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Generations of history at christening in Cornwall

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 09, 2013

By Harriet Sime

  • Ffion Evans waves for the camera with parents Tracy Carter and Oliver Evans

  • Three christenings in the gown in the 1970s – clockwise from above: Auntie Eva with Tracy's brother Paul Carter; Neil Carter, Tracy's cousin; Tracy Carter's grandfather Godfrey Semmens, left, with other family members holding Paul May, Tracy's cousin

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A giggling baby girl has made history by getting christened in a 140-year-old Victorian gown worn by six generations of her family.

The pretty hand-stitched frock worn by eight-month-old Ffion Olivia Evans was first used when her great, great, great grandfather Nicholas Henry Oates' was baptised in Cornwall in 1874.

Since then the treasured family heirloom has been passed down from generation to generation – and worn by at least 17 relations.

The bespoke cotton gown has also been lent out over the years to other relatives and friends who couldn't afford their own and is still in remarkably good condition.

And last month it was Ffion's turn to don the garment as it became the centrepiece of yet another family christening in Pendeen.

The bubbly tot followed in the footsteps of mum Tracy Carter, 35, who wore the gown when she was baptised at the local church in 1978.

Among those looking on was Ffion's grandmother Jane Carter, 59, and great grandmother Joan Semmens, 81, who were also christened in the heirloom.

Tracy said: "We've had so many family members wear the gown it's become very special.

"Both myself and my brother wore it, as well as quite a few cousins.

"We had four generations of my family at the christening including my mum and grandmother who both wore the same dress at the same church.

"I wouldn't have had Ffion dressed in anything else – it holds such sentimental value and I hope that she will be able to continue the family tradition by one day passing it on to her kids."

Tracy said her mother Jane handwashed the cotton gown before the christening after finding it stored away in a family member's attic.

Tracy now lives in Abergavenny, Wales, with husband Oliver Evans, 31, but almost all her family and friends still live in Pendeen.

The family are such an integral part of the close-knit community that over the years they have lent the gown out on numerous occasions, including to their former pub landlord.

Tracy, an employment trainer, said: "My mum washed the gown before the christening as she found it looking slightly yellow.

"On the day it looked so pristine – I could tell my mum became quite emotional while we were putting Ffion in the gown.

"All the family members who are aware of the tradition were commenting on how lovely she looked – it was an amazing atmosphere.

"Pendeen Church is at the centre of this tradition as many members of the family have also married there."

The Church traditionally insisted that babies were christened in white as a symbol of purity and innocence.

Christening gowns gained popularity during the Victorian era when families were often large and it was useful to pass them down from one sibling to the next.

The garments have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years thanks to period TV dramas such as Downton Abbey and The Paradise.

The Royal family used the same christening gown, first commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1841, for 167 years.

Prince George was christened in an exact replica because the ancient garment was retired in 2004 because it was too delicate to be used again.

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