Object Detail

Rectangular wooden box, with hinged lid. There are three brass hinges across the back of the lid. Affixed to the right and left sides of the box are two vertical convex slats of wood, through which a hole is drilled. A loop of rope has been threaded through the holes for handles. There is a keyhole in the top front of the box, with internal locking mechanism. The inside of the lid is varnished and decorated, including a compass rose marquetry inlay, with ovals, and arcs. Inside the body of the box, two sets of three columned, highly varnished drawers are constructed against the front and rear of the box, with a gap in the middle. The top two sections slide back and forth to reveal cavities.

The contents of the box include three glass bottles, (camp coffee, Ayre's Herb beer extract, unknown); pieces of wood; clock making equipment and parts; paper patterns; and glass rods.

It is thought that the box was made by Benjamin Strachan (1820-1889), and came out to New Zealand on the Admiral Grenfell (ship) in 1853. The trunk is said to have been damaged by fire on board the ship when a beam fell across the trunk.
Object type
Media/materials description
Wood, rope, metal
Media and materials
0 - Whole = Height x Width x Depth (mm) = 685 x 1120 x 700mm
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In 1872 Benjamin Strachan and his family set up on a farm called "Manawatane" in the Orinoco Valley, at the head of what is now known as Strachan Road. As well as farming, Benjamin and his four sons - Gavin, Alexander, John (Jack) and Thomas (Tom) - worked as coopers on this property, with their raspberry casks in particular demand. In her reminiscences, Jean Whelan (nee Strachan), daughter of Alexander and Mary Strachan and Benjamin Strachan's granddaughter, recalled her grandfather and uncles at work: "They did a bit of farming and made raspberry casks. Gavin made casks and did some wood turning. Alex also made casks and kegs. Jack was more of a carpenter and did a little carving. Tom was more interested in machinery. They had a good workshop, about 12 x 25ft, with a verandah at the back, also an open shed, earth floor, with a forge, anvil, and a large bellows to blow the forge. There was an iron boiler set in a brick fireplace, where casks were put over boiling water to soften the wood. There was a carpenter's bench on the verandah, with an assortment of planes, hammers, saw and paint tins, and a vice. Inside the workshop, at one end, was a large chest, rough on the outside but with beautifully polished wood finished inside with fitting drawers to hold tools and chisels etc for turning. Grandpa had brought the chest out from Scotland. Nearby was a large turning lathe for wood turning and a bench for tools. A the other end of this main part of the workshop there were 2 large stands for putting the casks on to arrange the staves and put the hoops on. The stands, about the height of a table or a bit less, were sections of large tree cut off level, so were quite solid. There was a "horse" to hold the staves while the man sat on the seat and smoothed the staves with a "draw knife".

- Anne McFadgen

Posted on 20-07-2015 21:01:37