You enter the building via an open verandah into a central hall with two rooms running off each side. That on the right is now the Jean Miller room. It features our extensive collection of Mashman and Doulton Australia pottery, with a small collection of Easton studio pottery. The Ronson family collection of Mashman Regal Artware and some one-off objects is a special feature. There is also a strong collection of traditional lace garments, while a large display case from a local haberdashery shop is used to present selected objects from our large domestic life collection.
A brief tour through the museum:
The What-not immediately inside the front door was made by Claude Leplastrier, who served as an alderman on Willoughby Municipal Council from 1896 to 1902 and was mayor in 1898. Leplastrier was a talented artist and woodworker and his Wot-not is complemented with finials and cherubs. The current display also features several large frames with photographs from the Willoughby Library collection of early industries, prominent houses and other scenes of early Willoughby. This space will be used for an exhibition that explores the factors that shaped today’s City of Willoughby.
The hallstand came from Legacy House in the Sydney CBD and was donated to the museum by Vince Egan. The lower cupboard is an addition. A large ceramic jar serves as a holder for period walking sticks and umbrellas.
Jean Miller room:
The large display case inside the door and the one at the window have local provenance, having come from a haberdashery shop on Penshurst Street, Willoughby. The origins of Boronia cottage are explored here, with a tribute to Sonya Kirkham, who bequeathed the property to the society for a museum. The internal décor is late Victorian, but the present colours were applied during renovations Sonya made that reflect her. The colours are perhaps overdone, particularly the multi-colour detailing of the fine Art Nouveau fireplace. A number of Sonya’s collectables are displayed in the large cabinet and the room.
The feature display in this room is the Willoughby pottery industry. We have a large collection of objects relating to the history of the Mashman Brothers works in Victoria Avenue, Chatswood (established 1895), and its products, particularly Mashman Regal Artware. In 1959 the works were taken over by the Royal Doulton Company, which manufactured ceramic items there under the name Doulton Australia. The collection also includes objects from this period, including some examples of studio pottery produced at the works between 1973 and 1976 under the direction of the potter Derek Smith, The works was in turn taken over by Caroma Australia in 1980, which produced bathroom ceramic products there until final closure of the factory in 2000.
We also have a small collection of objects from Easton’s Pottery operated by Henrietta Easton at 495 Willoughby Road between 1952 and 1956. Its distinctive products are highly prized by collectors.
The pull-out drawers in the display cabinets present a quality lace collection dating from the 1880s and a smaller selection of typical xylonite objects used by ladies in the 1920s and 1930s. The lace-making (Battenberg), feature, which embraces embroidery, crochet and poker work, includes a hand-operated sewing machine of the 1930s and a cotton-reel display case, the latter also from the haberdashery shop on Penshurst Street. The displays in the room are being upgraded with additional interpretative material.
Eric Wilksch room:
The Eric Wilksch Tool Room displays objects relating to local tanneries as well as a selection of items from our extensive collection of traditional hand tools. The museum has an extensive collection of traditional hand trade-tools and many of these items are displayed in this room. Of particular interest are the tools used by Hugh Cogan, a coachbuilder, who operated in extensive premises located at 279 Penshurst Street, Willoughby.
Also featured here is Willoughby’s tanning industry, which was carried out at 16 locations between 1869 and 1979. The tannery display explores the tanning process and includes tools used in tanneries and their products.
Museum volunteers assisted in restoring the kitchen to represent the typical setting on a Willoughby home in the 1920s to 1940s period. The original Bega fuel stove remains, with a selection of iron cooking pots. The white enamel sink with terrazzo bench, together with the replica cupboard, were modelled on those in a kitchen at 17 Paradise Avenue, Roseville. The obligatory Silent Knight refrigerator sits proudly in the corner as a product of Edward Hallstrom’s refrigerator factory on Willoughby Road. The floor covering is linoleum in a 1930s style.
The c1890s safe cupboard originally came from a house at Morpeth, but belonged to a Willoughby family who donated it to the museum. It was designed to keep food cool and fresh in the pre-refrigeration era. The kitchen dresser is a style that was popular in local homes in the 1930s and 1940s. Other objects of significance displayed in the kitchen include the Victorian era Eastlake high chair, which converts to a child’s rocker, and an early Sunbeam Mixmaster.
The original laundry running off the kitchen has been retained to display a selection of our laundry collection items depicting the household chores of yesteryears. A selection of large cooking utensils use in the kitchen’s of the 1930s and earlier are also displayed here.
With assistance from the Bushland Management Unit at Willoughby City Council, the rear garden has been re-developed using indigenous plants to provide a delightful setting for small functions, including morning or afternoon teas for visiting groups. Various items from the collection have been incorporated into the garden, including examples of the main products on Mashman’s pottery works – sewage pipes, tiles and chimney pots – together with similar items salvaged from demolished houses in Willoughby. Of significance is the elegant 1925 commemorative tablet from the fine Art Deco Second Church of Christ Science building formerly located at the corner of Albert Avenue and Victor Street in the Chatswood CBD, and the large mangle that was used at a large Chatswood mansion.