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The Great Yorkshire Show – from humble beginnings

The 153rd Great Yorkshire Show is on now.

This huge event, held at the Yorkshire Showground just outside Harrogate, attracts thousands of visitors each July. And this year is no exception with the BBC reporting “More than 12,700 entries will compete in classes ranging from goat milking to ferret breeding” and over 130 thousand people expected to come along.

So what makes the Show so popular? How has it grown so big?

Humble beginnings

The Show was the brainchild of a ground of leading farmers in the area, led by the third Earl Spencer, who had met at the Black Swan Hotel in York in October 1837. They wanted to talk about the future of farming in the area and, no doubt, how they could sell more produce.

They decided the answer was the creation of a Yorkshire Agricultural Society focused on improving and developing local agriculture. It was also decided to put on an annual show of excellence.

The first Yorkshire Show

The first Yorkshire Show was held at Fulford, York, in 1838. It was a great success – judging by reports that police had to use truncheons to stop people from forcing their way in without paying. The plan was to put the Show on at different locations each year and by 1842 was attracting just over 6,000 people.

The Great Yorkshire Showground

By 1950 it was big enough to warrant a permanent venue. A site near Harrogate, the current site which comprises 250 acres, was bought and developed year on year with the layout and facilities becoming a model for others shows.

In 1992 an ambitious £10m re-development programme began and a prestigious conference and events venue, the Yorkshire Events Centre and Pavilions of Harrogate added. This development enabled the number of events staged on the Showground throughout the year to be increased and it is now busy 12 months of the year.

What’s on

It’s what’s on at the Show that is the secret of its success. The Show is still true to its agricultural and countryside roots but is now much more. This year, for example, there are the usual and much loved farming elements

  • Pig, cattle and dairy, sheep and horse breed classes
  • Agricultural produce exhibits and competitions, cheese & dairy produce, vegetables, honey
  • Other countryside activities like sheep shearing, wrought iron work, wood working, horseshoeing, dry stone walling

But there are a vast number of other exhibits, competitions or trade stalls that interests all tastes including fashion shows, cricket lessons, canoeing, face painting, the Science Museum and local bands. The sheer number of events and exhibitions is enormous with something going on throughout the 3 days of the show.

And therein lies the attraction of the event. It is, of course, a location that is easy to access, masses of parking, great facilities and efficient organisation.

But it also calls us nostalgically back to that simpler, quieter, less stressed existence enjoyed by our ancestors many of whom worked the land. A Lark Rise to Candleford life. And it plays to the Yorkshire love of a great day out. The entry price might be £22 for an adult, but you get an awful lot for your money!


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