Shrewsbury hosts two major events which draw huge crowds from all over Britain, and far beyond – the famous flower Show and the Shropshire County Agricultural Show, formerley the West Mid Show.
They both have their roots in the late 19th century, when they were part of a co-operative venture. The Shropshire and West Midlands Agricultural Society was already established when it played host to the fledgling Shropshire Horticultural Society's first event.
Horticulture occupied a single tent on that occasion in what is now Shrewsbury's Quarry Park, where the Flower Show still takes place every August.
The Show meanwhile has settled down at our own permanent 54-acre Berwick Road Showground alongside the River Severn.
Leading the way, from the 13th century….
Way back in the 13th century, Shrewsbury was awarded a variety of royal market charters and privileges.
From 1567, a market for butter and poultry used to be held twice weekly at the Market Cross then standing at the top of Pride Hill. Regular cheese fairs were also a feature of that old Market.
By 1847, however, the Shrewsbury Cattle Market Act was passed to establish the Smithfield on land known as Raven Meadows. It was opened in November 1850 and marked by a big banquet presided over by the Mayor of the Borough.
The much maligned General Market and Corn Exchange, was opened in 1869 and only replaced around 100 years later.
Cattle sales were introduced around 1878 by a man well connected with the West Mid, Alfred Mansell, who started selling herds of West Highland cattle to noblemen and gentlemen to stock up their parks.
Round that time, Shrewsbury introduced the first public market weighbridge of its kind in the country - enabling the town to pioneer the selling of cattle by live weight in England.
Since 1875, life and times of agriculture have undergone massive changes in farming techniques, machinery and technology. But the West Mid has always kept abreast of every new trend - and still does.
Throughout a century and a quarter, farmers and their employees have come together to enjoy themselves in the merry month of May, after a long winter.
In early days, the Show was more than just an enjoyable day out for many farmers. Not only did they come with their families to enjoy themselves and find out about the latest improvements in farm techniques - they also came to meet the various suppliers of agricultural needs and to settle their dues for what they had bought in the previous year.
…right up to the 21st century
Over the years, the showground has been vastly improved by the introduction of permanent roadways and ever improving facilities for members and the general public.
The Show now caters for a wider audience than ever before. But the Society never loses sight of its main goal - highlighting and promoting the vital role that our own agricultural industry plays in the economy of the nation, despite the ever-rising tide of produce pouring in from all over the world.
All this, plus….
- A full Young Farmers' Federation programme
- Displays of vintage and modern farming machinery
- Exciting arena events
- Traditional village green entertainment
- Game fair style displays
- Trade stands featuring everything from cars and trucks to outdoor clothing
Obviously, putting together this huge jigsaw needs immense teamwork and the pride of a host of enthusiastic volunteers to perfect the product. Thanks to everyone who has made it possible over 120 years!
The Show’s role in agriculture…
The Show always puts a spotlight on agriculture – providing an effective way of enabling more people, from all backgrounds, to understand the prominent part that agriculture plays in the physical and economic well being of the nation.
Shropshire has long been renowned for the standard of its livestock which has always been the finest to be found here and abroad. The Shropshire County Show is still the showcase and testing ground for stock breeders as one of the first major agricultural shows in the kingdom. Champion animals at Shrewsbury invariably go on to win more major honours at other shows and the Royal Show itself, and their progeny have established many famous herds and flocks around the world.