Pride and Pattern Making

Thursday 01 February 2018

The Museum has started a project to create digital collection records of the c1.4 million items not yet on our database. Inventory Team members Olivia Wilson and Brydie Lauder recently discovered a real gem amongst the Canterbury Social History collection.

To their absolute delight, they found a plain-covered exercise book that was filled with elaborate costume designs and fabric swatches for the Canterbury Repertory Theatre’s 1938 production of Pride and Prejudice.

The beautifully handwritten title page reads: “Jane Austin’s [sic] book dramatised by Helen Jerome, produced by Canterbury Repertory Theatre Society November 1st – 5th, 1938, producer N. Nicholson, costumes designed by R. Reynolds”. The Society had been formed only eight years prior, in 1930, following construction of the Repertory Theatre on Kilmore Street in 1929. The theatre was demolished as a result of the Canterbury earthquakes.

Charlotte's costume design

The design for Charlotte Lucas' costume. Canterbury Museum 1994.176.1009

We were impressed to see that as well as using her talents for costume design, Miss Rose Reynolds was also listed as playing the role of Charlotte Lucas (figure 1). There are numerous pages of character sketches and fabric pairings, however, our favourite was the rather dashing Mr Darcy in a pale blue tail coat, white breeches, and a stance befitting his class and snobbery (figure 2).

The design for Darcy's costume

The design for Darcy's costume. Canterbury Museum 1884.176.1009

Rosa Josephine Reynolds (1907–1994) MBE, known as Rose, was the Honorary Curator of Canterbury Museum’s Early Colonial collections from 1948 to 1977. She donated many costume patterns to the Museum over the years, including a very large pattern for a King Henry VIII costume and a selection of other patterns from the Elizabethan, Tudor, and Victorian era. However, this book was definitely the best we’ve seen so far.

Rose Reynolds

Rose Reynolds wearing a Victorian era costume in the 1950s. Rose Reynolds Collection, Canterbury Museum 1990.358.799

In her youth, Rose attended St Mary’s Convent on Manchester Street where the sisters imbued her with a life-long love of costume and embroidery. During her time designing costumes for the Canterbury Repertory Theatre Society she significantly raised the standard of costume design and production in New Zealand amateur theatre through her meticulous research and attention to detail. She also assisted other theatrical groups, including designing and providing advice on costumes for plays produced by her cousin, Ngaio Marsh, both for Canterbury Repertory Theatre Society and the Canterbury University College Drama Society.

Rose had a keen interest in Canterbury’s colonial history and played a key role in developing the first iteration of the Museum’s Christchurch Street display following the Canterbury Centennial in 1950.

Rose maintained a life-long connection with the Museum. She was a major benefactor and founding member of the Friends of the Canterbury Museum. Rose periodically donated items from her personal collection to the Museum throughout her lifetime. On her death in 1994 she bequested her estate to the Museum.

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