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Rectangular wooden chest purported to be the property of First Fleet convict Henry Kable (Cabell)

Date: c 1800
Overall: 392 x 895 mm, 14.8 kg
Medium: Timber
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from M Thomas
Object Name: Sea chest
Object No: 00016915

User Terms

    This wooden chest is believed to have been owned by the First Fleet convict Henry Kable (also spelled Cabell). Oral family history states that he brought this wooden chest with him on board the convict transport FRIENDSHIP in 1787. The chest features dove-tail joints and shaped blocks of wood at each end for rope handles to pass through. Wooden chests were used on the sea voyage to store convict's possessions.

    SignificanceThis is an extremely rare example of a chest associated with Australia's convict past. Its connection to a specific convict on board the First Fleet in 1788 makes it a particularly unique record of early Australian colonial history.
    HistoryBetween 1788 and 1868 over 168,000 men, women and children were transported from Britain to Australia as convicts on board more than 1,000 modified merchant ships which had been converted into convict transports.

    The first fleet of convict transports bound for the east coast of Australia set sail from Spithead on 13 May 1787 and was comprised of two warships HMS SIRIUS and HMS SUPPLY, three store ships BORROWDALE, FISHBURN and GOLDEN GROVE and six convict transports, ALEXANDER, FRIENDSHIP, LADY PENRHYN, SCARBOROUGH, PRINCE OF WALES and CHARLOTTE.

    The British Government did not build specialised convict ships but instead chartered suitable vessels that were privately owned. FRIENDSHIP was a 278- ton wooden vessel with a blunt bow, round hull and two masts. It was the smallest convict transport in the Fleet but managed to safely carry all 76 male and 21 female convicts on the 14,000 mile voyage to Australia.

    Henry Kable was convicted at Thetford, Norfolk on 14 March 1783 for burglary to the value of 450 shillings. Initially given the death sentence Kable's punishment was reduced to transportation to Australia, with a 7-year sentence. At the time of his transportation in May 1787, Kable was about 20 years old and listed as a labourer. On arriving in Australia he married Susannah Holmes, a fellow First Fleet convict he had met at Norwich Castle gaol prior to sailing. They were one of five couples married in the first European wedding ceremony in Australia. Kable is a well publicised convict personality in Australian history, involved in the first civil law suit.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Rectangular wooden chest purported to be the property of First Fleet convict Henry Kable (Cabell)

    Web title: Wooden chest purported to be the property of First Fleet convict Henry Kable (Cabell)

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