A photographic study of woolsheds in South Canterbury, NZ in 2010

Timaru Herald, 4 February 1882, Page 4
24 Shearers
2 Fleece Pickers
4 Fleece Rollers
And Odd Hands on Monday, February 6th.
C. G. TRIPP. Orari Gorge, 26th January, 1882.

Timaru Herald, 21 November 1883, Page 4
24 Shearers
2 Fleece-rollers
2 Fleece-pickers
And Odd Hands are wanted on Monday, November 26th.
C. G. TRIPP. Orari Gorge, Woodbury,
15th November, 1833.

Maoriland Worker, 21 January 1920, Page 8
At Orari Gorge, thirteen shearers and about twenty-five musterers and shedhands are employed. As most of them are local men.
 Orari Gorge woolshed. Sometimes it is the sheer size that impresses.

The old, very substantial and much altered Orari Gorge ten stand woolshed complex attached to and at the end of the main woolshed and sheep yards. The counting out pens are to the right. Native bush and the old farm buildings are in the background. In 1903 the station was managed by Bernard Tripp and comprised of 75,000 acres and carried 200 head of cattle and 45,000 shearing sheep. Sheds have been raised, since the 1860s with grated floors to let the droppings go down and not the sheep's feet so this keeps the wool cleaner and with openings on the sides and roof provides adequate ventilation.

Woolsheds were often situated some distance from the homestead as the farmer's wife usually did not want to have shearers in the kitchen or hear their voices from the verandah. For years the farmer's wife on the smaller runs would serve a substantial cooked breakfast for the shearers and earlier in the month for the musters that often included porridge with fresh cream (the cow was milked every morning by the kids), sausages, lamb chops, fried bread and eggs and toast and lunch often included Colonial Goose (stuffed mutton always served cold) and a lettuce salad and beetroot, bread and butter and a bread and butter pudding with cream. What was served for morning and afternoon tea? About five items scones, piklets with homemade raspberry jam topped with whipped cream, egg sandwiches and tomato sandwiches and grilled bacon and cheese on toast, Louise Cake, mince pasties, fruit cake, cream sponge, fruit loaf, fudge cake, peanut biscuits, hokey pokey biscuits, lamingtons, ginger biscuits and of course a cup of tea. The larger gangs travelled with their own cook and stayed in the shearers' quarters on each farm.  

The farmer is constantly there during the shearing well before the shearers arrive at 7:30 in the morning and well after the shearers "knock off" for the day.  Each shearer has his own counting out pen. They use to get paid by the number of sheep shorn but now sheds are full contract or open contract. Also this way when the farmer is counting out he can note the quality of work done by each shearer and get an accurate tally of the number of sheep on the farm. The farmer is obligatory to have a shed full of dry, clean sheep and after dinner and before sunset with his kids and dogs the shed is filled but not crowded so the sheep overnight in the shed are dry by morning. Dogs are not used in a shed. The farmer down country would often tapped on his barometer at the homestead first thing in the morning and watched for the clouds along the foothills of the Two Thumb Range - a long white cloud half way down was a sign for rain in two days and also look to see if the saddle at The Pass was clear - if not it was raining up there. Sheep cannot be shorn if wet and wool cannot be baled damp otherwise it ferments, becomes discoloured and a fire hazard.

The basic layout was well developed by the mid-1860s, and its fundamental design has endured until today.

Woolsheds abound in South Canterbury, the majority are getting old, are one story, with corrugated iron siding and roof, often the roof is painted red or green. The Arowhenua woolshed, built in 1854, is still in use. Older woolsheds are wooden and often need replacing as the board becomes unsafe. The newer sheds since the early 1970s have a raised board and covered yards, hydraulic presses and follow standards, like the grating in the pens face the door to the board, makes it easier to dragged the sheep out. Some larger sheds have a loft above the pens to give extra storage. Many sheds have been enlarged and often more than doubled in size with covered yards.

In Woolshed Gully, Hadlow. 

In Woolshed Gully, Hadlow. Note the outhouse to the right....those were the days of the longdrop! Today all sheds have to have a toilet accessible. The shearers could go over to the homestead but usually a shearer would not take off his moccasins when he walks across the carpet! It has 4 stands, photo taken in February (summer) 2010, the yards are to the left. I don't know if the shed is being used now but it always looked like this even in the 1960s. The shearers would sit on the concrete landing during smoko, chatting, watching their mates use a grindstone- one turning the wheeling and pouring water on the stone and another sharpening the blades or combs. There was a Donald woolpress in the shed at Hadlow. It was ratcheted to press the wool and opened in half into two pieces.

The old Waratah woolshed, April 2010. Photo taken by MH.
An old weathered board shed with the obligatory red oxide which was a stain, not paint, used as a timber preservative and gives the structure a mellow, rural hue, and painted corrugated iron roof, "Waratah", Albury. It certainly was easy to put on. Many old sheds have been added on to with covered yards.

Mt. Dalgety woolshed, Nov. 2011

Rollesby Valley Rd, Albury 
An old woolshed behind Albury, Mt. Dalgety Station, with a broad steeply pitched red painted hipped corrugated iron roof, a sloping side and a sloping end, so snow will slide off.

Three Springs

A few limestone woolsheds exist and the well known Three Springs shed just south of Kimbell just up the Three Springs Road, can easily be viewed from the road, is now in disrepair since the June 2006 snow storm that cause its roof to cave in and as of Nov. 2009 had not been repaired. Three Springs built out of local limestone (c 1879), at its peak accommodated nine blade shearers working on the board. The complex is built around a central grassed area and includes stables and a men's accommodation block. Inside you can still see the old wool press and even wool. The Mackenzie Horse Drawn Museum in Fairlie has a good display on the 2nd floor related to shearing e.g. hand pieces, shears, wool cap brands, grindstones, bale hooks, wool press, etc. Mackenzie Heritage protection schedule found under the district plan Mackenzie District Council website.

The abandoned limestone Three Springs woolshed, entrance above is to the far right. Wind, snow, fire and time cause the demise of woolsheds in the Mackenzie.

A typical corrugated iron woolshed, Gudex Rd, about three stands found on a medium size farm average size farm where a farmer might do the crutching himself and contract out shearing to a shearing gang to get the shearing done in two to three days. The large sliding door is where the transport trucks back up to load the wool bales for the wool stores in Timaru.

Woolshed near Twizel, Nov. 2009
A woolshed with the sliding door open and covered yards to the left in Nov. 2009 near Twizel and a woodshed to the right. A shelter belt of pines behind.

A modern woolshed. Blue Cliffs Station. The wide sliding door is still there, but the concrete steps not built. s to the road for the transport trucks.  
The Blue Cliffs Station woolshed with covered yards behind and a farmer's flat bed truck. Sheep cannot be shorn wet or damp. Enough sheep can be housed overnight in a shed for a day's shearing. This allows time for them to dry out. 

Mt. Peel Shearing Shed Nov. 2010. It is a large shed.
Mt Peel shearing shed with a hip roof, raised, with the main entrance with the concrete steps and loading platform is around to the right and the driveway.
There is a loading ramp in front of the red sliding doors. Handy for loading and unloading farm implements off the back of a flat bed truck. Here is one at Albury.
Sheepyards to the left with a portable ramp for loading sheep into the two decker to triple decker stock trucks that take the sheep to the works.
 An old drill cultivator is in the foreground, you stand on the back form and load it with bags of super in one trough and seed in the other.
A shelter belt of pines to the right and willows behind and the Two Thumb range in the background. Looks like there is a telephone line going to the shed to the left.

An old limestone woolshed in the Mackenzie that has been added on to a few times. The wooden part still has the red oxide stain. The newer section the corrugated iron. Covered yards probably the recent addition. Lake Ohau Rd, April 2014.

Dry Creek Station, Fairlie. 2010
A green painted corrugated iron half-hipped roof at Dry Creek Station, with a shelter belt of pine trees. 

Behind Albury, 2010

An abandoned woolshed up the Mt Cook Rd.
An old weatherboard split level shed with corrugated iron roofing. There is a finial at the peak of the eve.

Fox Peak, Sherwood Downs, Fairlie

Fox Peak, Sherwood Downs, Fairlie
The sheds are raised so the sheep manure can drop down through the gratings and keep the sheep clean. Gratings are narrow enough so the sheep hoof do not go through. The historic Hakataramea Station woolsheds, T-shaped building of limestone, originally with 24 stands, dates from around 1868, when the Land Company took over the property. The shed featured a slatted floor, familiar nowadays, but at the time this was seen as a novelty.

There are many ingenious contrivances in the form of gate mountings, fastening internal gates to economise time, space and make work easy and light.

An old shed with 4 stand board. A couple of mobile fadge holders.

A new three stand, Sunbeam shearing plant, with a raised board and with an old lever style wool press. Probably Reid and Gray with a dolly for moving wool bales.
Most sheds today have the hydraulic wool presses. Each bale of wool was between 340 lbs to 400lbs.  A fadge holder to the left.

Timaru Herald 13/9/2010
The Homebush Woolshed -Mid Canterbury. The woolshed was some distance from the homestead and main farm buildings, about half a mile along Homebush Rd, and boasting 20 shearing stands - 10 at each end. We were told that in the glory days, there were 10 Maori shearers at one end, 10 Pakeka at the other. The story is supported by John Deans' Pioneers on Port Cooper Plains. It's a great story. And it was a great building. Stinking of sheep shit and wool, as all shearing sheds do, it was the sheer scale of it that set it apart, and the massive metal gong – I think that was a ploughshare – that summoned the shearers and the rousies and the classer for smoko. Out the back of the shearing shed was the whare – pronounced "worry". It was the old shearers' quarters, complete with massive bake oven. 

Fairlie-Geraldine Hwy, March 2016.

The Orari Estate Woolshed from State Hwy 1 top side of the Orari bridge, March 2016.
Wool shed terminology

Another photo study look for Strathnaver, near Cave and Kakahu, near Geraldine.

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project