Watton Show must surely be one of the first agricultural shows to be held in Norfolk, having originally started in the 1790's as a show for cottage garden and home produce, but by the turn of the century there were a few classes for cattle and farm crops. From the old minute books that I have seen, the most interesting class then was for "The best pair of Working Oxen". An entry in the show minute book for the 6th November 1851 reads, "That the Rt. Hon. the Lord Walsingham be re quested to continue the Office of President of the Society". It is reasonably certain that successive Lord Walsingham's have been the Show's President from its inception right through to the present time.
In a report of a show committee meeting held in 1856 it was decided to withdraw the class that year for the "Best two working Devon Bullocks". Presumably by that time horses had almost completely taken over the ploughing from the oxen. By this time there were classes for horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, rabbits and the usual farm crops of mangel-wurzels, swedes and turnips.
My own memory of Watton Show, as it was usually referred to in those days goes back to 1919, but for a number of years it was called the Wayland Exhibition and for many years now, the Wayland Agricultural Show.
Between the two world wars it was always held on the two meadows now occupied by the Library, Police Station, George Trollope, East, West, North and South roads. The entrance to it was through Mr Goddard's farm yard, where the veterinary surgery is now. At this time it was always held on a Wednesday, usually between 10th and 22nd September. The actual date being governed by the an ticipated date that the harvest would be completed by and fixed accordingly, although due to our unpredictable weather this did not always work out satisfactorily and when the show was held before the completion of harvest it seriously affected the attendance.
A Show Day scene in the High Street in the late 1800's.
In the 1920's Watton Show Day was the only day's holiday many villagers and farm workers had each year, so it is only natural that they looked forward to it weeks ahead and great was their disappointment if the harvest was not completed before the day, as many farmers insisted that the harvest must come first and both men and master then missed the show. This probably happened in 1879 when the takings on the gate were only £ 3 10s. 4d.