In 2012 the Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Show celebrated its 175th Show, making it one of the oldest traditional agricultural shows in the entire country. The origins of today’s Show can be traced back to the year that Queen Victoria came to the throne.
At the beginning of the 19th century there was great interest in spreading new ideas about farming to meet the growing food requirements of a booming population. The East Surrey Society held one of the first Agricultural Shows in 1837 to encourage such innovation and education. 175 years later the August Bank Holiday gathering has evolved into the huge two day Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Show on a showground the size of ten Wembley Stadiums. Still a place for farmers to exchange news and ideas but also a great opportunity to educate young people about the country way of life whilst also having fun.
The Show is run by volunteers, many of whom have had family connections going back generations and the Show continue to carry on many of the traditions started back in the early years. In 1847 a Mr. Spooner presented a Large Silver Spoon to the East Surrey Society and this has now been continuously awarded as a Challenge Trophy ever since.
In 1890 the newly formed Oxted and Godstone Agricultural Society whose Association Objective was “to encourage the breeding of better stock and horses in the district and encourage agricultural labourers and farm servants and better ploughing” held its first Show and in 1921 merged with the East Surrey Society, holding a joint Show in Oxted. The Marsh Green Agricultural Show, started in 1918, became quite famous for the event it ran known as the Marsh Green Musical Derby. It was a one mile flat race started by the entries slowly walking away from the start line while music was being played. As soon as the music stopped they turned immediately and raced to the winning post. It had to be discontinued in the early 1930s when the National Hunt Committee ruled that it was to all intents and purposes a “flapping meeting”, meaning an illegal race meeting. In 1935 the Marsh Green Society amalgamated with the Edenbridge & District Horse Show. Eventually, by 1947, the Edenbridge & Marsh Green Agricultural Society Show and the Oxted and East Grinstead Shows merged and held their August Bank Holiday Show in Edenbridge.
Trade stands have been a growing feature of the post-war Shows. In 1950 there were 38 trade stands, with 145 stands at the 1986 Show and well over 300 different shops and stands were open for business at the 175th Anniversary Show in 2012. In 1987, the 150th Anniversary year, a new showground was purchased at Ardenrun, Lingfield, RH7 6LL with the first Show held there in 1988 and this remains the 140 acre site of the Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Shows – one of the very oldest in the whole country.
The two day Show attracts about 45,000 visitors a year. The livestock section continues to be at the heart of the Show and now boasts the largest collection of cattle seen together anywhere in southern England. The modern showground has developed seven competition rings with over 1,500 horses, ponies and donkeys taking part in classes which range from Horse of the Year Show qualifiers to fun gymkhana classes – and the Hobby Horse Derby! Annual main ring attractions always feature parades of four and five-in-hand coaches and carriages, Shires and Heavy Horses and historic vehicles, together with magnificent pipe bands, cavalcades of foxhounds and footpacks, international show-jumping and a main attraction. The ever-popular horticultural marquee has grown to accommodate all the entries plus numerous nursery growers. There is also a Food Hall, a WI tent, a Crafts Marquee, a Stockman’s Beer Tent and a Fur and Feathers Marquee. The modern Show displays all the traditional favourite animals but the list is now very extensive and also includes bats, bees, falcons, ferrets, llamas, mules, poultry, rabbits and terriers. There is a Cookery Roadshow, a Dog Show, a Country Sports section, a display of vintage and historic cars and agricultural machinery, a Sheep Show and a children’s section of popular fairground rides. To celebrate the 175th Anniversary, the Red Barn, a Geronimo Inn on the corner of the Showground in Ray Lane, created a Victorian Village Square with food and entertainment typical of the early Shows including Punch and Judy. There was also a historic Anniversary Parade by visitors in Victorian costumes and a celebration church service to launch the Show. The 2012 Show launched a new chapter in the long history of the community’s agricultural Show.