Image 'Woolshed, Challicum, 1845'

TLF ID R3266

This is a watercolour measuring 15 cm x 24.4 cm showing the south-eastern sides of a slab and bark woolshed (shearing shed) in 1845. Two men are standing either side of a gate counting out shorn sheep from wooden yards. A large wooden lever and windlass are clearly detailed on the side of the woolshed. A rutted wagon track is shown curving past stacked hurdles straight to a door in the woolshed. Behind and to the left are the Challicum Hills, and on the right is Mount Langi Ghiran. Three large gum trees break the skyline directly behind and to the right of the woolshed. The artist, Duncan Cooper, included this painting as the eighteenth watercolour in his field sketchbook and inscribed the title 'Woolshed, Challicum, 1845' on its mount.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset depicts the woolshed on a squatting run (illegally occupied Crown land) called Challicum near Fiery Creek, 130 kilometres north-west of Geelong and 12.8 kilometres south-west of Mount Cole in Victoria - as virtually no visual records were kept by squatters, this watercolour offers a unique historical record of a woolshed in the 1840s.
  • It shows the woolshed at Challicum as it looked in 1845 - built quickly, it was constructed of locally felled timber and bark; the walls were made of split slabs of timber slid vertically into grooved metal plates secured to squared posts, and its roof was made of bark, supported by sapling rafters and anchored by greenhide rope and sometimes pliable wire.
  • It reveals the timber slabs and sheets of bark used in the construction of the woolshed - use of these materials caused major environmental damage; in July 1844, Foster Fyans, Commissioner of Crown Lands in the area, reported, 'The destruction of timber by barking to cover huts and sheds is so great that in a short time little of the valuable timber will be left. In most parts of the district it is scarce and in many parts where there were fine forests there are few good trees left'; Fyans indicated that 500 trees would have been destroyed to build a woolshed of this size and that parts of the building would last only around two years.
  • It includes one of the two large wooden levers and windlasses that provided the leverage needed to compress wool into woolpacks (bales) for easier transportation to local wool merchants and eventually to market in England - the second lever and windlass were on the other side of the woolshed.
  • It shows permanent sheep yards made from split railings and mortised posts - although strong, a small flock of sheep could cause damage if incorrectly handled, for example if panicked by 'new hands' (inexperienced workers).
  • It illustrates inspecting and counting out the sheep as they left the yards - this was usually done by the squatter or manager; shearers were paid according to the number (or tally) of sheep shorn; if the shearer left on too much wool or injured too many sheep, penalties would be imposed in the form of fines deducted from their pay.
  • It portrays several men possibly shepherds - they are all dressed similarly wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats; before the invention of drawn or barbed wire, shepherds accompanied flocks wherever they went tending and guarding them.
  • It features the eighteenth watercolour in Duncan Cooper's field album, a visual record of the early squatting years in Victoria - Cooper named the album 'The Challicum sketchbook' and described it as 'a collection of drawings made at Challicum, Fiery Creek, Victoria, Australia, from my first settlement there, January 1st, 1842 till 1853'; the album measuring 26.5 x 37 cm and containing 34 paintings, is a prized item in the collection of the National Library of Australia.
Year level

F; 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Duncan Cooper
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Duncan Cooper
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements