1903 – Sixty-Fourth Royal Agricultural Society Exhibition

In an attempt to stem the almost predictable losses involved in holding the annual show and exhibition at different locations around the country each year The Royal Agricultural Society decided to develop a permanent showground. To this end they purchased a large site, from the Twyford Abbey estate, north-west London, which they named Park Royal. It is reported that Society spend in excess of £70,000 on the site and its development.

The first show at their new home took place between 23rd and 27th July 1903 and was reputedly the largest show the Society had held since the 1989 show in Birmingham, with 2,160 livestock, 763 poultry, 496 produce entries, in addition to 456 stands and 14, 485 feet of shedding in the implementation yard[1]. However, the omens were not good, as visitor numbers were down on the previous show, held in Carlisle, which ran up large losses and less than the previous four shows (Park Royal – 63,013; Carlisle – 93,187 (held over 6days); Cardiff – 167,423; York – 87,511; Maidenhead – 68,576)[2]. This was against a lot of infrastructure put in place to make it easier for visitors to reach the site, including new roads, train stations, etc.

Gateway to the Royal Agricultural Show Grounds

The firm attended the first show, with Messrs. Boulton and Paul, and Duncan Tucker, amongst others. Here they displayed[3]:-

  • A 23ft 6in. by 12f.t span-roofed propagating house.
  • An elaborate multi-sided conservatory, with finials cameo mouldings and iron friezes.
  • Permanent and portable wood staging.
  • Iron staging with both sheet iron bottoms and ¾ self faces slate bottoms.
  • Orchid staging with ‘water feet’ and a teak slatted top.

 

Orchid staging with ‘water feet’ and a teak slatted top

The permanent show ground proved an unsuccessful adventure and having only held two shows before the Society returned to hold the annual show at various locations across the country. They sold the Park Royal for development; part of the site was occupied by a munitions factory during World War One; today it is a thriving industrial estate and one of Europe’s largest covering around 500 hectares.


References:

  1. The Western Times, 9th June 1903.
  2. The Northampton Mercury, 3rd July 1903.
  3. Private Records.