Red Hill Show.....There's Nothing Like It!


Who are we? History

Extracts from “The History of the Red Hill Show” (M Klein, K Holmes, E Dart)

 The first Red Hill Show was staged in the long grading room, newly built, of the Red Hill Co-operative Coolstores on Wednesday, March 29th, 1922.   “We built stands for the exhibits from empty fruit cases and trays”   Dick McIlroy recalled more than 50 years later.   “We covered them with white paper and when that ran out we commandeered somebody’s bed sheets”. 

The grading room blossomed with a spectacular pyramid of fruit.  From the district’s rich creek flats came cornstalks 10 feet tall and giant pumpkins and marrows.   These were flanked by sheaves of oats, bags of potatoes and trays and cases of apples. 

Women’s interests such as cookery, embroidery and knitting were represented and a beautiful rag hearth rug was the star exhibit.   There were dressed dolls, framed paintings and one exhibitor recalls entering cream puffs which she baked in a colonial oven. After the show the fruit and vegetables “of exceptional quality” were on display in city fruit shows and were then donated to the Homeopathic Hospital.

 On the morning of the first show, local residents in their buggies and jinkers came from miles around, bearing picnic baskets and billies to boil for lunch in the shade of what the “Peninsula Post” of the day described as “a large forest which comes almost up to the coolstores and station”. A big moment was the arrival of the special train, 3 hours and 5 minutes out of Flinders Street, travelling, a journalist wrote, through “some of the most beautiful stretches of scenery in the State”.   The train disgorged a torrent of people.   There was hardly room to move at the station.   After all the lunches were eaten, the adults paid their one shilling admission and six pence for the children.

 The doors opened.   One thousand, two hundred people streamed in to view the exhibits.   The show committee entertained fifty guests, among them two MP’s, Messrs Chandler and Everard, each of whom gave an address.   A highlight of the afternoon was the wood chop.   Six axemen “stood to their logs” in a clearing with the crowd surrounding the area.   Mr Bill Ward Sen. of Merricks was the winner and received two pounds for his efforts.   The runner up received one pound.

Orchardists were keenly interested in a “Bayview” spray pump among the commercial exhibits, and also in a 1-ton Ford truck shown by Taylor and Ritchie of Mornington Mowers. When the train departed at 5.45pm, preparations began for that night’s Grand Dance.  Four hundred dancers paid three shillings and sixpence each to dance till dawn to the music of the orchestra led by Mr R Gabriel.   The Red Hill Show had arrived.   It had also made a profit of thirty pounds.

Farming on the Mornington Peninsula has moved over the years from largely dairying and apples to alpacas, olives, berries and wine, and these changes are reflected in the schedule of the Show.   For example at Red Hill in 1928 you could win a prize of 5/- for 12 Reinette de Canada, Rome Beauty, Yates, London Pippin, Hoover, Esopus Spitzenberg, Stone Pippin or Rokewood apples, or 7/6 for a tray of the above,   The varieties of Export Apples were Cox's Orange Pippin, Cleopatra and Munro's Favourite.   The First Prize for Export Apples was a Challenge Trophy, the gift of the Hon AE Chandler, valued at three and a half guineas.   The prize for a collection of 12 varieties of Dessert and Culinary Apples was two and a half cwt of Bone Fertilizer valued at one pound.   Class 72 was for the best two cases of apples, wrapped and packed for export by pupils from State Schools attending apple packing classes conducted by the Department of Agriculture.   

 The last pre-war show was held in 1940 after some discussion on the war situation and doubts about the effect petrol rationing would have on the crowd.   That was the only time pigs were shown, under the heading “SWINE”. In November 1941 there was a much reduced “Show” in the Red Hill Hall.   It netted twenty two pounds for the “Comforts Fund”. The resumption of the show in 1947 was mainly at the instigation of the Red Hill and District Progress Association.   The first post-2nd World War show committee was led by Mr W (Bill) Lilburn as president, Mr Lance Kleehammer was secretary and Mr Jack Lowrie was treasurer. The show was called the Red Hill and District Progress Association’s Annual Agricultural and Horticultural Show, but in 1948 the Show was held on a Saturday and reverted to the original name “Red Hill Agricultural & Horticultural Society Show” which it still bears, with the addition of “Inc.” after the Society became incorporated in 1984. Following the 1947 show, one hundred pounds was retained to organise the 1948 show and the balance of the profits was divided equally between Red Hill Hall (25 pounds) and Dromana Hospital (25 pounds)   Ten pounds was donated to the Food for Britain Appeal.


 As early as November 1915, some far-sighted Red Hill residents successfully negotiated for the purchase of 5 acres of land from Mr John Arkwell for use as a recreation reserve.

This land, described as “not far from the proposed railway station” (actually it was about one and a half miles away) was to be a memorial to local men who served in the 1914-1918 War, though ideas of building Memorial Gates at the entrance to this, the first piece of Red Hill’s beautiful recreation reserve, never materialised.   It was a ground for the future, heavily timbered.   All it needed was an energetic community to develop it.  Red Hill was such a community.

Inspired by the success of the first show, the show society held a series of working bees to clear the timber from the reserve and a site was soon ready for a pavilion which was built by Mr John Wiseman, in time for the second show on March 28th 1923.   The building had a solid timber frame, a galvanised iron gable roof and hessian walls which came two-thirds of the way up to the roof, leaving a gap to let in air and light.   The hessian could be removed, rolled up and stored between shows.   The hessian walls were replaced with corrugated iron in 1929 and more light was admitted by lift-up flaps in the north wall.   This building is still in use and is known as the Pioneer’s Pavilion or the “Green Pavilion”.

Red Hill had no electricity until 1935.   Mr Roy Scott, an exhibitor of ponies and hacks for some years, recalls how the pavilion was prepared the night before the early shows by workers who came out of the darkness carrying hurricane lamps or Tilley lanterns (a mantle-type with a bright white light). It was reported that the new pavilion was “well taxed” with exhibits.   It was later used for concerts and Red Hill’s first movie was shown there at the end of the third show in 1924. Rain threatened that day, but held off till evening.   Then it rained for 5 days and 559 points were registered.

Life member, fruit exhibitor and former head pavilion steward Mr Eddie Bowring recalled in his latter years that the arena was roughly cleared of timber by working bees in time for the second show, but some tree stumps still remained and were a hazard to those competing in ring events.  Tenders were called for clearing the rest of the ground and Mr John Wiseman’s tender was accepted in August 1924.

Numerous functions were held to raise money for ground improvements.   A small ticket box was built at the main gate on the corner of the main road and Arkwells Lane and it doubled as a secretary’s office for a time.   Next to it on the road frontage was built a galvanised iron shed from which sweets, soft drinks, ice cream (in steaming “dry ice”) and fruit were sold on show day, which was declared a local holiday by the Shire of Flinders and was favoured with a special train from Flinders Street station.

When Red Hill Football Club was formed in 1929 the iron shed served as a changing room for the visiting team.   The home side used the show’s luncheon room, built alongside the main pavilion in 1928.   The luncheon room was used as an Army canteen for troops camped on Red Hill during the 1939-45 War.   The room was later enlarged and a 1949 Minute reveals that owing to a post-war cement shortage, no concrete floor would be laid in the pavilion.   An extension to the east was completed in 1969.

The Show Society purchased three and a half acres of additional land in 1959 from Mr Albert Sherwood. The next building erected at the showground was the large steel-framed cattle pavilion.   A government grant was obtained and in 1966 the contract to build the cattle pavilion was let to Mr Ted Littlejohn and working bees cleared the site.   The pavilion was ready for the 1967 show, the year after the show went decimal and raised admission charges to 50c.  This pavilion is now used to house Alpaca and Sheep exhibits.

In 1969 a grant was obtained to build a poultry pavilion and in 1980 the size of that pavilion was doubled. Log chop patrons had a small grandstand built for them in 1972.   By this time the original pavilion, now painted green, was not only filled to capacity, but leaking overhead.   Rust particles disfigured delicate knitting and embroidery, peppered white iced cakes and white dahlias.   The floor, originally sawdust which had been replaced with a tar compound, was very worn and prone to pot holes.

In high entry years, vegetables and farm produce had to be displayed in the space between the Green Pavilion and the luncheon pavilion and an access doorway was cut in the south wall of the pavilion.   Later the space between was roofed and areas outside the north wall were made into stalls to sell take-away food.   A new pavilion was seen as a priority.   There was plenty of room as another tract of Sherwood’s land was bought in 1973.   In September 1972, the Show Society contributed $4000 to the Shire of Flinders for the purchase of this land.

The Council permit for this new pavilion took months, during which the estimated cost sky-rocketed, so the proposed covered walk-way, planned to connect the new building to the cattle pavilion was scrapped for economy reasons.

The new craft and cookery pavilion, built by R J Rollings, was ready for the 1974 show.

A member recalls “I saw a committee man walking through the new pavilion.   He was a ghastly green colour.   I was sure he was about to collapse.   I looked around for help.  Everyone else looked the same!”   Green plastic panels in the new pavilion’s roof were a disaster.   The rich colours of knitting and embroidery turned a murky grey.   So did the decorated cakes, colourful jams, jellies and brown eggs.   The day was hot.    The pavilion lacked ventilation.  Icing and sweets began to melt.   Stewards and patrons sweltered.   It cost the society dearly to install ceiling fans.  The green panels were replaced and when the dusty cement floor was sealed, the pavilion became a fine facility with a store room for show equipment at its eastern end.

The fruit, flower and vegetable fraternity now had room to spread out in the old pavilion, but still had to contend with rain and rust, broken benches and uneven floor.   Vandalism increased their problems.   Some people wanted to demolish the old building.   In 1978 a patch-up job done on the roof was an improvement and there was a growing feeling, led by the show auxiliary, that the show’s first “historic” building should be preserved. The auxiliary handed over its annual cheque in 1984 with the expressed hope that the money could go towards the pavilion’s restoration.   Restoration began the next year with a new roof and the old luncheon pavilion was demolished.   In 1987 working bees laid a new concrete floor.  

Show meetings were held in the old Red Hill School at the north end of Arkwells Lane, and then in the Red Hill Hall until 1975 when they were moved to the tennis pavilion at the show ground.

The Society purchased its own headquarters when Mrs Mary Farr’s home adjoining the show grounds came on the market in 1981.   The first meeting in the new headquarters was held on 25th August 1981 and the house was subsequently named “Scott House” commemorating the generous support of the Society from the brothers Roy and George Scott of “Larnach” Baxter. They were presented with an illuminated address and a plaque was placed on the house commemorating their generosity.

 The row of liquid ambers along the road outside the show grounds was planted by local residents to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.


1915   5 Acres of land purchased from Mr J Arkwell for use as a Recreation Reserve

1922   First Red Hill Show staged in Grading Room at Co-operative Coolstores (present site of Red Hill Trading Co (Blue Moon)

1923   Pioneer’s Pavilion (Green Pavilion) built by Show Society

1959    Show Society purchased additional 3 acres of land from Mr A Sherwood

1967    Cattle/Sheep Pavilion built by Show Society – financed solely by the Society with the help of a Department of Agriculture grant in 1966

1968    Poultry Pavilion built by the Show Society – financed solely by the Show Society with the help of a small Department of Agriculture grant.

1972    Show Society contributed $4,000 to Shire of Flinders to purchase more land from Mr Sherwood.

1977     Show Society contributed $3,097.50 to Shire of Flinders towards cost of works to grounds, eg parking, access improvements

1978     Urgent request made to the Shire of Flinders to repair the Green Pavilion.   Request refused.

1979     Cooking/Craft Pavilion built by Show Society at a cost of $24,072 Shire of Flinders contributed $2,782

1980   Poultry Pavilion doubled in size – financed by Show Society

1985-87     Restoration of the Green Pavilion was undertaken and financed by the Show Society. 

1997     Disabled Toilet (near Tennis Courts) – built with a Department of Agriculture grant received by Show Society.

2017 Upgrade of the Photography & Art pavilion, Poultry and Cattle yards