The Show Must Go On

The Surprising Story Behind the Valley's Agricultural Shows

By Issy Shannon

The Show Must Go On

The agricultural societies in Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, formed around the turn of the last century, were by no means the first in the valley.

The pioneering organisation was the Calder Vale Agriculture Society which ceased to exist in 1898, just a year short of its diamond jubilee.

The first meeting took place at the White Lion Inn, Hebden Bridge, on May 24 1839.

Farmers throughout the Calder Valley were eligible for membership - for a fee of one guinea - and the first show was held at The Holme, Hebden Bridge, in September of that year.

Two more shows were held in Hebden Bridge before the move to Piece Hall, Halifax, where entry was thrown open "to all England."

Piece Hall soon proved inadequate and the show moved to Clare Hall where new classes - "for implements, butter and crops of most kinds" were introduced.

The Show Must Go On

Click photo to enlarge By 1924 the car was a prominent part of proceedings at the annual show at Calder Holmes Park. A spacious arena has been created for events such as show-jumping and the large number of tents in the background indicate that the livestock classes were well-supported. Code no BT 087 ALGC.

In 1898 the forerunner of the Hebden Bridge and Calder Valley Agricultural Society's annual event took place and 14 years later Todmorden Agricultural Society - still going strong - held its first show at Centre Vale Park.

The first show, held in 1912, was declared a great success but World War One put a stop to proceedings and the fledgling event was not revived until 1921.

Hebden Bridge and Calder Valley Agricultural Society originated from a May Day celebration organised by local horse-owners, cab drivers and grooms in 1898, who paraded through the town to Calder Holmes Park.

The Show Must Go On

Click photo to enlarge Competitors from Hebden Bridge swept the board in the Young Farmers' classes at the society's 50th anniversary show at Stub, Mytholmroyd, in 1948. Among the winners are R. Pierson (who won the special prize for the boy or girl gaining the most points), Miss E. Hardman, Miss D. Fairbottom, Miss M. Pratt, P. Gibbon, F. Sunderland, L. Pickles, A. Burnop, D. Midgley, E. Shaw, J. Horsfield, D. Lumb and C. Bainbridge. Reproduced by kind permission of Mrs A. Lumb. Code no CT 063AL.

"Little could those people realise that their small horse parade would develop into an agricultural show of the dimensions of that held at Stubb, Mytholmroyd, half a century later," enthused a press report of 1948 marking the society's golden anniversary.

It was the third successive show held at Stubb, the ground at Calder Holmes, Hebden Bridge, no longer regarded as suitable for such an important event. Failure to find a large enough site continued to dog the society, however, which did not survive to celebrate its diamond jubilee and amalgamated with Todmorden in 1960.

In Todmorden the annual shows had continued without pause until 1940 when the society was forced to close for the duration. The first big post-war show in 1950 was attended by a record 8,000 people and despite a loss in 1953 the society continued to go from strength to strength, in 2002 celebrating its Centenary.

Many put its success is down to the weather - it's a proud local boast that the sun usually shines on Tod Show!!

The Show Must Go On

Read the full story in Milltown Memories, issue 8. If this or other stories stirs a memory, we'd be happy to know - send us your memories and comments.