Olive Mary Matthews was born in London, the only child of John Thomas Francis Matthews, a master saddler, and Rachel Butler Cottrell. Olive’s mother died in 1889 when Olive was only two. As a middle class child, Olive was well brought up, educated at home by a governess and enjoyed riding, roller and ice-skating.
Around the beginning of the Second World War, Olive moved to Virginia Water. She never married, and it was here that she cared for her father and cousin until they died.
Olive started collecting small fashion accessories as a child, using the few shillings allowance she was given by her father. She mainly bought items from the Caledonian and Camden markets in North London, where she developed her bargain-hunting skills.
Olive continued to collect as an adult, when dress and textiles could be found for reasonable prices. Over the next forty years or so, Olive developed a critical and informed eye, creating an important and extensive collection of dress and accessories. She particularly liked shoe buckles, beadwork purses, pieces of lace and embroidery.
In the late 1960s, a trust was established to care for Olive’s nationally important collection. The Trust purchased the Cedars in 1972 as a Museum, working together with the Local Authority. The collection has continued to grow since Olive’s death in 1979 aged 92, with over 6,000 items, many of which are on display in the Museum.