Grass Dukes and Shepherd Kings

19th century pastoral life on the Darling Downs comes alive in this intimate exhibition of treasures at SLQ.  Explore the prized possessions as well as photo albums, planting journals, and other records of farm life of the Europeans who settled in the Darling Downs from 1839.

Popularly known as the ‘shepherd kings’ and ‘grass dukes’, they lived up to their image as antipodean aristocrats, erecting fine homesteads, grand stables and woolsheds and transforming the landscape with exotic plants and formal gardens. Properties featured include Canning Downs, Glengallan, Maryvale, Westbrook, Yandilla and Talgai stations.

The exhibition welcomes home to Queensland the Archive of Sir Arthur Hodgson, a prominent colonial politician and original owner of Eton Vale station. This unique collection, consisting of manuscripts, photographs, artworks and medals dating from the 1860s, has, until recently, been held in a private collection in England. Grass Dukes and Shepherd Kings provides an insight into the lives of the early ‘squatters’ who grew in pastoral and political power.

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Anthony Alder (1838 – 1915)Lincoln sheep, Homeward Laddie, 1895, Oil on canvas, 109 x 135 cm, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. ACC: 28082

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Anthony Alder (1838 – 1915)Lincoln sheep, Homeward Laddie (Detail), 1895, Oil on canvas, 109 x 135 cm, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. ACC: 28082

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Anthony Alder (1838 – 1915)Lincoln sheep, Homeward Laddie (Detail), 1895, Oil on canvas, 109 x 135 cm, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. ACC: 28082

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East Talgai StationEast Talgai Station Garden Book, 1869-1941, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, ACC: 1375; R 1152

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East Talgai StationDetail of spine, East Talgai Station Garden Book, 1869-1941, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, ACC: 1375; R 1152

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William Henry Binsted (1835 ? – 1918)Sketch of the Canning Downs Run on the Darling Downs in the Colony of Queensland, c.1865. Indian ink and watercolour on tracing paper, laid down on cotton. Signed lower right, 'W.H. Binsted Licensed Surveyor Warwick', John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, ACC: 6263 

View a high resolution zoomable version of this map in our One Search catalogue

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Heinrich MullerStaff picnic in the Darling Downs area, From Davenport Album, 1877, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. ACC: 9949

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Heinrich MullerStaff picnic in the Darling Downs area (Detail), From Davenport Album, 1877, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. ACC: 9949

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Heinrich MullerStaff picnic in the Darling Downs area (Detail), From Davenport Album, 1877, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. ACC: 9949

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Heinrich MullerStaff picnic in the Darling Downs area (Detail of hand painted birds), From Davenport Album, 1877, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. ACC: 9949

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Heinrich MullerWestern Creek Station in the Cecil Plains District of Queensland, From Davenport Album, 1877, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. ACC: 9949

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Heinrich MullerHeadington Hill From Davenport Album, 1877, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. ACC: 9949

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Mary & Emily Bode, George Carr Clark, Benjamin Leigh, et alImages from issues of the Maryvale Gazette, 1892 – 1893, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Acc: 28154

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Mary & Emily Bode, George Carr Clark, Benjamin Leigh, et alImages from issues of the Maryvale Gazette, 1892 – 1893, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Acc: 28154

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Christian Ludwig Qwist (1818 – 1877)The John Watts necklace, c.1868, 18 carat gold. Length: 40 cm; largest locket: 3.5 cm x 3 cm, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. ACC: 6681

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Christian Ludwig Qwist (1818 – 1877)The John Watts necklace, c.1868, 18 carat gold. Length: 40 cm; largest locket: 3.5 cm x 3 cm, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. ACC: 6681

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Freeman Brothers Studio, Arthur Hodgsonc.1855 Daguerreotype photograph, 12.5 x 10 cm [dimensions of image in gilt frame] in leather case stamped ‘Freeman Brothers Sydney’. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Arthur Hodgson Archive. ACC: 28715

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Freeman Brothers Studio, Arthur Hodgsonc.1855 Daguerreotype photograph (Detail), 12.5 x 10 cm [dimensions of image in gilt frame] in leather case stamped ‘Freeman Brothers Sydney’. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Arthur Hodgson Archive. ACC: 28715

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J.W. Buxton (1832-1902), Squatting Map of the Darling Downs District, - Queensland; Shewing the Proposed Line of Railway, Pre-emptive Purchases, Townships, Reserves, Roads & approximate boundaries of Runs, with Head Stations; Brisbane. 1864, 51 x 38cm, Image courtesy of Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying, Department of Natural Resources and Mines.John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland RBM 843.1 1864 00383 E

View a high resolution zoomable version of this map in our One Search catalogue

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George Knight Erskine Fairholme (1822–1889), Australia. Driving in the herd, c.1845 [No. 1] Hand-coloured lithograph, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland ACC: 5753

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George Knight Erskine Fairholme (1822–1889), Australia. Driving in the herd (Detail), c.1845 [No. 1] Hand-coloured lithograph, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland ACC: 5753

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Photographer unknownThe main cottage on Canning Downs Station c.1859, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Negative Number: 45425

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Photographer unknownFront entrance of Glengallan homestead, c.1894, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland ACC: 84-11-1; Negative number: 47292

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Photographer unknownGlengallan House, From “Views of Queensland” Photograph Album, c.1875 John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland APO 26; ACC: 6193; Image No: APO-026-0001-0016

Further reading

  • Nehemiah Bartley, Australian pioneers and reminiscences 1849-1894, Brisbane: Gordon & Gotch, 1896.
  • Opals and agates: or, scenes under the Southern Cross and the Magelhans: being memories of fifty years of Australia and Polynesia, Brisbane: Gordon and Gotch, 1892.
  • Nancy Bonnin (editor), Katie Hume on the Darling Downs: a colonial marriage (Letters of a Colonial Lady 1866-1871), Toowoomba: Darling Downs Institute Press, 1985.
  • William Coote, The History of the colony of Queensland: from its first discovery in 1770 to the close of 1866, Brisbane: F.W. Walker, 1867.
  • Rose Scott Cowen, Crossing dry creeks 1879-1919, Sydney: The Wentworth Press, 1961.
  • Oscar de Satge, Pages from the journal of a Queensland squatter, London: Hurst and Blackett, 1901.
  • David Forbes, ‘Reminiscences of the early days’, in Queensland Geographical Journal, vol. XVI no.2 1900, pp.50-62.
  • Maurice French, Travellers in a landscape: visitors’ impressions of the Darling Downs 1827-1954, Toowoomba: USQ Press, 1994.
  • J.C.H. Gill, ‘Arthur Hodgson, The Centaur who left his sheep’ in Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, vol. XIV, No.2, May 1990, pp. 41-60.
  • Thomas Hall, A Short history of the Downs blacks known as “the Blucher tribe”, Warwick: Warwick Newspaper Co., Ltd., 191[?]
  • Christopher Pemberton Hodgson, Reminiscences of Australia with hints on the squatter’s life, London: W.N. Wright, 1846.
  • Marianne North, Recollections of a happy life: being the autobiography of Marianne North, London & New York: Macmillan, 1892.
  • Henry Stuart Russell, The Genesis of Queensland, London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, 1888.
  • A.W. Stirling, The Never never land; a ride in North Queensland, London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1884.
  • Nancy Tow, “Darling Downs – a garden history” in Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, vol. 18, no.8, November 2003 pp. 362-384.
  • Anthony Trollope, Australia and New Zealand, Authorized Australian Edition, Melbourne: George Robertson, 1876.
  • Herbert Millingchamp Vaughan, An Australasian wander-year, London: Martin Secker, 1914.
  • John Watts, Personal reminiscences, Allendale, Wimborne 1901.
    [Unpublished typescript, John Oxley Library ACC 5823]