Post and rail fences

Derivation, development, and demise of rural technology in colonial Australia

John Pickard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)
91 Downloads (Pure)


Post and rail fences had a relatively minor role in England in the eighteenth century, primarily to protect young hedges. However, they rapidly became the most advanced form offences in the new Australian colonies founded in 1788 and later. The key feature is that thinned tenons on the ends of rectangular split rails fit closely into mortises. cut in the rectangular split posts. Post and rail fences were widespread but never common because of the high cost, lack of secure land tenure, and ubiquitous use of shepherds to guard against predatory dingoes. With the introduction of cheap iron wire in the mid-1850s, farmers and pastoralists gained many advantages from fencing their boundaries and paddocks. By 1900 post and rail fences were obsolete technologically, although farmers built decreasing numbers up to the 1960s. More recently, many people are relocating old post and rail fences onto peri-urban subdivisions and erecting new ones to create a rustic appearance. Post and rail fence use in advertisements and other media shows that they have achieved a new status as an icon of rural Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-49
Number of pages23
JournalAgricultural History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005

Bibliographical note

Published as Agricultural History, Vol. 79, Issue 1, pp. 27-49. Copyright 2005 by the Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by the Regents of the University of California for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® on Caliber ( or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center,

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