Going back in time - Dorset County Show asks the public for memorabilia and artefacts from its 175 year history

Organisers at the Dorset County Show want to showcase the Show’s history as part of its 175th birthday celebrations at this September’s two-day event.

They are asking people to search their attics and drawers for any trophies, posters, show guides or other memorabilia.

Alastair Cowen, Dorset County Show Deputy President, urged people to delve deep into their past and bring forward materials connected to the Show.

“It would be marvellous to mark our anniversary with this temporary exhibition at the Showground during the Show,” he said. 

The Dorchester Agricultural Society, which runs the show, is the oldest in the county. The first Show took place in 1840 in Exhibition Field, Kingston Maurward, not far from the current showground.

Agriculture was very important in Dorset and around this time over 300 people in the county town worked in farming. Competition from the northern mills amid the start of the Industrial Revolution was still only a threat for the county.

James Murray Gill, from Poundbury, whose family firm Ensors used to be the Show’s Secretary, has a picture which he believes dates back to the first Show.

“We bought this at a shop in High East Street a few years ago and it certainly dates back to the 1840’s and could link to the original show.

Newspapers from 1854 highlight advertisements showcasing the Show. G. J. Andrews, then Hon Secretary, writes: “The annual exhibition of cattle and stock of this Society will take place at Dorchester on Thursday 31 August instant, on which day the annual dinner will be provided at the Antelope Hotel, Dorchester at 5 o’clock, where the premiums for stock, silver cups and other premiums awarded during the past year will be distributed.”

Robert Mayo has a magnificent cup that his grandfather Henry George was awarded after clinching the Champion Devon Ruby championship for three years with his bull Stratton Peter. The bull, which was raised at Corton Farm, Portesham won in 1931, 1933 and 1934 when the Show was based in Weymouth Avenue.

As well as having the cup, the family have the bull’s horns as a further memento and Robert’s family still farm in the area, running 250 dairy cattle, 160 beef and 200 acres of arable land.

Sarah Sclatter, who runs a mixed farm at Compton Valence, said she had a cup dating back to 1933 which her grandfather had won for taking third place in the bacon pig class.  At the time, he was running a mixed 1,200 acre farm at Wynford Eagle and the County Show was, and continues to be, an important part of the farming calendar.

As the years went by, the Show moved from a half day event on Thursday afternoon to a one day and then more recently to a weekend Show. As Weymouth Avenue developed, the Show moved to Came Farm under the watchful eye of Major Martin.

His widow, Mrs Martin remembers her husband coming home to tell her the news: “He said, “Don’t worry, the Show won’t last long – one bad day’s weather and it will be bankrupt.”

“But we never had a bad day in 25 years and I remember my husband presenting the long service awards in 1990.”

Show Secretary Richard Cuzens said there were a number of activities and classes at the Show linking to the anniversary. The Dorset Watercress Company, the county’s local supplier of this traditional super food, are building a feature in the Floral Pavilion of watercress beds since 1840. The Homecraft section has a 175 year anniversary collage class where entrants can make a decorated design of the numbers 175.

People wishing to contribute to the exhibition should contact the Show Secretary at Agriculture House, Acland Road, Dorchester. DT1 1EF or telephone (01305 264249) or email [email protected]

Rebecca Cox
4th Jul 2016 15:05:00

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