Famous Times

Famous Times : Historic Woolsheds of Hawkes Bay

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The Gordon family have a historic woolshed, which was built in 1886. It has been turned into a museum to the sheep industry and has an auditorium, where shearing and dog shows are held for tourists. The idea came to Angus Gordon, one of the owners, to delve deeper into the greater Hawkes Bay area, which has been such a famous sheep farming area for over 160 years. This book is a photographic journey through the valleys and plains and along the dramatic coastline that was the original lifeline of the district. The original settlers were able to purchase large blocks of land because of the undeveloped nature of the country. Many of them became sheep barons, and then as they became wealthier, they began to build large and usually very beautiful woolsheds to shear the increasing numbers of sheep they were acquiring as they developed the land. The sheds were built of timber then, as native timber was still in plentiful supply, and they were very well built. Some had shingle roofs, and the floorboards were always tongue-and-groove Matai or Rimu.

Many of these sheds have now disappeared, replaced by modern, rather soulless corrugated-iron sheds, but as the author already knew, there are an awful lot of still very well-maintained historic sheds. This book is a tribute to the farmers who have clung on to their land so tenaciously over the years of diminishing returns and diminished size but have still maintained these sheds, which are now treasures of Hawkes Bay that not many people are aware of.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 118 pages
  • 216 x 280 x 8mm | 386g
  • English
  • 1642540781
  • 9781642540789

Review quote

Pacific Book Review

For anyone who is considering purchasing this book, do not buy the electronic version; purchase the hardcopy. Angus Gordon's Famous Times: Historic Woolsheds of Hawkes Bay was not meant to be read on an iPhone or tablet. To do so would be, in this reviewer's opinion, a waste of time. This book is a passion project, rich in history and rustic beauty. Reading it is akin to exploring a museum or leafing through a family photo album. Such projects require a presence and investment that electronic mediums do not encourage. While perhaps Famous Times: Historic Woolsheds of Hawkes would be too niche for many, the project's focus and execution create a space for author Angus Gordon to excel, even to shine.

Famous Times is a book exclusively about woolsheds built over 100 years ago in the Hawkes Bay area of New Zealand (located on the southeast side of the North Island, also known as Te Ika-a-Māui). A woolshed, or shearing shed, are large buildings in Australia and New Zealand where sheep are shorn. The woolsheds serve, among other things, as shearing areas and storage for both the shorn wool and shearing equipment.

Gordon details in his introduction the importance of pastoral farming to the history of Hawkes Bay, stating it was, "Once synonymous with wealth." Now, many of the woolsheds in Gordon's book sit unused, several decrepit beyond repair.

Yet Gordon's book is not a portrait of a dying industry. It is a monument to a different age and the beauty of the relics it left behind. Sprawling pictures dominate each page, showing exterior photographs of the woolsheds, historical black-and-whites of the workers, and the occasional snapshot of the interior of a building. These photos are charming, showcasing not only the ancient buildings, but the gorgeous landscape around them. Nestled in between the pictures are succinct blurbs about each woolshed, detailing the year it was built and the history of the family who owned it, including the occasional interesting factoid.

Famous Times: Woolsheds of Hawkes Bay is an undeniably particular topic. Not everyone is going to be interested in old sheep shearing sheds in New Zealand. But if you have an interest in unusual corners of history or take pleasure in viewing scenes of pastoral tranquility, I think you may find this book well worth your time.
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