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 - Copyright Tweed Shire Council


Portrait of a child on a homemade rocking horse, circa 1890.

Tweed Regional Museum Collection. No: TH37-27


Re-use and recycling of all manner of things was a way of life for families living in the Tweed Valley in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Farming families in particular, often struggling to make ends meet, could not afford to let anything go to waste and used ingenuity and imagination to make do with what they had at hand. Empty flour bags were washed and boiled and then made into tea towels or children’s bloomers, or underwear. Sugar bags were used to make milking aprons for the family, as everyone, including children, helped with the milking. Occasionally empty sugar bags were decorated and made into doormats.



 - Copyright Tweed Shire Council

Portable Sink. Hand made from recycled kerosene tin, one side was used for washing, the other for draining.

Tweed Regional Museum Collection. No: MUS1998.87


Men often had to camp out where they were working as travelling long distances to and from their homes to their work sites wasn’t practical. Cane cutters, road workers, even tick inspectors (whose job it was to make sure cattle were treated for ticks) lived in tents for days and weeks at a time. The humble 4-gallon kerosene tin was recycled into a portable sink, which was very practical at these campsites. The tin was cleaned and cut in half lengthwise, and then the sharp edges were smoothed down. The dishes were washed in one side and drained in the other. They were also used as makeshift wood fire stoves. There was no shortage of empty kerosene tins because before electricity became widely available in the Tweed Valley kerosene lamps and lanterns were used for lighting.

Other items such as the practical and well-constructed iron baby’s cot pictured below, were taken care of and passed down and re-used within families. This much-loved cot was used by several generations of the Priest/Milsom family from Uki or South Arm, providing a comfortable first bed for approximately fifteen babies from that family.

 - Copyright Tweed Shire Council

Iron Cot, bought by Joseph and Mary Priest for their first child William, born 1876 in Victoria. The cot has travelled with the family through many moves, which brought them to the South Arm of the Tweed in 1910. It has been used by babies of each generation.

Tweed Regional Museum Collection. No: U2004.2

Mena's Story

“A neighbour had no nightgowns so her husband asked Kate to make her two. Kate made them, both of unbleached calico but one she trimmed with a small frill of white calico, it is surely a measure of now deprived they were when the recipient of the night gowns felt that the decorated one was too good to wear - she would put it away for best.”

Mena Stewart describes her great-grandmother’s experiences in the late 19th century.


 - Copyright Tweed Shire Council

Homemade biscuit cutter.

Tweed Regional Museum Collection. No: MUS1986.72.2



Did you know?

The first electric light in Australia was put on public display in 1863. In 1888 Tamworth became the first Australian town to have electric street lighting, followed quickly by Penrith, Moss Vale, Broken Hill and Redfern. By the turn of the century, all Australian states had some form of electricity, except the Northern Territory, which was supplied with power in 1923.

Last Updated: 23 October 2013