KOSCIUSZKO HUTS ASSOCIATION

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Extract from Max & Bert Oldfield's Hut Conservation Study prepared for the Kosciusko Huts Association by Matthew Higgins and David Scott, December 1992.

 

Special acknowledgment is made to the contributions of Max Oldfield, Jack and Bill Cotter, Laurie Tong, Rob Watchorn, Don Moore and Ron Jeffery who over the last three years have consented to interviews with the authors.

The Oldfield family

As the name implies, this hut was built by cousins Max and Bert Oldfield.  The Oldfield family has played a very significant part in the history of wide areas of the region now known as Namadgi National Park, and in areas adjoining the Park.

Joseph Matthew Oldfield arrived in New South Wales on the convict transport Hive in 1834.  He worked for pastoralist James Wright who had the Lanyon and Cuppacumbalong properties, and in 1842 Mary Keegan arrived to also work for Wright.  Joseph and Mary met and they had a family of eight children.  The Oldfield family network grew and over time the Oldfields came to own, lease or manage a large number of properties in the region.  At different times Oldfields had Reedy Creek, The Old Place, Naas Homestead, Top Naas, Glencoe, Glenferrie, Glendale and Cotter Hut among other holdings.  Half of the extant stockman's huts in Namadgi were built by or for the Oldfields, and Oldfields also had huts and snow leases in neighbouring Kosciusko National Park, NSW.

Two of Joseph and Mary's grandsons were Ted and Tom Oldfield.  Ted, early this century, purchased Naas Homestead and he acquired many other holdings, including the River Paddock snow lease at the head of the Murrumbidgee River on Long Plain.  Max Oldfield (born 1928) was one of two sons born to Ted and his wife Amy (nee Brooks).  Tom Oldfield earlier this century managed Orroral and Gudgenby for the Bootes family and then went on to own a string of local properties, becoming one of the biggest landowners in Namadgi.  Bert Oldfield (born with twin brother Kevin in 1927) was one of eleven children born to Tom and his wife Ada (nee Cregan).

 

The Booth Range lease, and "The Bog Hut"

The Booth Range, a most prominent timbered range in the eastern part of Namadgi, takes its name from James Booth of Gundaroo who was grazing stock in this area as early as the 1830s.  Max and Bert's Hut stands on a former lease (officially known as Block 6, District of Booth) which occupied 7000 acres of the Range; this lease has a lengthy grazing history.  It was held at one time last century by Leopold Fane De Salis of Cuppacumbalong, and later passed to a Mr Massy of Gundaroo who worked it with Jack Donnelly of Bungendore.

In the 1920s Ted Oldfield acquired the Booth Range lease, but he soon found it rather too big to handle on his own so he asked brother Tom (who then was managing Gudgenby for A.G.W. Bootes) to become a partner in the lease (this was Tom Oldfield's start as a landholder).  Shortly after, in the late 1920s, the brothers built an iron hut high up on the lease, at a small swampy valley known as The Bog (grid reference 844415, Colinton 1:25 000).  They were helped by George Gould who worked for Ted and who became the hut's main occupant.  George spent much of his life, alone, on the lease, fencing and controlling dingoes and doing other tasks; he had a vegetable garden at the hut which was fenced to keep out the kangaroos.  At mustering time Ted and Tom would join George, and some of the brothers' sons (e.g. Max and Bert) and other lads (e.g. Laurie Tong) would also help sometimes with the work.  The sheep were run year-round on the lease at this time, but after the Oldfields got snow leases in the 1950s the stock spent the summer-autumn on the snow leases and the winter-spring on Booth Range.  Shearing and dipping was done at The Old Place.

At the time that Ted obtained the lease an old hut (probably slab walled, with a shingle roof) stood a few metres away from the present Max and Bert's Hut.  Known as The Banks Hut, Ted made some use of it (as he had whilst working in the area prior to the first world war) but decided to build a new hut at The Bog because that was closer to Gudgenby, and therefore in a more suitable location considering that he and Tom usually came onto the lease via Gudgenby.  It is unknown when this hut was built.  A site inspection revealed no definite remains of this hut, although some stones were observed identifying a possible site.

 

Max and Bert's Hut

In 1956 Ted Oldfield moved to a property near Young and Max acquired a number of his father's holdings, including Ted's share in the Booth Range lease.  So for several years the lease was held jointly by Tom and Max, then when in the 1960s Tom's share went to son Bert.  The Bog area was known as a wet, cold place in winter, and so it was decided to erect a new hut on the lease.  The sheep generally came onto the eastern side of the lease anyway in winter because it was warmer there and so the site for the new hut was thus determined. Additionally, this was the site of the Banks Hut.  For a time Max and Bert camped in a tent on the new site before building the hut.

Max carted the materials in to the site in his Land Rover; although it had been hoped to get assistance from a bulldozer in order to make the track to the spot, Max and Bert ended up having to make their own way with the aid of an axe and a crowbar.  While The Bog Hut had a frame made entirely from bush timber, the new hut had bush timber uprights but sawn timber for the rest of the frame.  In fact, the sawn timber, windows and iron were all part of a lot purchased by Max from Ron Jeffery of Tharwa for 100 pounds.  These materials were from a house that Ron had demolished; the building, erected in the late 1930s or early 1940s, was one of several constructed in Tharwa by Ron's father Clarrie.  Secondhand materials, obtained from various places around early Canberra, were used for this house, and while it has been suggested that the materials came originally from the Old Canberra Brickworks site, the exact source is now rather uncertain - in fact there is an equal chance that they may have come from buildings at the Causeway (near Kingston).  It has been thought that the hut was built in about 1961, but the date of the transaction between Ron and Max is now known to have been in 1967. Thus the hut was built then.  Among the furnishings brought to the hut were a very old iron bed which had belonged to Max's grandmother Elizabeth (nee Rawlings)(a notable feature of the bed is the use of hammered rivets).  Stone from the site of the Banks Hut was used to line the fireplace.

Following construction of the new hut, use of the hut at The Bog declined (The Bog Hut has since been damaged by fire and today it is a collapsed ruin).  During the 1960s the Oldfields lost their snow leases and so the sheep were kept on Booth Range for the whole year.  The new hut provided shelter during mustering for shearing, wigging and drenching, and during other jobs on the lease.  Max noted that with the sheep being on the lease year-round, drenching had to become more frequent.  Max was often joined on the lease by his wife Betty.  The hut was known to the Oldfields as The Old Horse Paddock Hut.

 

Since the end of grazing

Land resumptions in the Naas area in the early 1970s saw Max and Betty Oldfield and their family leave their home property (where Caloola Farm is today) and move into Tharwa in 1972; a year later they took up a new property near Young. For several years Max continued to run cattle on the lease from Young and Bert also continued to use the lease.  In 1978 or 1979 the Booth Range lease was terminated and grazing there curtailed.  It is known that by this time the hut was without a door.

In 1979 Max and Bert Oldfield's Hut became part of Gudgenby Nature Reserve and then five years later it was subsumed into Namadgi National Park.  During the 1983 Gudgenby bushfire, rangers and others fought a fire burning adjacent to the hut, and no doubt helped to save the structure; it was probably at this time that the fire damage to one of the corner posts occurred.  While these few Gudgenby Nature Reserve staff (and of course the area's former residents) knew of the hut, the hut's existence was not widely known of.  Neither the KHA, the National Parks Association nor other groups were aware of the hut's existence.  It was only during 1990 when Max Oldfield was interviewed as part of the KHA's Namadgi Oral History Project that the hut became known more widely.  As a result, the hut has not been pillaged by visitors.  At the time that it was located in October 1990, and during subsequent inspections in 1991 and 1992, the hut still retained a range of the former owners' possessions, including the kero fridge containing a large collection of reading matter, a number of hurricane lamps, tools, beds and small items like the shaving brush and aspirin found in the food safe hanging on one of the walls.  In this respect the hut is distinct from many of the others in the park.  The number of walkers known to visit the hut is very small.

 

Cultural Significance

 Max and Bert Oldfield's Hut is one of eight intact stockman's huts in the Park, structures built to provide basic shelter for graziers doing stockwork on holdings located away from the home property.  Max and Bert Oldfield's Hut has a direct association with the Oldfield family, a family that for a lengthy period played a very significant role throughout large parts of Namadgi and nearby areas.

 With its basic construction and materials, Max and Bert Oldfield's Hut is a good example of the simpler type of stockman's hut, reflecting the main characteristics of this rudimentary type of structure.The hut has retained a level of intactness (especially as far as its wide variety of internal items are concerned) that is higher than that of other Namadgi huts, and it thus is significant for providing insights into the lifestyle of people working on Namadgi's grazing leases.  The use of second-hand materials in the construction enhances the historical value of the site and reflects the temporary nature of the building.

 Although used for only a relatively short period as a stockman's hut, Max and Bert's is significant for its association with pastoralism, grazing having been the area's main industry prior to the establishment of the Park.  As part of a group of such huts in Namadgi, this structure illustrates the shelter needs of pastoralists working on holdings away from the home property.  Further, the hut, built on the side of the rugged Booth Range, is important for helping to show that grazing was not confined to the large, cleared valley floors of the Namadgi area.   The Hut, in being the third stockman's hut to be built on the lease, helps to show the progression of the grazing development of this part of the Booth Range.

 

Access

 Access to the Site is via an ill-defined four wheel drive track from the Naas River Fire-trail.  The fire trail is closed to public vehicle use at Caloola Farm, but forms the major pedestrian access route to the Site (permission must be sought to park at or cross Caloola Farm)  Alternate walking access is via Higgin's Adventure Highway, involving a stiff climb and a combination of compass bearings over Booth Range & The Bog, from the carpark at the head of the Brandy Flat Fire-trail.

 The internal memorabilia is essential to the significance and interpretation of this site, and the items would be worthless junk outside the setting of the hut.  Please examine the items but then leave them in the hut.