When the Bucks County Show came to Chesham

Each first Thursday in September, the Bucks County Show is held, when farmers and local agricultural businesses from around Bucks and beyond, exhibit at Weedon, near Aylesbury. The Bucks County Show claims to be one of the best one-day agricultural shows in the country. Twice it has been held at Chesham, and this is the story…

Bucks County Show tent

The story of Bucks County Show

In the Victorian era there were different agricultural societies in Bucks, for example the Royal South Bucks Agricultural Association which was established in 1833. 

In 1859, the rival Royal Bucks Agricultural Association and the Central Bucks Agricultural Society amalgamated to form the Royal and Central Bucks Agricultural Association, now called the Bucks County Agricultural Association. 

From 1859 it held an annual show to showcase local farming.  It was originally known as the Royal and Central Bucks Agricultural Show, from 1891 shortened to the Royal Bucks Show, and since 1923 Bucks County Show. 

Originally it was held every second Thursday in September, but since 1952, it has been held on the first Thursday. It has only been cancelled a few times for example due to war, foot and mouth in 2001, and in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid epidemic.

Through its history it was usually held in the Aylesbury area, especially at Waddesdon Park or Walton Grange, but about every second year it rotated around the county.  For example, it was held at Winslow in 1880 and 1907, Marlow in 1883, High Wycombe in 1878 and 1888, Linslade in 1901, Bletchley in 1905, and at Mentmore in 1933. 

Securing the Show for Chesham

In 1889, the Metropolitan Railway had come to Chesham.  This helped local businesses, and led to a renewed confidence for Chesham to make its mark.

A group of farmers and landowners from Chesham formed a committee, chaired by William Lowndes, to try and bring the county show to the town.  On Wednesday, January 25, 1893 the Royal and Central Bucks Agricultural Association had its AGM at the George Hotel in Aylesbury. The Chesham Committee sent a deputation who invited the Agricultural Association to hold their next show at Chesham. 

Agricultural Association annual show advert

They offered a show-ground free of expense and promised to guarantee 100 guineas income.  The Association agreed, and appointed Mr William Lowndes as their President for the year, with Lord Chesham, Lord Temple, and Lord Rothschild appointed as Vice-Presidents.  

The Chesham committee asked that poultry and dog sections be added to the show, which would be of great interest in Chesham.  The date of the show was September 14, 1893. 

Festive Chesham

William Lowndes of the Bury offered use of the Park, although 2 other sites were also considered.

To attract visitors the show was advertised along the Metropolitan Railway and special cheap return tickets were sold from Baker Street for 2s 6d. 

As the date approached, Chesham was in a festive mood. People decorated their shops and houses.  Six triumphal arches spanned each of the entrances to the town, and similar structures were also to be seen at various points of vantage. At dusk and into the evening the main street was lit by electricity, which was then a novelty. 

The 1893 Show

The weather was delightful and 4,250 visitors passed the turnstiles – which was a record turnout.  In fact, such was the interest that there was a crush between 1 and 2 o’clock which was alleviated by opening another entrance.  The show made a profit of £276 1s 3d. 

The local newspaper reported “Never before in the history of the town have the inhabitants had an opportunity of witnessing such sights in their midst as they did on Thursday last, when the thirty-fifth exhibition of horses, horned stock, sheep, pigs, roots, and butter, in connection with the Royal and Central Bucks Agricultural Association, took place in the Park.”

A report of the show recorded: “The committee of management never expected the public to be present in such numbers, and on a future occasion there will be better accommodation for visitors.” 

Afterwards Mr Lowndes wrote a letter to the people of Chesham via the Bucks Examiner to thank them for their efforts.

The 1903 County Show at Chesham

In 1902, the people of Chesham recalled the County Show of 1893, and decided to invite the show back for the tenth anniversary in 1903.  This was accepted, and Lord Chesham was made President of the Agricultural Association that year. 

Annual Show 1903 advertisement

The date was set for Thursday, September 10, 1903 and the show returned to Mr Lowndes’ Park at Chesham.  The show was organised by local farmers and landowners and included horse show-jumping. Entrance for the public was a shilling, and many came by train to Chesham Station.

As in 1893, Chesham took on a festive character and the local committee had four triumphal arches erected, formed of evergreens, corn, bunting in the High Street, Blucher Street, Station Road, and Market Square. 

Early dreams of repeating the success of the 1893 show were quite literally dampened by the weather.  Inclement weather spoilt the attendance in the morning, when it was very blowy and then everything was drenched by a downpour of rain.

However, after the public lunch at 1 o’clock, the weather improved and the local crowds came.  The Chesham Town Band enlivened the proceedings and played at intervals between events.  The judges awarded prizes for agricultural and hunting horses, sheep, horned stock, pigs, root vegetables, butter and eggs. 

There were also long service prizes for loyal farm labourers, shepherds, dairymaids and herdsmen. By the end of the day over 3,000 people had come, which was not as much as 1893, but still better than many other years’ shows. 

Bucks County Show

From 1952 the show settled to be held annually at Hartwell Park, and since 1988 it has been held at Weedon Park near Aylesbury.  A free bus is available from Aylesbury Station making it easy to get there and avoid the clogged roads. 

This article was first published in the pages of the Bucks Free Press, Amersham and Chesham edition, on September 23, 2022.

About the author

Neil Rees

Neil Rees lives locally and has had a long love of local history. His main interests are family history, wartime exile groups living in Bucks, the history of local faith communities and the history of Chesham and Ley Hill. He writes a fortnightly local history Nostalgia page for the Amersham and Chesham edition of the Bucks Free Press newspaper, which is usually on page 12. He wrote "The Czech Connection" about the story of the wartime Czechoslovak community in Bucks which was translated into Czech. He also wrote "A Royal Exile" about King Zog of Albania in exile in Bucks during the war, which was translated into Albanian and made into a 2-part documentary for Albanian television. He also wrote "The Church by the Woods" the story of St George's Church at Tylers HIll and "The Chapel on the Green, the story of Ley Hill Methodist church. He gives talks at many local groups such as local history societies, WIs, church groups, Rotary Clubs etc

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