Semi-ovoid shaped brass snuff-box engraved with the name "J. Ovenden".
Presented to, or owned by, the great-grandfather of donor's wife, James Joseph Ovenden, who served in the Victorian Colonial Navy. Ovenden emigrated to Victoria as part of the dispatch crew send out with the steam war sloop HMCS "Victoria" when it was delivered to the Victorian Government in 1856. He served on the "Victoria" during its involvement in the first Taranaki war following Maori uprisings in New Zealand in 1860. James Ovenden is listed amongst the 38 crew who sailed to New Zealand, with the rank of "Captain Fore Top". This was a relatively senior role in charge of all crew on the fore mast rigging. He was later chief bosun's mate on the frigate HMVS "Nelson" which arrived in Victoria in 1866.

Ovenden's name appears on the memorial at Williamstown dedicated to former Victorian naval personnel with the suffix "CBM". He died in October 1882 and is buried at the Williamstown cemetery. His snuff box was passed down through the Ovenden family, eventually being inherited by the donor and his wife Mrs. Dianne Scott Reynolds (nee Ovenden).

The taking of snuff was a popular pastime amongst sailors in the colonial navy because smoking was totally banned on board naval ships due to the risk of explosions caused by the accidental ignition of gunpowder.

Physical Description

Brass snuff box, of unusual oval shape, designed to fit snugly in a waistcoat pocket. It is engraved with 'J. Ovenden' in a frame indicative of flowers and leaves.


Despite the pioneering role of the Victorian Navy as Australia's first naval defence force and the predecessor to the Royal Australian Navy, the museum holds relatively few objects which relate to its history. Significantly none of the objects already held provide much insight into the life of sailors on board the Victorian naval vessels.
This object provides an interesting insight into life in the colonial navy. The taking of snuff was a popular pastime amongst sailors in most navies because smoking was banned on board naval ships.

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