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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE NORTH EAST HANTS AGRICULTURAL ASSOCIATION & THE ALTON SHOW

The origins of Alton Show date back to 1840 when, on the 25th February a small group of farmers met at the Alton Town Hall. Jane Austen's nephew, Mr Edward Knight of Chawton House, was in the chair and later in the meeting he was elected as the first President of the newly constituted North East Hants Agricultural Association.

The NEHAA was formed with two objects in mind:

  • The advancement of agricultural knowledge in this part of Hampshire
  • To improve and benefit the labourers in agriculture.

The first Lamb market was held on the Butts in Alton on the 14th of July, more of a market than a show as we know it today when Mr Thomas Parker was awarded the first prize for "The best Coup of 100 lambs"

Later in the year the society held a ploughing match followed by a dinner in the Town Hall to present the prizes. A fat stock show followed on the 1st of December and the Association also published a schedule of labourers rewards in the form of a poster. There were various classes which reflect contemporary social values.

Class 'A' was for labourers who have maintained the largest families respectably with the smallest amount of parochial relief since 1835 ( illness excepted). Prizes were a substantial sum for the time from £3 for first prize to £1 for third.

The Lamb market continued as an annual event but in the 1870's Mr Scott of Rotherfield Park offered prizes for Dairy Cattle. As the years went by further classes were added and the emphasis shifted to a Summer Show still held at the Butts.

After some years of discussion the first proper show was held, with a gate admission charge of 1 shilling on land at Anstey owned by Mr Complin. This show was a ". . great success . ." and made a profit of £20.

A young Competitor at the 1936 ploughing  matchThe show continued as an annual event until 1914 when the Great War interrupted the proceedings. After the war the show was revived in 1919 at Chawton Park but returned to Anstey Park the following year. The depression in the early twenties took a toll on the Alton Show and despite making an annual loss the show continued until 1923 when it was decided to abandon the event for the following year. In fact this was to be the last show for twenty years.

The ploughing match survived as an annual event with a class for tractor ploughs introduced in 1936 at the instigation of Mr W Brock from West Worldham.

The Annual Ploughing Match has continued until the present day and each year, in October around 30 ploughmen from North East Hampshire and the surrounding areas compete for the North East Hants Championship.

Despite plans to revive the show being interrupted by yet another war a show was eventually held in 1944 in aid of the Red Cross and was a resounding success making a profit of £842. 13s 3d .

Over the years the Alton Show grew in size with more cattle classes and various exhibits being added to the attractions at Anstey Park including produce and rural crafts exhibitions. The show was held on the August Bank Holiday and became a regular event in the local calendar.

In 1986 the Alton Show was held in July on the current shogun at Froyle Park where it has continued as an Annual Event until the present day with only one interruption in 2000 due to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease.

The Alton Show was easily accessible to the Towns and Villages of North East Hampshire, South West Surrey and West Sussex and relied on the support of sponsors, members, trade stand exhibitors and over 90 volunteers from the local farming and town communities who did everything from the layout of the site to manning the marquees and car parks.

The Last Alton Show was held in 2013

Following a Ballot of Members The Association was wound up earlier this year and assets were transferred
to the Alresford & District Agricultural Society

The 2016 Education Programme will be completed and
The Association will hold The Final Annual Ploughing Match
by kind permission of Neatham Farms on October 9th 2016.

 

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