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Royal Agricultural Society Showground Conservation Area, Moore Park, NSW, Australia

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List Register of the National Estate (Non-statutory archive)
Class Historic
Legal Status Registered (24/06/1997)
Place ID 18212
Place File No 1/12/036/0594
Statement of Significance
The Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) Showground is important for its associations with the Royal Easter Show, which has gained a unique place in the life of Sydney and New South Wales generally. The Show has been of paramount importance in improving agricultural methods and productivity in this state. It has also played a vital role in closing the perceptual gap between city dwellers and country folk. The Showground has been a place of mass instruction and entertainment for over a century and has become a popular and traditional part of Sydney's social life. (Criterion G.1)

The Showground site is historically very significant. It is on part of the Sydney Common proclaimed by Governor Macquarie in 1811 and the water supply tunnel known as Busby's Bore, constructed in 1827-37 runs under the site. The Showground is also part of an extensive complex of open space and recreational land which includes Moore Park, Centennial Park, the Sydney Cricket Ground and the Sports Ground. (Criterion A.4)

Many prominent, farsighted people have been associated with the Show and the Showground: Samuel Marsden, Edward Wollstonecraft, John Jamison and Thomas Sutcliffe Mort were prominent in the early years; Sydney Burdekin, John See, Francis Suttor, Samuel and Anthony Hordern and Vincent Fairfax were associated with the Moore Park site; and, two Directors of the Botanic Gardens, Charles Moore and J H Maiden, were important in overseeing landscaping of the Showground. (Criterion H.1)

The complex of buildings (and the landscaped spaces between them) is significant as a whole. It has been used for the important show event annually since 1882 and is the premier showground of Australia. The intact walled environment represents a pattern of development evolving with detailed changes for over a century. Pavilions represent the pageantry of Grand Exhibitions and include monuments to Australia's 150th Anniversary. The varying scale of buildings create a diversity of townscape environments. (Criteria D.2 and E.1)

The following buildings and other elements of the Showground are individually significant:

Roads. The key roads within the Showground are Presidents Avenue, leading from the Vice Regal Entrance Gate into the site; Suttor Avenue and Bent Street, which encircle the Parade Ring; Greaves Street and Marr Avenue, between the Commemorative Area and the Cattle Judging Ring; and Park Road, in the Main Exhibition Area. The present pattern of those roads was established by 1902 and is critical to the character of the townscape of the Showground. (Criteria D.2 and E.1)

Walls and Entries. The stone wall along Presidents Avenue and the brick walls along Lang, Cook and Moore Park Roads are the major enclosure walls and are important for defining the walled environment of the Showground. The entrances at the Vice Regal Gate and the Lecture Hall entrance are aesthetically significant. (Criteria E.1)

Hordern Pavilion. The Hordern Pavilion is architecturally significant for its Free Classical style design and for its distinctive dome like roof, which is used to overcome the problems of light and ventilation for a large exhibition area. (Criteria F.1)

The building has close connections with the Hordern family who were prominent in the affairs of the RAS over a long period and were leading Sydney retailers. (Criteria H.1)

More recently, the building has played an important role in the social and cultural life of Sydney as the primary venue for large indoor events (Criteria G.1). Together with the Royal Hall of Industries, the Pavilion forms the Showground's Driver Avenue facade and flanks its main public entrance. (Criteria E.1)

Rawson. Rawson may be the oldest remaining permanent building in the Showground. It reflects the optimism at the beginning of the twentieth century, also reflected in the RAS Council Offices and Stand. This residence is an important part of a group of Federation structures which includes the gatehouse and Vice Regal entrance gates. Rawson has fine detailing, with influences of the Federation Arts and Crafts style. (Criteria C.2 and F.1)

Banquet Hall. The Banquet Hall is architecturally important for its design in the Free Classical style, with a distinctive domed interior and a clocktower which is a prominent landmark. It is of technological significance as one of the earliest examples of all concrete buildings remaining in Sydney. (Criteria F.1 and E.1)

The building is associated with the prominent Sydney retailers, Anthony Horderns and Sons, whose family were prominent in the affairs of the RAS over a long period and were leading Sydney retailers. They erected the building as a department store, to bring city retailing to country visitors at the Showground. (Criteria H.1 and G.1)

Royal Hall of Industries. The Royal Hall of Industries was the largest hall of its kind in New South Wales when built and was acclaimed as one of the largest and best exhibition halls in the world. It was one of the first two exhibition halls at the Showground and is still the largest building on the site. It is architecturally important for its robust design, which is a fine example of the Federation Freestyle. (Criteria B.2 and F.1)

The building is socially significant as an arena in which Australian and British Empire goods were displayed from 1913 onwards, but has also been important for entertainment and social events; as a morgue during the 1919 influenza epidemic; and as Army accommodation during World War Two. (Criteria A.4 and G.1)

Together with the Hordern Pavilion, this hall flanks the main public entrance to the Showground and presents a highly visible facade to the Driver Avenue boundary of the site. (Criterion E.1)

Manufacturers Hall and Commemorative Pavilion. These are two of the landmark buildings of the Showground by virtue of their sheer size and dramatic design. They show innovative use of structural steel to provide large, uncluttered exhibition spaces. The influence of contemporary construction techniques for industrial buildings and bridges is clear. The buildings have the largest pin jointed trussed arches in Sydney. (Criteria E.1 and F.1)

The two buildings celebrate the 150th anniversary of New South Wales. This is particularly emphasised by the inscription and fine stained glass map over the portico of the Commemorative Pavilion. The period of recovery and growing optimism after the Great Depression is also reflected in the designs of these building. (Criterion G.1)

RAS Lecture Hall and Electricity Substation. The RAS Lecture Hall has important associations with the educational activities of the Royal Agricultural Society, by which it pioneered aspects of agricultural and pastoral science. (Criteria A.4 and G.1)

The building is architecturally significant for its solid and imposing Free Classical style design. The lecture hall has a fine coffered ceiling with well-detailed recessed lighting. (Criterion F.1)

Horse Pavilions A, B and D. These pavilions are among the earliest buildings still remaining at the Showground. They are the most significant of a series of horse pavilions and stables which shows continuous development from early this century to the present and forms a cohesive group. They were associated with Army occupation of the Showground during World War One and, in recent times, with continuing use of the stables for horse riding activities in the inner city area. The buildings are also significant as a physical representation of the importance of horses in Australian history. (Criteria A.4 and B.2)

Members Grandstand. The Members' Grandstand, particularly its prominent tower, is a landmark and major component of the urban form of the Showground. (Criteria E.1)

The construction and opening of the Grandstand in 1924 marked an important stage in the evolution of the Showground. Its grandiose proportions and capacity for accommodating almost 9,000 people at one time reflected another strong and expansive phase in the Society's growth. The multiple uses to which the interior was put symbolised a continuation of the belief in the importance of catering for the public taste for grand spectacle in a graceful social setting and at the same accommodating the serious needs of the RAS and its affiliated organisation. (Criteria A.4)

It is significant for its architectural and structural design. Although it is a massive building, it is appropriately scaled and sensitive to its setting, with its form containing and emphasising the Parade Ring. Its structural design was innovative in its use of reinforced concrete. (Criterion F.1)

Suttor Stand. The Suttor Stand is the oldest surviving grandstand at the Showground. It is an important building from the period when the RAS was consolidating its position on its new site in the early twentieth century. (Criterion A.4)

The stand is architecturally significant for its elegant form, with a wealth of simple, yet refined detailing, especially in its use of wrought iron brackets and tracery. (Criterion F.1)

RAS Council Offices and Stand. The Royal Agricultural Society Offices and Stand is a building of architectural significance for the Georgian Revival style facade it presents to Suttor Avenue and for the fine Federation and Art Nouveau detailing of its interiors. (Criterion F.1)

The building reflects the optimism of the RAS in a major expansionary phase in the early twentieth century and is significant for the range of administrative, official and social uses to which it has been put. This has been, in a very real sense, the heart of the Showground for many decades. (Criterion A.4)
Official Values Not Available
Description
The main arena or Parade Ring has always been the central feature of the Showground, its perimeter defined by the grandstands of varying styles reflecting these periods of growth.  The result of this evolution is that the Showground contains numerous individual buildings of considerable significance, ie, Hordern Pavilion; Rawson (formerly Secretary's Residence); Banquet Hall (former Anthony Horderns Department Store, later Meat Hall); Royal Hall of Industries; Manufacturers' Hall; Commemorative Pavilion; RAS Lecture Hall and Electricity Substation; Horse Pavilions A, B and D; Members Grandstand; Suttor Stand; and RAS Council Offices and Stand.  There are several cohesive groups of buildings linked by architectural style, or construction methods and materials, or by a common function, notably: the grandstands of the arena; the 1938 commemorative buildings; the horse stables and stalls complex; the animal pavilions; the Free Classical style commercial and exhibition buildings.  The setting of these buildings and building groups is also of note, as are significant trees and areas of landscape significance.  Busby's Bore, constructed in 1827-37, passes under the Showground and has six outlets on the site.  It is entered separately in the Register of the National Estate.
 
The Showground has two distinct street patterns, encircling and radiating streets around the arena and a rectangular grid among the animal pavilions.  There are major enclosure walls, of stone along President's Avenue and of brick along Lang, Cook and Moore Roads.  There are entries to the Showground of considerable significance, notably the 1901 Vice Regal Entrance Gate, Drivers Avenue and its gatehouse.  There are significant stands of street trees, notably planes, poplars, native figs and brush box and several important open spaces for recreation, parades and animal judging, the most significant of these are the Parade Ring and the Cattle Judging Ring.  There is also a strong link in style and scale between the historic buildings of the Showground and those remaining at the Sydney Cricket Ground.  Despite the fact that there are within the grounds buildings and spaces of poor quality and little significance, the Showground as a whole is historically, socially and visually a major urban place with a strong cohesive quality overlaying its diversity.
 
The following buildings are of considerable individual significance:
 
Hordern Pavilion: Built in 1924 to a design by Trenchard, Smith and Maisey, architects.  The Hordern family were prominent members of the RAS, Samuel Hordern serving as President from 1915 to 1941.  It was built for use as an industrial display hall and remodelled as an entertainment venue in 1972.  The style of the pavilion is Free Classical, with masonry walls and a large dome like roof of fibro on steel framing over the central space.  The building is 67m square; the roof is 24m high.
 
Rawson: Built in 1901 as a residence, for Frederick Webster, Secretary of the Society from 1884 to 1905, to a design by the architect L L Ramsay and named Rawson.  It is a brick residence in the Federation Arts and Crafts style.  Chimneys have two tone brickwork, now painted.  The steep hipped roof was terracotta tiled, now concrete.  There is timber shingling to the gable ends; tessellated tile work on the entrance porch; tendril wrought iron brackets supporting the entrance awning; and a large semi-circular bay window in rusticated sandstone projecting from the front.  Doors and windows are timber, with metal hoods over some windows.
 
Banquet Hall: Built in 1924 for Anthony Hordern and Sons, it operated as a department store until 1969, when it was converted into a meat hall.  More recently it was converted into a function centre.  The stuccoed concrete building is in the Free Classical style, with a well proportioned clock tower and a fine internal coffered dome supported on Classical columns.  The former shopfront facade is recessed behind round headed arches.  The tower has intricate decorative features, both on the roof itself and immediately below it.
 
Royal Hall of Industries: This is one of two halls built by the RAS between 1911 and 1913.  The other, (the once adjacent Royal Agricultural Hall) was destroyed by fire in 1970.  These were the first large scale display halls in the Showground.  The architect for the Royal Hall of Industries was J B Saunders.  The Hall was also used extensively outside show times, for various forms of entertainment such as dancing, balls, international boxing, roller skating and ice skating.  As the Palais Royale it was the most popular spot for younger Sydney residents in the 1920s.  It was also known as the Ice Palais.  During the influenza epidemic of 1919, the building was a morgue.  It was taken over by the Army in World War Two.  In more recent times, it has been used as a sales point for showbags.  The building is steel framed with red face brickwork.  A glass roof lights the interior.  The exterior has many Classical details, such as arched windows and doors, Classical pilasters, Gibbs surround windows on the ground floor, semi-circular gables and domed towers on the two main facades.  Rendered detail is painted to contrast with the red brick.  Cast iron balustrading to the external stairs varies in detailing but some sections show Art Nouveau influences.  The interior is largely intact, with a modern suspended ceiling.
 
Manufacturers Hall and Commemorative Pavilion: These buildings were erected in 1937-38 to mark the 150th Anniversary of New South Wales and to specifically house a major exhibition of Australian products and industries to be held in conjunction with the 1938 Royal Easter Show.  The buildings were designed by Alan Dwyer of architects Trenchard Smith and Maisey and by engineer Charles Reed of Everingham and Platt, who traded as the Trussed Concrete Steel Company Pty Ltd.  The main structure consists of 42m pin jointed trussed steel arches, which are wide at their apexes and diminish in depth towards their bases.  The arches support horizontal bands of lightweight roofing running the length of the building, alternating with ribbons of windows on the vertical planes which decrease in size toward the high-point of the roof.  There is a different type of non load bearing wall cladding in each building.  The Manufacturers Hall has face brickwork with a basket weave patterning on the brickwork banding of the portico of the Manufacturers Hall.  The Commemorative Pavilion has rendered brickwork with lining to resemble ashlar coursing and its parapets are inset with cast concrete floral motifs.  Both buildings have three narrow vertical windows on each end facade with column like fluting to the sides of the windows, in brickwork on the Manufacturers Hall and in concrete on the Commemorative Pavilion.  Lintels of both buildings have cast concrete detailing, while Art Deco stylistic touches are found in the small-scale fittings.  The style of the buildings is a heroic mixture of Art Deco and Neo Classical, reputedly modelled on European Zeppelin hangers and influenced by the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but they have the closest similarity to the Horticultural Hall, London, of 1923-26.  The Manufacturers Hall has a formal entrance with a semi-circular porch and paved forecourt which, with adjacent trees and street lighting, is also significant.  The Commemorative Pavilion has a fine stained glass map of Australia with symbolic decoration which reflects the commemorative purpose of this pavilion, Australia's 150th Anniversary Commemorative Pavilion, is emblazoned in large letters in relief in the render.  The forecourt was designed by the same architects to be integral with the building.
 
RAS Lecture Hall and Electricity Substation: The RAS Lecture Hall was built in 1927 to give the RAS its first permanent education facility within its grounds.  Lectures were given during and between the shows.  The lower floor was built to serve as an electrical substation and control room.  In recent years, the hall has been regularly used as the cat pavilion during Easter Shows.  This brick building is in the Free Classical style, with a gabled portico.  The coved ceiling of the hall has an interesting pattern and rosette.  Entry to the hall was directly from outside the Showground.
 
Horse Pavilions A, B and D: The area of the present horse pavilions and stables was not officially part of the Showground until 1902 when the land, formerly horse paddocks, was added to the site.  Pavilion D was built in 1908, Pavilion B in 1910 and Pavilion A in 1912.  The Carlton Clydesdale Pavilion was completed in 1988 on the site of the roofed roadway between Pavilions B and D.  It is sympathetic to the style of those pavilions.  Horse Pavilions A, B and D are very similar in construction and appearance.  All are of lantern roof form and have restrained Federation detailing in their arched openings, emphasised with contrasting dark red brown brick on the arches.  The walls are of light brown brick with shingle patterned pressed metal sheeting to gable ends.  The high lantern roofs allow ventilation within the building and the clerestory windows light the central sections of the interiors.  The timber horse stalls appear to be mostly original, with tongue and groove lining, exposed studs and ledging and exposed bracing to ledges and braced stable doors.  The arched main entrances to Pavilion D have been replaced with concrete lintels.
 
Members Grandstand: The grandstand was built in 1923-24 after an overseas study tour by the RAS Secretary following a Society decision to build a large grandstand which would be innovative in both design and construction.  The new stand held 6,000-7,000 spectators and provided improved catering facilities for both members and the general public as well as additional office space.  Designed by Herbert E Ross and H Ruskin Rowe, architects, it was built by Concrete Constructions Ltd.  It is built substantially of reinforced concrete and cost about 90,000 pounds.  The Cole Dudgeon Memorial Hall was established in the rear section of the second floor of the stand in 1935 as offices and a meeting hall for cattle breeders.  These and other alterations were carried out by Trenchard, Smith and Maisey as architects.  Later additions took place in 1963.  The Members Grandstand is the largest of those surrounding the Main Arena or Parade Ring.  The structure is a steel framed roof on reinforced concrete-framed tiers with rendered masonry walls to the street frontages.  It is topped by a prominent clock tower 53m high and visible from most parts of the Showground.  The tower was fitted with an electric elevator which ran to a gallery from which panoramic views could be obtained.  Above the gallery is a 3m diameter clock and, above that, a huge glass egg from which spotlights could be shone.  Each side of the stand's street facade is stepped up to the much higher central portion and each side has a cantilevered concrete stair similarly stepped up towards the centre.  The grid of structural columns and beams is expressed in the facade, while windows, often running in strips around the facade, decrease in height as they approach the top.  There is an awning supported by angled tie rods running along the facade above ground level.  These features help break up the massiveness of the facade.  From the Parade Ring, the stand appears light and elegant, contrasting with the street elevation.  Within the stand, impressive tapering beams supporting the tiered seating meet bolted steel columns.  Internally, below the tiered seats are many varied facilities, including an officials' luncheon room seating 200, a members' dining room seating 750, public luncheon rooms for 1,000 and many offices.  The Cole Dudgeon Memorial Hall was built in 1935 within the rear of the second level of the grandstand, with beautiful ornamental woodwork.  The large interior spaces are airy and spacious, despite the massive concrete columns and beams.
 
Suttor Stand: The stand was built in 1908-09 and named after Sir Francis Suttor, President of the Society from 1907 to 1915.  Suttor was instrumental in securing permanent title to the Showground site, initially leased from the City Council.  The Suttor Stand was planned to seat 2,500 people and to incorporate inside a well appointed members' dining room for 350.  It is a well designed and constructed stand with an elegant roof of bullnosed corrugated iron flattened out to form a projecting awning to the ringside.  The roof peaks to a sharp ridge with a flagpole at either end.  Delicate arched steel trusses support the roof and the top chords of the trusses swoop down to support the awning.  Brackets suspended from each post form a tracery pattern in wrought iron work at the gable ends.  The Bent Street facade is simple with Federation detailing in arched window openings and two tone brickwork emphasising arches and sills.
 
RAS Council Offices and Stand: Erected in 1910 as offices for the RAS, including offices for breeders' societies and country societies.  The building also included first floor reception rooms and a balcony to accommodate sixty people overlooking the ring.  The Offices and Stand has been extensively altered since 1910.  A verandah to the street has been removed, two projecting single storey wings have been altered and the detailing of the original clocktower has somewhat been obscured by painting.  The single level stand on the ring side of the building was altered in 1948 by architects Trenchard Smith and Maisey, with the addition of a second level.  The stand originally had a flowing, tent like roof similar to the Suttor Stand, but this was replaced later by a strongly horizontal roof.  The original building had a number of Queen Anne style facade elements including half timbered gable ends, a cantilevered bat window and an entrance portico.  The only one of these elements remaining is the (altered) bay window.  Now, the Suttor Avenue facade is of red face brick in the Georgian Revival style.  The interiors are very fine and those of the original sections are largely intact.  Art Nouveau details are prevalent, including pressed metal ceilings and deep, ornate pressed metal cornices, with a different pattern in every room.  A grand timber staircase with pressed metal panelling below the dado line leads to the first floor.  The landing has a fine Federation style panelled half glass door set in a semi-circular opening with side lead light windows.  There is also other fine joinery.
History
The Agricultural Society of New South Wales was founded in 1822.  The Society held shows in Parramatta and, from 1869 at Cleveland Paddock now Prince Alfred Park, in Surry Hills until 1881, when the Society leased 40ha of Sydney Common at Moore Park from the City Council.  In 1891 Queen Victoria granted permission for the use of the prefix Royal to be added to the name of the Society.  The educative role of the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) has long been recognised as one of its most important functions.  Such a role has manifested itself in a variety of ways from early in the Society's history.  This included the presentation of lectures on aspects of agriculture and pastoral science.
 
Entertaining people at the shows has also been most important.  Easter each year was the time for the Sydney show even before it moved to Moore Park.  Easter has continued to the present day as the time Sydney attracts visitors and its citizens to the Showground.  The first Easter Show at Moore Park was held in 1882 on a levelled, drained and fenced area in a cluster of decorated tents and more permanent structures including a large pavilion and horse boxes, cattle boxes and pig pens.  The area of the Showground was extended in 1910, 1911 and 1920.  A final acquisition of Commonwealth land in 1956 brought the area to its present 71.5 acres (28.95ha).
 
The Showground has undergone several major periods of growth and change.  These may be characterised briefly as; from 1882 to 1912, a collection of temporary structures and wooden buildings; from 1912 to 1920, the erection of large pavilions, tree planting and more urban landscaping; in the 1920s Neo Georgian buildings and the Free Classical style work of architects Trenchard Smith and Maisey; the austere but heroic Art Deco influenced buildings constructed for the 1938 sesqui-centennial and a major group of industrial buildings, the new animal pavilions and exhibition halls, built in the same area, often interesting for their structure and detail; and finally, sporadic examples of architectural styles from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Condition and Integrity Not Available
Location
About 29ha, comprising the whole of the Showground, generally bounded by Driver Avenue, the southern and eastern boundaries of the Sydney Cricket Ground, the south-eastern boundary of the Sydney Football Stadium grounds, Moore Park Road, Poate Road, Furber Lane, Cook Road and Lang Road, Moore Park.
Bibliography
FLETCHER, B 'THE BIG PARADE'
KELLY, M AND CROCKER, R (EDS) 'SYDNEY TAKES SHAPE' 1978
MANT, G 'THE BIG SHOW' 1972
TANNER, H 'THE SHOWGROUND ARCHITECTURE' IN PARALLAX NO2, ED P. ASHTON,
1988.

CONYBEARE MORRISON & PARTNERS, 'CONSERVATION PLAN OF SYDNEY SHOWGROUND' 1989 FOR NSW PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT AND HOMEBUSH BAY DEVELOPMENT SECRETARIATE.

RAE, KATRINA JANE 'HOUSEWIVES, HOME-HANDYMEN, BUSHMEN AND DESK CLERKS: CULTURAL IDENTITIES AT THE ROYAL EASTER SHOW, 1947-1955.' UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY HISTORY DEPARTMENT THESIS, 1995. DRAFT COPY IN AHC LIBRARY.

Report Produced  Thu Jul 24 12:20:17 2014