Saturday, 31 July 2021

Brief history of Henley Show, 1891-2015

TOWARDS the end of the 19th century it was the fashion for landowners and their tenants

TOWARDS the end of the 19th century it was the fashion for landowners and their tenants to create their own agricultural societies.

Henley farmers supported both field and show-day classes at the Royal East Berks, Wokingham Agricultural Association, Chiltern Hills, South Bucks and the Royal South Bucks shows. Henley was, however, conspicuous in not having its own agricultural association.

Richard Ovey, of Badgemore, was considered to be a visionary and courageous landowner and, despite intense competition from other established agricultural societies, decided to go it alone and founded an association in Henley.

In 1891, acting on an idea which had been on his mind for a long time, he decided to hold a ploughing match at Hernes, his estate, in the autumn of the following year. His close friend, William Anker Simmons, who was later knighted for services to agriculture, gave him encouragement.

As well as ploughing classes, there were classes for rick building, thatching, shepherding, butter, poultry, eggs and collections of vegetables at the event.

In 1898 Mr Ovey instigated a public meeting to discuss broadening the association’s events. The following September saw the first expanded Henley Show, which was held at the Hernes estate.

Mr Simmons was the association’s first honorary secretary, thus starting the long association between the Henley and District Agricultural Association and Simmons & Sons.

The show, which is traditionally held on the second Saturday in September, has taken place every year since then with the exceptions of during both world wars when it was cancelled. The only other time that the show could not be held was in 1952. This was due to a widespread outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Lady Brunner, who was president in that year, was invited to be president again in 1954.

Thanks to the wide range of presidents, Henley Show has been held at a variety of venues in the area, in earlier days quite often on that year’s president’s land. For the past 13 years. however, it has been held at Greenlands Farm, Hambleden, which is much admired for its beautiful setting.

Unlike many other traditional agricultural shows, the Henley Show continues to go from strength to strength and has been described as the best one-day agricultural show in the country.

Indeed the attendance has grown by almost 45 per cent in recent years with 15,000 coming to last year’s show.

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