Stone corrals feature from the earliest days of settlement in the Falkland Islands. Many were built by people trying to make use of the wild cattle which roamed all over East Falkland.
These herds originated from sealers who would place a few beasts ashore to ensure that supplies of fresh meat were available when they next called. The cattle bred until there were many thousands on the East and later some were put ashore north of Port Howard, where they bred into large herds also.
Early settlers gained hides and fresh meat from the herds, while some were domesticated to provide dairy products.
Two brothers named Lafone, who ran a beef salting business in Uruguay, set up a Saladero at Hope Place (south of Darwin) and brought in a number of families and Gauchos, establishing a salting industry and settlement.
The Gauchos were chiefly involved in organising the wild cattle herds, culling old animals, moving herds to Stanley for butchering and to various grazing grounds. Corrals were necessary for keeping the cattle together during overnight stops on a long drive. They were also used for the sorting of animals and some of the small corrals were used for resting horses.
While others settlers to the north of the Falklands also built corrals, there are fewer stone corrals on West Falkland – probably because the cattle herds that existed on the West were killed off more rapidly to make way for sheep farming.
Corrals were built with whatever materials were available – stone, if the structure was needed near a beach, stone run or rock outcrop, turf if stone was not available.
Stone corrals are all built in the dry stone walling fashion and most are circular. A stake would be driven into the ground, probably with a long lasso looped over it to mark out the circle.
The Sapper Hill corral is mentioned in the Government records of 1850;
“This corral is situated in a valley on the South side of Sappers Hill, this wall of stones, laid dry in an oval form. The wall measured 742 feet in length. There is a ditch on the inside. A wide gateway to the left. The wall is 6 feet thick at the base, 3 feet at the top and 7 feet high. The corral is calculated to hold 1,000 head of cattle. There are no fixtures in it, nor any poles for the gateway… Although included in the Land known as the Peninsula Farm, it is not chargeable with the rent by the tenant…”
Records show that this large corral was built by Jacob Napoleon Goss on instructions from the Governor at the time.
The area was once a popular site for picnics but was inaccessible after it was mined by Argentine troops in 1982. In 2013 the area was cleared of mines and the area is once again open to the public to enjoy.
In an effort to preserve the Falkland Islands' rich heritage, stonemasons Neil Read and John Shutler from Dorset, England, undertook a vital restoration project on listed historic structures located on the east Falklands in January and February 2024.
Their journey commenced with the restoration of the iconic Darwin corral, constructed in the mid-1800s. Facing numerous partial collapses over the years, the corral's unique rock composition has posed a challenge, leading to structural weaknesses and subsequent collapses due to frost damage. Neil and John shed light on the distinct nature of the rocks, which, unlike those in other traditional stone corrals in the Islands, are prone to breaking down after prolonged exposure to frost thus weakening the structure. The duo also completed essential repairs on the adjacent Galpon.
Special thanks are extended to Stanley Services Ltd for their invaluable support, providing accommodation at Darwin and facilitating transportation for Neil and John during their month long stay.
Venturing further, the pair addressed the damage incurred by the Kelp Creek corral on Falkland Landholding Corporation land, resulting from vehicular impact. Responding promptly, FLH implemented protective barriers at the corral's entrance to prevent similar incidents in the future. In addition to the above, the stonemasons also directed their expertise towards the stone cottage at Goose Green which needed a little attention.
Thanks must go to Falklands Landholdings for their support with this project.
In a bid to share their craftsmanship and inspire future conservation efforts, Neil and John hosted a stonewalling demonstration at the historic Dockyard Museum, drawing an enthusiastic crowd eager to witness traditional stonemasonry techniques in action. Special thanks to the Shackleton Scholarship Fund and the Falkland Islands Government (Historic Buildings Committee) for their support.
As the Falkland Islands Museum & National Trust looks ahead, plans are underway to engage skilled artisans for the restoration of other significant historical structures across the islands, ensuring the enduring legacy of the Falklands' cherished heritage is upheld for generations to come.