Alexandria Downs Camp Oven History

While there are a few furphies going around about the story of the Alexandria Downs camp oven, legend has it that someone in the late 1960s working at Alexandria Downs Station in the Northern Territory was asked to order six large camp ovens.

However, somewhere in the translation the dimensions got mixed up and a few months later a truck turned up with these massive 36-Inch Camp ovens on the back.

These ovens are believed to be made by the old Southern Cross Foundry in Toowoomba, the lid weighs a whooping 90 kilograms and the total weight of the camp oven is 175 kilograms.

The impressive Alexandria Downs Station covers approximately 3.98 million acres in the Northern Territory and is said to be the second-largest cattle station in Australia.

Alexandria Downs Station is owned by the Northern Australia Pastoral Company, the station is the Company‚Äôs largest and oldest property, the original partners had acquired the lease in 1877. 

As these ovens were so big they were not used much and at some point ended up leaving the station and are now in private collections and museums today.

Where are they now?

  • Outback at Isa Museum – good condition
  • Avon Downs Police Station – rusted away
  • Donohue’s Store Townsville – good condition
  • Ned Winter’s property Cecil Plains – cracked/welded & filled with concrete
  • private collection South East Qld – good condition
  • Private collection Townsville – perfect condition/almost ready to cook for 500
Other information I’ve heard about these ovens

Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson Published here that the Six 36 inch ovens were made by mistake when the order measurement was given to the foundry in perimeter inches instead of diameter inches. – Read Article

Richard Eussen

Richard Eussen recently posted on Facebook this version of the story with a photo he took in 1975 of Donna and Jenny Brummell in the 36inch Alexandria downs camp oven at the Frewena Road House.

Only six of these ‘yard-wide ovens are believed to have been made in a UK foundry. The story goes that the boss at Anthony’s Lagoon Station walked into the store and told the Pommie bookkeeper to order 6 camp ovens. ‘How big?’ ‘Oh so bloody big,’ answered the Boss, spreading his hands wide, frustrated at the keep’s ignorance. Months later the mail truck delivered the ovens ‘so big’ an exact yard wide, which the keep had assumed to be the correct size.

Alexandria downs camp oven at the Frewena Road House in 1975 | photo by Richard Eussen
Donna and Jenny Brummell in the 36inch Alexandria Downs Camp Oven at the Frewena Road House in 1975 | photo by Richard Eussen

Kerry Harrold

Kerry harry has an old friend who was working at Alexandria Downs at age of 14 when these ovens were ordered and arrived. He remembers the model of truck they arrived on and all as the freight truck was brand new also.

From memory, they cost 60pounds each which was a months wage for a good Ringa. According to the friend, the bases arrived first and the lids a few weeks after. He was the cook’s pet. Remembers the cook only using them for one meal which took all day to fill up, cooked bread once then said these are ridiculous and the ovens all ended up going separate ways.

Ned Winter

Aussie camp oven legend, Ned Winter has one bolted to his front gate post filled with concrete, on the sign he has painted the details of the oven, and some information about how many times he’s used it, including using it with 70 other camp ovens in Rockhampton to cook for 2000 people in 1994.

This one was used nine times which took two good women to handle it, as good women are hard to find, it is now in its right place.

Ned Winter

Final Thought

No matter what the actual truth to this story is, It’s definitely created some epic size camp ovens that we will be talking about for centuries to come.

With my need to cook for thousands of hungry customers at events, I’ve created my own version of these ovens, which can be seen being used at the Australian Camp Oven Festival.

To purchase one of my Patch camp ovens, click here

Main information and some images provided by Bruce Batterham

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