When Chobham embraced the beet generation

HUGE vegetables were set out for inspection in a photograph of what appears to be a farming competition in Chobham many decades ago.

The picture was taken in a field near the village hall and is probably of a class at the annual show run by the Chobham Agricultural and Horticultural Society.

Showtime – Judging the mangelwurzels at the Chobham Show in about the 1890s

The rear of St Lawrence Church can be seen in the background and the field that is now the cricket ground is on the other side of the hedge.

It is known that there were once allotments on the left-hand side of the hall in Station Road, which was built in 1888. This is a likely location for the show.

An Ordnance Survey map from the start of the 20th century depicts houses there, so we can conclude that the contest took place sometime in the 1890s, when it was still open ground.

 The “Ag & Hort” was founded in 1851 and has held annual shows nearly every year since.

The men are probably society officials and judges, and they are standing in front of a magnificent display of mangelwurzels or fodder beet. Large cabbages and other root vegetables are displayed under the hedge.

Chobham was a mainly rural area at the time, with farms rearing cattle, sheep and pigs. Other farmers grew food crops such as cabbage and potatoes, and large areas of the parish were given over to tree and plant nurseries.

Mangelwurzels and fodder beet were grown to be sliced up and fed to livestock during the winter, especially cows in milk, when grass was sparse and not very nutritious.

Signs in the photograph say “For Benham’s Prizes”, referring to a popular sponsor of many Chobham Shows over the years. A large shiny trophy would no doubt have been presented to the winner of the beet category.

The Benham family owned Town Mill, on the River Bourne on the edge of the village, which operated until 1960. They were also seed and corn merchants and ran Benham’s Stores in High Street, selling groceries and provisions, in the shop that is now the Pine & Oak Factory.

The photograph, a sepia picture taken and framed by The Sunningdale Studio at Sunningdale, was given to the News & Mail by Bob and Tuck Mumford, members of another Chobham family.

It had been found in the loft of people who were moving away from the village and discarding items they did not want to keep.

If you have some memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area, call David Rose on 01483 838960, or drop a line to the News & Mail.

David Rose is a local historian and writer who specialises in what he calls “the history within living memory” of people, places and events in the west Surrey area covering towns such as Woking and Guildford. He collects old photos and memorabilia relating to the area and the subject, and regularly gives illustrated local history talks to groups and societies. For enquiries and bookings please phone or email him at: davidrosemedia@gmail.com

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