Who was Nellie Payne?

Dower chest for Dulcie Field. Carved 1928.


This beautiful dower chest has been donated to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart. Photographs attributed to them except those from Nellie’s scrapbook.

“Ellen Nora Payne – Woodcarver of Tasmania” by Russell Atkinson.
“Nellie was accustomed to seeking out special pieces of timber wherever she could find them.  She was a familiar figure in timber yards, auction rooms and the shops of second-hand dealers, the proprietors of which, being under her spell, would often notify her of bits of timber which they thought might be suitable for her purpose.  She had, in fact, all sorts of people on the lookout for pieces of carvable wood, and many were the handsome pieces she picked up and carried home in triumph to her work-bench.

She was in luck one day in 1928 when she was looking for a special piece of timber for a dower chest for her great-niece, Dulcie Field, who was about to be married.  In Clark’s timber yard in Collins Street, Hobart, she came across some fine cedar planks which had come from an old house that had recently been demolished.  Those planks were a hundred years old, beautifully grained and without a flaw.

With this treasure trove she produced one of the most finest pieces of all her handsome chests.  The central motif of the design on the front was Miss Field’s monogram enclosed by a serpent forming an endless circle – the symbol of eternity.  Flanking this was an elaborate design of vineleaves, grapes and lovebirds.  The edge of the base was carved in an Italian design, and the feet were small gargoyles. 

Miss Dulcie Field married her cousin Mr Richard Randal Field, and lived with him in Launceston.”

Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954), Wednesday 10 October 1928, page 19