The Aldred Collection was donated to Museum Victoria in 1990 by the family of Mrs M.E. Aldred. It comprises 173 objects, including cooking and laundering equipment, books, butchering equipment, games, cosmetics and first aid accessories, collected by Liza Dale and Karen Twigg from Mrs Aldred's home after her death.
Mrs Aldred, nee Brown, was born in Tasmania in 1908, one of three sisters. Her father, a ganger on the railways, was killed in World War I. Her mother worked in the home. Although she hoped to be a nurse, a 'brain fever' as a child had left her medically unfit for this profession. Instead, she left school at the age of 15 and moved to Melbourne, where she worked first as an unofficial maid for her aunt in Reed Street, South Melbourne, then as an apprentice milliner for Stoddart, Flekker & Millis in Flinders Street. Eighty girls worked there - 20 at each long table. She subsequently went to work for a Mrs Vines in Block Place.
In 1928, at the age of 20, she married her cousin Henry Aldred, a self-employed butcher (although no record can be found of the marriage in Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages). He ran a butcher's shop on the corner of Bank and Montague Streets in South Melbourne. They soon had two children: Esther, born in 1930, and Merle, born in 1932. A third child, Charles, was born in 1944. Mr Aldred continued to work as a butcher during the Depression, with Mrs Aldred assisting him in the shop and managing the home. They did sufficiently well to move into a four-bedroom house in St Vincent Place, South Melbourne in 1933, while the effects of the Depression were still being felt in the wider community. Once a grand place to live, the area had become run-down during the Depression and many of the large houses in the neighbourhood had become rooming houses. The new house felt cold and cheerless, and Mrs Aldred used a treadle sewing machine to make curtains, as well as clothes for her growing family. The house had fireplaces in every room, and a woodman would pile firewood out the back.
In the early years of marriage, Mrs Aldred would get up at 5am to give her husband breakfast before work. About 7am she would wake the two children, 'potty' them, put up the sides of the cot and turn off the gas (heating/cooking?). She would then work in the shop for several hours. When the children were older, a girl came in after school to give them afternoon tea and prepare the evening meal. Later another friend, who worked for a dentist, would come at 7am to get the children ready for school. If Mrs Aldred was not home by the time the children finished school, the children would wait at the dentist for her. Once the children had left home, an elderly woman boarded with them.
Mrs Aldred was socially active as a member of several voluntary community groups, including the local church and the Uniting Church Guild. Amongst the collection is her Voluntary Aid Detachment uniform.
Mr Aldred died circa 1972. Mrs Aldred continued living at their home in St Vincent Place until her death in 1989.
Other material relating to the Aldred Collection is held at the State Library of Victoria - MS 12785, H.G. (Henry George) Aldred, 1881-1977. Contains: papers of H.G. Aldred, family butcher, corner Park and Cecil Streets, South Melbourne; lease agreement from the Melbourne Orphan Asylum, 1881; letterheads depicting interior and exterior of butcher's shop; invoices, receipts, architect's report, 1881-1927; articles and conditions of sale by public auction, 1870; Motorbus Services Ltd., receipt of shares issued 1913-14; Aldred family history with reference to Mrs Marcus Clarke, compiled 1977.
Museum Victoria supplementary file SH90.8
Charles Aldred, pers. comm., 1990
State Library of Victoria - MS 12785