Royal Bathurst Show's historical beginning

BLACK AND WHITE SUCCESS: The Great Western Highway is lined with cars for showday. Photos: Courtesy Bathurst District Historical Society
BLACK AND WHITE SUCCESS: The Great Western Highway is lined with cars for showday. Photos: Courtesy Bathurst District Historical Society

This year marks a milestone for the Royal Bathurst Show, with celebrations planned to recognise 150 years since the first Bathurst Agricultural Horticultural & Pastoral Association endorsed event was held in 1868. 

According to the Bathurst Agricultural Horticultural & Pastoral Association (BAH&PA), the history of the Royal Bathurst Show – a traditional, country agricultural show with all the fun of the fair –  can be traced back to 1855 when the first attempt to establish an agricultural association took place.

It wasn’t until 1860 that the O’Connell and Macquarie Plains, Campbell and Fish River Agricultural Association was formed the first ‘show’ was held at O’Connell. Subsequent shows were held at Raglan, “Alloway Banks”, George Park and the current site from 1878.

The only hiatus came during the two World Wars, with some shows not held during these periods of global conflict. Post-war 1946 saw the show flourish, with gate takings increasing substantially and exhibits increasing in all sections.

The BAH&PA was formed in 1862 following a merger of the O’Connell Association and some influential citizens of Bathurst.

And though the first show under its auspices was held in 1863, it wasn’t until 1868 that the organisation was officially referred to, and so the show held that year is recognised as the first of what would become the Royal Bathurst Show.

The association survived a number of challenges (mostly related to funding), but with the guidance of dedicated committees and strong community support Bathurst shows flourished.

The only hiatus came during the two World Wars, with some shows not held during these periods of global conflict. Post-war 1946 saw the show flourish, with gate takings increasing substantially and exhibits increasing in all sections.

Many distinguished members of the community have served the association and the show, including The Hon Ben Chifley, Dr Machattie, J & C McPhillamy, JN McIntosh, JB and WH Suttor and E Webb.

The next major change to the show came courtesy of Queen Elizabeth II. Around 1992 it was suggested the BAH&PA seek approval to include the word ‘Royal’ in the show’s title.

Show councillors drafted a request, but many months passed without a reply.

Most of those involved had abandoned all hope of a positive reply, when a letter arrived from the Governor General informing the committee that Her Majesty had approved the name ‘Royal Bathurst Show’.

So, in 1994 the first Royal Bathurst Show was held.

Many distinguished members of the community have served the association and the show, including The Hon Ben Chifley, Dr Machattie, J & C McPhillamy, JN McIntosh, JB and WH Suttor and E Webb.

Many others also contributed to the annual show’s success, helping build it into one of the longest-running, biggest shows in the state, showcasing the best of rural life and the talents of people in the Bathurst district. 

Join the biggest celebration of community on the Bathurst calendar and visit the 150th Royal Bathurst Show on April 13-15.