Welcome to a history of the Spilsby Show. All of the information on this page has come from Committee members. If you have information which would help us make this page even more concise, please email us and let us know. We want this page to be as accurate as possible. Whatever you know, whatever you did, please get in touch with us. Any information you can provide will help us to build up an accurate history of the Show.
PAST SPILSBY SHOW VENUES
2002 – present: Ancaster Avenue, Spilsby.
2001 – show cancelled.
1991 – 2000: Grammar School Playing Field, Partney Road, Spilsby.
? – 1990: Ashby by Partney, near Spilsby.
? – ?: Saul’s Yard.
? – ?: Toynton junction, left into junction, Home Yard.
? – ?: Toynton junction, A16, right hand side, near Mount Wood.
1974 – ?: Ancaster Avenue, Spilsby.
? – ?: Eresby House Farm, Spilsby.
1880 – ?: Eresby Avenue, Spilsby.
PAST SPILSBY SHOW CHAIRPERSONS
2006 – present: Mr C. Millard
2000 – 2005: Mrs S. Clarke
1995 – 1999: Mr E.L. Robinson
1986 – 1994: Mr J.S. Hudson
? – 1985: Mr G. Tong
1974 – ?: Mr K. Mancey
? – ?: Mr A.C. Blackburn
? – ?: Mr C. Wilkinson – can you fill in the blanks? Please get in touch with us if you are able to provide any dates.
HISTORY OF THE SHOW
Records show that the Spilsby Show can be traced back to 1880. It was originally called the Spilsby Gala. It took place in July, a tradition which remains to this day. With the origins traced back to the 19th Century, it is believed that we are well on the way to celebrating the 125th Show!
The Show was originally held on Eresby Avenue. There was maypole dancing, amongst other attractions. To this day, Eresby Avenue has changed very little. There has obviously been some urban development, but the trees and structure of the Avenue remain largely as they were. The Avenue now ends near Eresby School, however, in the late 19th Century, the Avenue was much longer, stretching as far back as the current bypass. The Show continued into the early 1900’s, stopping for the outbreak of the First World War. The show resumed a few years after the end of the Great War, continuing until the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. The Show was then revived again (we believe) in the early 1950’s.
In the 1960’s, the Show was held at Eresby House Farm. Throughout this period, there was a greater emphasis on livestock and agriculture. The Show still embraces local traditions and agriculture, however, it has moved with the times and now adopts a whole host of other attractions. We believe that Eresby House Farm was the last venue used by the Show before it came to an end in (we think) the late 1960’s.
The Spilsby Show was revived in July 1974. Its initial purpose was to raise money for the upkeep of the Playing Field. As part of the 1970’s revival, it was also decided that the Show would raise money for a main charity each year, something which still exists to this day. It was originally perceived as a gala but over a number of years, the event grew into something much larger. It was after this 1974 revival, that the event really became a premier attraction. Before this, it was still very much a large gala with a huge emphasis on farming and livestock. In ? the Show moved to a new site off the A16, opposite the junction to Toynton All Saints. It had become too big for the Ancaster Avenue site, which was, in the 1970’s, over 20 acres in area. Remember, this was before the bypass existed. Boston Road was the main A16 route in the 1970’s!
The move was seen as a natural progression. There was a cricket pitch on the Ancaster Avenue site and after the ? show, it was damaged by a vehicle. The Committee decided that it was best to move on. The Show had outgrown the Playing Field and in order to continue, it had to move with the times and go elsewhere. The larger site enabled the Show to embrace new forms of entertainment and presented it with new opportunities. Show Jumping was introduced to compliment the Shire Horse Show, which had been held successfully on Ancaster Avenue for many years. The Shire Horse Show was often described as a ‘banker’ event, meaning it was tremendously popular and always guaranteed a large crowd. The Show was a two day event, with Show Jumping taking place on the Saturday. The Shire Horse Show also took place on the Saturday, along with a pony display. The second day, always saw the greater attendance. The second day saw a smaller emphasis on animals. The Spilsby Show is one of only a few shows which continues the Shire Horse tradition. The Shire Horse Show was an event which appeared from the 1974 revival. Planning is already underway for this year’s Shire Horse event.
The new Toynton site was located to the right of the junction. Mount Wood was located at the top of the showground. This site was some 40 acres in area and adjacent to a canal. The event then moved again over the road, into Home Yard, on the left hand side of the A16. The Show was also held in Saul’s Yard at some point. In ? the Show moved to a new site in Ashby by Partney. The Ashby site consisted of two 15 acre fields. Both of these were used on Show weekend, one for car parking, with the second housing the Show. For the first Show at Ashby in ? the Committee had to lay a new road using 300 tonnes of chalk! Preparations for the event would often begin some four weeks before the Show, with the site being prepared by its owner, Mr V. Ranyard.
Once this initial preparation was completed, members of the Committee then moved in. For each Show, both armoured electricity cables and sewage pipes had to be laid. Sewage pits also had to be dug. Water also needed installing, with AWC erecting a standpipe. All of these tasks had to be completed before any exhibitors moved in. These preparations did not only apply to the Ashby site, the same mammoth tasks had to be completed at both the Toynton and Eresby Hall sites. The logistics were simply staggering!
The Ashby years saw some of the most successful Shows ever. In a piece from Lincolnshire Life, dated July 1983, the Show was described as follows: “The Spilsby Show has grown from small beginnings seven years ago to the second in importance in the County to the Lincolnshire Show. Last year (1982) the Show attracted 22,000 people from all over Lincolnshire and from the Midlands.” The Show had grown from those early years as a gala, into one of the premier attractions in the county’s calendar. In 1986, John Hudson became Show Chairman, taking over from Geoff Tong, who had held the position for ? years.
The 1990 Show was the last to be held in Ashby by Partney. The Show had been held here for ? years. Whilst on this site, people commented that the event had become second only to the county Show. The Ashby site was vast, with one field being used solely for car parking! In 1991, the Show moved back into Spilsby, making the Grammar School Playing Field its home. It remained a two day event, with the Shire Horse Show being held on the Saturday. In an edition of the Spilsby Standard, dated November 1990, the headline article stated: “Losses clip Show”. The report focused upon the three years of financial losses that the Show had encountered. It continued: “Spilsby Show looks like being drastically changed for 1991”.
At the 1990 Annual General Meeting, the Committee unanimously voted for a change in the Show’s format. President, Eric Dennett, was backed in his suggestion to organise a smaller Show with a new look for 1991. John Hudson, the Chairman of the Committee commented that the financial result was very disappointing and the trend of losses over the past few years could not be sustained. A move back into Spilsby meant the Show had to downsize in order to fit onto the new site. The future of the Show was in doubt for quite some time, as a new home could not be found. The site owned by the Ranyard family had been sold, giving the Committee the unenviable task of searching for a new home big enough to accommodate the event. A new home was found, the Show could go on and in 1991 it was back with a bang!
The 1991 Show was an astonishing success. Press reports from July that year state that the show was “as near perfect as we will ever get”. Some 5,000 people visited the event over the two days. It was also reported that a change of venue had paid off and it enabled the Committee to distribute £7,000 to local organisations. Eric Dennett, President of the Show at this time described the event: “It has been an excellent Show. The venue was right, the atmosphere was right and the weather was right. It is as near to perfect as we will ever get”. The 1991 event is widely acknowledged as the most successful Show of all time. A cheque for £3,000 was handed to the Headteacher of Spilsby High School for new computer equipment. The High School was kind enough to offer the Grammar School Playing Field to the Committee as a new venue for the Show. The new site was clearly a step in the right direction.
It wasn’t until late 1990, when the Headteacher of the newly founded Spilsby High School suggested that the Committee use the Grammar School Playing Fields that a new home for the Show was found. The move saw expenditure cut drastically from the days of the Ashby Shows. The site was much smaller than the one at Ashby, meaning the Show could no longer claim to be second in size to the Lincolnshire Show. Three successful two day Shows were held on Partney Road before a further change followed. In July 1994, the Show became a one day event. In the 1994 edition of the Show programme, Chairman John Hudson explained why: “Over the years the Show format has changed or evolved to meet the needs of the time, and this year sees yet another change in that we have reverted to a one day event. Many families now “go shopping” on a Saturday and we thought the time was right to concentrate all activities onto the Sunday.” The Spilsby Standard, of January 1994, also covered this news on its front page: “Spilsby Show, one of the county’s best known two day shows and once second only in size to the Lincolnshire Show, is to become a one day event”. The Show Chairman stated: “We reached the decision to concentrate all the events into one day as a result of lobbying by major trade stand holders and a string of disappointing Saturday attendances.”
The 1994 Show also saw John Hudson step down as Chairman of the Show Committee after nine years. John had, however, been involved with the Show since its revival in 1974. After 20 years service, John stepped down. “I have been involved with the Show since it started and I have progressed through the ranks, starting as bog attendant, rising to chief of bogs and finally to Chairman and now that I have completed 20 years I have decided to hand over to someone else.” After overseeing the first successful one day Show, John handed over the Chairman’s post to Edward Robinson. Edward was Chairman of the Show for five years, stepping down in 1999.
In 1998 a new event was introduced, which would over time, become one of the Show’s most popular attractions. The 6 mile road race. Originally planned as a fun run, designed for all to enter, the road race from 1999, adopted a format which still exists to this day. A competitive, gruelling run, over some pretty tough terrain. In 2002, when the Show moved, the route was altered slightly, to accommodate the new site. Since the run began, the number of entrants has increased year on year, with the 2006 race attracting 116 competitors.
The 2000 Show would be the last to be held on Partney Road. The Show had been there for nine years and had, over that time, seen it develop into a hugely popular one day Show. The new millennium also saw a new face take over the running of the Show. Sue Clarke became Chairman in 2000, the first female to hold the post. 2001 was a very difficult year for the agricultural community, with the severe outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. The 2001 Show was cancelled as a result.
In July 2002, the Spilsby Show came home! It returned to the site it had occupied between 1974 and ? The old showground, on Partney Road, was no longer available as planning permission had been passed for the building of a new school. After a break in 2001, and no home for the Show becoming available, it was thought that the Show would fold for good. At virtually the eleventh hour, a new home was found, the Playing Fields off Boston Road. The new site, on Ancaster Avenue, saw the Show come back to a home it occupied for several years in the 1970’s. The site was smaller than it was in the 1970’s, due to the building of the new town bypass. The new showground was in fact, no smaller than the one on Partney Road, however, its shape and access for vehicles did throw up a few problems!
The 2002 Show was not given the go ahead until well into the New Year. Despite this, the first show back on Ancaster Avenue was a great success and gave the Committee some solid foundations on which to work with. Since then, the amount given away to charity has increased year on year, with the most successful Show from Ancaster Avenue coming in 2009, beating a previous record set in 2008. The 2006 Show saw Charlie Millard take over the Chairman’s post, which was vacated by Sue Clarke, who had been Chairman for six years.
The 2007 Show saw the showground adopt a new layout, as well as the introduction of a second park and ride service. When the Show returned to the Playing Fields in 2002, there were problems with the site. Car parking was a major issue, however, having held the event successfully at Ancaster Avenue for six years, the problems have been steadily rectified. The 2007 Show was the most successful ever to be held on Ancaster Avenue. Despite torrential rain across Lincolnshire earlier in the year and on the days leading up to the Show, the 2007 event went ahead in glorious sunshine. At the annual Presentation Night in November, the Show Committee distributed over £5,000 to local charities. This was the most money given away since the Show moved back to Ancaster Avenue. 2007 was a record breaking year, however in 2008 and again in 2009, the Show would again break all records!
The 2008 event would prove to be an even bigger success than any of those previously held on the Spilsby Recreation Ground. After the 2008 Show, the Committee distributed over £5,500 to local charities and organisations at their 2008 Presentation Night.
Building on the success seen in previous years, the 2009 event again, broke all previous records! The weather was absolutely fantastic and the support from the public was tremendous. The layout of the showground was tweaked slightly and a number of new attractions were in attendance, providing the public with some fresh and exciting exhibits to look at. In October, the Committee paid tribute to all of those that helped make the event such a success.
A year later, at the 2010 Presentation Night, the Committee distributed a record amount to local charities as a result of yet another successful year – the 2010 event broke all previous records!
The 2011 Show took place on Sunday 10th July. Despite some breezy weather and cloudy spells, the 2011 event again, broke all previous records, enabling the Committee to distribute over £7,000 (another record amount) to over 30 good causes at their Presentation Night which was held in the Pavilion on Friday 28th October 2011. The Show Committee has also helped fund the cost of a new extension to the Pavilion which will guarantee the future of the Show on the Spilsby Recreation Ground. The Pavilion Committee also held the grand opening of the new extension on the same evening so the many beneficaries and sponsors could see the good work for themselves.
Unfortunately due to extremely wet weather, the 2012 event had to be cancelled. It was not a decision the Committee took lightly however it was the best option for all concerned.
The 2013 Show, held on Sunday 14th July, was the most successful one day Show of all time and thanks to some great weather, we didn’t have to worry about the rain! It was great to bounce back and thank everyone for their support after the disappointment of 2012.
At their annual Presentation Night in November 2013, the Committee distributed in excess of £9,000 to local charities and organisations.
In July 2014 and also in July 2015, despite some inclement weather on Show day, the event was still a huge success, allowing the Committee to distribute in excess of £8,000 at their annual Presentation Night. The 2014 Show marked the 40th birthday of the event, since its revival in 1974.
Planning for this year’s event is already well underway. Let’s hope that the 2019 Show is a successful day!
PLEASE NOTE: This page will be updated as regularly as possible. If you have provided us with information, please be assured that it will appear here eventually. This page will hopefully continue to develop as we add information. The Show has such a glorious past, we hope to build up a definitive history. If you have any information, pictures, video or press cuttings which will help us in our quest, please get in touch with us. If there is an error in this document, please get in touch with us. The accuracy of the material is as important as the quantity. If you have any dates or pictures depicting very early events, please let us know.