Eliza Bushe Wallen arrived in Melbourne in November 1852, on the Great Britain, with her parents and siblings. Her father, Francis Robertson Wallen established the firm F.R. Wallen & Co in Queen Street shortly thereafter. The family lived in various parts of Collingwood, Richmond and Hawthorn. Eliza's eldest brother, Robert Elias Wallen, became the first chairman of the Melbourne Stock Exchange.
Less than two years after her arrival in Melbourne, Eliza became ill with colonial (typhoid) fever. A note in the Wallen Family Bible lists passages which were read to her during her illness.
On 7 March 1854, aged just 17 years, Eliza succumbed to her illness. This lock of her hair with a bell-shaped gold clasp inscribed with her name and the date of her death, was preserved in a small wooden glass-fronted case. It was handed down through the family until it was donated to Museums Victoria in 2017.
Lock (ringlet) of hair held with an engraved gold bell shaped clasp. Housed in a velvet lined wooden box with a glass front, under the ringlet some paper documents are visible.
This mourning box speaks to the highly structured traditions of mourning during the Victoria era where grieving was in many cases a public not a private act. During the Victorian era hair was commonly used in items to remember the dead as it was seen as the most delicate yet lasting of materials which survived someone's passing like love. It allowed relatives and loved ones to almost look up to Heaven and speak to the deceased.
Donation from Caroline Knaggs, Jonathan Knaggs, 2017
From the estate of Trevor Conor Knaggs, great nephew of Eliza Wallen
Inscribed on clasp: 'Eliza Bushe Wallen / died / 7 March 1854'.
Type of item
42 cm (Length), 8.5 cm (Width), 5 cm (Height)