Village show prize fund was equivalent of £8,600

THIS week we take a closer look at the annual agricultural and horticultural shows held at Chobham towards the end of the 19th century.

A previous Peeps article included a photograph from the village show sometime in the 1890s – and now we bring you more details, thanks to the extensive coverage provided in the then-named Woking News.

HARD AT WORK – Milkmaids at Medhurst’s Dairy in the early 1900s, pictured on a postcard published by the family’s printing and stationery business

The 1895 Chobham, Windlesham, Horsell and Bisley Agricultural Society’s show was held on Wednesday 23 October.

“Though the day was not an ideal one for standing out ‘in the open’, a fairly good number of people interested in agriculture gathered about the neighbourhoods of Smith’s Farm, Halebourne, and Flexlands Farm (adjoining the village hall) – the acreage of both farms being sufficiently extensive for all the teams, and men engaged in digging – the spectators having full view of the work,” reported the newspaper.

The show also featured a ploughing match, prizes for the best teams of carters, rick building, thatching and a competition for digging four rods of land.

Peeps reader Mark Coxhead has looked at reports of several of these shows in the back copies of newspapers held on microfilm at the Surrey History Centre in Woking.

Mark has tabulated results of the competitions for 1895. What becomes apparent is the prize money awarded across the 72 categories.

For example, ploughing, two horses without a driver: J Darling was first, winning 20 shillings. Runner-up was G Heather, receiving 15 shillings, and third was A Medhurst, who was awarded 10 shillings.

The root category, best collection: HP Leschallas came first, winning 21 shillings. R Fladgate was second, receiving 14 shillings, with FG Williamson finishing third and being given seven shillings.

The butter and eggs section, dozen new-laid eggs: WA Medhurst came first, taking home five shillings for his entry. The runner-up prize went to R Cotton, who scooped three shillings and sixpence.

There were categories for gardeners and cottagers for growing fruit and vegetables.

In the latter, E Higgs is listed five times, either as a winner, runner-up or coming third. He earned a total of 11 shillings.

These may seem like small amounts, but when adding some of the individual prize monies together and comparing them with the equivalent value today, HP Leschallas took home what would be £695 in 2020.

The boys from Bisley Farm School made just over £3 from their entries – today that would be around £400. WA Medhurst took home around the same amount.

Total prize money was the equivalent of around £8,600 today, many times more than is awarded at 21st century Chobham Shows.

The Medhurst family have been associated with Chobham for several generations, running businesses in the village including a chemist’s, a stationer’s and a printer’s.

John Medhurst is currently vice chairman of West End Parish Council, and a Chobham Show committee member.

He recalls that his grandfather, Horace, worked at the family’s Deep Pool Farm, off Station Road, Chobham, from about the 1930s until he bought his own farm at West End. John’s great grandfather was WA Medhurst.

It was a mixed farm, hence WA Medhurst being successful at the 1895 show with his root vegetables, corn, barley, eggs, potatoes, parsnips, celery, onions, dessert and cooking apples, and grapes.

John says A Medhurst’s first name was Aubrey. He was the manager of a farm at West End, off Hookstone Lane, and at one time ran a butcher’s shop in St John’s.

* IF you have some memories or old pictures relating to Woking and its people, 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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