Wednesday, May 26, 2010


'Canberra... a good sheep station spoiled.'

It was said for many years that Australian's or more specifically the Australian economy 'rode on the sheep's back' and the Australian National Capital region was no exception to that saying. Large sheep stations were established on the sheltered, well watered and fodder covered plains of Duntroon (post here), Klensendorlffe's (post here), Springbank Station (post here), Ginninderra Station, Woden Station, Tuggeranong Station (post here), Lanyon Station (post here), in the Molonglo Valley (post here), Cuppacumbalong (post here) and others beyond the Murrumbidgee River and on the Monaro (post here).

Parliament House with sheep grazing in front (circa 1941)
NLA image (here)

The area at the time the 'Territory for the Seat of Government' was established in 1911 held (recorded) 224,764 sheep and the export of the areas wool helped evolve the Australian economy. In 1909 Frederick Campbell a descendant of Robert Campbell (post here) built a 20 stand woolshed on his property 'Yarralumla' (post here). He was also one of the prominent landowners of the area to support the Limestone Plains (Canberra area) bid to be the site of the new Federal  Parliament of Australia.

Yarralumla was at this time a 40,000 acre property (16,000 hectares) that supported the grazing of tens of thousands of sheep. Drought breaking rain in 1902 brought prosperity and facilitated the building of an appropriate 'shed' for a flock a property as rich as Yarralumla could sustain. The shed then handled the annual shearing of the Yarralumla flock for the next eight wool seasons. The first property resumed by the new Federal Territory on the Limestone Plains was 'Canberry Station' in 1911 and Yarralumla Station the following year.

Inside the woolshed  

NLA image (here)

In 1912 the woolshed was being used for storage of supplies to support the construction of Canberra’s main sewer (post here) and other public works. Later the shearing shed was partitioned with galvanised iron to form sleeping areas and it housed unmarried Canberra building labourers. In 1917 the shed was re-opened for shearing and operated successfully for the next 47 years ceasing operation in November 1964. Yarralumla Station went on to become the official residence of 24 Australian Governor Generals so far.

No longer equipped with the machinery necessary to operate, the shearing shed remains, now silent below Scrivener Dam (post here). In the 1970's my sister and I were members of the Canberra Lakes Pony Club that was located at the woolshed. The Government agistment for our horses was at the back of the Canberra suburb of Lyons and it was a short ride to the 'old woolshed' and the Molonglo River beyond. Today the Yarralumla Woolshed is the home of the ACT Equestrian Association which I think is quite appropriate.Their website is (here).

Planning a bush dance?.. the Yarralumla Woolshed can be hired from the ACT Government for functions and events. Daily hire is $500, deposit is $500:

(Conditions of hire and fees here (pdf)

(ACT Government Yarralumla Woolshed page here)

Yarralumla Woolshed (circa 1925)

Photo: Wikipedia commons (here)

The view from the front today.

The rear of the shed showing covered holding yards.


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  1. Hi Dave, I had my 21st birthday bash at the Woolshed back in 1977. It was a totally memorable occasion, lots of family and friends and that ever present smell of sheep poo! Adds to the unique atmosphere I must say! Great memories can still be created today, it's certainly a unique venue!

  2. Many a good time had there over the years. I don't know why but this page attracts a lot of traffic with most leaving by the TAMSACT link to hire charges. Cheers Dave


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