Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

With the inclement weather the day before affecting various social gatherings around Perth and Fremantle, perhaps the Masters sisters were apprehensive about what to expect on their wedding day. Maybe they instead took comfort in the fact that they were both going to be June brides (an auspicious month to be married) and that rain on your wedding day was also considered good luck.

As luck would have it however, they didn’t need to be too concerned. The weather on Wednesday, 6 June 1894 drastically improved during the night and while the Perth metropolitan area likely received some rain, the day turned out to be a cool, crisp 22°C.

Choosing to be married in a double wedding ceremony in the Church of England in Guildford, Elizabeth Masters (age 29) was to wed William Francis Dewar (age 29) and Priscilla Masters (age 25) was to wed Edward James Barratt (age 23). The two Masters girls were sisters and daughters of Charles Masters (a builder of Guildford) while William Dewar was the son of John Dewar from Gingin and Edward Barratt was the son of James Enoch Barratt (a nurseryman) of Perth.


Priscilla Masters in her younger years.


Though I’m unsure as to the financial background of the Dewar family I can quite confidently state that in 1894 both the Masters family and the Barratt family were fairly well off. This fact can further be seen in the details of the double wedding.

Both Elizabeth and Priscilla’s dresses were made of white liberty silk trimmed with lace and orange blossoms (said to represent purity) and they both wore veils and wreaths.

Orange Blossom

The orange blossom

Attending the two brides was an impressive eight bridesmaids. While it’s likely that the brides’ other two sisters (Emma and Augusta) were two of the party, I do not know who the other six were. The bridesmaids of course had their own impressive outfit to wear which was made from delaine (a lightweight woollen fabric) in the colour of heliotrope (a vivid purple inspired by the flower). According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the fabric delaine was once considered a “high-quality women’s wear dress material“.


The heliotrope flower 

These dresses were further trimmed with white silk and astrakhan. While white silk is self explanatory, astrakhan, however, is a little more interesting (and slightly disturbing). The Dreamstress website states that astrakhan is the “tightly curled fleece of the fetal or newborn karakul lamb“. To obtain the fleece of the fetal lamb the mother was often killed just before she was due to give birth. An item only the wealthy could afford, during the 1890s it was considered fashionable to use it as trimming. It would seem the Masters sisters’ bridesmaid outfits were right en vogue. An example of an outfit using astrakhan trimming can be seen below.


The service was officiated by the Reverend Canon (George Hallett) Sweeting and was full  choral (noted as reflecting great credit on Mrs Barnes). The church itself was “prettily decorated” and was crowded with spectators, many of whom I’m sure were family and friends.

After the ceremony and with both couples officially wedded, 70 guests of the bridal party were invited back and entertained at the residence of the brides’ parents, Charles and Mary Masters. Charles Masters owned property on both Ethel Street and Meadow Street in Guildford but, according to the 1895 postal directory, around this point in time he and his family were living on River Street in Guildford.

The new Mr and Mrs Dewar and Mr and Mrs Barratt received a total of 120 “very handsome and useful” presents (I assume this was a combined figure) from family and friends. With the wedding over and the entertainment complete at the Masters family home, both couples left Guildford to begin their honeymoon and their new lives together.


An example of a wedding dress from 1894.

And what became of the Dewars and the Barratts? Each couple went their separate ways with the Dewars living in Guildford and then Gingin and the Barratts living mostly in the Perth area. They made it through many years and many anniversaries and on 6 June 1934, they celebrated their ruby (40 years) double wedding anniversary.


The Masters/Dewar/Barratt wedding has always been one which I considered interesting. The double wedding itself was unusual to me (and reminded me of Pride and Prejudice!) but it was reading the article in The Daily News which really captivated me. White silk, orange blossom trimming, heliotrope and lamb’s fleece trimming. Not to mention eight bridesmaids! The overall event would’ve looked quite elaborate and simply stunning. It also illustrated the wealth of these families during this time period.

There’s no doubt in my mind (especially knowing the Barratt family’s penchant for photography) that there would’ve been photos taken of the wedding party but unfortunately, to date, I haven’t seen such a photo. It’s likely not many copies existed and perhaps they eventually ended up in a different line of the family. With such an evocative article fuelling my imagination, I would dearly love to see an actual image of my 2nd Great Grandparents (the Barratts) on their wedding day. If you’re a relative and do have a copy of the photo, please feel free to contact me.


4 thoughts on “A Double Wedding

  1. Anne Young says:

    Double weddings were more common than they are now I think. I also have a double wedding in my family history and near Guildford at the Middle Swan Church.
    Family Notices (1848, September 9). The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News (WA : 1848 – 1864), , p. 2. Retrieved May 11, 2016, from

    1. Jess says:

      I think they probably were, Anne. I’ve seen a couple on my tree before too. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  2. GeniAus says:

    With only having to host one reception for two daughters one could certainly afford to splurge on the occasion.

    1. Jess says:

      haha Very true, Jill! 🙂

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