33: Showgrounds/Saleyards


The Learmonth Police Station & residence which now
occupies the former showgrounds site.

Commonly refered to as the Agricultural Reserve.

The Burrumbeet & Lake Learmonth Agricultural Society was one of several such groups that developed in the late 1880s to assist the agricultural districts that developed around Ballarat after the population increase of the gold rushes.

This group had organised district ploughing competitions and a cup that was given by the society to the 1859 winner still exists.

In 1859 the Surveyor General replied to the Rev Mackie of Lake Learmonth re the necessity of a survey and sale of land in Lake Learmonth into small blocks.  In Oct of this year, the Committee of Burrumbeet & Lake Learmonth Agricultural Society received a plan of the Agricultural Reserve for the use of the Society until it was needed for other public purposes.

Members of the Ballarat Agricultural Society whose members mainly belonged to the Ballarat District Road Board met with the Burrumbeet & Lake Learmonth Agricultural Society at the Stag Hotel in Mar 1860.

The meeting discussed amalgamation of the two agricultural groups, and a letter from the Board of Works and Survey granted permission of occupancy of the land as requested for the amalgamated societies under the designation of the Ballarat Agricultural Society.

The Annual Report of the Ballarat Agricultural Society of 1862 states –together with improvements to the Ballarat Show Yards a substantial fence has been erected around the society’s Reserve at Learmonth; the cost of the four rail fence being  £64 ($128).

In Feb 1861 a “show of grains” and in September “a show of horse stock was conducted at Learmonth, but most of the time the area was just used for the grazing of stock.  Following a show of grain in 1863, a sample of Tartarian Oats shown by Mr Kinnersly of Learmonth was sent to the Great International Exhibition in London.

The reserve was used for many different reasons; not always what it may have been designed for; in 1861 the locals called for the removal of tents from the Learmonth Reserve, which was being used by itinerants.  Also this year severe thunderstorms caught two bullock teams camped at the reserve.  Four were killed outright and one was crippled.

The first public sale of sheep by district graziers was held in 1865 and by the stock firm, Everinghams in 1866, but the lack of stockyards made selling difficult.  Several successful sales were held and some structures were erected suitable for sale yards, but this activity didn’t last for long.

The Ballarat Star Learmonth correspondent in May 1867 wrote – no public use is made of the reserve, though some stock sales were held last year.  Presuming the society has no wish to dispose of the reserve, it might, with very little expense plant trees and shrubs, lay out walks, and throw it open to the public; for in hot weather the lake though looking cool and refreshing, has no shelter for pleasure of folks resorting to its shores.  

A shearing activity occurred on the reserve in 1871, when local shearer Sam Hodder was declared the winner and received a prize of £3 ($6) from the Agricultural Society. The 1871 demonstration by the Odd fellows Lodge held at the Agricultural Reserve was a gala performance in the Learmonth township.  Flags flew on the Reserve and vehicles of all descriptions came from many directions.  A procession of three local friendly societies marched through the main street accompanied by the Learmonth Brass Band.  A variety of sports including leaping, tossing the caber, putting the stone, and the old Aunt Sally entertained the participants and spectators; the favourite races that day were the hurdles and potato races.
When the sports came to a close, most of the company proceeded to the Temperance Hall.  Huge crowds attended these activities as they catered for all ages.  They were usually followed by a tea at the Temperance Hall or Shire Hall, after which many would stay on for a dance that went into the small hours of the morning.

The lodge members held these demonstrations annually in aid of some charitable institution.

In 1873, the new Learmonth Bowling Club selected a site for their green on part of the Agricultural Reserve; the public was impressed how tidy its surrounds looked.

A similar event to those held by the Learmonth Lodges was held by the local Cricket Club  on Boxing Day, 1886 to raise funds for the club.  These Boxing Day sports events were probably organised by various clubs. Numerous entries were received for the 1886 games, which comprised 18 different events   These included: wheelbarrow race, Siamese race, egg & spoon race, putting 56lb weight, cricketers’ race, sack race, boys’ race, tilting match, high jump and throwing a 14 lb weight.  The last event was always catching the greasy pig.
There were two hundred couples present at the dance following this sports day.

By the 1890s, many committee members of the Ballarat Agricultural and Pastoral Society thought the land should be sold and in 1899 the society was informed by the government it would be able to keep the proceeds from the sale of the land. The sale occurred in 1902 and the proceeds of £110 ($220) were received in Feb 1903.

Article researched and written by Mrs Claudette Crick.




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