Restoring a cathedral of the bush

Booberoi Station's 19th century shearing shed restored

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University of Sydney post-graduate students visit Booberoi Station's shearing shed to study it's history and restoration. Photo by Rachael Webb.

University of Sydney post-graduate students visit Booberoi Station's shearing shed to study it's history and restoration. Photo by Rachael Webb.

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One of the largest shearing shed's of the Lower Lachlan restored.

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The woolshed at Booberoi Station, near Euabalong, once shore up to 250,000 sheep a year, but when owners Dennis and Sue Stewart took over the property three years ago, it was on the verge of collapsing.

"We're cattle not sheep producers but because it was such an unusual structure we thought this can't be allowed to fall away," Mr Stewart said.

The Stewart's found a grant Heritage Near Me, through the NSW government, and applied for funds to repair the 28 stand shed which dates back to the 1880s.

When a historic architect and builder, funded by the program to do a report on the structure, confirmed the shed may only last another year unless there was urgent works done, the shed's roof was renewed and the internal frame of the building was braced.

"I think after the work's that were done to it will at least see me out," Dennis said.

The grant program, which has now been discontinued by the state government, had conditions that there be both educational and community engagement with the woolshed and its fascinating history.

A NSW government grant helped the Stewart family restore parts of the shed's cathedral-like roof. Photo by Rachael Webb.

A NSW government grant helped the Stewart family restore parts of the shed's cathedral-like roof. Photo by Rachael Webb.

This led to around 20 students of The University of Sydney's Master of Heritage Conservation travelling six and a half hours to Booberoi, on the banks of the lower Lachlan river, in mid-November.

Senior lecturer and director of the course, Dr Cameron Logan said the opportunity allowed the students to witness the cultural and historical legacy of a 19th century shearing shed like Booberoi.

"The historic architect who assessed the shed, Ashley Dunn, suggested its value was at the level of state heritage significance and I would agree with that," Dr Logan said.

"The reasons are mostly related to the transformative impact of sheep-grazing across the Lower Lachlan from the late-19th century to recent times.

"There are four or five major woolsheds in the area, of which Booberoi is now probably one of the most intact, that really were almost at a factory production scale.

"It was a transformer of the whole landscape in that area because it enabled the shearing and processing of huge quantities of wool and this drove change even in places like Sydney."

The Booberoi Station shearing shed was built in the 1880s and shore up to 250,000 sheep a year. Photo by Rachael Webb.

The Booberoi Station shearing shed was built in the 1880s and shore up to 250,000 sheep a year. Photo by Rachael Webb.

Mr Logan explained the architectural structure of the building was also unique.

"The arrangement between the sweating shed, linking building and woolshed is an unusual configuration," Mr Logan said.

Mr Stewart said the linking building was a 70 metre covered walkway that connected the woolshed with the sweating shed, also a sizable building.

"The shearing shed from the inside is cathedral like and reasonably intact," Mr Stewart said.

Mr Stewart said there were also surrounding buildings that used to house the permanent workers at the station.

He said Booberoi Station had been owned by various corporate operations over the years but it was Fred Williams Hughes who owned it when it was at peak production, shearing close to 250,000 sheep a year.

"F W Hughes was like the Gina Rinehart of today, a major landholder, and he had large wool processing facilities in Sydney," Mr Stewart said.

"He brought sheep in from stock routes and other properties to shear at Booberoi."

Mr Stewart said the shed hadn't been used since around 2000 but was a working shed as it stood, with 12 electrically driven stands.

He said there were some in the district who still had clear memories of shearing at Booberoi.

"We've just had the Lake Cargelligo Men's Shed to visit and one of the past shearer's was among them, it was great to get that perspective, he was telling me what life was like out here," Mr Stewart said.

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