History of Sherfield Show

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The first Sherfield Village Flower and Produce Show was held in September 1966 and was conceived as a new way to raise money for the 3rd Basingstoke (Sherfield) Scout Troop.  Jim Searle, Harry Moore and Bert Bowman took over the fundraising side of the Scouts and between them came up with the idea of a Show and Fete.  Other well-known villagers from the early days were - Jean Wright, Percy Sims, Sandy Johnston, Sonner and Albert Bowman, to name but a few.

They began with £27 in the kitty and the help of Scout leaders, friends and families. Taking ideas from shows they’d visited and borrowing vases from Old Basing and Basingstoke Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society, things began to take shape.  Then, as now, the ‘Show Bible’ or ‘standard reference’ was the Horticultural Show Handbook. This outlines the Royal Horticultural Society Rules, gives details for staging and judging exhibits and makes suggestions on scheduling and organisation.  There’s always been a copy to hand at every Sherfield Show! Local contacts soon provided a team of judges. Lord Sherfield’s gardener, Mr Alvaris, did sterling work in the Horticultural Divisions over the years, as did Mrs Collins from QMC on the Domestic side. Two other noteworthy judges were Mrs Singleton and Mr Cooke. Judges give their services freely and often won’t even accept the travel expenses offered. Divisions for that first show were Flower, Floral Art, Vegetable, Fruit and Domestic (Cookery) and most of the trophies we use today were generously donated then. Lord Sherfield gave the Sherfield Trophy (Horticultural Classes) and the Turgis Green MP gave the Gresham-Cooke Trophy (Flower Division).  Local businesses, farmers and well-wishers contributed to a splendid array of awards.  As new divisions were added, so new trophies have been donated, too.  Scoutmaster Jim Searle, working at Bramley Camp, shared his enthusiasm for scouting with the Camp Commander and the Bramley Camp Shield for Handicrafts was added. Mr S Eustace was a great competitor and gave the Eustace Cup for combined points in the Domestic Division. Today we also have awards for wine, photography and the Bowman, Brain and Elphick Cups for childrens’ classes.

The first show venue was a marquee in Boxer’s Field; sometime home of the old horse ‘Boxer’ and now SCATS Garden Centre. North Foreland Lodge and the Old Rectory hosted further shows.   The marquees usually came from the Scouts, but Bert remembers negotiating for a marquee with Tadley Guides!  In later years, the move was made into the Village Hall at the centre of the village. Once schedules were printed and been delivered to every house in the village by the scouts, all was set!  However, as every organiser knows,  there’s one thing you can’t control!  There was a terrible storm and  the weight of water coming through the roof onto the tables wreaked havoc with the exhibits.  Nearly everything had to be re-staged.  “At first, you couldn’t move in the tea tent, as we all ran for cover.  But, everyone rallied round, the judges were very understanding and the show was a great success, netting a profit of £50 – a tidy sum in those days.” Lady Sherfield presented the prizes, with over 150 entries and 200-300 in attendance.  The judges praised the high standards.  Willis the jewelers engraved the awards. The Third Show was held on 24 August 1968 with a fete and baby competition. Over 300 attended in bright sunshine. The Show Secretary, Percy Sims, recorded 291 entries.

Bert and Hilda Bowman led the team for about 14 years and then brother Sonner Bowman took the reins with wife Grace and son Albert. Bert and Sonner advised Phil Davies in setting up Bramley’s Show, and Bert continued to auction their produce up until only 2 years ago. Only one year(1991) saw no Show – when Grace was in hospital. In 1994, with Bert again at the helm, the Bowman family decided it was time to retire and asked for volunteers to carry on what they had worked so hard to develop.

Having moved into the village, about fourteen years previously, Sally and Gordon Brain had taken a keen interest in the Show, exhibiting in vegetable, fruit and flower divisions.  Sally valued village life and "did not want to see the Show die." So, under the expert eyes of Bert and Albert, Sally prepared the 1995 Sherfield Show. Richard Elphick, Jenny and Laurie Butt and I offered her our help, too. Other committee members included Sheila Banham and Elizabeth Frewin.  Elizabeth kindly travelled back to Sherfield from her new home in South Wales to judge the Cookery section each year and to meet up with old friends. Sally said she didn’t want to make many changes, as it worked so well already! However, as fewer people grew vegetables and there was a boom in handicrafts, the schedule was slightly amended to reflect those changes. Neither were there classes for ‘plain boiled potatoes’ or ‘the most decorative salad, judged on variety of ingredients and appearance’.

The breaking of the link with the Scouts was another change.  During Sally’s stewardship, Show profits were donated to a different village organisation each year and their members were asked to help with the teasDo visit the Charities page to see the list of beneficiaries.

Many regular participants have helped to make the show a success over the years.  Some names that came to mind for Bert and Sonner were Arthur Kew, H J Isley, Mrs M West, Mr & Mrs M Durrant, Mrs N Welch, and Mrs Jackson who always gave a special prize for the longest runner bean.  Sonner always treasured a prize trowel won ‘years ago’!  Naturally, there have been many things to smile at - Gordon having his eye on Bert’s prize onions, Rev'd Bob Politt innocently bidding for Rosie Burgess’ whisky-laced jam, the absolute panic one year of receiving only 5 entries by the Wednesday before the Show and phoning every past entrant, writing entry cards ‘til gone midnight the night before or coming back two days early from holiday to set up!

Last September, 2008, after the prize-giving, Sally Brain announced she was retiring as Show Secretary after 15 years.  In recognition of her hard work Brian Raisborough paid tribute to Sally and she was presented with a lovely orchid. (see photo gallery).  You can see Sally’s last Committee on the following page. Huge thanks must also go to Gordon and their ‘grown-up’ children, Lucy, Sarah and Guy who have all played such an important part in the Show’s successes.  Sally will be sorely missed as Show Secretary, but promises to help out on Show Day if she and Gordon are at home.

A new Committee has been formed for the 2009 show,  if you would like to help please contact me.

Natalie Larner

Reprinted from: Loddon Valley Link Aug-2000
Updated Feb-2009