1840 – 1842 The Pastoral & Agricultural Society Of Australia Felix
The Pastoral and Agricultural Society of Australia Felix was founded in January 1840. At the first general meeting of the Society, held on 7 March 1840, it was decided not to hold a show in the first year.
The first and only show took place on 3 March 1842 and it was a failure. It was held in the Melbourne Cattle Market (intersection of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets). Prizes were awarded for horses, cattle, cooper, wheat, watermelons and vegetables.
Between 1843 – 1847 there was no show and in August 1848 some members formed an organisation, the Moonee Ponds Farmers’ Society.
1848 The Moonee Ponds Farmer’s Society
The Committee of Management of the above Society met at the store of Thomson & Duncan, Great Bourke Street, on 18 August 1848, and changed the name ‘Moonee Ponds Farmer’s Society’ to ‘Port Phillip Farmers’ Society’.
This body conducted the first ploughing match in the district of Port Phillip on the farm of ‘La Rose’ at Moonee Ponds, in 1848.
1848 – 1870 The Port Phillip Farmer’s Society
The Port Phillip Farmers’ Society was formed on 18 August 1848.
The Society conducted ploughing competitions, exhibitions of stock and produce on the Moonee Ponds deep creek and salt water river farms in the early 1850s. In August 1855 the government granted an area of three acres on Sydney Road, opposite the University in Parkville, as ‘Show yards’. The first Show was held at the new Show yards on 29 October 1855 with shows and competitions held regularly on the Parkville site until the last show in November 1867.
On 19 October 1856, a branch of the PPFS was formed at Bacchus Marsh and on 13 October 1857 a second branch was formed at Gisborne. (These branches were the forerunners of the Country Agricultural Societies). Whilst the branches flourished the ‘Central Society’ (as the parent body was called) lacked support.
At the Annual Meeting on 16 May 1870, chaired by Sir James McCulloch, the decision was taken to “bequeath its funds and assets - £666, and the Parkville Grounds, in trustees with power to transfer them to an approved Agricultural Society”.
1870 – 1890 The National Agricultural Society Of Victoria
A public meeting was held in Hockin’s Hotel Melbourne, chaired by Robert McDougall, in November 1870. It was agreed that a new body be formed, entitled The National Agricultural Society of Victoria.
The Parkville grounds were considered unsuitable and were exchanged for a new site of over 17 acres in the county of Bourke, parish of South Melbourne, borough of Emerald Hill at the junction of St Kilda Road and Dorcas Street.
The first show on the new grounds was held from 29 November to 2 December 1871.
The Society gained in strength and popularity and showed vision in its activities such as displaying machinery and implements adopted to agricultural and pastoral purposes; so much so that it soon became obvious that a larger site would need to be found to cater for the ever increasing demands of the Society.
In 1877 the council of the NASV made repeated applications to the Minister of Lands for a 20 acre site in Royal Park on the Flemington Road. However, strenuous opposition by local residents acted against the Society and the Minister offered an area of 30 acres abutting on to the Flemington racecourse. Although the Society acknowledged the grant the majority of the Council Members considered the site ‘too far from the city’. Shows on the St Kilda Road grounds continued to prosper and other agricultural pursuits such as farm competitions, especially ploughing, were overtaxing on the small grounds.
The Society was notified in June 1882 that the permanent reservation of 30 acres had been advertised in the Government Gazette on 19 May 1882. The first Show on the Ascot Vale site was held from 7 to 9 November 1883 and coincided with the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
1890 – 2012 The Royal Agricultural Society Of Victoria
On 17 June 1890, His Excellency The Governor, The Earl of Hopetoun, advised that Her Majesty was pleased to grant the requisite permission for the Society to assume the title of The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria.
Over the years the Society increased the holdings at Ascot Vale with purchases of freehold properties, and up until 2005 the Melbourne Showgrounds covered an area of 67 acres (27 hectares).
In 2005 the Melbourne Showgrounds underwent a major redevelopment in conjunction with the Victorian State Government. These were completed in time for the 2006 show. A four hectare site to the west of the redeveloped precinct on Leonard Crescent, Ascot Vale includes two hectares surplus to operational requirements and will now be offered for purchase or lease through an Expression of Interest process. This Expression of Interest process is part of the final stages of the redevelopment of the Melbourne Showgrounds precinct. The land has no permanent buildings on it.
All information has been sourced from Speed the Plough I and II, written by FH Noble and R Morgan.