Wanborough Show has a long history, with records going back to the begining of last century, referring to the Wanborough feast and sports day. Personally my earliest memories of the show go back to the 60's when the carnival was in its heyday, 20 or more floats were common and the procession brought people from far and wide and the village to a standstill.
The show then also seemed bigger, I remember there being a large funfair and many tents and stalls. All this is surrounded in the golden glow of childhood memories and the reality is probably different
If there are any of you out there that have specific memories of the show in the last 50 years, or any memorabilia, especially photos, from that period we would like to hear from you. These items can be displayed here to illustrate the history of the show and how it has changed over the years. We would also like to build a lasting archive of show material before these things are lost forever.
The history of Wanborough as the site of a market and fair goes right back to 1252 in the reign of King Stephen, but the tradition of a show in August came down to us in the form of The Wanborough Feast. In his history of the village written in 1888, William Morris says
By the 1930's the Feast day had developed into a rather more restrained affair. Pam Smith, who's father was the landlord of the Brewers Arms, remembers, 'It was the same day every year and it was a school holiday. They used to have a funfair at the back of The Brewers, and there were sports behind the Hall. The Fair always came for the Wanborough Feast. There were swings and roundabouts, and the gypsy people used to make toffee apples.'
Noreen Fulford has another memory, 'I'm told that I went to see somebody walking on burning coals at the back of The Brewers, that must have been the fair.'
Doris Carter remembered stalls down the street at those early shows, 'It was all horses carts and waggons in them days, no motor vehicles like it is today.' Doris also recalled dances, 'There used to be a hut in Upper Wanborough, where the council houses are now, Start Groves used to have his cobblers there. There used to he a big hut because Nan used to do the catering for the dances. The jockeys came down from Foxhill. They asked Stan if they could come. He said they'd behave themselves and they did.'
The War Years
The Show was to grow to a major event, largely spurred on by the Second World War, the National Fire Service and two bakeries. As Jim Hewer told me, 'My father, Bob Hewer, and Cyril Gray, from Grays The Bakers in Swindon. They said we'll get together and that's where it started. The Fire Service sort of started it off, getting the Carnival going. There was Harry Higgins and some of the chaps that worked for us. They ran the show to collect for "Wings for Victory"'
That was in 1942, when the first Carnival Queen was Mary Stratford, (who later married Jim) 'They used to have the Carnival on Wednesday. I know because I started work on Monday and was Carnival Queen on Wednesday. We used to have to go round and sell tickets for the Show, and the person who sold the most tickets was the Carnival Queen.'
In the following year the Herald and Advertiser of 13 August was able to report 'Despite the stress of the times, the Sports and Show Week's programme of indoor and outdoor attractions at Wanborough was heartily supported.' A whole week of events included Fancy Dress, Six-a-Side football a Married vs. Single football match (won by the Singles 5-3), Maypole and Folk Dancing. Cycling events, Pillow Fighting, Children's sports, a Dog Show (one class was for 'The Prettiest Owner with The Ugliest Dog), a Flower and Vegetable show (with 209 entries in 40 classes) and five Ladies Events including an 'Ankle Competition'. Noreen Fulford explains, 'They used to have these competitions years ago, for the best ankles. There used to be some screens, with a space at the bottom so you could see their ankles, but you couldn't see the people they belonged to.'
Among the twenty members of the committee that year were Mr. C. A. Gray (Hon. General Secretary), Mr. G. Gibbs (Flower Show Secretary), Mr. H. J. Higgins (Hon. Treasurer), The Rev E. Milner Swift (Chairman), Mr. R. Hewer (Vice-chairman), Mrs M. Horton and Mr. F. Roberts who 'kept the crowds well informed through the field loud-speaker.'
The Shows were held in the Village Hall, with the Recreation Field behind it used for the outdoor events and sports. As well as the show there was The Carnival Procession; Jim Hewer, 'We used to go front the Village Hall, along Berrycroft, up Pack Hill into Upper Wanborough. That's a long way! So then we started from Warneage Green, that was the collecting area, then we went down Kite Hill to the Rec. That was the route at the finish, and that was enough because of the people walking. I used to ride Mrs. Heywood Jones's polo pony. He was a bit of a devil to ride, because they're very quick stepping horses. I used to lead the procession, and when they started up the music he used to sort of dance and stand on his hind legs.'
It's hard to compare the situation of today with the 30's and 40's when a trip into Swindon was still regarded by most people as something special. Then the Show was a highlight of the year, as Jean Kent explains, 'There used to be a lot of excitement when it was coming round. It was a real proper event. When you couldn't travel very easily, it was ideal, it gave people something to look forward to.'
Jean's husband Roy was the secretary of the Horticultural Show for 35 years and a regular winner of classes and cups. 'Roy was on all week getting his entries ready. On Wednesday he was out inspecting the flowers, cutting them, bringing them in and putting them in cool corners trying to encourage them to come out just that little bit more. He had piles of vegetables out there, he'd dig them all up, trying to find 6 to match or whatever, and we'd have boxes of vegetables for weeks to use up. Roy used to be up at 6 o'clock in the morning getting all his exhibits collected up.' Roy's pride and joy were his begonias, 'When he was working and it was at the Village Hall I can remember being asked to take The Begonia up. They're very tender, one touch and the leaves will crack and I had to take it up on my bike. I had it tucked under my arm and I got it there. I went very slow!.'