Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Ashover Show - Derbyshire

Eating breakfast this morning with the rain on the windows and the wellies beside the door, we were going to Ashover Show no matter what. As we drove into Derbyshire the clouds started to blow away leaving a fresh breeze.
Ashover Show - a great event in the farming calendar and one that I seem to miss, but not this year. What a wonderful event with so much to see and do.
Enjoy the photographs and slide show.

In 1980 the late Mr Lance Waud prepared and published a booklet for the Ashover show entitled “Asher Show – 50 years on” This update is drawn largely from that excellent publication, and the copyright of the late Mr Waud and his estate is gratefully acknowledged. He was a highly respected member of the agricultural community over many years, having been a member of the “War Ag” which advised both the farmers and the Government of the day on policy for maximum agricultural production during the Second World War, and afterwards during the recovery from it.

2008 will see the 77th Show, but the Ashover Agricultural and Horticultural Society can be traced in its present form back to 1924, when a meeting was held in Kelstedge to resurrect the agricultural events that had taken the form of smaller shows and ploughing matches in both Kelstedge and Ashover as far back as 1880. Foremost amongst the farmers who re-launched the Show was Mr Paul Brailsford from Alton, who became the first Secretary, and Mr J E Toyne, the School Headmaster, who was the Vice-Chairman and Treasurer. Mr W W Chesterman of Eastwood Grange was appointed the inaugural President, with other committee members including Mr William Bradley and Mr Alan Prince, both from Kelstedge, and also included the Reverend J B Nodder who farmed and owned the Rectory Fields where the first Show took place on 16th September 1925. Amongst the other well known farming names represented on that first committee were Beardow, Chappell, Jenkinson, Lomas, Nightingale and Tomlinson, all of which families have still survived in farming to this day, many of them still closely involved with the Show, although two, three or even four generations later.

The funds for the new society were boosted in those days between the wars and approaching the Great Depression, by the transfer of the old Kelstedge Society funds of £11.7s 6d. Since those early days the Show has always been held on Rectory Fields except in 1927 when it moved to Eastwood Hall Farm nearby for one year.

Admission to the first show cost 1/- each (5p in today’s money) and the Ashover Brass Band entertained a good crowd. By 1926 the cost of admission had risen to 1s.2d (6p) and this helped to boost the profit on the day to £52.9s.5d. So popular did the show become that special trains were run from and to Clay Cross on the Ashover Light Railway to bring people enjoying their local Wakes Week holiday. The event continued to grow with the first Grand Parade of Prize winning stock held in 1932, until by 1963 there were 175 cattle forward for judging. There have been very few years when it has not been possible to hold a Show, principally during the Second World War from 1939 to 1945, shortly after which the society appointed it’s first Show Manager, the local auctioneer, Mr George Robinson. He held the post until his sudden death in 1968, when he was succeeded by Mr Stanley Winnington, who has been either Show Manager or Show Marshall ever since, celebrating an astonishing 50 years in the post this year.

In 1952 in spite of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease, the show was held, but without livestock, and in 2001 due to the outbreak that year the Show was cancelled entirely. Last year, 2007, the outbreak in Surrey 5 days before the show caused a very rapid reassessment and alteration of the layout, and once again the Show went ahead without cattle or sheep, but with excellent entries of light and heavy horses.

The show has survived all extremes of summer weather from blazing sun to torrential downpours, and even survived the tragic fire of 1997 when one of the main cattle tents was utterly destroyed during the night before the Show, with the loss of lives of some cattle and injury to one of the stockmen, Mr W Wright who had been in the tent with them. In spite of that, by next morning a tremendous clear up effort meant that hardly anyone would have known that anything untoward had happened and the Show went ahead as normal. Two years later, the show was moved from its traditional Wednesday to the Tuesday because of the total solar eclipse on the normal Show date which it was feared might cause Health and Safety problems particularly with the cattle.

The well established nature of an Agricultural Show has been carefully preserved by the Council of the Society, selecting trade stands and centre ring attractions in order to keep the event essentially rural whilst attracting the crowds from Chesterfield and beyond that are essential to keep the finances secure. The society has moved forward by becoming a Limited Company in 1998, and taken great care to meet all of the modern legal requirements by now having a Health and Safety Officer and a Biosecurity Officer, and has each year to prepare and agree an Action Plan with the Local Authority in the event of any major accident or emergency. In spite of this professional approach, the Show still relies almost entirely on volunteer labour to set out, steward on the day and clear down the site afterwards.

From those early beginnings in 1925 Ashover Show now attracts a crowd of up to 16,000, is firmly fixed in the Derbyshire farming calendar, and continues to expand with ever growing interest in the light and heavy horses, show dogs and vintage tractors. The exhibits in the Horticultural tent are always keenly anticipated and more recently the Craft tent and now the “Appetising Ashover” Food marquee add interest for the visitors. Now after more than 80 years have we come full circle? The earliest shows had great emphasis on home produce, working dogs and horses, although tractors had not yet become established. What will the future hold? Hopefully a fine traditional Agricultural Show on the Rectory Fields, Ashover on the second Wednesday in August for a great many years to come.

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