Tom Carlton's riding silks

Contributed by: Dungog Historical Society Inc

Jockey jacket front Jockey jacket top front Jockey jacket back Jockey jacket right side Jockey jacket left side Jockey jacket label Jockey Jacket label Jockey jacket fraying hem Jockey jacket inside Jockey jacket close-up under arm Jockey jacket underarm stain Jockey jacket left underarm
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Dungog Historical Society Inc
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

    1915 - 1925
  • Place of origin:

    Dungog, NSW, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

These silks are a fine, well-provenanced example of attire worn for competitive horse-riding in the 1920s. They are a vibrant fuschia and bone colour and feature horizontal banded stripes, covered buttons, a high mandarin collar and a draw-string waist. They were worn by Thomas (Tom) Carlton for the high jumping of horses in the Dungog region of New South Wales.

Competitive horse high jumping was popular in Australia and much of the developed world in the 1920s and 1930s. In Australia, the sport was often a feature of agricultural shows. It involved a 'jump-off' whereby jockeys rode horses to clear tall, fence-like obstacles. Similarly to human high jump events, each competitor was given three tries at the jump. When the jump was successfully cleared, further height was added to the obstacles. Horses frequently cleared heights in excess of seven feet. The sport declined in popularity after the 1930s because valuable horses were often injured, curtailing their potential to make money for their owners. Furthermore, as the concept of animal welfare gained traction, the sport was viewed as being unnecessarily cruel.

Between the two World Wars, spectator sports of various kinds became increasingly popular. Crowds set new records for attending major sports including cricket, football of various codes, and horseriding. The popularity of spectator sports was made possible by legislation reducing the number of working hours as well as improved public transport.

The wearing of jockey silks was an English tradition. By the 1700s, horse racing was a popular sport in England and the English Jockey Club made it compulsory for silks to be registered by competitors. At this time, jockey silks usually consisted of silk jackets, but by the 1920s, racing silks resembled the outfits worn by contemporary jockeys, as Tom Carlton's silks indicate. Similarly to today's riding attire, the shirt would have been drawn at the waist and tucked into the riding pants. The outfit would have been worn with boots and leggings.

The outfit is of interest because of the rarity of riding silks from the early twentieth century. The good condition of the silks, particularly the colour, also adds to their value. Additionally, this outfit is significant because it is well-provenanced, shedding light on the leisure activities of rural Australia during the 1920s.       

Author: Maureen Kingston, 5/5/2015.


Tom Carlton's show-jumping colours. These riding silks have a stand collar and are made from a magenta cotton with a silk supplementary weft and have gold silk sewn on top in bands. Down the centre front there are self covered buttons in alternating magenta and gold, the buttonholes are hand made. The silks have long sleeves with a stiffened cuff. The cuffs have a single button and button hole. There is a channel in the inside waist with a drawstring to keep the silks tight on the body. The silks are machine made, except for the button holes. The back tapers to a point. The shoulders have been constructed with a dropped back shoulder line. This would have been a 'classic' style by the time these silks were made.

History and Provenance

James and Ellen Carlton left Ireland and arrived in the colony on 28 August 1841 on board the ship the Percy. They first appear to have lived in the Nelson Plains area and later moved to Pinebruch, near Dungog. James and Ellen had 13 children. Their 4th son, Vincent, was born on 2 August 1848 and he married Bridget Moylan.

Tom died on 2 April 1976, aged 87 years. 

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Born in 1887

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

Tom was a stock and station agent, or an auctioneer for over 50 years and took over his uncle's cattle auction business in 1933. His uncle was renowned as the best auctioneer in the region.

There were no vets in Dungog until the 1940s and Tom Carlton gelded colts and performed other vetinary work for the community between the 1920s and 1940s. Castrating horses is a difficult procedure to undertake so Tom was performing an important role that could only be carried out by people who had expert knowledge of horses.  There was no anaesthtic used, so horses were tied down in a special method to prevent them kicking the man performing the operation.  The rope would trip the horse over and Tom would then hog tie the horse's legs together. 

He was secretary of the Dungog Show Society for many years and was an active and involved community member.  His obituary notes that 

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

High jumping was completely different to any events connected with Dresage. The meets would involve setting up a jump for the horses and raising it for each round until heights of over seven feet were regularly reached. Thousands of spectators used to watch these events, which often took place at agricultural shows in both the city and the country and sometimes drew significant prize money. For example, in August 1929 300 pounds was offered at the Brisbane Exhibition for breaking the Australian High Jumping record.  

The 1920s saw a boom in spectator sport, with record crowds attending the major sports including cricket, football of various codes and horseracing. The regulation of working hours and the introduction of the eight hour day along with improved transportation allowed people to indulge in such leisure activities.  

Although horse high jumping was popular in Australia and much of the world in the 1920s and 1930s, it is now banned in most parts of the world due to the inevitability of horse deaths on the track. However, the sport remains legal in South Australia despite intense criticism from the RSPCA.

The wearing of racing silks can be dated back to Roman times when charioteers wore coloured capes as a means of identification and to promote team loyalty. In Medieval times, coloured silks were often worn by knights in jousting competitions and in Medieval Italian cities, coloured silks were worn in racing events. It may be the use of coloured silks in these events that led to the practice of racing silks being adopted in the English speaking world. By the 1700s, horse racing had gained popularity in England and the English Jockey Club made it compulsory for silks to be registered by competitors. These silks usually consisted of silk jackets. By the 1920s, racing silks resembled the outfits worn by jockeys today.       


Where did this information come from?

Julie Duncan, daughter of Tom Carlton

Research of members of the Dungog Historial Society

The Dungog Chronicle - an obituary appeared on 6 April 1976

Other newspapers discovered on Trove

National Museum of Australia website

This garment has been exhibited

The silks were displayed in the Sport and Entertainment section of the Dungog Historical Society Museum in 2002-2003 and again in XXXXX

  1. Place of origin:

    Dungog, NSW, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Thomas Carlton (1887-1976).  Tom Carlton was a stock and station agent in Dungog from 1918 until the late 1960s.

  3. Worn by:

    Thomas Carlton

  4. Occasion(s):

    Used at the High Jumps meetings in Dungog.  Possibly also used at the Sydney Show.

  5. Place:

    Dungog Showground

  6. Made by:

    Mark Foy's of Sydney

  7. Made for:

    Possibly made to measure for Thomas Carlton.

Fibre / Weave

Magenta cotton/silk jacket.

Gold cotton/silk horizontal bands.

Dark blue crepe under the right arm.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


The silks were made by Mark Foy's in Sydney. They were possibly made to measure.

The shoulders have been constructed with a dropped back shoulder line. This would have been a 'classic' style by the time these silks were made.

The cotton/silk combination material could well be from Central Asia.




  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


Four self covered buttons alternating in magenta and gold.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

There is stiffening in the collar and in the cuffs.


Neck 410 mm
Chest 1070 mm
Waist 920 mm
Cuff 280 mm
Hem circumference 1145 mm
Front neck to hem 580 mm
Front waist to hem 180 mm
Back neck to hem 670 mm
Back waist to hem 225 mm
Sleeve length 520 mm
Neck to sleeve head 170 mm
Cross back 450 mm
Underarm to underarm 1060 mm
Convert to inches


The gold silk is giving on the left shoulder.

The back of the neck is worn - possibly from rubbing his riding helmet.

There is wear, possibly caused by sweat, around the front of the collar.

The gold bands have many stains in pink and brown. The pink stains are most likely bleeding from the magenta material (the colour has run, partly due to Carlton's sweat)

There are some stains that might be from mud splatter during competitions, as riding silks were never washed.

The overall good condition of the neckline indicates that he would have worn an undershirt.

Evidence of repairs

The right underarm has deteriorated from sweat and has rotted and a patch of crepe has been added by hand and machine some years ago. The damage may be greater under this arm as he used his right hand and arm to grip his swatch.


  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor


  1. Discolouration
  2. Brittle
  3. Frayed
  4. Dirt
  5. Crease
  6. Holes
  7. Stained
  8. Torn
  9. Worn
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