WayLand Agricultural Society's Show

Either directly, or indirectly, all the agricultural community looked for a good harvest each year as times were very hard in those days and if the corn was not harvested in good condition everyone felt the pinch.

For many years it was customary for the show officials, their quests, judges and members etc., to partake of lunch in a large marquee when the main course was traditionally "Pigeon Pie". This item was withdrawn from the menu in the late 20's.

Boys of my generation looked forward to "show day" for weeks ahead and many of them registered their names with Sidney George, the Show Secretary, long before the day, to be con­ sidered for such tasks as programme selling, or that of escorting the judges of the various classes, carrying the coloured rosettes which they handed to the judge for tying on the selected winners. This job carried a higher status and the genial secretary allocated this important task to the older boys who had given satisfaction as programme sellers in previous years.

Winner of the Society's Prize for the Best Steer, not exceeding 15 months old, at The Wayland Agricultural Society's Show, Watton, 1903. Mr. J. Jessup, Redhill Nursery Farm, Watton.

Since the last war most show days have been held on a Saturday, or Sunday, and the records will show that attendance figures have been broken on a number of occasions since the show was held on Wednesdays. What the records will not reveal however is that in pre-war days the number of visitors attracted to the town on show days far exceeded the numbers that visit the town now. Just about everyone from a 12 mile radius came to Watton on show day, most of them on cycle and about one house in four in the town displayed a notice, "Cycles stored here 3d.". The farmers and their families came in their horse and traps and even as long ago as 1878 the Thetford and Watton Railway Co. advertised return tickets at single fares from Bury St. Edmunds, Thetford, Swaffham and all sta­ tions along the lines.

Many of the visitors however, never reached the show ground, preferring to spend the day in the public houses, or along the High Street and Market Place where there were a great variety of attrac­ tions including so called "Cheap Jacks", "Quack Doctors" and "Smart Alec's".

There were also men dancing bare footed on broken bottles, chewing broken glass into pulp and then swallowing it. Another man, stripped to the waist, would swallow a pocket watch on a long chain and invite a member of his audience to place an ear against his stomach to hear it ticking, and then withdraw it. Next, he would light a large flame torch and extinguish it by inserting it into the mouth and after a few seconds, opening his mouth, when a great billow of smoke would be released. Large crowds gathered to see this perverse form of entertainment and while it was being performed an accomplice was going round with a collecting box and it was not unknown for a few people to lose their wallets and other valuables.

The "cheap jacks" displayed a wide variety of goods on their stalls. One had crockery and would set up a dinner service on the large dish and auction it off in the reverse order, starting at a high price and gradually reducing it until he reached what he termed "the rock bottom price" and then they usually went like "hot cakes". At the same time as he was extolling their high quality he would toss them a few feet into the air and after they came clattering down in his hands, would invite anyone to inspect them and if they discovered one piece broken, he would given them the whole service free.

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