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Experience over 160 years worth of history at the heritage-listed Jondaryan Woolshed Historical Museum and Park and gain a fascinating insight into the woolshed's shearing background and pioneer history.
The Wooshed is Australia's oldest woolshed still in working order. The tourist attraction celebrates the wool industry in Australia and has historic buildings, machinery, equipment and collections, which have been obtained and restored over since 1975.
Learn more about the Jondaryan Woolshed.
Built in 1859, the Jondaryan Woolshed is the centrepiece of the Jondaryan Woolshed Historical Museum and Park, a major cultural tourist attraction and event venue. It is located 45 kms west of Toowoomba just out of the village of Jondaryan, and is open daily to visitors.
Jondaryan Station was registered in 1842 by Henry Coxen, then only 19 years old, who had led an expedition of six men including three convicts and an aborigine to claim land for his uncle Charles Coxen. The station was first called Gundarnian, which meant ‘Fire Cloud’ or ‘Place of the Fire Cloud’ in the local Jarowair dialect.
Coxen immediately recognised that the Darling Downs was well suited to wool production and arranged for the first sheep, descendants of John Macarthur’s famous flocks, to arrive in October 1843. Life was tough in the early settlement, and Aborigines killed two men working on the station only a few months after it was established.
With the imminent arrival of the first woman on the station – the wife of the ‘head man’, convict John Chatman – Coxen ordered the construction of a permanent homestead. It was completed in July 1844 and Coxen and the Chatmans moved in just in time for the Station’s first birth in August. The famed explorer Ludwig Leichhardt was entertained in the homestead when he visited in September.
The homestead was built on an ironstone knob on the banks of Oakey Creek which attracted so much lightning during electrical storms that Coxen decided to dismantle and relocate the homestead to a site two miles upstream where remained until it was destroyed by fire in 1937. John Chatman and another man were killed by Aborigines in December 1844 and this proved to be the last straw for Charles Coxen who, under pressure from the banks during an extended rural recession, decided to sell the station. In its first 17 years, Jondaryan Station changed hands seven times and it was not until 1858, when William Kent and Edward Weinholt took over its management (and ownership in 1863), that it eventually became profitable.
With complementary personalities and skills, the Kent and Weinholt era was good for Jondaryan, as evidenced by the commencement of construction of the Jondaryan Woolshed in 1859, even though the Station was often in great debt. It wasn’t uncommon for Kent and Weinholt to wait for four years to be paid for the wool produced at Jondaryan.
The Jondaryan Woolshed was designed by James Charles White, then the Manager of Jondaryan Station, who also designed St Anne’s Church, various Station buildings and improvements to the homestead. The timber slab building was “the finest in the colony” in its time and cost a total of £3300 by the time it was completed in 1861. At almost 300 feet (91 metres) long, it boasted 52 shearing stands and could process 3000 sheep at a time.
White originally planned a shingle roof for the woolshed but then heard about a new invention: galvanised iron. The Woolshed had a canvas roof until the hand-rolled, hand-dipped, hand-wrought and hand-corrugated galvanised iron arrived in the colony. Shearing commenced in the shed in 1861 and it was still the Darling Downs’ largest shearing shed in 1892.
The Woolshed hosted the first shearers’ feast in 1861 to celebrate the first shear and to farewell its designer and Station Manager James White. The two-day event featured horse racing, foot races, novelty events and competitions as well as a feast and a ball. It was so successful that White’s replacement made it an annual event and the shearers’ feast became a major social festival for the whole district.
The railway reached Jondaryan in 1868 and HRH Prince Alfred was despatched to open the new extension to the line. The visit was fraught with mishaps, faux pas and bureaucracy, starting with the late arrival of the Prince’s train and ending with a welcomed hunting trip being cancelled because it didn’t fit into the Prince’s schedule. The Prince wrote to his mother, Queen Victoria, that his visit to Jondaryan was ruined by “overzealous officials”.
Jondaryan Station’s first woolshed was burnt down in 1849 by striking shearers who were angry that the station owners would not pay for about half the sheep that had been shorn. In 1874, 53 Jondaryan shearers became the first Australian shearers to form a union.
Although Jondaryan Station’s shearers enjoyed the conditions stipulated by the union, the Station was selected as the first site of a shearers’ strike in 1890 because of Edward Weinholt’s high-handed attitude towards his staff. The agreement reached then kept Jondaryan Station out of the much larger shearers’ strike in 1891 but the waterside workers’ union still blacklisted the station’s wool.
The Kent-Weinholt partnership was dissolved in 1894 and ownership of Jondaryan Station was transferred to Jondaryan Estates of Australia Pty Ltd. Jondaryan Station was broken up in 1946 and in 1973 the Rutledge family offered the Woolshed and 12 acres of land around it to the people of the district. The Jondaryan Shire Council assumed ownership and management of the Jondaryan Woolshed in 2002.
Today, the Jondaryan woolshed historical museum and park is a popular tourism attraction and educational resource. It remains the only shearing shed in Australia with steam power, as regularly demonstrated to visitors.
As well as the Woolshed, the complex features historic buildings, machinery, equipment and collections. Wagon rides and demonstrations of working horses, blacksmithing, sheepdog skills, wool spinning and machinery operation complete the picture of 19th century life.
Self-guided tours with detailed information and insights into pioneer life are available.