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Boer War quilt

Boer War quilt

c. 1900
Millist Vincent (1869–1912), maker
Textile (reused woollen clothing textile, cotton sateen backing, cotton thread, manufactured woollen fringe)
Presented by Dianne Gorringe, Tony Hammond and Stephen Hammond, 2005
136 h x 136 w cm



Dianne Gorringe is the great granddaughter of Millist Vincent. She inherited the quilt from her mother, Dorothy Hammond, who had inherited it from her mother, Charlotte Vincent.


Millist Vincent’s father, also Millist, served in the Second Battalion of the Fourteenth Army in New Zealand and in Afghanistan. In 1868, between these campaigns, he married Tasmanian woman Margaret Watson. Millist was born to the couple in Chester, England, in the following year; it is not known when he migrated to Tasmania, but he is recorded as marrying Charlotte Riseley in 1890.

The Millists of both generations served in the military and were enthusiastic bandsmen. Millist Vincent served in the Boer War (1899–1902) and family history records that he made this quilt from the uniforms of fallen soldiers during a period of convalescence. There was a tradition in the nineteenth century of British soldiers making such quilts to while away the time between campaigns and as occupational therapy. The tradition ended with the introduction of standard khaki uniforms after the Boer War.

One of the interesting characteristics of Millist Vincent’s quilt is its disciplined design. It is based entirely on geometric patterns produced through the arrangements of the fabric patches and appears to be without figurative or symbolic motifs. There is also a sophisticated effect of figure and ground differentiation produced through subtle variation of the colours and patterning.


A square patchwork quilt with geometric design. The quilt is made up of 7868 coloured patches, either one or two centimetres square. These patches have been taken from military uniforms and are red, green, dark blue, khaki and white. The design consists of a central, diagonally set square made up of one centimetre patches. This is filled with a symmetrical pattern of varied smaller squares made up of several colours and bordered with a repeating band of blue, green, khaki and red squares. This diagonal square sits within a larger square, dividing it into four triangles at the corners. These are filled with a repeating linear pattern of red, green and white squares, each oriented at ninety degrees to the adjacent patterns. This larger square is bordered by a narrow band of varied, symmetrically arranged patterns.

The outer part of the quilt consists of three larger, more complex repeating motifs set against a regular background of green and khaki squares. There is a matching pattern framed in white squares in each corner and in the centre of each side with two other motifs between. The quilt has a green, machine-made tasselled fringe. The backing is made up of four machine-stitched triangles of sateen in alternating colours of pink and green.

Statement of Significance

Colonial Australians were enthusiastic supporters of the British Empire and, in the late nineteenth century, many Tasmanians were still either recent immigrants from the United Kingdom or their immediate descendants. Many Australians were also connected to the Empire through military traditions that often ran in families. The tradition of military service ran through several generations of the Vincent family in both the United Kingdom and Australia. The enlisted Vincents also saw active service in New Zealand, Afghanistan and Africa.

The Boer War quilt is an example of both the practical tradition of needlework in the military and the more recent adoption of crafts as therapeutic pastimes for hospitalised soldiers. The regular geometric design makes this quilt distinct from those produced in domestic settings, mainly by women. The red, blue and green colours of the fabric pieces indicate a passing era, as the bright uniforms of the nineteenth century gave way to the standard, discrete khaki of the twentieth century.


None visible


Rolfe, M 1987, Patchwork Quilts in Australia, Greenhouse Publications, Richmond, Victoria, pp. 76–8

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© 2009 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
This page was last modified on : 11 October, 2010