Henry Kable, Susannah Holmes and John Simpson stood in front of the gallows outside Thetford Guildhall

Holmes and Kable

The unlikely love story of two Norfolk based petty criminals, both trialed in Thetford, kept in Norwich and transported to Australia. We first performed the story of the Romeo and Juliet of 18th century Norfolk, Susannah Holmes and Henry Kable, in September 2021. Since then our knowledge of the couple has grown and our performance enhanced.

Holmes and Kable – A Love Story

Dave Griffiths

‘Holmes and Kable’ is a fantastic love story with a hero and happy ending worthy of becoming a Hollywood blockbuster. It all centres around Henry Kable Junior, a petty thief from Laxfield, Suffolk, Susannah Holmes who was caught stealing from her employer near Surlingham in Norfolk and John Simpson, a turnkey at Norwich Castle jail. Their journeys began as both thieves were sentenced to death at Thetford Assizes, now the Guildhall Tea Room. However, Henry and Susannah’s life together led to a dynasty of Kables in Australia, where they are, to this day, considered royalty and celebrated every year on ‘Kable Day’. This magnificent story, hardly-known in the region; captivated us and we just had to share it.

Susannah Holmes and John Simpson walking with baby Harry

Amber Pullen and Steve Graves as Susannah Holmes and John Simpson.

We first produced an education pack for Key Stage 2 pupils and shared it with all the primary schools in the Thetford area. Pupils  would study the pack and at the appropriate point have a trip to the Guildhall where our Magic Floor actors would perform a 40-minute retelling of the wonderful story. Our experience is a room full of captivated youngsters full of questions and enthusiasm about a couple not too much older than them, sentenced to death in the very building they’re sat. Of course the full-sized gallows in the corner might have had something to do with it! Our actors themselves love doing it as they can see how performing the material has such an impact on the youngsters who are eager to watch their school history lessons brought to life.

As well as the education pack and associated short play we have a slightly longer, 1 hour retelling which we have performed to the public on the Thetford Market square, right in front of the old Assizes court where their trials were held. Magically we had some of the Kable family, that still live in Laxfield, along to our performance and were able to show them the Assizes where their ancestors were tried and sentenced. See our gallery for performance photographs.

We’ve also taken the play to Primadonna, an arts festival in Stowmarket, back in 2022. Thanks to funding from The Heritage Fund, we are writing a new play centred around the hero of the story, John Simpson, for summer 2023 which we hope to perform, initially in the Carnegie Room in Thetford. 

John Simpson reuniting Henry Kable with his baby boy Harry

Luke Jeffries and Steve Graves as Henry Kable and John Simpson.

So, the journey of Holmes and Kable has come a long way but we still research and find out new information, especially on John Simpson. We’ll share more of what we find out as time goes on.

The Cast of Holmes and Kable

The cast of Holmes and Kable stood in front of Thetford Guildhall

Cast of Holmes and Kable by Magic Floor Productions:

Luke Jeffries, Steve Graves, Amber Pullen

Katie Bird, Dave Griffiths, Amanda Kingsnorth, Craig Plumely

Highlights of our Performances