Fencing: it was about keeping stock out, not in

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A classic Lagmhor fence.
A very early and effective strainer on a fence near Maronan.

By John Keast

Fencing, it was said, was to keep a neighbour’s stock out, not yours in.

Mid Canterbury, particularly in the Lagmhor area, has some of the earliest examples of fencing in Canterbury.

There are also plenty of examples of what was known as the Lagmhor fence: an eight-wire fence, the wires four inches (10cm) apart, with railway iron as a strainer, the strainer held by a metal stay.

One example, in Simpsons Road, near Maronan, features the forerunner to the famed Hayes strainer.

They are effectively iron rods with squared ends. A tool was put on the squared ends and the rod turned to tighten the wire.

Old hands at Lagmhor believe the examples are early fencing, some going back to the 1860s, have as much heritage value as buildings and trees.

They believe the fencing – whether it be gorse or hawthorn grown in a mound, or wire – had as much to do with taming the Canterbury Plains as water for irrigation.

Lagmhor is bristling with examples, almost unseen by the passing motorist.

They include an example, on the Tinwald-Westerfield-Mayfield Road, of an old wire and standard fence.

The holes in the iron standards are just big enough for the thick top wire – so how was it threaded when the wire has barbs?

The answer lies in a simple machine on which bards were made and fitted after the fence went up.

It is believed to be the oldest wire fence in Mid Canterbury.

Early fences were just ditches; later came gorse and hawthorn and broom fences, planted into material from the ditches.

Then came the wire fences, and the Lagmhor fence on Run 38 taken up by the McLean brothers, who named it Lagmhor after their birthplace on the Isle of Coll. Lagmhor is Gaelic for large hollow.

Lagmhor was 40,000 acres, or 16,000ha.

The brothers wrote to friends in Scotland and soon Scottish shepherds and their dogs arrived.

Lagmhor Station had 350 miles of fencing; some of the original fencing is still there.

Nowadays, stock are contained by electrified tape.

In the early days of settlement, fencing was an arduous and time-consuming job.

Photos: Top, one of the earliest wire fences in Canterbury. This example on the Tinwald-Westerfield-Mayfield Road had barbs fitted to the top wire after it was erected. The barbs are now well worn. Above: An example of an original Lagmhor fence: a wire fence with railway iron as a strainer, and the strainer with a metal stay. The bolts were used to strain, or tighten, the wire, and are a forerunner of the Hayes strainer.