Who was Nellie Payne?

2015 "Who was Nellie Payne?" Exhibition story.

The story behind the exhibition.


In early 2014 Jack Starr-Thomas proposed, to his fellow members of the Westbury & Districts Historical Society, that a research and exhibition project for ‘Nellie’ Payne’ should be assembled for the following year (2015 – 150 year anniversary of her birth). A small group came together consisting of supporters who had a passion for the arts and history as well as the necessary skills needed to bring together this unique venture.
The aim was twofold.

  • To research and document the life of Ellen Nora Payne (Nellie), Tasmanian woodcarver and all her works.
  • To create an exhibition of her works in Westbury, the place of her birth, in 2015, 150 years after her birth.


With the support of the Westbury and District Historical Society, the “Who was Nellie Payne?” group became an official sub-committee.
The “Who was Nellie Payne?” group consists of:

  • Jack Starr-Thomas – local historian
  • Pam Swain – local business owner
  • Virginia Greenhill – local historian
  • Steven French – photographer
  • Ellen French – events organiser
  • Sean Manners – community artist


The task was a large one. To document as many of Nellie Payne ‘s works as possible, and to bring them together in one place for an exhibition. If the pieces were not able to be physically brought to Westbury then they would be photographed and displayed pictorially.

The money was raised through grants from the Tasmanian Community Fund, Meander Valley Council, Westbury and District Historical Society, Tasmanian Alkaloids, Arts Deloraine and private sponsorship. In kind support was given by Fitzpatrick’s Inn and Steven French, photographer. John Temple Gallery provided all the printing and mounting at cost.

The journey began and slowly more and more of Nellie’s works came to light as the project started, and continues, to raise people’s and community awareness of this special lady.

Over 200 pieces (2016) have now been documented and over 70 pieces were lent for the exhibition. Professional photographs were supplied from the United Kingdom and Switzerland as well as the mainland. To provide all the other necessary pictures for the exhibition, our own photographer, Steven French, travelled Tasmania to photograph the many pieces in churches, schools, private homes and museums.