Image 'Cultivation paddock, Challicum', c1850

TLF ID R3303

This is a watercolour by Duncan Cooper that shows the cultivation paddock at Challicum, a sheep run west of Ballarat in western Victoria. Two figures in the foreground are manually harvesting a cereal crop, while on the left of the paddock, a bullock-drawn dray collects the stooks (bundles) of harvested crop. The various cottages and buildings of Challicum form a backdrop. The watercolour, which measures 12.6 cm x 19.4 cm, is the sixth watercolour included in a field album that Cooper called 'The Challicum Sketch Book'.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows an aspect of Challicum - in 1842 Cooper and the brothers George and Harry Thomson took over the sheep run, which they called Challicum, from Alexander and Colin Campbell; like many Englishmen in this period, the three men were lured to Australia by tales of the wealth to be made from wool; by 1844 the 15,000-acre (6,070-hectare) run was stocked by 3,500 weaned sheep, 3 horses and 8 cattle.
  • It shows that cereal crops were grown at Challicum - squatters established a cultivation paddock in an attempt to grow crops, particularly wheat, for their own use; availability of wheat enabled the production of flour, which was done by separating and grinding the seed heads from the wheat stalks; the stalks (straw) were then used for animal fodder; self-sufficiency was essential, as squatting runs were isolated from the main settlements.
  • It depicts the manual harvesting of a cereal crop at Challicum - the crop may have been cut with a scythe (a long-handled implement with a long, curved single-edged blade) or a sickle (a short-handled tool with a curved blade) and then collected and tied into stooks (bundles).
  • It shows a bullock-drawn dray at wain (wagon) work - the bullock drays collected the stooks and took them to a designated spot to build a stack; one such stack can be seen outside of the cultivation paddock on the right of the watercolour.
  • It indicates that bullock-drawn drays were used by squatters in this period - six to ten bullocks were yoked in pairs, usually to a two-wheeled dray, such as that depicted here, which had a solid wooden platform and iron tyres; two-wheeled bullock drays were slow but could carry up to 2 tonnes and transverse rough roads or travel overland; bullock drays were also used to transport wool, grain and other produce to market and stores home from market.
  • It shows a wooden post-and-rail fence - fences were made from available material such as posts and rails split from local timber; however, because of the high cost of fencing and the lack of secure land tenure, sheep runs were only partially fenced; shepherds tended the sheep flocks until fences became universal following the introduction of cheap iron wire in the mid-1850s.
  • It shows men in the process of harvesting - records indicate that by 1844 '12 male and 1 female resident, all free [not convict labour]' were employed at Challicum.
  • It suggests that squatters occupied land in western Victoria in this period - squatters moved into the Port Phillip district and illegally occupied crown (government) land from the mid-1830s; after 1835 squatters paid the colonial government in New South Wales a £10 annual licence fee to pasture their stocks and in 1847 they won the right to lease their runs for up to 14 years, with the option of purchasing the whole station or a minimum of 160 acres (64 hectares) at £1 per acre, or of renewing the lease at the end of this period.
  • It indicates that by the 1850s Challicum was well established - the farm buildings depicted by Cooper include a store, henhouse and carpenter's shop, as well as the basic cottages, which were occupied by Cooper and the Thomsons, and the quarters provided for the overseer and other farm labourers; the building on the far right may be a barn or a stable.
  • It is an example of the work of Duncan Cooper (c1813-1904), an amateur artist who recorded the establishment of Challicum from his arrival in 1842 until his retirement in 1853, when he returned to London - his collection of sketches and watercolours, most of which were compiled into 'The Challicum Sketch Book', provides one of the few pictorial records of squatting in this period.
Year level

5; 6; 7; 8; 9

Learning area
  • History

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
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
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