Navy Squadron, the fixed armed aircraft team was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy. Their aircraft operated off HMAS Sydney and HMAS Melbourne, which were aircraft carriers in the late stages of World War Two. Their motto AUDE FACRE means “DARE TO ACT”.
These are samples of products made at the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Mill in Geelong but discontinued before 1960. They were used to show shops what materials were available. The samples were given to Mr Robert Anderson, an apprentice fitter and turner at the mill between 1960-1965. His mother, Mrs Lucy Anderson, sewed the samples into rugs in the early 1960s. Lucy’s rug shows that by 1960 the spirit of the wagga quilt and making do continued in the vernacular of Australian quilters.
This memorial offers solace for people affected by road trauma, a space for quiet contemplation and reflection. The phases of the moon symbolise the stages of grief, the journey from loss toward acceptance and hope. A project delivered by the City of Greater Geelong, in partnership with the Transport Accident Commission and supported by Road Trauma Support Services Victoria and the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.”
The 1891 Shearers’ Strike was one of the most significant events in the development of the Australian Labor Movement. Barcaldine in Central Queensland was the location for much of this conflict. Graziers were attempting to negotiate agreements on individual stations that went against union rules including a reduction in shearers’ wages. Queensland pastoralists engaged Victorian “free labourers” or “scabs” to keep their sheds running while local shearers were on strike. The conflict required armed police to guard Victorian shearers as riots toke place and woolsheds burnt down. With both sides bearing arms, there were thoughts of a possible “Australian Revolution”. The conflict ended in June 1891 with rebel shearers regaining work, however, several of the strike’s leaders were sentenced to prison
The wagga quilt still lives on in quilting circles and the Australian imaginary. This contemporary take on the wagga is the winner of the Art Quilt Australia and National Wool Museum’s Expressions: Wool Quilt Prize (2019). Barbara Mellor, of St Helens in Tasmania, made this wagga after researching their history and was fascinated by this early form of recycling. Barbara sourced the used fabrics from a variety of places. Some are from her personal collection while others were given to her. She purchased a woollen three-piece suit from a local op shop and decided to incorporate it into the design, making some unique and distinctive shapes. Another notable feature of the quilt is the patch labelled ‘Parkside’. It was cut from a blanket she purchased from a garage sale from a property that had been the ‘Parkside’ caravan park in the 1960s. The filling of the wagga includes the rest of the Parkside blanket.
This large wagga is made from fabric pieces that were handstitched together and lined with jute wheat bags. The fabric pieces are roughly rectangular and of various sizes. They are made from cut-down pink and green cotton knit garments. The wagga was once described by early collectors as the ‘world’s worst wagga’. Today, it is considered one of the most significant waggas in the National Wool Museum’s extensive collection. Unfortunately, very little is known about the maker of this wagga.
This dress was made for the Melbourne Show in 1993 where it won 3rd prize. It was designed by Jean Inglis who was inspired by the Blue Triangle Butterfly (Scientific name: Graphium sarpedon choredon) for her design. The warp and weft for this dress was 2/24 commercially brought black wool. Jean utilised a new weaving technique devised by Theo Morgan in creating the dress. This method used a “tie down” thread of black polyester in the Warp in order to give it more texture. The dress was handwoven by Jean on her personal loom. Ruth Rondell assisted Jean with some of the pattern and final sewing.
Wool holds a predominant role in our Olympic uniform history. Finest quality Australian wool has frequently been used to outfit our Olympic team. The 1992 Summer Olympics were held in Barcelona. Australia sent 279 competitors kitted out in uniforms designed by Wendy Powitt, who won the AWC’s Olympic Uniform Design Competition in 1990. Her designs highlighted the classic Australian colours of the bush with soft olive greens and creams and a bold floral design that reflected the styles of artists from the Australian Arts and Crafts Movement (1890-1914).
The City of Greater Geelong has commissioned artist, Mark Cuthbertson to create this public sculpture celebrating members of our community who have a lived experience with disability. Drawing reference from powerful political and pop culture statements such as the 1968 Memphis black sanitation workers slogan “I AM a man”, and Helen Reddy’s 1971 anthem “I AM woman”, the work celebrates the empowerment of diversity in our society. Over 85 community members contributed to the artwork development in a series of workshops facilitated by the artist to inform the final design.
This was the jumper of John Brown, who played 48 games for Geelong including the 1963 Grand Final in which he wore this jumper. Formed in 1859, the Geelong Football Club is the second oldest in the Australian Football League and one of the oldest clubs globally.
The wool for this jacket originates from two sheep many kilometres apart. The first fleece was shorn in Moree, NSW; the second in Beaufort, Victoria. The two fleeces were spun and woven by the donor’s mother, Marjorie Allnutt. The donor Philip Allnutt had a suit tailored out of this fabric at Ravensdale J & Son, 37 Swanson Street, Melbourne. They were members of the Master Tailors Federation of Victoria at the time.
Geelong has a special relationship with submarines. Osborne House in North Geelong was the home of Australia’s first submarine fleet. From 1919-1922, it housed the 6 J Class Submarines gifted to the Australian Government by the Royal Navy. Several hulks of these submarine still survive in Port Phillip Bay. After being decommissioned due to their cost and the economic struggles of the time, four of the boats were scuttled off Barwon Heads. The two other boats were sunk and utilised as breakwaters.
This wagga was made by Jean Hepner’s grandmother from used woollen garments during the Great Depression. The garments were hand stitched on to an old woollen blanket. The quilt was used by at least five of the seven children in the family. It had assorted covers that were replaced when needed. In later years, it was also used by Hepner’s grandchildren.
This distinctive wagga was made by Mrs Lizzie Morton on her farm ‘Wanera’ at Benjeroop on the Murray River. It was stitched with a treadle machine. Her sister Flora MacDonald did the running stitch and provided the silk backing. The squares were sent as samples from a firm called ‘Fred Hesse’ who advertised in the Melbourne papers: “Be smart and dressy in a suit by Fred Hesse”. The buyer chose a sample and then sent it back with measurements and received a ‘mail order’ suit. In this case, the samples were used to make this unique quilt that has survived from the 1930s.
This patchwork quilt is made from suiting and fabric offcuts. It is machine stitched with red diamond and rectangle motifs at strategic positions. Little is known about the maker or owner of the quilt but the red triangles and squares show a flourish of creativity for the humble wagga quilt.
This street sweeping cart was used on Pakington Street before the amalgamations of six local councils to form the City of Greater Geelong. The cart is from around 1960 when the City of Geelong West had approximately 17,500 people within its borough. The cart was wheeled up and down the popular street; cleaning litter and providing a clean and pleasant street for locals and shop owners alike.
This turn-of-the-century English quilt is made from tiny hand-worked patchwork squares reminiscent of medallion style quilts. It is an extraordinary example of early quilts that arrived in Australia with immigrants. The maker is unknown. When it was found it was being used as packing material. The form and the aesthetic of this classic European quilt demonstrates the stark contrast with Australian wagga quilts. Through the difficult times of the 1890s and 1930s the wagga became a uniquely Australian form.
The White Farm is a series of eleven artworks by Linda Gallus of a neglected sheep and cattle farm in Curlewis, Victoria. Purchased in 1994, the property was painted white for sale. The shearing shed has not been used since the sale and has turned to ruin over the last thirty years. Gallus was compelled to capture these buildings and their strange patina of white paint before nature reclaimed them completely. Two artworks from the series, Another Gust of Wind and Green Trough, are now part of the National Wool Museum Collection.
This quilt was made by Harry Walter Hewitt Wilton (1872-1950). Harry joined the Essex Regiment and served in the British Military in India and also served in the Second Boer War. He married the seamstress Mary Elizabeth in India in 1895. Harry was injured during battle and made this quilt as part of his rehabilitation. The quilt was made using woollen army singlets. Harry and Mary moved to a farm near Orbost, Victoria, in 1914. The quilt remained in the family until 2019.
Squatter is a wool themed boardgame. With more than 500,000 games sold in Australia as of 2007, it is the most successful board game ever produced in Australia. The National Wool Museum holds the original “Squatter” board game design package as well as several versions of all major alterations to the game, such as the change to decimal currency and an electronic version of the game.
Most troughs were installed in Australia; over 300 remain. Troughs were also installed in England, Ireland, North America, South Africa, Japan and Switzerland. Each trough cost £13 (just over $1000 today) to fabricate and install in the 1930s. From the 1880s to 1900s, George and his brother Henry ran successful businesses importing and selling birds, and manufacturing mattresses and sofas. George and Annis were keen supporters of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; George later becoming a Life Governor of the RSPCA. Annis and George built the first troughs in 1908. Annis died soon after, and George set up a trust to: ‘construct and erect and pay for horse troughs wherever they may be . . . desirable for the relief of horses and other dumb animals either in Australasia, in the British Islands or in any other part of the world’.
To honour his wife and country, each trough was to be labelled ‘Annis and George Bills Australia’. Following George’s death in 1927, the trust was administered by his sister Daisy Cook. Initially the troughs were individually designed and constructed. Then in the early 1930s Jack Phillips, a relative of the Bills, produced 250 precast concrete troughs to a standard design at his Hawthorn factory. Rocla pipes took over production in the late 1930s, which discontinued around 1945. The Bills’ Trust shifted its focus, helping to finance the RSPCA Tally Ho Animal Rest Home and the George Bills RSPCA Rescue Centre during the 1960s.