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Double-ended couch or verandah seat

Double-ended couch or verandah seat

c. 1830

Maker unknown (Port Arthur, Tasmania)

wood (Tasmanian blackwood); metal (iron fittings)

77 h x 218 w x 62 d cm

Acquired from the estate of JW Beattie, 1932



This verandah seat was made on the Tasman Peninsula, south of Hobart. It is possibly the first piece of Tasmanian-made furniture to enter the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery collection and came from the estate of John Watt Beattie (1859–1930) in 1932.

Beattie was a photographer and antiquarian who operated a small museum in Hobart that housed relics of the convict era, many of which were from Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula. This seat may have been made and used at the Port Arthur penal establishment.


While elements such as the lack of fixed upholstery and lattice back suggest this couch is a garden or verandah seat, it also has allusions to the more formal design of a sofa or couch. Decoration is limited to turned armrests and legs, minimal shaping of parts of the frame and the elaborate latticework back. The extensive use of metal fittings—nuts, bolts and large screws—in its construction is unusual suggesting the work of a craftsman familiar with working in timber and metal rather than a professional furniture maker. It is possible that the couch was made by a coach or wagon builder or a shipwright, crafts in which such fittings and construction techniques are commonly used.

The robust turned decoration and highly idiosyncratic construction is typical of furniture made on the Tasman Peninsula in the nineteenth century. The deep colour of the wood used in its construction is also typical of the blackwood found in the area.

The couch came from the collection of photographer and tourism entrepreneur, JW Beattie (1859–1930). In the late nineteenth century, Beattie established a private museum of Tasmania’s colonial and convict past in Hobart. Many of the exhibitions came from the Port Arthur penal settlement on the Tasman Peninsula. It is believed that this couch was amongst them.


A double-ended couch or verandah seat with turned legs and armrests, slightly shaped fronts and backs to the arms, a lattice back and slatted seat. The maker has avoided complex joinery by designing a simple structure that relies considerably on metal fasteners such as wood screws and substantial nuts and bolts.

The couch is constructed around two large beams running across the front and back. The turned legs are jointed directly into these and the substantial S-shaped arm frames are bolted on to their ends. The lateral members completing the framing of the seat are, in turn, bolted into the arm frames. The bolt heads holding the arm frames and the turned armrests are disguised with turned rosettes applied to the fronts of the arms. The lattice back is screwed directly to the arms and the back seat rail.

Statement of Significance

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of decorative arts made in Tasmania throughout the colonial period. Many of the objects in this collection are similar to contemporaneous objects made in Britain, but are distinguished by an idiosyncratic inflection derived from the colonial context of their production. The Port Arthur couch combines naive references to elegant and fashionable furniture with a unique and robust construction.


None visible


Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Heritage in Hardwood: Early Tasmanian Hardwood Furniture. Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, 1991.

Fahy, K., Simpson, A., Nineteenth Century Australian Furniture, Casuarina Press, Sydney, 1998

Mulford, T., Tasmanian Framemakers 1830-1930 - a directory. Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, 1997


This website was made possible through the generous support of the Gordon Darling Foundation, which provided funds for research, equipment and website design.

© 2009 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
This page was last modified on : 1 July, 2010