The first Grand Annual Competition is held in Ballarat at the Skipton Hall under the auspices of the South Street Young Men’s Debating Society and attracts 260 entries competing in music, poetry, elocution, essay and debating.

Prizes worth 63 pounds were presented by the Governor of Victoria, Lord Hopetoun and future Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin.


Following the success of the first competition, entries double and competitors vie for honours in music, poetry, literature and criticism in front of over 1000 people who crowded into Skipton Hall to watch the ten day event.

A cooking contest is also introduced for women of the colony to showcase their skills. The following year, the contest is confined to unmarried ladies below 30 years of age, presumably in an effort to attract a husband.

“Probably unnumbered young swains suffered severely in cooking rehearsals. Many doubts were cast as to whether every contestant was under 30 years of age. A difficult problem to solve!”


First Monday night Peoples Concert held in Skipton Hall


The first discussion around amalgamating East and West Ballarat get under way and becomes a South Street competition essay subject around ‘the best practical schemes to that end.’ It would be another 27 years before Ballarat East and West join to become one, with its first mayor being South Street founder, W D Hill.

The first typewriter and shorthand competitions are held and magic lantern shows become a popular feature at concerts and South Street. Highlights include depictions of English scenes, trains, shipwrecks and Ballarat statues and important tips on how to kill a crocodile!

The Ballarat Electric Supply Company is founded and the following year electric lights illuminate Ballarat’s streets, while in South Australian women are granted the right to vote and stand for Parliament for the first time.


The popularity of South Street reaches new heights and the need to accommodate 800 entries sees the competitions move to a larger venue, the Academy of Music (now Her Majesty’s).

Despite having built a new hall in Skipton Street in 1886, it soon becomes apparent that a much bigger hall is also needed to cater for its larger audiences.


The first of the choral contests are introduced to the competitions and won by the Barkly Street Wesleyan Choir.


As the Eisteddfod grows, three halls are needed to cater for the overwhelming interest in the competitions. Soprano Amy Castle’s vocal success at South Street soon sees the young singer on her way to singing fame in Europe.

Her Majesty’s Theatre changes hands and its new owners commission leading Australian architect, William Pitt, to remodel the interior and improve the stage facilities.


Entries pour in from interstate with upwards of 200 competitors taking part and the Eisteddfod is extended to more than five weeks to accommodate strong public interest and more than 50,000 people.

The City Oval officially opens and women are not only given the right to vote in Western Australia but are finally admitted to the Ballarat Golf Club.


The first Painting and Brass Band Competitions are introduced, with 15,000 people making their way to City Oval to watch the closing of the Band Contest. The band competitions prove to be so popular that schools are given the afternoon off so they can attend.

At the end of the Eisteddfod’s first decade, entries total 3500 and prize money totals 200 pounds.