Sykehouse Show brings Yorkshire’s longest village together

The sheaf tossing contest always brings the Sykehouse Show to a fitting close. Picture by Steve Riding.
The sheaf tossing contest always brings the Sykehouse Show to a fitting close. Picture by Steve Riding.
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When a Yorkshire village reputed to be the county’s lengthiest loses its one and only shop, and its school, the impact can hardly go unnoticed.

Such has been the case in Sykehouse over recent decades, and though a pub, village hall and church provide outlets around which pockets of community life revolve, there is nothing quite like a big outdoor summer event to bring everyone together.

Sykehouse Show returns tomorrow for its 133rd edition, a milestone due last year before torrential rain created a waterlogged showground that forced the show’s cancellation with just a week to go.

It had been 34-year-old Lisa Moxon’s first experience as show secretary, a disappointing one which she is looking forward to putting behind her when the show is held near Poplars Farm this weekend.

“It can be a little fragmented,” said Ms Moxon, who has lived all her life in the local community that stretches for eight miles along its main street. “That’s one of the main reasons why people come to the show. They can see relatives and friends they haven’t seen for ages. It pulls people together.

“We typically get around 4,000 to 5,000 people through the gate which isn’t bad for a small village community.”

Some visit the show purely for the intriguing finale, she said; a sheaf tossing contest whereby competitors use a pitch fork to attempt to launch a bag full of straw over a bar. This is still a traditional farming community at heart after all.

The whole show was nearly “snuffed out”, wrote one local, J W Duckitt, in a letter to Country Week this week, circumstances that stemmed from a decision by Harold Wilson.

As Prime Minister, Mr Wilson changed the August bank holiday from the first Monday of August to its last Monday. Before the change Sykehouse Show had always been held on the bank holiday Monday but the new public holiday date clashed with harvest time.

To try to counteract this, the show was moved to a Saturday at the beginning of August, but this created another problem. Then, Doncaster had a cattle market each Saturday, a fixture attended by most local farmers.

After a desperate show year in 1969, a new committee shifted the show date to the first Sunday of August. It was a bold move at a time when there were very few Sunday shows, but one which has secured the show’s future.

Anyone visiting the show tomorrow can expect to see a local trader selling apples that share the village’s name. The Sykehouse Russet is an old English variety that was thought to have been lost before it was rediscovered growing in gardens in Oxfordshire and the Doncaster area in 1999.

FACTS

Sykehouse lies on the South and East Yorkshire border and according to the 2011 Census was home to 515 residents.

The local parish is largely rural containing a handful of small hamlets and is bisected by the New Junction Canal.

The Parish Church of the Holy Trinity was built in 1869 by C. H. Fowler, using red bricks and a Gothic Revival style and is mostly Grade II listed.