village horticultural show


"To everything there is a season"

I'm passionate about gardening and history and it's not too often that the chance comes to combine the two. This summer, our village celebrated the 60th Anniversary of its Horticultural Show and it gave me an opportunity to root into the past of families and traditions that linger on today.

Way back in April 1955, a 'sprinkling' of local gardeners met to discuss the revival of a previously defunct village Show. I have the Minutes from that meeting; handwritten in a yellowing, school exercise book with Imperial Arithmetic Tables on the back cover. The Secretary wrote in the cursive, copperplate style taught in school in his childhood, "A meeting was held at Church House to discuss the formation of a Society to continue the Horticultural Show in place of the one which has been disbanded".

I asked some of today's exhibitors, who are descendants of the old committee, if they had any recollections and memories of the earlier show but these focused around 1950. The obvious next step - isn't it always- was to Google,'horse show, Cornwall, agricultural' and I hit on a fascinating website, British Newspaper Archives. I dug around into old, Cornish newspaper articles and I read that the village had a 'Horse and Dog Show' as long ago as the 1920's. The final one, in August 1951, was held “In fine weather and entries surpassed all expectations". But as tractors replaced horses, the old ways disappeared with intensified farming methods and prompted the demise of the traditional shows.

A Alec Thomas and Foals Woodrow Prior with his shire horse

The content of the papers has changed little through the years when reporting on summer fetes and festivals, although now the words are supported by colour photos of smiling prize winners. I found snippets about instances that wouldn't happen today, particularly when it comes to 'Health and Safety' issues. In 1935, a cup was NOT awarded in the tug'o'war as a dispute erupted into a fight, there were egg and spoon races on motorbikes and a woman's foot was trodden on by a horse and treated by a vet!

In 1928, a darker side of competing was exposed; 'The Cornishman' reported that Richard Pascoe from Penrose Road, Helston entered his unschooled cob into a jumping class and at the first hurdle the horse swerved, the next jump was furze and she shied again. Her noseband broke in panic and the rider was advised not to go in the ring, but third place prize money was at stake and he ignored the warning. The cob sheered away from the hurdle and Mr. Pascoe was thrown and died from a head injury.

The Horse and Dog Show had included horticultural, domestic and handicraft sections and when the show was revived, it was without animals. The schedule has change over the years; we no longer have a Dairy section with honey, scalded cream and butter, or knitted gloves and crocheted bed jacket. The trussed chicken and dough cake have been updated to fancy bread and decorated cupcakes, although it would be sacrilege to move too far from our roots and there's a cup awarded for most points in Cornish traditional cookery: a pasty, heavy cake, fairings and splits.

Village shows derived as a result of the necessity to be self-sufficient: women cooked, baked, made preserves and kept chickens and bees and men grew vegetables amongst the flowers in cottage gardens. The simplicity of a community coming together to show off their produce and catch up with gossip over a cuppa, still remains at the heart of country life and it delights me that our village show isn't out of place or time today.

But the question is... will there be a 61st Show? I've had to change the ending to this article because since I began, my very dear friend, who worked with me as Secretary, has died. No pain, no warning...just died. Death rode by, smothered her in his bat-black cloak, sucking the life-force from her as quickly as a flower in its glory being trampled.

I'm shocked at the fragility of the slender thread between life and death and am only certain at this moment that nature, at least, will regenerate.

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