Margaret Sutton

Mrs Sutton arrived in Busselton in 1879. Her Australian born husband Benjamin became a police constable in 1874 and went with Sir John Forrest on an exploration to Geraldton.

The town was small with a population of only a few hundred in the whole district. There were few roads and these would have been mud tracks in winter. There was no sewerage and no flush toilets. Chamber pots and holes dug into the ground were used. There was no electricity, no air conditioning, no fans - in fact nothing that helps make life bearable in the 21st century. The sole means of transport was by horse or horse and cart.

Mrs Sutton moved into the small Constable's cottage next to the courthouse. These had been built in 1860 and had 2 bedrooms, one other room and a small add-on out the back for cooking. These overcrowded rooms would have been stifling in summer and smokey and smelly in winter (from the fire and the lanterns). Lantern oil was quite expensive and early nights were the order of the day.

Margaret Sutton
Margaret Sutton in front of the Police Cottages

There were no clothing shops and most clothing was hand made. Mrs. Sutton would have worn 5 - 7 layers of clothing covering her from neck to ankle throughout the year. The inner garments would have been linen or heavy cotton and the outer ones heavy woollen ones. Clothing was expected to last for a long time and most women would have only had a maximum of two outfits, one for every day wear and one for church - 'Sunday best'. Even if store bought these dresses would have been home repaired. Woollen garments, including socks would have been darned and the linen and cotton clothes would have been hand stitched. Socks were hand knitted and Mrs Sutton would have had a sock darner as part of her home equipment. Due to the inflexibility of boots sock darning would have been a regular task.

sock darner2

Sock darner

Children's clothes were less restrictive than an adults but these were normally made at home (hand stitched). Mrs Sutton had 7 children to clothe. Boys were encouraged to be physical and the repair work would have been nearly a full time job. Wealthy people could afford dress makers but Mrs Sutton had to live on a Police Constables wage. Sheets, pillow cases, table cloths and curtains were home made from cloth bought by the yard. During her school time and up until her marriage a woman was expected to make these type of things and bring them into the marriage as part of her dowry.


Cooking was done on a woodfire which was smokey and in summer would have been oppressively hot. Fortunately Mrs Sutton had a small addition to the back of the cottage for cooking. Wood chopping was thought of as being a woman's task. The man would saw or cut the wood to length and the woman would chop it into stove sized pieces. Mrs Sutton had to not only cook for her husband and 7 children, but it was also part of her role as the Police Constables wife to cook (including bread making) for the prisoners. She was not paid for this, but her husband would have had 3s and 6d (35 cents) added to his wage for each prisoner per week.

Her husband was frequently away for days at a time in his role as local Constable but during this time Mrs Sutton would have still had to keep up her rigorous daily pattern including cooking for the prisoners. 

 

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