Image Second hut at Challicum, summer view, 1845

TLF ID R3310

This is a watercolour by Duncan Cooper that shows the second hut built at Challicum, a sheep run west of Ballarat in western Victoria established by Cooper and George and Harry Thomson. In the foreground is a man on horseback, who may be Harry Thomson, followed by two dogs, crossing a grassy plain. Almost directly behind the rider are a number of buildings that make up the Challicum home station (the most prominent of which is the 'second' hut), bordered by a palisade (paling fence). On the right, cattle are shown grazing and in the distance behind them are the peaks of Mount Langi Ghiran. The watercolour measures 14.5 cm x 24.8 cm and Cooper inscribed the words 'No. 3 Challicum, 2d hut, 1845: summer view' on the mount.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows an aspect of Challicum - the sheep run was settled by Cooper and his partners, the brothers George and Harry Thomson in 1842; like many Englishmen in this period, the three men were lured to Australia by tales of the wealth to be made from wool; by the 1850s Challicum had a reputation in London for producing high-quality wool.
  • It shows an aspect of the home station at Challicum - the second hut at Challicum was a vast improvement on the first dwelling, which was a crude slab hut with a bark roof; this second hut was more of a cottage, with a chimney, veranda, glazed windows and shingled roof, and may have been white-washed; other buildings depicted here may include the store, carpenter's shop (shed) and calfpen.
  • It suggests that Challicum was well established by 1845 - while uncertainty over land tenure meant that squatters were reluctant to build permanent structures, the number of buildings at the Challicum home station indicates rapid expansion; records show that by 1844 the 15,000-acre (6,070-hectare) run was stocked by 3,500 weaned sheep, 3 horses and 8 cattle, while 12 men and 1 woman were employed there.
  • It shows an aspect of the terrain at Challicum - the run consisted mainly of sparsely wooded, grassy plains, which proved to be ideal for sheep grazing; Challicum is depicted in summer, which explains why the grass is yellow; Challicum was in the fertile area of south-western Victoria that explorer Major Thomas Mitchell encountered on an expedition in 1835 and called 'Australia Felix'; his discoveries fired the imagination of settlers in Tasmania and Sydney and people in London, who followed his tracks in search of pastoral land.
  • It indicates that Challicum was not fenced in this period - while a palisade (paling fence) defines the area around the home station, the high cost of fences (usually made of posts and rails) and the lack of secure land tenure meant that few fences were erected; shepherds tended the sheep flocks until fences became universal following the introduction of cheap iron wire in the mid-1850s.
  • It may show Harry Thomson on a hunting expedition - Thomson is wearing 'the hunting pink' (the red coat worn in the fox hunt in Britain), which he is said to have worn until threadbare, and is accompanied by hunting dogs; hunting was a popular pastime among squatters, providing respite from the daily grind, but also supplementing a diet that consisted largely of mutton; some 'gentlemen' squatters established hunt clubs to replicate the traditional English hunt.
  • It shows what appear to be cows grazing on Challicum around 1845 - Challicum is known to have had cattle, which grazed freely and were rounded up by stockmen when necessary; these cows were probably milkers and so were brought in to be milked every day; without milking cows, the people on a run had no source of fresh milk, cream or butter.
  • 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 could lease their runs for 8 or 14 years with the option of re-leasing or purchasing the land at the end of this period.
  • It is an example of the work of Duncan Cooper (c1813-1904), an amateur artist who recorded the settlement 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 come from a field album he called 'The Challicum Sketch Book', provides one of the few pictorial records of settlement in this period.
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
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  • 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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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
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