Story: Farm buildings

Page 5. Early station buildings

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Barns are traditional farm buildings in Europe, Britain and North America, built to store grain and to house the threshing floor – where the grain was beaten out of the crop using a flail.

Barns are generally not common in New Zealand, although there are a few examples on early farms. In New Zealand, cropping was done on a large scale, and the crop was stored in stacks, not barns, before threshing. Also, grain cropping developed in New Zealand around the time that mechanical threshing machines were introduced, so the old threshing floor became obsolete. Cropping has become increasingly mechanised, and in the early 2000s grain was handled in bulk rather than in bags, and was stored in steel or corrugated-iron silos.

Hay barns

Before mechanisation hay was often stored in the lofts of traditional barns. Large quantities were kept in stacks, thatched to prevent weather damage. With the introduction of the mechanical baler, free-standing barns were built to store hay bales.

Some hay barns are closed in on three sides, and some are simply a corrugated iron roof on poles to keep off the rain. Since the 1980s, big round hay bales have replaced the original small square bales. This has reduced the need for hay barns, as bales can be stored outside in dry areas, or wrapped in plastic to keep them dry in higher-rainfall regions.


Stables were another traditional European farm building, built to house, feed, groom and harness working horses. Stables in New Zealand commonly consisted of a row of stalls, and behind them a cobbled walkway that ran the length of the building and led to the outside yard. At one end there was a tack room for the harness. There was also a room, and sometimes a loft, to store chaff for horse feed and straw for bedding. When machines replaced working horses, stables were often converted into machinery and implement sheds.

The smithy

Many large farms and stations had a blacksmith shop where a smith prepared horseshoes, made hinges and gate catches, and repaired iron tools. The smithy was usually a simple corrugated-iron building, closed in on three sides. Its central feature was the forge, where the smith heated the iron. The modern equivalent is the workshop.

The futtah

Large properties often had a futtah or wattie – a store shed, built on stilts to prevent rats from destroying the supplies. Stores such as tea, salt, sugar, flour and tobacco often only came in once or twice a year, so it was vital that they were protected. The concept, and the name futtah, was adopted from Māori, who built whata (platforms) to protect their food supplies from rats.

How to cite this page:

Robert Peden, 'Farm buildings - Early station buildings', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 April 2024)

Story by Robert Peden, published 24 Nov 2008