The Spilsby Show is blessed with an incredibly rich heritage and has been a part of the town’s history for decades.
We’ve put together a page that is dedicated to the history of the event. The majority of this information has come from former and current committee members. If you have information which would help us make this page even more concise, please get in touch and let us know. Any information you can provide will help us to record an accurate history of the Spilsby Show.
2002 – present | Spilsby Recreation Ground, 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 | Spilsby Recreation Ground, Ancaster Avenue, Spilsby.
? – ? | Eresby House Farm, Spilsby.
1880 – ? | Eresby Avenue, Spilsby.
Chairpersons of the modern Spilsby Show.
2019 – present | Mr B. Bugg.
2006 – 2018 | 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.
There are a number of blank spaces, missing venues, missing people and of course, dates to fill in. If you can help with these, please let us know.
History of the event.
Historical records indicate that the origins of the Spilsby Show can be traced back to 1880. It was originally known as the Spilsby Gala. It took place in July too, a tradition which remains in place to this day. With the origins traced back to the 19th Century, we’re already over 140 years old.
The Spilsby Show was initially 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. Eresby 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 event 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 Spilsby Show was then revived again (we believe) in the early 1950’s.
In the 1960’s, the event 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 although it has also adapted and now welcomes many other attractions. We understand that Eresby House Farm was the last venue used by the event before it came to an end in (we think) the late 1960’s.
The Spilsby Show was revived again, returning to the town in July 1974. Its initial purpose was to raise money for the upkeep of the playing field. As a part of the 1970’s revival, it was also decided that the event would raise money for charity each year, something which continues to this day. It was originally revived 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. The event 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. This was before the bypass existed. Boston Road was the main A16 route in the 1970’s!
The move out of the town was seen as a natural progression. There was a cricket pitch on the Ancaster Avenue site and after this was damaged by a vehicle, the organisers decided that it was best to move on. The event had outgrown the playing field and in order to continue, it had to move elsewhere. The larger site enabled the Spilsby 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 Spilsby Show became 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 placed on animals. The Spilsby Show is to this day, one of only a few events which continues with the Heavy Horse tradition. The Heavy Horse Show was an event which appeared from the 1974 revival.
The new site at Toynton All Saints was located to the right of the junction. Mount Wood was located at the top of the showground. This site was some forty 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 although the specific dates are not known.
The event would then move to a new site in Ashby by Partney. The Ashby site consisted of two 15 acre fields. Both of these were used over the course of the weekend, with one for car parking, with the second housing the main event. For the first show held at Ashby, the organisers had to lay a new road using three hundreds tonnes of chalk! Preparations for the event would often begin some four weeks beforehand, with the site being prepared by its owner, Mr V. Ranyard.
Once this initial preparation was completed, members of the organising committee then moved in. For each event, 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 were able to set up. These detailed preparations did not only apply to the Ashby by Partney site, the same mammoth tasks had to be completed at both the Toynton and Eresby Hall sites. The logistics were simply staggering!
The Ashby by Partney years saw the event grow further and become increasingly popular. In a piece from Lincolnshire Life magazine dated July 1983, the event 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.”Lincolnshire Life Magazine | July 1983.
The event 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. John is still a part of the Spilsby Show today and is currently our Patron.
The 1990 Spilsby Show was the last to be held in Ashby by Partney. The event had been held there for many years and it was during its time at this location, that people regularly commented that it had become second only to the county’s Lincolnshire Show in both scale and stature.
In 1991, the Spilsby 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 on three consecutive years, during which the show had made an annual loss. It continued: “Spilsby Show looks like being drastically changed for 1991”.
At the 1990 Annual General Meeting, the event committee unanimously voted for a change in the Spilsby Show’s format. President Eric Dennett, was backed by the majority of the organisers when he suggested that they should all organise a smaller event with a new look for 1991. John Hudson, the Chairman at that time, commented that the financial results were very disappointing and the trend of losses over the past few years could not be sustained. A move back into Spilsby meant that the event had to downsize in order to fit onto the new site. The future of the Spilsby 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 organisers the unenviable task of searching for a new home big enough to accommodate the event. A new home was found and the show could go on and in 1991, it was back with a bang!
The 1991 Spilsby Show was an astonishing success. Press reports from July that year stated 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 organisers to distribute £7,000 to local organisations. Eric Dennett, President of the event at this time described the achievement:
“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”.Eric Dennett, Spilsby Show President | July 1991.
The 1991 event is widely acknowledged as the most successful Spilsby Show of all time. A cheque for £3,000 was handed to the Headteacher of Spilsby High School for new computer equipment. The secondary school was kind enough to offer the Grammar School playing field to the organisers as a new venue for the event. The new site was clearly a step in the right direction.
The organisers were struggling to find a new home for the event and it wasn’t until late 1990, when the Headteacher of the newly founded Spilsby High School suggested that the organisers use the Grammar School playing fields, that a new home was finally secured for the Spilsby Show. The move saw expenditure cut drastically when compared to the days of the Ashby by Partney events. The site was much smaller than the one at Ashby, meaning the event could no longer claim to be second in size to the Lincolnshire Show.
Three successful two day events were held on Partney Road before a further change followed. In July 1994, the Spilsby Show became a one day event. In the 1994 edition of the event programme, Chairman John Hudson explained why.
“Over the years, the show’s 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.”John Hudson, Spilsby Show Chairman | July 1994.
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.”John Hudson, Spilsby Show Chairman | July 1994.
The 1994 event also saw John Hudson step down as Chairman of the organising committee after nine years. John had been involved with the event 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.”John Hudson, Spilsby Show Chairman | July 1994.
After overseeing the first successful one day event, John handed over the Chairman’s post to Edward Robinson. Edward was Chairman of the event for five years, stepping down in 1999.
In 1998, a new event was introduced which would over time, become one of the Spilsby Show’s most popular attractions. The 6 mile road race – affectionally known as the ‘Spilsby Show Six’. Originally planned as a fun run and created for anyone 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 event moved again, the route was altered slightly, to accommodate the change of location.
The year 2000 would see the Spilsby Show held on Partney Road for the final time. The event had been there for nine years and it had over that time, developed into a hugely popular one day event. The new millennium also saw a new face take over as Chairman. Sue Clarke became Chairwoman in the year 2000, the first female to hold the post. 2001 however, would turn into a very difficult year for the agricultural community, with the severe outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. The 2001 event was cancelled as a result.
In July 2002, the Spilsby Show came home! It returned to the site it had occupied when it was revived in 1974. The previous showground on Partney Road was no longer available, as planning permission had been passed for the building of a new school. With no event taking place in 2001 and no home for the event secured, it was felt that this may see the event fold forever. At virtually the eleventh hour, a new home was found – the Spilsby Recreation Ground off Boston Road. The new site on Ancaster Avenue, saw the event return to the location it had occupied for several years in the 1970’s. The site was now smaller than it had been throughout the 1970’s as a result of the construction of the new A16 bypass. The new showground was in fact, no smaller than the one on Partney Road, however, access for vehicles would throw up a few problems!
It was well into 2002, before it was agreed to hold a Spilsby Show. Despite this, the first show back on Ancaster Avenue was a great success and gave the organisers some solid foundations on which to work with. Over the course of the next few years, the event would grow in size and scale and as a result, many charities would benefit as profits increased. A record amount was given away to good causes in 2008, before this was then surpassed in 2009. In 2005, Sue Clarke stepped down as Chairwoman after six years and from 2006, Charlie Millard would take over as Chairman.
In 2007, to avoid the event becoming stale, a new layout was adopted. A second park and ride service was also introduced. When the event returned to this location in 2002, there were known problems with the site. Car parking was a major issue however, having held the event successfully off Ancaster Avenue for six years at this point, the problems were steadily rectified. Despite torrential rain across Lincolnshire earlier in that year and on the days leading up to the event, the 2007 Spilsby Show went ahead in glorious sunshine. At the annual Presentation Night in November, the organisers distributed over £5,000 to local charities. This was the most money that the committee had been in a position to distribute since the event returned to the Spilsby Recreation Ground in July 2002. In 2008 and also, in the following year, the event would continue to break records!
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 2009, the organisers paid tribute to all of those that had helped make the event such a success.
A year later, at the 2010 Presentation Night, a record amount was distributed to local charities as a result of yet another hugely successful year – the 2010 event broke all previous records! The event was going from strength to strength.
The 2011 event took place on Sunday 10th July. Despite some breezy weather and cloudy spells, the event once again broke all previous records, enabling the organisers to distribute over £7,000 (another record amount) to over thirty worthwhile causes in October 2011. The proceeds from that year also helped fund the cost of a new extension to the Spilsby Pavilion which will guarantee the future of the event on the Spilsby Recreation Ground. The Spilsby Recreation Ground Committee also held the grand opening of the new extension on the same evening so the many beneficiaries 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 organisers made lightly however it was the best option for all concerned. With so much hard work going into the organising of the event, cancelling the Spilsby Show hit everyone hard but the committee would bounce back.
The 2013 Spilsby Show was held on Sunday 14th July. Having had a year off, the appetite to return was felt by all concerned. It was yet another, record year for the organisers. Thanks to some great weather, there were no concerns about the rain this time around! 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 organisers distributed in excess of £9,000 to local charities and organisations.
The 2014 event would see the Spilsby Show celebrate a birthday. The organisers marked the 40th birthday of the Spilsby Show’s revival in 1974. A number of special events were planned and they were warmly received.
The Spilsby Show continued to grow and would over the coming years, remain a very successful event. Thousands of pounds were donated to local charities and worthwhile causes on an annual basis with so many people expressing their thanks to the organisers. The event continued to evolve and additional attractions were added to ensure that the format remained fresh.
In 2018, after serving as Chairman of the event for thirteen years, Charlie Millard stepped down. During his tenure, the event had grown into a well established date on the county’s calendar and also, the amount that the organisers had been able to donate had increased considerably. The annual Presentation Night that took place in October would give the organisers the chance to thank Charlie for his loyal service and also pay tribute to a number of long serving committee members who had made the decision to step down.
A number of new committee members would join the committee in 2019. The new Chairman of the Spilsby Show was Brendan Bugg. Having visited the show as a small child, before joining the organising committee in 2006, taking over as Chairman would be a great honour, following in the footsteps of a number of people who had served the committee so well, for so long.
The 2019 Spilsby Show was affected by some poor weather and attendance was harmed as a result. A considerable increase in operating costs also meant that whilst the event was still considered a success, the amount that was distributed to good causes was reduced. It still represented a positive start for the new Chairman and also the newest members of the committee. A definite platform on which to build.
Planning for the 2020 Spilsby Show was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and on 25th March 2020, the organisers announced that the event had been cancelled. There was a huge sense of disappointment however, it was the right decision for all concerned. Regrettably, with the pandemic continuing to dominate the headlines in the early part of 2021, on 1st February the committee announced that the 2021 Spilsby Show would also be cancelled. There was once again, a real sense of disappointment however the safety of everyone involved is the most important aspect of any event. It was felt that a safe Spilsby Show would be very hard to achieve.
The organisers have already vowed to bounce back. The next Spilsby Show will take place on Sunday 9th July 2023. It will at that time, have been four years since there was a Spilsby Show and whilst there is obviously a feeling of disappointment, it gives everyone the opportunity to bounce back with a Spilsby Show fit for the modern age!
The Spilsby Show has only been cancelled four times since it returned to the Spilsby Recreation Ground (in 2012, 2020, 2021 and 2022). Everyone is already working hard behind the scenes to ensure that the next one is a huge success.
“I wrote in my 2019 introduction that I had some big shoes to fill. The 2019 show was a positive experience for me and thanks to the committee, we still had a successful show despite poor weather and increased costs. The fact that I will have served as Chairman for three more years before we all get the chance to come together again is a real shame and obviously a disappointment. The shoes don’t feel like they fit properly yet! The pandemic however, has brought home to all of us, the importance of family, friends and looking after our communities. The Spilsby Show is a part of that and when we return in 2023, we’ll be looking forward to welcoming everyone back in a safe environment. For now, please stay safe. Please keep the date in your diary though – we all need something to look forward to.”Brendan Bugg, Spilsby Show Chairman | February 2022.
Do you have any information?
We would like this page to develop over time. The Spilsby Show has such a glorious past and we would like to build up a definitive history. If you have any information, pictures, press cuttings or video which may help us, please get in touch with us. If there is an error in this article, let us know. The accuracy of the material is as important as the quantity.