RAHS Home > Long History of the Nowra Show

The Long History of the Nowra Show

Contributed by Alan Clark AM, Shoalhaven Historical Society

The agricultural show has been part of the Nowra district’s culture and traditions for longer than any other public organisation, with the first such event being held in 1855.

In the foreground is a man riding a horse. In the background is a pavilion with an audience viewing the proceedings.

Opening of New Pavillion. Nowra Show, 1905 [Shoalhaven Historical Society Collection]

There were four shows during the 1860s when membership was restricted to tenants on the Shoalhaven Estate, before the formation of the Shoalhaven Agricultural and Horticultural Association in 1874.

The first 11 shows were held at Terara on a property vacated by the Presbyterian Church when it moved to Nowra, and after resistance from members over a number of years, the show moved in 1886 to the Nowra site that would regularly be enlarged and constantly developed.

Special trains brought show patrons from the metropolitan and Illawarra areas to Bomaderry, and the last leg of the journey involved both horse-drawn and motor buses, and the option of motor launches via the Shoalhaven River and a walk up the hill from Nowra Creek.

Although sheep and pigs would gradually disappear from the schedule, the Nowra Show would become renowned for its dairy cattle and events in the ring including the high jump for horses.

With timber mills in close proximity, woodchopping became part of the show program prior to World War I and it continues to be one of the most popular activities with special provision for spectators.

For well over 100 years the pavilion under the grandstand has displayed an array of cooking and needlework, along with many types of arts and crafts.

Entertainment both in the main arena and Sideshow Alley has evolved over the years, and that aspect is recalled by those who grew up in the district.

Shoalhaven pioneer, Alexander Berry was joint secretary of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, which celebrated its bicentenary in July 2022, and district residents have often been involved in the Royal as committee members and with the District Exhibit.

A list of Nowra’s A&H committees reveals several generations of families, some of which continue to the present day.

A large gathering of people in a paddock viewing cows. The people are all dressed very well. The ladies are using parasols to shade themselves from the sunlight.

Cattle Judging. Nowra Showground, c.1900 [Shoalhaven Historical Society Collection]

Many people recall the centenary show held with much pomp and ceremony in 1974, and the current committee is already looking forward to the 150th-anniversary show – its sesquicentenary.

Shoalhaven Historical Society life member, Alan Clark, AM has agreed to write a history of the association that has evolved to become the Nowra Show Society.

Using minute books and local newspapers, he has undertaken the monumental task of researching each and every show, before writing a summary of it.

Conscious of the countless aspects of every show, he is also seeking material and artefacts held by private collectors that would enhance the story.

Alan can be contacted through the Shoalhaven Historical Society.