Solway Sheep Rostrum set to get some TLC

One of the last sheep rostrum buildings in the southern hemisphere and possibly elsewhere in the world, is to get some key conservation work to preserve it for many more years to come.

Sue Tytler, manager Masterton A&P Association, stands in the circular, wooden Solway Rostrum.
Sue Tytler in the Solway Rostrum. Photo: Wairarapa Times Age Grace Priorexpand/collapse

Situated at the historic area listed Solway Showgrounds in the Wairarapa, the sheep rostrum building needs a new roof and other repairs to stop water leaking into the rostrum space and causing interior fittings to rot.

Masterton A&P Association manager, Sue Tytler says that grant money given by Trust House will be a boost to the repairs project going forward. She notes that the sheep rostrum was the home of the first ever Golden Shears in the Wairarapa in 1958, but the competition grew too large and so it moved elsewhere.

“It is so important that we protect this key aspect of our agricultural heritage. The woolshed at Solway Showgrounds has been maintained by local groups as a venue for ram sales over many years and while the interior of the sheep rostrum has remained in a good condition, the roof has succumbed to the elements,” says Sue. 

Designed to seat about 400 people, the sheep rostrum building is both rustic and charming. “Visitors often comment that being in the selling ring is like stepping back in time to when stock sales were held in every town.” The rostrum is still used for sheep sales, with Grassendale Genetics holding its annual sale in the venue.

The sheep rostrum was the home of the first ever Golden Shears in the Wairarapa in 1958.

Sue Tytler says the rostrum has more to offer than its primary use for stock sales – it could become a hub for tourists, arts events and public lectures. “It’s a tourist attraction in its own right. The woolshed could be utitlised by schools and local businesses.” 

Covid restrictions certainly caused a loss in momentum for new causes  but there is now a strong belief that interest will again return to find new uses for the rostrum and just a few weeks ago a Future Farmers shearing demonstration took place in the rostrum. 

The sheep rostrum was designed by architects Crichton and McKay, who went on to design many other historic buildings in the Wellington region, including the Dominion Building in Mercer St in 1928 and many of the Wellington Hospital buildings.

- David Watt