Primary contact1 Showground Road, Sydney Olympic Park
Sydney, New South Wales 2127
In 1822, a group of Sydney's leading citizens formed the Agricultural Society of NSW with the aim of "furthering the quality of Australia's primary production by means of contests and competitions".
Eleven officers were elected and the Society staged its first Show at Parramatta the following year. At the time, Parramatta was the bread bowl of Australia and, the agricultural hub of the colony, which was struggling to provide for its population of 30,000, half of them convicts.
Despite its initial success the Society lapsed in 1834 due to the pressure of drought and economic depression, but re-formed in 1857 under the Cumberland Agricultural Society. It was later renamed the Agricultural Society of NSW in 1859.
The Society's Shows were held at government grounds in Parramatta until 1868. In 1869 the Society was offered the use of Prince Alfred Park where a purpose built exhibition building had been built.
Shows continued at Prince Alfred Park until 1881, when high rent and empty coffers forced the Society to look for a new venue. The City Council offered 40 acres of unpromising, sandy scrub at Moore Park for an annual rent of £10. With the help of the NSW Government and public subscriptions the Society built a Showground, which became home to the Show for the next 115 years.
In 1891 Queen Victoria honoured the Society by permitting use of the word 'Royal'. The Society subsequently became the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales.
While the bubonic plague did not stop the Show when it struck Sydney in 1900, the influenza epidemic of 1919 caused chaos. Large public gatherings were banned and the Show was cancelled. Many buildings on the Showground were repurposed as temporary hospitals and the Royal Hall of Industries served as a morgue.
During World War II the Sydney Royal Easter Show was cancelled for five consecutive years when the Showground was requisitioned for military use, and some 700,000 troops passed through its grounds.
By the late 1980s the Sydney Royal Easter Show had outgrown its Moore Park facilities. In 1994 the New South Wales Government approved its relocation to Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush. The first Show at the new grounds was held in 1998.
Today the Show is Australia's biggest annual event, injecting more than $600m into the New South Wales economy and attracting close to a million visitors with its entertainment, exhibitions, competitions and vivid depictions of rural life.
The Heritage Centre tells the story of the Royal Agricultural Society since it was founded in 1822. Its unique collection of documents, books, images and reports also provides insight into the history of Australia and the development of agriculture since the early days of European settlement.
While the Heritage Centre is a precious in-house resource, the Society is proud to make it available to researchers and members of the public.
The Heritage Centre will collect:
The Archive holds the administrative records of the Royal Agricultural Society since its foundation in 1822. The records cover the many interests of the Society including the Royal Easter Show and the promotion of excellence in Agricultural and pastoral pursuits through competitions, conference and publications.
The collection includes a near complete set of competition catalogues and results.
Access to the Reading Room is provided free of charge to both members of the Society and the public, provided they complete a reading room access form and agree to abide by reading room rules which cover care and handling, procedures, reproduction, citation and publication.
Restrictions require researchers to apply in writing for access to sensitive and confidential records, stating their purpose and intention for the research.
Access to records of the Council (minutes) will be authorised by the President. Access to sensitive and confidential business records of the organisation will be authorised by the Chief Executive.
Researchers attending the Reading Room, by appointment, will be assisted by a member of staff.
Research conducted by Heritage Centre staff is available to the general public with the first half-hour provided free, thereafter a charge of $40 per hour or $25 for members applies (as at 2018).