Honley Show: New venue for 'shop window of agriculture' and pig classes to return for first time since 2017

Several summer agricultural shows have found themselves stumped for new venues from time to time during their proud histories and last year one of West Yorkshire’s longest serving shows returned to the scene of its first official Honley Show Society show, for its centenary event.

Honley Show Centenary Event took place at Honley Cricket Club where it had all started in 1921, having shed its earlier name of Honley Floral, Horticultural & Agricultural Society which also held the famous show at the cricket ground in the 19th century.

In more recent times, the show that regularly attracts around 8,000 has been held at Farnley Tyas, but this year it has found a new home in Wilshaw where it will be held on Saturday, July 23.

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Honley Show retains its agricultural show emphasis with excellent classes of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, poultry and heavy horses and one man who gets involved is looking forward to a return of his favourite animals.

Honley Show in 2010Honley Show in 2010
Honley Show in 2010
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John Wreakes is the secretary of the pig classes that had been absent for over half a century before they were restarted in the last decade. The Honley Show Centenary Event commemorative programme stated that pigs had been dropped from the schedule in 1956 despite being commonly kept on farms and smallholdings in the area.

Veteran pig breeder and showman John said he had been asked to take on the pigs secretary role for 2013.

“I said I’d try to get enough to make a decent show of them and in 2013 and until 2017 we did very well, getting up to 50 entries. I remember the then deputy chairman of the show coming up to me and saying that when I’d told him we would get over 20 he would have been surprised.”

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Due to restrictions on pig movements and then Covid regulations Honley Show’s pig classes have once again been missing since 2017.

John said he is working hard on bringing the numbers back to a decent number for this year’s Honley Show at the new venue.

“It’s becoming harder with the cost of fuel making from getting to and from every show more difficult, but I like Honley Show very much and I want to keep the pig classes going or at least get them back going since we’ve lost the momentum we had created.

“I’m passionate about my pigs and those of others. My wife Mary and I had a really good time showing our own Victoria herd of pedigree British Saddlebacks at many shows and we had great success, but we are retired from showing now. We have made some great friends in the pig showing world and hopefully we will have our regulars there like Tricia Horsley and her family from Acaster Selby and Mandi Garbutt from North Yorkshire with her pedigree Gloucester Old Spots along with several more. I’m hoping we can come back with at least around 20-25 pigs on the showground.”

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In the 1930s, Honley Show’s cattle section was referred to as the shop window of agriculture and John said it still does well for both cattle and sheep entries.

“We try to keep the show traditional. It’s still very much a farming show. Judith Patrick is the cattle section secretary and Chris Taylor of Royd Farm, Meltham is the sheep section secretary.

“There are great people involved everywhere and one of the main people has to be our chairperson, Sheila Turner, who is a real driving force behind the show. I’d also like to mention two great characters John and Sue Purvis. John was show chairman for a number of years and Sue is still show secretary.

“Everyone involved puts such a lot of effort into putting on a great show to keep up the standard of shows of the past. One of the major problems when having to find a new venue around this area is to find somewhere big enough and flat enough. I think we are all looking forward to making a success of the new venue on Wilshaw Mill Road this year.

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“What I think makes Honley Show even more special is the people. Show day comes around and it is one great big mass of friendly people who all come to have a good time.”

One local company based in the centre of Honley has had a long history with the show, going back to the late 1940s.

Tom Moorhouse & Son Ltd was established in Honley in 1887 and it is one of the oldest transport companies in the UK. The fourth generation of the family, brothers and sister Chris and Tim Moorhouse and Josie Galloway, are the heritage sponsor of this year’s show.

In recent years, the company has sponsored the heavy horse section in recognition of the contribution the heavy horse had to the founding of the business.

Tradition and a new beginning will meet when Honley Show takes place on Wilshaw Mill Road this year, Saturday, July 23.