The Falkland Islands and South Atlantic
Camp houses and farms, Falkland IslandsGoring House, West Falklands 1969, Mrs McAskill, photograph Hurst

CAMP HOUSES -Outside shepherds' houses

  • black-hill
  • telephone
  • Rat-Castle,-Chartres
  • Old-shepherds-house-at-Island-Harbour-Fitzroy


Outside shepherds became necessary as sheep farming developed and cattle hunting declined. Houses were/ are permanently occupied by a shepherd and family and were often built many miles from the parent settlement or a neighbouring outside house but often on a route between settlements. They would always be situated close to a supply of peat and fresh water. A shepherd at that particular house would be responsible for that ‘camp’ or section of the sheep station and during that season would not leave it.
On rare occasions, and if materials and skills allowed , a camp house was constructed of local stone as at ‘Paragon’ but generally speaking outside houses in remote areas were necessarily timber framed, clad in iron or weatherboarding, and given a corrugated roof.
In early days the house materials were shipped to the nearest point and had to be dragged by ‘cargeros’, sledges, horse or bullock drawn over trackless rough camp to the chosen site. This difficult transport of materials led to outside houses, especially early ones, generally being of modest size and having characteristically small windows.
Outside houses were set in a several small paddocks and always had a corral, cowshed, dog kennels, a Palenque to hang mutton, meat safe, hen-run with tussac grass, gardens, and a peat stack. In later days but before generators, there was generally a ‘wind charger’. A shepherd was allocated a ‘troop’ of horses and a herd of cows for his family’s use. If the camp house was far inland from the sea he might plant a potato garden in the settlement, always on the coast, where the sea reduces frost risk. The house was approached by tracks, worn in by horses and livestock but becoming more distinct as land rovers and tractors arrived.
Life could be very quiet and solitary in a camp house. If the shepherd was unmarried he could go months without seeing anyone. A wife could be left alone for long weeks while the shepherd was working away from home, shearing or on sheep drives. In early days there was little communication with neighbours or the settlement. Supplies came from the settlement store when needed or a chance arose but a camp house was pretty self sufficient. A travelling teacher visited at intervals if children were present. (Travelling teachers still teach children in camp up to 11 years but with internet and telephone lessons as well). As farms linked to a main telephone line life became easier and it was often part of the shepherd’s job to check the lines in his section of camp. If the house was on a main track route and considered a 'track house' the shepherd might be paid a a small allowance for giving beds and meals to travellers.

Today the subdividing of many of the huge farms has led to outside shepherds houses being owned by and becoming the farmhouses owned by a new generation of Falkland farmers. Shearing sheds and old settlement facilities such as jetties are often still shared at the old original settlement.

Can you add/ correct any information or supply any photographs, past or present?
Photographic credits: Hurst, Derek Lee, Robert Maddocks