The Arowhenua woolshed in South Canterbury, NZ in June 2010

The Arowhenua woolshed, June 2010 with the cow byre to the right.

The old Arowhenua woolshed in the woolshed paddock on the Canterbury Plains with a cow byre, a barn for cows, painted with the obligatory red oxide paint. The tops of the snow covered Hunter Hills are to the left and the beautiful Two Thumb Range to the right on a bright invigorating morning, air very crisp, after a beauty frost. The ground a bit muddy and soft. On private property, permission obtained, photos taken in June 2010 by M.T. It is down a long drive lined with trees on Station Road which turns left off SH1 between the Opihi and Temuka river bridges. The house is an easy walk, 200 yards away. Major Alfred Hornbrook came to Wellington on the Oriental in 1840 and in 1849 when he heard that the Canterbury settlers were about to arrive, he moved down to Lyttelton and setup the Mitre Hotel. He took up the Arowhenua run in 1853, the second selection in South Canterbury after Rhodes Bros. and the woolshed above dates from 1854. His brother William was manager. Hornbrook sold the run in 1871 to Ford and retired to Temuka.

Symbols of the past
Press, The; Christchurch, New Zealand, April 17, 2010 | by Kristina Pickford
Woolsheds have an important place in the country's identity. Heritage is evident throughout our country. It's in our rural landscapes, in the patterns of small towns on the land, in the A&P Showgrounds, in the wheat fields and grain elevators, in the sheep and cattle runs. It has defined much of our rural architecture - farm houses, woolsheds, dairy factories and freezing works, along with larger homesteads and warehouses.  Most runs had more commodious homesteads and a variety of serviceable outbuildings. These included a mix of shearers' quarters, woolsheds, barns, stables, cookshops, smithies, stores, stock yards and sheep dips. The woolshed was often largest and most imposing of these outbuildings - sometimes surpassing the homestead in its sheer scale. This reflected the central role the woolshed played in station life - it was a shearing shed and the place where the farm's production was graded, pressed and stored. The woolshed, particularly on high-country stations, was often a communal hub for social gatherings, church services and dances. Although impressive in size, woolsheds were typically utilitarian and unpretentious structures with good proportions. Many early woolsheds were modelled on those built in Australia. Some modifications were made to Australian-styled prototypes to account for local conditions and the availability of materials. Only rarely did architects put their hand to the design of farm buildings - they were generally conceived and built by men with a sound knowledge of farm work and the practical requirements. By 1879, there were 1525 separate holdings in Canterbury which accounted for over 3.2 million stock units or 28 percent of the national flock. History records that wool was the country's single most valuable export for 89 of the 112 years between 1856 and 1967.

Woolsheds tended to be well suited for their purposes, with simple and honest forms that sat comfortably in the landscape. Most Canterbury woolsheds were typically constructed of timber, owing to the availability of this material. However, some were clad in local stone, brick or corrugated iron. The basic layout was well developed by the mid-1860s, and its fundamental design has endured until today. Woolsheds consisted of four distinct spaces: an area to contain sheep before shearing, the shearing board which accommodated the shearers' stands, the wool room where the clip was graded and, finally, an area to bale, press and store the finished product. Although many 19th century woolsheds have succumbed to fire, the ravages of time, or have been demolished, thankfully a number remain dotted about the countryside. Many are listed on the Heritage NZ register. In the Canterbury region, at least three registered woolsheds, which still function for their original purpose, predate 1856. Just south of Temuka, the category II historic woolshed at Arowhenua Station dates from 1854 and is reportedly the earliest surviving woolshed in New Zealand. Beneath a corrugated iron roof some original timber shingles remain. The weatherboard cladding, which has silvered in a most pleasant way, has slumped from the roof above. The patina of age only adds to the building's charm and rusticity. The Rt. Rev. Henry Harper, the first Bishop of Christchurch, was said to have preached from the loading platform of this woolshed.

Another of these very early woolsheds is the charming pit-sawn timber structure at Te Waimate Station in South Canterbury from 1855, which is a category 1 on the register. The design of this woolshed is particularly unusual because it has a twin gable. The weatherboards have been painted with the obligatory red oxide paint, which acts as a timber preservative and gives the structure a mellow, rural hue.

The Homebush Station woolshed (category 1) in Darfield is unusual because it is constructed from brick. The cost of transporting bricks to the stations was prohibitive, but the Deans family, who established Homebush in 1851, owned a commercial brick works at nearby Glentunnel, which made the material an obvious building choice. Segmental arches, which are emphasised by a surround of creamy, yellow-toned bricks, frame the doorways, windows and shearing ports. The internal space also boasts partition walls with brick arches and substantial rimu and oregon timber trusses. The Deans family have recently restored the woolshed with financial help from the trust's National Heritage Preservation Fund. The large, 20-stand woolshed is one of several beautiful farm buildings on the property. Architecturally, woolsheds form a striking part of New Zealand's vernacular colonial architecture. The observant traveller passing through Canterbury might see many examples of these memorials to our country's agricultural roots. They are in various states of repair or disrepair but in either state, they stand to enrich our countryside and provide us all with a "touchstone" to our nation's past.
Kristina Pickford is area co-ordinator at the Southern Regional Office of the Heritage NZ.

Close up view of the Arowhenua woolshed.
A two stand shed. Look for the two windows, inside, in the photo below. A shelter belt (windbreak) of poplars to the right.  Note the Arowhenua woolshed is not raised.  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 provides adequate ventilation. Corrugated iron as a roofing material and siding painted or not has proved its worth. Underneath this corrugated iron is wooden shingles.

Samuel Butler wrote in Erewhon in 1871 that he was refreshed by the cathedral-like woolshed. Butler was not the only one to write that a woolshed was like a church. Maybe Rev. G. Edward Mason, 1892, had read Butler's work. Rev. Mason decided the Orari woolshed in a similar way.   "A wool-shed is a roomy place, built somewhat on the same plan as a cathedral, with aisles on either side full of pens for the sheep, a great nave, at the upper end of which the shearers work, and a further space for wool sorters and packers."

Wool trade to the UK from NZ 
1879 60,437,190 lbs
1884 75,409,444 lbs
1889 92,059,544 lbs

Timaru Herald, 25 November 1865, Page 4 GERALDINE ELECTION.
The nomination of candidates to represent this district in the Provincial Council took place on Thursday last, at the wool shed of Alfred Cox, Esq. The shed was tastefully decorated, and in addition to a numerous body of electors, several of the ladies of the neighborhood were present. B. Woollcombe, Esq., the Returning Officer, said that, before reading the writ, he begged to state that the reason the nomination took place at Mr. Cox's was, that although two polling places had been gazetted, namely, Mr. Cox's woolshed, and the Resident Magistrate's Office at Arowhenua, still neither of them were mentioned as the principal polling booth, so that he considered as Mr. Cox's was the original electioneering depot, it was the proper place for nomination. 

Timaru Herald, 9 February 1866, Page 5
To the Editor of the Timaru Herald
I think the electors of the Gladstone are equally as apathetic as we are in the Timaru district. There is a singular arrangement in the gazetted polling places for these two districts ; Gladstone polls at Mr. Cox's Home station, (how aristocratic ye electors of Gladstone !); Timaru polls at Mr. Cox's Woolshed, (how democratic ye electors of Timaru !) : small beer for you, and cheese ; turkey and champagne for the other. I am, &c. Porcupine. Arowhenua, Feb. 2, 1866.

Timaru Herald, 18 May 1866, Page 3
ELECTORAL DISTRICT OF THE PROVINCE OF CANTERBURY.
The following places are Polling places for the Electoral District of the Province of Canterbury :
Geraldine. — Resident Magistrate's office, Arowhenua.
Geraldine. — Mr. A Cox's woolshed.
Town of Timaru. — Resident Magistrate's office, Timaru.
Waitangi — Mr. Sheath's woolshed, River Te Ngawai. (J.B. Sheath of Opawa)
Waitangi — Mr. H. Meyers's woolshed. „Mr. F. Jollies woolshed.
Mount Cook. — Mr. Teschmaker's woolshed.
Waimate. — Mr. Studholme's woolshed.
Seadown.— The Levels woolshed.

The Australian Family Tree Connections November 2006 (Volume 14, Issue 11)
Early Settlement in South Canterbury - Arowhenua Homestead and Woolshed

Inside the Arowhenua woolshed.
An old Reid & Gray wool press with a new wool pack. Looks like this woolshed is still in use as there is electricity going to the shed with a two shearing machine stands in the background. A new wool press is expensive to buy so some farms have retained the old wooden press but metal fatigue can make an old press dangerous.

'Cyclopedia of New Zealand' Vol. 4 Otago and Southland page 325

Reid & Gray, Engineers and Iron-founders, Otago Implement and Machinery Works was originally founded in Oamaru in 1868. Five years later the firm removed to Dunedin, as there was not sufficient scope in Oamaru for the development of its rapidly expanding trade. There are twenty-three blacksmiths' forges and four furnaces, all of which are kept steadily going. Manufactured double-furrow ploughs, zigzag and disc harrows, turnip and manure drills, broadcast seed-sowers, rotary harrows, cultivators, strippers, drays, chaffers and baggers with automatic screw-press, and many other implements. In addition to its large manufacturing trade, the firm is sole agent in New Zealand for the Deering Pony Binder, Clayton and Shuttleworth's threshing mills. Burrell's traction engines, and the Rudge-Whitworth. Stearn's Yellow-fellow, and Barnes' White-flyer bicycles. Messrs. Reid and Gray established working branches at Oamaru, Timaru, Ashburton, Christchurch, Palmerston North, Auckland, Invercargill and Gore.

There were hydraulic wool presses in 1870 made by Russell and Co., of Sydney advertised in the Timaru Herald. In 1897 Booth, MacDonald & Co. of Christchurch was fishing for orders for wool presses. Top Box tips over and swings aside. £12 10s. The old reliable Carlyle £16. The Ferrier Improved for stations and wool scourers.  £42.

The early wooden, made from jarrah, wool presses were imported into NZ from Australia in pieces. museum.

Otago Witness 27 Oct. 1898, page 14    Timaru Herald 21 Nov. 1873 page 1

D. Ferrier's patent lever wool press No 785, Gimble & Nicholson makers, Geelong at Te Waimate, and still functioning today.
Koerstz squatter wool press, pg 17, made in Australia
Zealandia” and “Cockatoo” wool presses patented by James Muir, Masterston
Donalds MD Sandow wool presspressing, often there is a rope hanging from the shed rafters to hang onto while pressing.

Timaru Herald, 8 October 1864, Page 4
Port of Timaru. Arrived. October 7— City of Dunedin, p.s., 327 tons, Boyd., from Lyttelton. IMPORTS. In the City of Dunedin, LeCren & Co., agents, 3 casks cement, 1 do. ruddle, 2 do. whiting, R.& G. Rhodes; 14 pieces wool press, 1 sewing machine, Studholme ; 4 packages spades, 3 boxes, LeCren Co. ; 80 bundles iron standards, Sheath ; 10 kegs, 4 cases, 1 parcel, 1 do. fittings, 1 plough, 1 set harrows, J. D. Macpherson.

Timaru Herald, 12 November 1864, Page 4 PORT OF TIMARU.
Arrived. November 7 — Vixen, schooner, 30 tons, Black, from Lyttelton. Passenger, J. Wearing.
 November 10— Maid of the Mill, schooner, 43 tons, Priest, from Hobart Town.
November 10 — Geelong. p.s., 137 tons, Turnbull, from Dunklin, via intermediate ports.
November 10 Waipara, s.s., 50 tons, Borthwick, from Lyttelton.
IMPORTS. In the Vixen, J. D. Macpherson, agent,
6 camp ovens and 6 camp pans, Watkins;
bundles canvas. Latter ;
1 case sundries, 1 crate chairs, 1 rocking horse, 1 carpet bag, 2 bales bedding, 1 pkg. saddlery, 20 sacks oats. J. D. Macpherson ;
4 pkgs. luggage, J. Reed ;
3 camp ovens. 3 lids, 1 chest tea, 6 bales woolpacks, 6 buckets, 2 bdls. iron, R. and G. Rhodes;
14 casks tonic water, Clarkson and Turnbull ;
80 bdls. wire, 56 bags oats, LeCren;
15 pieces wool press, Walker Brothers;
In the Maid of the Mill, LeCren & Co., agents, 108 telegraph poles, 1,250 box palings, 4 casks pork, Order
In the Geelong, LeCren & Co., agents,
40 cases geneva. 2 cases drapery, LeCren & Co. ;
5 pkgs. tea, 10 half-cheats do., 1 case bedsteads, 6 kegs nails, 1 bale paper-hangings, 2 cases drapery, 2 cases, J. D. Macpherson ;
6 cases paint, 1 tin varnish, 1 drum oil, 1 case, 1 bag horse shoes, Mendleshon and Morris ;
1 bale paper-hangings, Fyfe; 1 case drapery, 7 cases, Sutter &Co.;
1 case drapery, Copestake ;
3 pkgs., 1 bag horse shoes, 1 boiler plate, R. Wilson.
In the Waipara, J. P. Macpherson, agent. 15 cases, 64 pkgs,, Clarkson and Turnbull ;
16 cases furniture, LeCren and Co. ;
5 coils rope, Order; 15 bales woolpacks, Beswick and Birch.

Timaru Herald, 22 January 1868, Page 2
Wool Dumping. — The new Landing and Shipping Company landed yesterday from the ship Timaru an hydraulic wool dumping machine, capable of being worked by either steam or hand power. The machine will at once be erected in the company's shed for the purpose of dumping wool for the different vessels.

Star 27 November 1895, Page 4
BLOOD POISONING AMONG SHEEP.
The Temuka Leader learns that 4000 sheep are coming from Ealing to be shorn at Arowhenua. For some reason or another sheep shorn at Ealing are apt to die of blood-poisoning if they happen to get cut in any way. No one can explain why. There are no pigs, no dirt, nothing to which it could be traced, but the fact remains that they are subject to blood poisoning, and for this reason they are being removed to Arowhenua to be shorn.

Woolshed terminlogy
South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project