The history of the Royal Welsh Show

Thursday 14 July 2011, 14:15

Phil Carradice Phil Carradice

No doubt about it. You either love the Royal Welsh Show and can happily spend hours wandering around the show ground every July - or you hate it with a vengeance and sit there, in your car, fuming as you try to navigate your way around Builth Wells. Whichever category you fall into, one thing is sure - you can't ignore it.

The Royal Welsh Show came to Llanelwedd at Builth Wells for the first time on 23 July 1963. Before then it had led a peripatetic life, the show being held at no fewer than 37 different locations, alternating between the north and the south.

The new show ground, slap bang in the middle of Wales, was an ideal venue being relatively easily reached from most parts of the country.

Heddiw filming the show jumping at The Royal Welsh Show, Llanelwedd, Builth Wells 1963

The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society was founded in 1904. It was then called, simply, the Welsh National Agricultural Society and the inaugural meeting, when rules and regulations were set down, took place at the House of Commons in London.

Twenty well-known and established figures from the field of agriculture made up the initial forum and right from the start it was clear that the main aim of the society was to encourage the growth and development of agriculture throughout the whole of Wales.

The early days of the society were not easy. There were arguments between members and finances were usually perilous. Nevertheless, the society survived, holding its first annual show at Aberystwyth in 1904, the year of its creation.

For that first meeting there were just over 400 livestock entries; within four years that figure had risen enormously with over 200 cattle trucks and horse boxes making their way to the seaside town. Twenty three special trains had to laid on in order to cater for the visitors and those wishing to show their livestock.

The Royal Welsh Show has continued to grow. These days livestock entries number around 8,000 each year and 20,000 cars are expected every day of the four day gathering. Many people bring their camper vans or tents and spend the week in and around Builth Wells. No wonder something of a log jam can be created at certain times! As anyone who has ever been to the show will tell you, the experience is well worth the effort.

The first show at the new ground in Llanelwedd in 1963 brought in just over 40,000 people. These days that figure has risen to an average of 200,000. In 2004, the centenary year, 227,360 people made their way to the ground and since then the attendance figures have continued to climb.

Heddiw at the Royal Welsh Show 1963, Llanelwedd, Builth Wells

The Royal Welsh Show has the avowed aim of showcasing the very best of Welsh livestock and certain days - such as the Welsh cob day - have become important moments in the rural year. But the show is more than just livestock. There are stalls and exhibitions, displays of country sports and traditional Welsh crafts. The showcasing of high quality Welsh food and drink makes a visit to the show almost compulsory.

The Royal Welsh Show is not just for farmers and those who live in the country - these days there are almost as many town dwellers to be found around the show ring. The show is an important part of the Welsh social calendar, for everyone, regardless of where they live or their occupation. It is something not to be missed.

Don't forget to check out he BBC Wales Nature website every day for the latest blogs and galleries from the Royal Welsh Show and to watch Royal Welsh Show 2011 on BBC Two Wales from Monday 18 July to Thursday 21 July, when Sara Edwards, Rachael Garside and Rhys Jones will explore the highlights from the show.

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    Comment number 1.

    When the Royal Welsh was held on Haverfordwest's Racecourse in 1955, I was 13 and we boys knew enough of the hedgerows around the 'Course to get in for nothing. We had a wonderful three days, with temperatures hitting 80 degrees each day (and no, that isn't just a recollection). Much later, I checked back on Western Telegraph reports on the show, to flesh out a poem I wrote about it for the magazine Borderlines, and discovered that there were around 100,00 visitors for those 3 days (or 100,003, if you count those of us who'd got in over the hedge!), that the Open Champion was an eight-year-old Jersey called Wychwood Esprit, that there were Welsh Blacks, Ryelands, Suffolks and Wiltshire Horns, hunters, hacks and cobs, Welsh corgis, Sealyhams and Cairns (I'm starting to quote my poem now!) that there were visitors there from Pakistan, Belgrade, Nyasaland and Jamaica, and - the most bizarre and un-Pembrokeshire-farmer thing of all, by 3 o'clock on the third day the milk bar had run dry!

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    Comment number 2.

    Pembrokeshire farmers drinking milk? It just doesn't seem right, somehow. Things have certainly changed since my days down there! I presume they moved on to the pubs and bars of Haverfordwest once the show had finished for the day?

 

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