When this society began life 150 years ago as the Shoalhaven Agricultural and Horticultural Association, the first event it organised was a ploughing match held on the Terrara Estate with three divisions of which champion John Watson took the first-class honours. The match was followed by dinner at the nearby Royal Victoria Hotel, where the group of dignitaries included George Reid who 30 years later would become Australia’s fourth prime minister.
That success was followed by a meeting that elected a committee of 28 men led by president James Aldcorn, which organised the inaugural show held on Thursday, 11 February 1875. The Terara site had been rented for £5 from the Presbyterian Church which had recently relocated to Nowra.
More than 600 people braved the wet weather to attend, and the 400 entries were divided between 13 sections – horses, cattle, sheep, swine, poultry, agricultural implements, grain, hay and grass seeds, dairy produce, fruit, vegetables, flowers, jams and preserves, and miscellaneous.
Although prizes for horses were well spread, considerable space in the local press was devoted to Donald McLean’s winning draught mare and her ancestry. James Monaghan was the most successful exhibitor of cattle, while his brother John took all the prizes for sheep – Merino and Leicester – and also had a non-competitive exhibit of a fleece of wool that weighed 11 pounds.
Terara market-gardener John Utick contributed greatly to the pavilion, taking prizes for fruit, vegetables, flowers, jams and arrowroot. A corn-sheller made by John Aldous was admired, as was John Watson’s cask of export butter.
The following year saw the show extended to two days, and it would continue to be held at Terara for 11 years, finally moving to Nowra in 1886. On more than 20 occasions there have been three-day shows, the last being in 1979.
Significant shows would see the original grandstand being first used in 1888, and its replacement with pavilion underneath in 1906. The first show woodchop was conducted in 1911, while lighting of the arena led to a night program in 1939.
For generations the horse high jump was a feature – from Desmond, a star at the beginning of the 20th century, to Mark Radium in the 1950s; but nowadays it is the showjumping that demands attention in the ring.
The ploughing matches from the society’s earliest days using horses had petered out in the 1890s but resurrected for two years in the 1920s. However from the late 1950s when tractors were being used, Nowra members were champion ploughmen on the national stage.
Weather has often impacted, and after the torrential rain in 1928, ironically the show was abandoned the next year owing to a lack of water. Many attending this year will recall 2017 which was perhaps the hottest on record.
This year’s sesquicentennial show illustrates the society’s willingness to have an anniversary theme – from its own milestone years, to district events such as the centenary of Alexander Berry’s settlement at Coolangatta, and national topics such as Federation and the Captain Cook Bicentenary.
A brief written history
This year marks 150 years of the Nowra Show Society. Initially formed in 1874 as the Shoalhaven Agricultural and Horticultural Association and renamed Nowra Show Society in 1983, the organisation continues today and with the dedication of many, will be sure to succeed for another 150 years.
To celebrate this milestone, the Nowra Show Society has been fortunate to engage Mr Alan Clarke, a very well-known local historian, to take on the onerous task of writing a definitive history of our first 150 years.
Alan, also a former Nowra Show Society Secretary, has been working assiduously on the combined efforts of those in the Society over several years and the stories are outstanding, detailed and at times humorous.
The Nowra Show Society plans to release the results of Alan’s comprehensive research in the form of a book, comprising 3 volumes of approx. 150 pages, each representing 50 years of the Society. The book will continue contain many photos and stories providing a real account of the history of our region.
It will be a great resource for all and will provide the reader an opportunity to understand the history of agricultural shows, highlighting the importance and significance of these events which explains why they still exist today. Additionally, the work will celebrate the love of the land and its people who came to live and work in the Nowra district.
All 3 volumes will come as a set and this exciting addition to our history will be launched at a Nowra Show reunion to be held on Saturday 19th October, 2024, at the Nowra Showground.
The book will be available for pre-sale prior to the book launch and all orders will be taken by the Secretary.
Ticket prices will be as shown below until allocation sold out.
Online presale tickets until 6pm Thursday, 8th February 2024
- Early Bird
Adults: $15 + Booking Fee
Concession: $10 + Booking Fee
Kids (5 – 16 yrs old): $5 + Booking Fee
Kids under 5 years are free
Adults – $20
Kids (5 – 16 yrs old): $5
Kids under 5 years are free
Disclaimer: The Nowra Show Society reserves the right to have removed from the ground any person whose behavior is disruptive, dangerous or otherwise unacceptable.