Archived film footage of Great Yorkshire Show to get big screen treatment

Britain was still in the grip of the Industrial Revolution, Queen Victoria was on the throne and the fashion of the day dictated that some men would wear two waistcoats at a time to achieve the tightly cinched waistline that was all the rage.

In 1838, agriculture looked considerably different too, though perhaps not all of the founding fathers of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, pictured, were the sort to rigidly obey the fashion prescriptions of the time.

For them, it was a galvanising period of revolution as well. Agriculture was changing apace. Horse-powered threshing machines had displaced workers, new fertilisers were coming to the market and more farmland was being given over for livestock grazing than ever before.

In this same year, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society held its first ever Great Yorkshire Show, staged at Fulford in York.

The founders of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society. Pictures courtesy of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

The show, just as the industry it depicts to this day, has evolved ever since and that story of great change will be shared with visitors when the Great Yorkshire Show opens for an historic 160th time next month.

To celebrate the three-day event’s anniversary, two historical projects have been underway to chart how Yorkshire’s premier agricultural showcase and farming has altered over the years.

In a first for the Great Yorkshire Show, a big screen on the President’s Lawn will show film footage put together by the Yorkshire Film Archive of past shows. A series of specially-curated short films will also be broadcast on a big screen in the Main Ring and in the Exhibition Room at the on-site Yorkshire Event Centre.

Snippets of the archived footage are being shared on social media every Monday to tease the full clips - with the first snippet uploaded last night - until the show returns on July 10.

A scene from the Great Yorkshire Show held in Harrogate in 1959.

Graham Relton, manager of the Yorkshire Film Archive, said: “We scoured the millions of feet in our vaults to uncover the really iconic and most engaging material on both Yorkshire agriculture and the Great Yorkshire Show over the last 100 years.

“Using both professional and amateur footage shot we have created a number of packages. As a regional charity it is brilliant to bring back this film heritage to one of the places where it was originally shot.”

Mr Relton added: “The show has changed massively over the years but captured in the frames of celluloid preserved at the Yorkshire Film Archive are images that remind us how in some ways it has remained very much the same and I am sure these images will really resonate with the audience at the show.”

As part of the nostalgic trip an exhibition of historical farming scenes and interpretive panels on farming in the Washburn Valley and the Great Yorkshire Show will also be on display in the Yorkshire Event Centre.

The Queen paying a visit to the Great Yorkshire Show in 1957.

Compiled by a team from the Washburn Heritage Centre at Fewston near Harrogate, the exhibition will explore themes such as agricultural machinery through the years, drystone walls and the role of women in farming to mark the centenary of female emancipation.

Deborah Power, the Centre’s archive leader, said her favourite image was of straw being stooked in a field.

“We spent many hours on research, including talking to experts and reading old newspaper reports to gather as much information as possible and we have been able to draw on the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s own archives of pictures. For example, the idea to feature women’s emancipation in the exhibition came from a photo of the Women’s Electrical Association exhibiting at the show.”

The Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s show director Charles Mills hailed the historical contributions to the 160th show and said: “It would be marvellous if visitors to the show recognise relatives, events or places that mean a lot to them.”

Mr Mills said the film footage depicts how much farming, and the show, has altered.

“There has been enormous change, in technology, in livestock breeding, and that’s because we’ve had to feed more people. Production has had to improve and technology has had a big part to play.

“As a small boy going to the Show in short trousers, I remember so much of what’s in the footage.

“Everything has modernised but those who moved the show to a permanent showground (in 1951) deserve a lot of credit for being so forward thinking. I hope they would have been proud of what we do today.”

The Great Yorkshire Show will be held at the Harrogate Showground on July 10-12.