Sunday 22nd OctoberWatts Cottage

See how the Watts family lived in the 1870s.

Watts Cottage Mr and Mrs Watts

Mr and Mrs Watts from NHS Collection

A programme designed to showcase the rich oral history associated with our 1870s Pioneer Cottage and the Watts Family. Bring the kids along to participate in games and fun activities centred on the Cottage and Museum. Hear stories of bygone times in Sorrento recounted by presenters in period costume.

Watts Cottage living room

Watts Cottage – Living Room

827 Melbourne Road Sorrento
Sunday 22nd October
Guided Tours of Watts Cottage will be run at 10am and 12 noon.
Adults: $5 Concession: $4 Children free


1915 – 2015 WE REMEMBER

100 years

Visit the NHS tribute to local Sorrento and Portsea WW 1 servicemen and women at the museum. See the new large panel funded by an ANZAC Centenary Grant and the special ‘dead man’s penny’ and its sad tale of a father and son who both served.

OPEN ANZAC DAY and Saturdays and Sundays 1.30 til 4.30pm

Postcards – the Opening

Postcards: Stories From The Mornington Peninsula – 7th and 8th of June

Paddlesteamers at Sorrento

Paddlesteamers at Sorrento

The deliciously deep rumble of a Harley Davidson motor bike opens the audio visual presentation for this fascinating exhibition which tells eight really different stories from around the Mornington Peninsula. What have Harleys to do with Balnarring ‘s history? The answer is here in this exhibition. Continue reading

‘Sea’ Figurehead – Update May 2014


Thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Australian National Maritime Museum in November work has begun in stabilising and consolidating the figurehead. Noel Turner from Artfix has been working on the first stage to protect the figurehead from further deterioration.

Noel Turner Working on the Figurehead

Noel Turner Working on Minor consolidation Prior to Cleaning the Figurehead

Continue reading

‘Sea’ Figurehead – Update


Sea FigureheadThanks to a $5,000 grant from the Australian National Maritime Museum in November we are able to make a start on stabilising and consolidating the figurehead. Noel Turner from Artfix has agreed to complete the necessary work in stages while we await the next grant or donation.

This preliminary work will cost $6,500 so we are looking for donations to add to the $5,000 grant.

We are relieved that the important preliminary work at least can begin in the next few weeks as the wood is becoming very fragile now.

The figurehead will be transported to Noel’s studio in Melbourne this week – December 19th. A photographic record of the work being done will be taken.

All donations are tax deductible.

Contact Joy Kitch for more information via the ‘Contact Us‘ page on the website.

Monthly Meeting May 3rd 2013

Postcard22B Maritime Display

Speaker: Martin Lilford, (Director, Lilford Smith Design)

Topic: Redesign proposals for the NHS Museum and Archive

Museum Designers and consultants Martin Lilford and Euan McGillivray presented their ideas and plans for the revamping of the museum. The most important aspect of this plan is the creation of a museum quality storage area to enable us to safely take and store precious objects off display and rest them, thus giving us more space for improved interpretation and displays. Continue reading

Hetty’s Purse

This touching little leather, coin purse worn so thin from use, with a corner mended with black cotton was recently re-discovered in a drawer in our Watts Cottage, Ilfracombe.

Volunteer Bergliot Dallas found it when she was spring cleaning. When she brought it in to show us we all gently stroked the soft leather – it is that sort of object.

Hetty Watts' Purse

Hetty Watts’ Purse

We know from its catalogue number that this purse was owned by the third youngest daughter and sixth child born to John Francis and Jane Watts in November 1878. Christened Harriet Maria she was always called Hetty (sometimes she spelt it Hettie.)

Hetty never married and we believe her sweetheart died in WWI.  Bergliot had earlier written an interpretation of Hetty’s life based around her precious notebook safely stored in our fire proof filing cabinet. You can read Bergliot’s moving piece in the Museum – it is one of our Treasures of the Museum booklets written by volunteers in 2010.

After her mother‘s death in 1935 Hetty lived on at Ilfracombe until 1958. She died in 1962 aged 84 and is buried in Sorrento Cemetery. Her little purse is on display now.

Joy Kitch

Collection Co-ordinator

A Mystery Jacket

A Mystery Tunic with a Famous Connection

Some questions regarding the tunic held in The Museum are being answered.

Royal Artilery Jacket

Royal Australian Artillery Tunic

According to the Curator at Fort Queenscliff, Sgt Helen Janner, the uniform with the patrol style collar shows it is not from an Officer but a Non-commissioned officer or Other Rank’s. The sleeve insignia denotes the rank of a Warrant Officer class 2*, of Heavy Artillery (Coastal Artillery). And due to the brass buttons insignia, ‘Royal Australian Artillery’ it is of pre world war 1 circa. She thinks perhaps around 1908. It is either The Garrison Artillery 1, (NSW) or The Garrison Artillery 2 (Victoria, Fort Queenscliff). Given its current home the latter seems more likely. As the battery at Pt Nepean was part of the Garrison Artillery 2 the owner may well have been posted there.

John Monash c 1888

John Monash c 1888

The uniform is similar to that worn by John Monash who was a member of the Metropolitan Brigade of the Garrison Artillery, who often trained at Queenscliff, pictured here in 1888. The artillery was later reconstructed and from July 1903, Captain Monash’s battery became No.3 Victorian Company, Australian Garrison Artillery.

Our thanks to Sgt Janner for her assistance. We will now focus on who the WO2 owner of the jacket might have been.

*UPDATE: We now know the tunic was worn by John Thomas Leyden from NSW and that the insignia indicates the rank of ‘2nd Class Master Gunner’ a highly specialised appointment with the then single grade rank of warrant officer. The second level rank of WO2 was not introduced until 1915.

We also know John Leyden was promoted to 2nd Class Master Gunner on August 1st 1909 and came to Victoria (presumably then to Portsea/Queenscliff) on May 21st 1910. He died at Queenscliff on April 4th 1916.

Our thanks to Murray Adams and Bob Bennett for the updated information.

The Figurehead

The ‘Bird Figurehead’

Sea Figurehead

In March, a phone call from a Bob McKenzie in Geelong led to a veritable flurry of emails and meetings. He had read on our website about the figurehead and our theory regarding its origin.

Fifteen years of research into his family history and especially the Scottish couple who emigrated on the Sea in 1851, had given him drawers full of information. He had travelled to Liverpool to access relevant documents, and it was one of these, the 1847 Registration Papers for the Sea, mentioning her bird figurehead, which gave the strongest support to date to our long-held theory linking the figurehead to that vessel.

Further research continues, and may never give us 100% proof, but all evidence now points in the same direction, and is sufficient to encourage us to seek a grant for conservation work on this now very fragile artefact.

As you can imagine, when Bob suggested a commemorative event for the 160th anniversary of the wreck of the Sea at Point Nepean, we were enthusiastic.

It takes place on June 1st 2013 in our museum, with the figurehead on show, and we’ll give you an account of it next time.

Joy Kitch and Janet South