Sheep and shindigs – the his­toric shear­ing sheds of Mans­field dis­trict

Mansfield Courier - - NEWS -

THE Pre­ston prop­erty has a long history. The 30,000 acre prop­erty was pur­chased by Fred­die Grif­fin in 1842, who came out to Aus­tralia from Eng­land to take pos­ses­sion.

Grif­fin died in 1890 and left the sta­tion to his nephew, who be­queathed it to St Mary’s Hos­pi­tal in Lon­don.

The sta­tion was ul­ti­mately sold by St Mary’s and di­vided into a num­ber of smaller prop­er­ties, with John Bo­s­tock buy­ing the largest par­cel of 7000 acres, re­tain­ing the name ‘Pre­ston’.

When Lake Eil­don was cre­ated in the 1950s, the homestead and other build­ings were sub­merged and in 1952, a new shear­ing shed was built more cen­trally on the prop­erty.

It was this six stand shear­ing shed that cur­rent owner Lau­rie Tan­ner showed the Courier.

The shed came to the prop­erty as a kit, prob­a­bly man­u­fac­tured by women who had gained their man­u­fac­tur­ing skills dur­ing the war and stayed on in the fac­to­ries.

A Dutch­man called Aari Smink worked on the con­struc­tion and left his legacy in the con­crete stumps that sup­ported the struc­ture.

The name ‘Pre­ston’ and the date 1952 were moulded into two of the stumps sup­port­ing the struc­ture, and is also on a large plaque af­fixed to the build­ing.

The mag­nif­i­cent tim­ber floor was laid by Matt Withers, who, from all ac­counts, was such a per­fec­tion­ist that any helpers who left nail heads ex­posed were se­verely dealt with.

All hands were on deck for the con­struc­tion, in­clud­ing the chil­dren of the work­men who lived on the prop­erty.

When it was up and run­ning, there would be eight shear­ers em­ployed for around three weeks and the wool would fly off the thou­sands of sheep’s backs.

The hold­ing pens are enor­mous, ca­pa­ble of hold­ing up to 700 sheep at a time.

In the roof of the shed, there are two ‘tow­ers’, con­structed to ac­com­mo­date the size of the wool press, which still has pride of place in the shed.

There are two tow­ers be­cause in the past, the de­ci­sion was made to move the mas­sive wool press closer to the shear­ers and sorters.

“It was moved such a short dis­tance, it is a mys­tery to me why they both­ered at all,” Mr Tan­ner said.

Lo­cal res­i­dent Val Kir­ley re­mem­bers the shear­ing shed fondly.

She moved to Pre­ston in Jan­uary 1949 when her dad Bill Stewart moved there as a stock­man and later man­ager.

In the 10 years she lived at the prop­erty, Ms Kir­ley re­calls a dif­fer­ent use for the shed apart from the shear­ing.

“It was ideal for func­tions, and there used to be hos­pi­tal and race club balls and par­ties held there,” she re­called.

“We kids would jump on our horses and race up to the shed early in the morn­ing af­ter a func­tion, and tuck into the leftover food and pinch the stream­ers and bal­loons.

“Bal­loons were a real trea­sure in those days,” Ms Kir­ley said.

Along with shear­ing, the shed is still serv­ing a so­cial func­tion for the area.

Mr Tan­ner told of the shed “jump­ing with life” when the chil­dren from the Farm­house Kinder­garten held their Christ­mas party there last year.

This shed will stand for many years to come, and no doubt more gen­er­a­tions will work and play there.

PHOTOS: Wendy Hunt

HARD TO MOVE: Owner Lau­rie Tan­ner is dwarfed by the wool press which was even­tu­ally lo­cated in this po­si­tion in the shed.

NOW THAT’S A SHED: The enor­mous shear­ing shed at Pre­ston has hosted thou­sands of sheep and nearly as many rev­ellers.

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