Maitland Showground and Maitland Show
The Hunter River is one of the oldest settled regions of New South Wales. The area was opened up after the discovery in 1820 of an overland route from the Hawkesbury by John Howe, a leading Windsor resident. The first settlers in Maitland were emancipated convicts from the infamous Newcastle settlement for second offenders. An early settler was Molly Morgan. (1760-1835) a twice transported convict, once in 1794 and again in 1804. She was sentenced to a term at Newcastle for stealing a cow and four years later Commander Wallis allowed her to settle on Wallis Plains (Later known as Maitland). John Danger, Assistant Government Surveyor, surveyed her grant in 1824 - 159 acres in the centre of present Maitland from the river to Maitland Park. She was an identity in the town, dealing in land, helping her neighbours, donating money for a school and building an inn.
Emergence of the Agricultural Association
In 1827 a Farmers' Club was instituted at the Hunter River with J P Webber, a local settler as president. Among its objectives were the promotion of cotton, tobacco, viticulture and the production of beer and cider. It does not appear to have survived long and it was not until the 1840s that any attempt was made to replace it. In 1842 the Hunter River Society was launched, with the aims of disseminating information rather than being an Agricultural Society, which tended to impede its progress. On March lst, 1843 the society reconstituted as the Hunter River Agricultural Association and in March, 1844 staged a ploughing match in a paddock at the rear of Mr Hannan's house near the Falls (the present Hannan & Semphill Street). The first show of livestock, agricultural and other exhibits was held in the yards and shed of the Albion Inn, West Maitland in May 1844. The schedule of exhibits included wine, wheat, barley, maize, tobacco, cheese, butter, horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and ploughing implements. Recognition was given to servants with the longest service record, with the best testimonial as to character and to the person who 'pays the greatest attention to the appearance and comfort to his cottage and garden'. No sheep or wine were exhibited. Winners were awarded a silver medal. Kip and sole leather from George Turner's Tannery and Colonial Earthenware by Mr King of Irrawong were also exhibited. Mr Doyle's oranges reportedly measured 14 inches in circumference.
The show has been held on various sites during this time. Campbell's Hill Saleyard and Mr Eckford's adjoining property were the venues for the 1863 show when there was an estimated attendance of 3000 people with gate receipts of 108 pounds ($216). The following year the show was held on the Racecourse, now Maitland Park and in 1873 the Association purchased the present site, the former Albion Cricket Club grounds. Further purchases have increased the size of the site to 80 acres.
The Show Goes Forward
In 2004 Maitland Show went a long way to re-establishing itself as the premier regional show in New South Wales with three day attendances exceeding 55,000 people. This outcome was achieved as a result of a joint venture between the Showmen's Guild of Australasia and the Show Association providing for a free gate, family orientated special attractions and community participation. The Maitland Showground has become the permanent home for the Showmen's Guild inaugural Super Show held at Speers Point. Over the last five years, Maitland has entertained over 500,000 people at the annual Show. Since the commencement of the Super Show we have been able to maintain the balance between the Showmen's Side Show Alley/Amusement Park and a true Agricultural Society Show. It is this second aspect, namely revitalizing the agricultural and community links of the Show, which we believe, will see its future secure, building on over 150 years plus of past performance.