It’s show time

Features Posted 27/06/19
As the Kent County Agricultural Society prepare to celebrate and host the 90th Kent County Show, South East Farmer takes a look at how the event has evolved over the years, becoming a shop window for the Garden of England; connecting farmers and the agricultural industry with those that live in and around the Kent countryside.

Since its creation in 1923, the Kent County Show has been a true showcase of the Garden of England’s diverse farming sector and rural community. From the showing of livestock, to the National Cherry and Soft Fruit competition, the presentation of agricultural workers’ long service awards, an impressive display from Kent Young Farmers’ Clubs, and over 400 exhibitors and trade stands, there is certainly plenty highlighting the very best of Kent taking place across the three-day annual event.

Open from 8am to 6pm on Friday 5, Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 July, the 90th Kent County Show is promising to once again bring the agricultural, horticultural and rural community together to demonstrate the county’s livestock and local produce and, as the modern day show now attracts around 80,000 people, it is also a prime opportunity for the Kent County Agricultural Society (KCAS) to fulfil one of its most vital charitable aims; to educate all about the importance of farming.

The early years

The Kent County Agricultural Society formed in 1923, following a meeting by a group of farmers and landowners who had begun preparations for what was to become the first Kent County Agricultural Show. The society, which was chaired by the Right Honourable Earl of Guilford at the time and had more than 800 members, approached the town of Gravesend to host the show at Wombwell Hall Park, on Tuesday 19, Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 June 1923. The society’s first president, the Right Honourable Earl of Darnley, reported that the maiden show was a success in terms of entries for livestock, which were “exceptionally good, and proof that the effort to produce a county show for Kent fulfilled a long-felt want, and was appreciated by breeders and agriculturalists alike”.

The second show took place on 10, 11 and 12 July 1924 at Barrow Hill, Ashford, with more than 100 trade exhibitors and 250 exhibitors of stock, including His Majesty the King, who showed Shorthorn Cattle from the Royal Farms at Windsor.

The show saw its ups and downs in the 1930s. While agriculture was badly hit by the economy, and there were some years of poor weather, in 1931 the Right Honourable Winston Churchill MP, accompanied by his wife Clementine, opened the show, which boasted the newly named Cherry and Soft Fruit Show and, for the first time, attracted several thousand school children with education now playing an important part in the show’s aims. In 1933, the final day of the show was held on Saturday to ensure that farm workers were able to come along with their families on a non-working day.

With the show’s objective to improve the breeding and rearing of livestock, to encourage the invention and improvement of agricultural implements and machinery, and to educate the next generation firmly in place, the format for the next 80 shows was now beginning to emerge.

Factfile

Farm Workers’ Discount

Want 50% off the on-gate ticket price?

For the first time in the show’s history, anyone who works in farming, including non-members, can purchase half price tickets in advance.

Simply phone the show office by Wednesday 3 July on 01622 633060.

New home for the show

The Kent County Show continued to be held annually at different venues around the county until the outbreak of the Second World War when it ceased until 1947; this hiatus is why the society is celebrating its 90th show in 2019. When it did resume, the organisers were determined that its first post-war show should be celebrated, and every effort was made to overcome the challenges of putting on an event after so many years’ absence.

By the 1960s, the show was regularly being held in Mote Park, Maidstone, but after appalling weather led to challenging conditions under foot, the society came under fire for not having invested in public walkways. On 21 October 1960, five members of the committee met to discuss whether or not to devote money to the improvement of Mote Park, or to use the available capital to acquire a new permanent ground for the society. Alan Day said that this was the obvious path to take, as other leading show societies were following the trend of purchasing their own grounds.

After an extensive search to find a suitable site, by 1963 George Stevens had been elected chairman and contracts had been exchanged on Murrain Place and Ten Acres; the Kent Agricultural Society was now the proud owner of its own showground in Detling.

The last Kent County Show at Mote Park, Maidstone, marked an important change for the Kent County Agricultural Society. The task of turning the grazing land at Murrain Place into a workable showground was to be a labour of love for all involved, with the new showground being officially opened on Wednesday 15 July 1964.

Guests of honour

The Kent County Show has seen numerous guests of honour in attendance over the years, from the King exhibiting his livestock in 1924, to Winston Churchill’s visit in 1931, HRH Princess Alexandra who opened the new showground, and HRH Princess Anne who competed in the Spillar’s Combined horse competition at the show’s golden anniversary in 1979.

In July 1989, the showground was privileged to receive a visit from Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who spent time talking to growers in the Cherry and Soft Fruit Show marquee before proceeded to the British Farming Demonstration and later presenting the society’s long-service awards and a selection of trophies.

Today The Queen continues to enter her horses into the equine competitions and in 2018 had many a success, receiving first in the Heavyweight Show Hunter, Champion Young Hunter and Reserve Champion in the Cuddy Horse of the Year Show qualifier.

To celebrate the 90th Kent County Show, Royal patron of over 40 years, HRH The Duke of Kent, will be in attendance and is scheduled to visit various areas of the show, including the agricultural area.

Click here to read more our full feature on Kent County Show


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