Wire fences in colonial Australia: Technology transfer and adaptation, 1842-1900

John Pickard*

*Corresponding author for this work

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After reviewing the development of wire fencing in Great Britain and the United States of America in the early nineteenth century, I examine the introduction of wire into Australia using published sources only. Wire was available in the colonies from the early 1850s. The earliest published record of a wire fence was on Phillip Island near Melbourne (Victoria) in 1842. Almost a decade passed before wire was used elsewhere in Victoria and the other eastern colonies. Pastoralists either sought information on wire fences locally or from agents in Britain. Local agents of British companies advertised in colonial newspapers from the early 1850s, with one exceptional record in 1839. Once wire was adopted, pastoralists rejected iron posts used in Britain, preferring cheaper wood posts cut from the property. The most significant innovation was to increase post spacings with significant cost savings. Government and the iron industry played no part in these innovations, which were achieved through trial-and-error by pastoralists. The large tonnages of wire imported into Australia and the increasing demand did not stimulate local production of wire, and there were no local wire mills until 1911.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-58
Number of pages32
JournalRural History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


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