For the locals, the Nidderdale Show, held annually in the picturesque rural town of Pateley Bridge, has always been a reason to celebrate – a day off school, a fun fair (for the kids), some of the greatest (and cutest) animals, a well-stocked bar (definitely not for the kids) and a reet old Yorkshire knees up.
Okay, I’ll admit I’m biased. Growing up in Pateley Bridge, the Nidderdale Show was as important a date on the social calendar as the Young Farmers’ County Show, the School Prom or that time The Prince of Wales came to town. But I’m ashamed to say that I’d never really given it much thought, it was just one of those things that everyone went to. But now that they’re preparing to host their 120th show I thought it was time to delve a little deeper and find out a bit more about its history. So I picked up the phone and spoke to the Nidderdale Agricultural Society’s Chairman Richard Harker (wait a minute, didn’t I go to school with his daughter?).
It turns out that the people of Pateley Bridge have been celebrating for a long time. The first town gathering was held in 1319 when King Edward II granted a charter for a fair to commemorate the ‘Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary’. This became an annual affair, and the first Nidderdale Show was held after the formation of the Nidderdale Agricultural Society in 1895. That first show attracted 206 entries as local farmers brought their cattle, sheep, horses and dogs down to be judged and crowned best in show. By 1900 people were bringing chickens, pigs, butter, eggs and honey too.
Like most things, the show was suspended during the war years and resumed in 1919. But the people of Nidderdale were a hardy bunch and, determined to continue with their farming and culinary efforts, they used their sales to support the British Farmers’ Red Cross Fund. Fundraising then became an important part of the show (they’ve raised thousands of pounds for Yorkshire Air Ambulance over the years) and the show has changed very little since those early days.
‘Things have been updated,’ Richard says, ‘But we’ve tried to keep it traditional and the livestock is still the main attraction.’ In fact the society have worked extremely hard to preserve those age-old traditions. Although the show now sees 20,000 visitors every year (which is no mean feat for a town with a population of less than 3,000 people) and the number of entrants has swelled, they still show pigs, cattle and other livestock in exactly the same way. They’re even bringing events such as harness racing back to Pateley Bridge after a 70-year absence.
One of the main things they’ve kept is the original date. They’re no longer feasting for the Virgin Mary (though there’s plenty of food and drink to be had), but the show is still held in late September. It’s clear that Richard (a farmer himself) thinks this is one of its unique qualities. ‘It’s the last show of the season,’ he explains, ‘So a lot of people in the agricultural industry like to come for that reason.’ All the more reason to celebrate.
But don’t worry, things aren’t quite as primitive as they were in the 1900s. The society’s records tell us that in 1924 the format was changed when it was declared that ‘four policemen were required, cheap jacks and hawkers were not to be allowed and that a ladies tent be engaged with four stools’. That’s safety covered then. Likewise a permanent toilet block was installed in 1962 and eventually in 2000 a car park was built at the main entrance. Although with visitors and competitors flocking from far and wide to the small market town, Richard tells us that they still have to run a tractor and trailer from nearby fields to cater for the number of guests and their cars.
So what can we expect to see at the show this year? Apart from farmers toasting the end of the agricultural show season, the committee celebrating 120 years of hard work and children enjoying a day off school. (For any Ofsted inspectors out there, we promise it is educational – there’s an Education Corner and everything). In amongst the livestock judging, there’ll be quad bike racing, a display by the Galloping Acrobatics, horticulture classes, a fun fair and plenty of art, crafts and culinary displays.
So why not don your wellies, pray for good weather and join the party? Cheers.
Nidderdale Show will take place on Monday 21st September at Bewerley Park, Pateley Bridge. For more information and a full programme head to www.nidderdaleshow.co.uk