From Cumbria to Wales, the parish records are full of tales of people emigrating to Victoria, Australia in the 19th century. Some went as convicts, but many more went in search of a better life. With them went their prized possessions, anything from chamber pots to Victorian balloon back dining chairs.
Lancashire residents tracing their family histories can do worse than visit the online pages of Museum Victoria, which cares for Victoria’s scientific and cultural attractions. It has just celebrated its most successful year ever, with over 2.3 million visitors – many of them descendants of Victorian immigrants from Lancashire. Antique mahogany partners desks and Victorian dining chairs are not always on display, but can be seen online in the collections. Exhibits are periodically put on display, either at the Melbourne Museum or the Royal Exhibition Building, which was built in 1880 for the Melbourne International Exhibition, and still used today.
The Melbourne Museum offers fascinating glimpses of British immigrant life. For example, George and William Rocke were brothers who emigrated from Wrexham, in Wales to set up a thriving business importing furniture from England. If you’d arranged collection of an outward-bound antique mahogany pedestal desk from Preston, a penny token was surrendered at Melbourne Docklands. Meanwhile, John Twycross emigrated from Berkshire in 1853, becoming a wealthy wool merchant. He furnished his home with furniture and objects d’art from the 1880 Melbourne Exhibition. A Japanese antique chest and ornate Indian rosewood antique dining table tell us much about Australian and European tastes of the time.
Whether you want an exhibition-standard antique desk, or simple Victorian dining chairs, a Preston antique dealer should be able to help.
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