australian colonial history
meg dillon
© Meg Dillon 2008
Australian Colonial History

Moments in Australian History

Squatter Kings in Grass Castles - Challicum Sketch Book

THE CHALLICUM SKETCH BOOK – a pictorial history of the growth of a Western District sheep run.

Cite: The Challicum sketch book 1842-53 : and supplementary paintings by Duncan Elphinstone Cooper reproduced from the originals held in the National Library of Australia / introduced and edited by Philip L. Brown, Canberra, National Library of Australia, 1987. To view all the watercolours online, visit: nla.gov.au. Search for Challicum Sketch Book. This invaluable resource contains 54 watercolors painted over an eleven year period by Duncan Elphinstone Cooper, who recorded the growth of Challicum Station, a sheep run that he invested in as partner with friends George and Harry Thompson. Biographical information is scarce. He is considered a talented amateur painter and as such does not appear in any of the usual sources eg Australian Dictionary of Biography, only a passing reference in Design and Art Australia Online and a short reference in Wikipedia. Cooper’s story is typical of many Western District men who arrived in the earliest days of settlement of this area. He arrived from Kent England with his wife and the Thompson Brothers in 1841. His paintings record the way in which a sheep run was set up from scratch – first accommodation in tents, then the gradual building of all the essential station buildings; the primitive huts or dwellings, the woolshed, the cultivation paddock for wheat, the poultry house, the sheepyards, the lambing station and outstations for the supervision of sheep by shepherds prior to fencing the paddocks. All were built of vertical split logs with wooden roofing shingles replacing sheets of bark. Finally a whitewashed cottage with a garden was created in the latter years of his occupation. It was probably built for his wife as it exhibits a feminine touch. Nothing is known about his wife’s fate but she appeared to be absent when Cooper sold up his holdings and returned to England in 1853 and resided in a London hotel until his death in 1904. These are some of the plates our group viewed the following plates screened from the Sketch book: Plate 7 Sheep Station in the Forest 1843. A watchman shepherd would reside to look after a flock of up to 400 sheep. He would coral them into hurdles at night to protect them from wild dogs. Plate 13 Old Woolshed 1845. This was first built then later demolished as it was too close to a creek prone to flood. A Spanish windlass operation is visible used to press the wool into bales. At this time the run was recorded with 15000 acres, 2 acres in cultivation and 3500 weaned sheep. Plate 15 The Third Hut 1845. This would be the Coopers home. Gradually it had been improved and extended since its first simple two room dwelling. Plate 17 Jones Hill or Sheepyards. Another outstation with permanent sheep yards built to house sheep at night and yard the for shearing. Plate 25 The Cultivation Paddock. Subsistence agriculture was allowed on these leases but sqatters were not allowed to grow crops for sale or barter. Leases were for eight or fourteen years with rights to purchase. This paddock appears to grow wheat or other grains. Plate 26 The Poultry House. 1851. Usually located near the main house or hut for ease of access. Mostly the wife attended to the poultry and a milking cow. Chillicum’s diet was varied and included these luxuries as well as fresh vegetables. Many other bachelor establishments had to content themselves with meat and potatoes as staples except when supplies were infrequently brought up by bullock dray from Geelong or Portland. Plate 27 Lambing Station. An important area for lambing ewes that needed special protection with their new lambs from native cats or wild dogs. Plate 40 The Challicum Third Hut. 1850s. Further extended, whitwashed, with paths and a flower garden it appears a reasonably comfortable accommodation for Cooper and his wife. This is still a long way from the later mansions the successful Western District squatters would build in the 1870s and 1880s. Although Cooper made sufficient money from his investment in this property to return to England and live comfortably, the sketch book records the hard life of ‘gentlemen’ squatters when they first took up runs. Buildings are makeshift timber constructions, fences are few, the men’s huts would be more primitive than the masters’. Stockmen performed many duties. They had to be waterboys, woodcutters, cooks, rouseabouts, butchers as well as shepherds. Cooper and the Thompson brothers would also engage in hard physical labour along side their men, including shearing and scabbing sheep. This was socially quite different from the early NSW elite who had up to 30 convict labourers to work their farms. Although Cooper’s men would include former convicts and free migrants, a more egalitarian relationship was emerging between masters and their men in Victoria, because they worked together on the hard tasks of establishing a grazing property.

Some historians views

Interested in reading more about this? These are a good start. Margaret Kiddle, Men of Yesterday: a social history of the Western District 1834 – 1890, Melbourne University Press, 1961. Still the best history of the settlement of the Western District. For some wonderful pictorial essays on Western District homesteads try Nina Valentine,The House that Wool Built, artist – John Jones, Hedges and Bell, Maryborough, c. early 1970s. Peter Leake, Homesteads of Australia Felix, Hawthorn Press , Melbourne,1973. Graeme Lawrence and Charlotte Davis, Graphic Glenelg Shire, Millicent Press, Adelaide, 1987. R.M. Hartwell, The Economic Development of Van Diemen’s Land 1820 – 1850, Melbourne University Press, 1954. Still a good introductory text for land distribution. N. G. Butlin, Forming a Colonial Economy, Australia 1810 – 1850, Cambridge University Press, 1994. Complex and detailed for those who want an a very informative analysis. Check all the usual initial reads as introductions: Australian Dictionary of Biography (online), Google for relevant searches and Wikipedia for relevant searches.
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© Meg Dillon 2008
Australian Colonial History
australian colonial history
history of australia

Moments in Australian

History

Squatter Kings in Grass Castles -

Challicum Sketch Book

THE CHALLICUM SKETCH BOOK – a pictorial

history of the growth of a Western District

sheep run.

Cite: The Challicum sketch book 1842-53 : and supplementary paintings by Duncan Elphinstone Cooper reproduced from the originals held in the National Library of Australia / introduced and edited by Philip L. Brown, Canberra, National Library of Australia, 1987. To view all the watercolours online, visit: nla.gov.au. Search for Challicum Sketch Book. This invaluable resource contains 54 watercolors painted over an eleven year period by Duncan Elphinstone Cooper, who recorded the growth of Challicum Station, a sheep run that he invested in as partner with friends George and Harry Thompson. Biographical information is scarce. He is considered a talented amateur painter and as such does not appear in any of the usual sources eg Australian Dictionary of Biography, only a passing reference in Design and Art Australia Online and a short reference in Wikipedia. Cooper’s story is typical of many Western District men who arrived in the earliest days of settlement of this area. He arrived from Kent England with his wife and the Thompson Brothers in 1841. His paintings record the way in which a sheep run was set up from scratch – first accommodation in tents, then the gradual building of all the essential station buildings; the primitive huts or dwellings, the woolshed, the cultivation paddock for wheat, the poultry house, the sheepyards, the lambing station and outstations for the supervision of sheep by shepherds prior to fencing the paddocks. All were built of vertical split logs with wooden roofing shingles replacing sheets of bark. Finally a whitewashed cottage with a garden was created in the latter years of his occupation. It was probably built for his wife as it exhibits a feminine touch. Nothing is known about his wife’s fate but she appeared to be absent when Cooper sold up his holdings and returned to England in 1853 and resided in a London hotel until his death in 1904. These are some of the plates our group viewed the following plates screened from the Sketch book: Plate 7 Sheep Station in the Forest 1843. A watchman shepherd would reside to look after a flock of up to 400 sheep. He would coral them into hurdles at night to protect them from wild dogs. Plate 13 Old Woolshed 1845. This was first built then later demolished as it was too close to a creek prone to flood. A Spanish windlass operation is visible used to press the wool into bales. At this time the run was recorded with 15000 acres, 2 acres in cultivation and 3500 weaned sheep. Plate 15 The Third Hut 1845. This would be the Coopers home. Gradually it had been improved and extended since its first simple two room dwelling. Plate 17 Jones Hill or Sheepyards. Another outstation with permanent sheep yards built to house sheep at night and yard the for shearing. Plate 25 The Cultivation Paddock. Subsistence agriculture was allowed on these leases but sqatters were not allowed to grow crops for sale or barter. Leases were for eight or fourteen years with rights to purchase. This paddock appears to grow wheat or other grains. Plate 26 The Poultry House. 1851. Usually located near the main house or hut for ease of access. Mostly the wife attended to the poultry and a milking cow. Chillicum’s diet was varied and included these luxuries as well as fresh vegetables. Many other bachelor establishments had to content themselves with meat and potatoes as staples except when supplies were infrequently brought up by bullock dray from Geelong or Portland. Plate 27 Lambing Station. An important area for lambing ewes that needed special protection with their new lambs from native cats or wild dogs. Plate 40 The Challicum Third Hut. 1850s. Further extended, whitwashed, with paths and a flower garden it appears a reasonably comfortable accommodation for Cooper and his wife. This is still a long way from the later mansions the successful Western District squatters would build in the 1870s and 1880s. Although Cooper made sufficient money from his investment in this property to return to England and live comfortably, the sketch book records the hard life of ‘gentlemen’ squatters when they first took up runs. Buildings are makeshift timber constructions, fences are few, the men’s huts would be more primitive than the masters’. Stockmen performed many duties. They had to be waterboys, woodcutters, cooks, rouseabouts, butchers as well as shepherds. Cooper and the Thompson brothers would also engage in hard physical labour along side their men, including shearing and scabbing sheep. This was socially quite different from the early NSW elite who had up to 30 convict labourers to work their farms. Although Cooper’s men would include former convicts and free migrants, a more egalitarian relationship was emerging between masters and their men in Victoria, because they worked together on the hard tasks of establishing a grazing property.

Some historians views

Interested in reading more about this? These are a good start. Margaret Kiddle, Men of Yesterday: a social history of the Western District 1834 – 1890, Melbourne University Press, 1961. Still the best history of the settlement of the Western District. For some wonderful pictorial essays on Western District homesteads try Nina Valentine,The House that Wool Built, artist – John Jones, Hedges and Bell, Maryborough, c. early 1970s. Peter Leake, Homesteads of Australia Felix, Hawthorn Press , Melbourne,1973. Graeme Lawrence and Charlotte Davis, Graphic Glenelg Shire, Millicent Press, Adelaide, 1987. R.M. Hartwell, The Economic Development of Van Diemen’s Land 1820 – 1850, Melbourne University Press, 1954. Still a good introductory text for land distribution. N. G. Butlin, Forming a Colonial Economy, Australia 1810 – 1850, Cambridge University Press, 1994. Complex and detailed for those who want an a very informative analysis. Check all the usual initial reads as introductions: Australian Dictionary of Biography (online), Google for relevant searches and Wikipedia for relevant searches.
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