ASHOVER SHOW –A BRIEF HISTORY
In the late 1980’s the late Mr Lance Waud prepared and published a booklet for Ashover Show entitled “Ashover Show – 50 years on”. Mr Waud had been a very well respected member of the agricultural community and an advisor for the “War-Ag” which had been tasked by the government during and immediately after the Second World War to advise farmers on how best to maximise farm production and reduce the risk to the British isles from any blockade of imported food. Much of this brief summary is derived from the information collected and recalled by Mr Waud and his copyright and that of his Estate is gratefully acknowledged.
2020 brings us to the 89th Annual Show, but the Ashover Agricultural and Horticultural Society in its present form can trace its origins back to 1924 when a meeting was held in Kelstedge to resurrect the agricultural events that had been held locally in both Ashover and Kelstedge in the form of small village shows and ploughing matches but which had been interrupted by the First World War. Some of those were recorded back into the 1880’s. Amongst the farmers taking part in that first gathering was Mr Paul Brailsford from Alton who became the first Secretary, Mr J Bassett who was elected Chairman, and Mr J E Toyne, the local school Headmaster who was vice-chairman and Treasurer. The inaugural President was Mr W W Chesterman of Eastwood Grange, whilst amongst the committee members were representatives of other notable farming families including Mr William Bradley and Mr Alan Prince both from Kelstedge, and the Rev J B Nodder who farmed and owned the Rectory Fields where the first Show was held on 16th September 1925. Also represented were the Beardow, Chappell, Jenkinson, Lomas, Nightingale and Tomlinson families, several of which are still represented on the Committee today, albeit in some cases 3 or even 4 generations down the family line.
The continuous line of support and involvement from generation to generation is one of the main strengths of Ashover Show, and ensures its ongoing success.
The first show had a good attendance with admission costing 1 shilling (5p in today’s money) and the Ashover Brass Band entertained the crowd. By 1926 the cost of entry had gone up to 1s2d (6p) and this helped to increase the reserves of the Society to £52.9s.5d. Funds were further helped by the transfer of the remaining funds form the old Kelstedge Show amounting to £11.7s.6d.
The Show has remained on the Rectory Fields every year apart from 1927 when it moved to nearby Eastwood Hall Farm for one year, and it became so popular that the Ashover Light Railway ran special trains from Clay Cross as the Show was fixed to coincide with the Wakes Week Holiday. In more recent times special bus services were put on to bring visitors from both Clay Cross and Chesterfield, but in the past few years this facility has been withdrawn by the local bus companies, making the provision of additional car parking more and more important with each year that passes.
There have been very few years when it has not been possible to hold a Show, principally during the Second World War, but also caused by outbreaks of Foot & Mouth Disease most recently in 2001, but in 2007 a disease outbreak in Surrey just a few days before the Show caused the cancellation of the cattle and sheep classes, but the Show went ahead without them.
After the end of the war in 1945 the Show appointed it’s first Show Manager, Mr George Robinson, an auctioneer closely involved with Chesterfield Cattle Market, and upon his sudden death in 1968 that role was taken over by Mr Stanley Winnington, who held the post of either Show Manager or Show Marshall for over 50 years. Sadly Stanley passed away early in 2012 but the baton of Show Marshall is now in the very capable hands of Paul Shardlow who represents yet another of the local farming families who have several generations of service to the Show.
The Show has enjoyed or endured all extremes of weather from blazing sun to torrential downpours, and even survived a tragic fire in one of the cattle marquees on the night before the Show in 1997. In spite of that an overnight clear up meant that very few people visiting the Show the next day would have been aware that anything untoward had happened. The Society has moved forward by becoming a Limited Company in 1998 and has appointed a Health & Safety Officer, a Biosecurity Officer and each year has to agree an action plan with the local Authority in case of a major incident or emergency. In spite of the necessary professionalism of this approach, the Show remains entirely dependant on a large number of volunteers who spend several days helping to set out the layout, put up the rings, pens and so on, and man most of the jobs during the course of Show day, take everything down afterwards and litter pick and clean down the fields, ready for the ground to revert to farmland by the Saturday after the Show. Attendances continue to increase, and now crowds of over 16,000 are expected, drawn by the deliberate policy of the Show Committee to preserve the essentially Agricultural and Horticultural nature of Ashover Show, augmented in the very recent past by the addition of the Craft Marquee, the food hall, known as Appetising Ashover, and most recently a poultry Show.
As much as the world has progressed since 1924, Ashover Show remains as one of the most popular Agricultural Shows in the country, enjoys tremendous loyalty and support from its members, supporters and visitors, and intends to continue to offer outstanding value and a full day’s entertainment on the second Wednesday in August for very many years to come.