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Cordillo Downs Woolshed Roof Repairs

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Save Australia’s largest stone woolshed                  

A historical but crumbling wonder sits in the heart of the vast outback, just a couple of hundred kilometres from where the Burke and Wills expedition ended and built only 22 years after they passed through this majestic landscape.  Cordillo Downs woolshed, built entirely of stone, once saw up to 85,000 head of sheep shorn but has fallen into disrepair since the station switched to cattle in the 1940s.  Your donation will help make the woolshed structurally sound and preserve it for future generations.

An architecturally significant glimpse into the past

To the modern traveller exploring the remote red gibber plains between Innamincka and Birdsville, coming across this beautiful woolshed on the two million acre Cordillo Downs is nothing short of astonishing.  It’s mind boggling to think this land was settled with sheep 136 years ago, let alone that such an interesting and aesthetic structure was built by stonemasons with unique buttressing and a curved roof.

But built it was, and it formed the beating heart of Cordillo Downs for 60 years.  Teams of shearers arrived once a year by foot, horse (if they were lucky) or bicycle. Shearers were not the only people involved in shearing – it was a huge undertaking involving the station staff, cooks, roustabouts, wool classers … the list goes on. Wool was ferried to the southern market by camel or bullock teams across the Strzelecki Track to South Australia’s northern-most railhead, where it was trained to Adelaide.

The Beltana Pastoral Company switched to beef cattle in the early 1940’s.  Since then the woolshed has been unused and has fallen into disrepair.  A severe storm in November 2017 lifted a whole section of the roof, causing serious deterioration of the stone work that urgently needs repairs.

A turning point: icon or ruin

As managers of Cordillo Downs, we’re desperate to preserve this iconic structure. We don’t use the restored building at all, but we think we owe it to future generations to try to save it.
There are two immediate steps that need to be taken:

1.       Repairing the most pressing structural deterioration, costing $97,542.  This can be done in June 2019, and includes tradespeople, materials and equipment, additional facilities, and catering. 
2.       Commissioning a Conservation Management Plan (CMP), costing $32,620. The CMP is compiled by architects, structural engineers and archaeologists and will guide ongoing repairs and maintenance for the Woolshed.  It will detail the heritage values and State Heritage significance (it was listed as a State Heritage building in the 1980s), outline the conservation policies to be applied to protect that heritage, and articulate a strategy by which the policies will be put into action.

We are providing $30,000 in cash plus use of equipment and materials and additional staff, but the balance of $100,162 is beyond our capacity. We are urgently seeking grants and in-kind support from government and other organisations, but we will still be short of the total funds needed. We are looking for your support to make this project happen!
Since moving to Cordillo Downs 20 years ago we have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars repairing and maintaining all of the homestead complex buildings and regularly undertake small repairs, including to the woolshed.  However, the extent of historical and recent deterioration the woolshed has suffered requires specialist trades.  It is beyond our skills to maintain this building.  The full budget (provided by the people we plan to do the work) is:


Professional Trades                                                                      $28,133

Materials                                                                                             $15,459

Equipment/facilities                                                                      $40,000

Catering and accommodation                                                 $8,100

Freight                                                                                                   $5,850

Conservation management plan                                            $32,620


What does your support do?
If we raise the funds needed, we replace the roof, undertake the most urgent structural repairs, and have a CMP.

Additional repairs will be needed in future to completely stabilise the woolshed.  These secondary repairs, although substantial, are smaller in scale and with the advice of the CMP we hope to undertake these works in the near future.  The estimated costs will be further understood once we have finalised the CMP, but should be around a further $80,000 to $100,000.  We have further plans for the woolshed which should greatly enhance visitor experience such as interpretation and signage to detail the history of the woolshed. Our ultimate aim is to continue to open the woolshed for the benefit and enjoyment of the public.

We’re Anthony and Janet Brook, managers of Cordillo Downs.  Our homestead and outbuildings are built next to the woolshed, and we live here with our four children.  You can read a profile about us here .


Janet Crommelin Brook

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