In 1886, the Godmanchester Horticultural Society held its first show. A newspaper report on the show in the following year, 1887, confidently refers to it as an annual event, and describes a very successful and entertaining day. The show was held in the grounds of The Holme, then owned by Mr P.E.Tillard.
"The day was very fine and hot and the company large. A large tent was erected for the reception of the exhibits, which consisted of fruit, flowers and vegetables. The show was very large and a good one, exceeding the expectations of the inhabitants, and much praise is due to the Secretaries (Messrs A.E. Mar-getts and W. Gadsby and the Treasurer (Mr J. Bright) for their exertions in the arrangement of the show. The band of the Hunts Militia was in attendance and discoursed some lively music upon a platform. The lawn tennis ground was marked out for the delectation of those who liked to play and dancing was carried on vigorously. The ground was prettily decorated with numerous flags and Venetian masts.
There were some beautiful begonias and fuchsias which greatly added to the grandeur of the scene. There was a fair show in the class for cut flowers, the roses being very fine. The wall fruit and grapes were quite a picture and the vegetables taking in consideration the dryness of the season, were well grown roots. The bouquets of both cultivated and wild flowers were carefully filled up and nicely arrayed, and upon the whole showed up Godmanchester as a very productive locality. It is believed the show will increase in importance and that in course of time it will assume greater pro portions. Everything connected with it passed admirably. "(Hunts County Guardian l3th August 1887)
Annual town shows certainly did become well-established in Godmanchester, although there were occasional breaks, for example, just before and during the First World War. They were held in various venues, including the gardens of The Chestnuts, Riverside and Chadleigh House, but were most often hosted by the Towgood family, and later Marshall Sisson at Farm Hall. Regular reports appeared in local newspapers.
"Although the weather was as disastrous as it could be for the early preparation of the annual show of the Godmanchester Horticultural Society on Bank Holiday, the afternoon turned out a little more favourable, and a large number paid for admission to the grounds of Chadleigh House, where the show was held in a large marquee.
The Committee had a busy morning in staging the exhibits being confronted with an entry of 700 compared with 150 when the" annual "show was revived last year. Splendid lots of vegetables were brought together, indeed the display all round was suggestive of what used to be seen in the borough when this flower show was the biggest summer event of the county.
The strong feature of Monday was the grand assortment of vegetables, the collection calling forth much admiration. Potatoes were good in all classes, some of the carrots were wonderful and the cabbages in the cottage section were excellently shown.
Mr J. Boot carried off the Silver Challenge Cup presented by Mr A. Pledger J.P for the highest number of points in the cottagers' classes. Two of the table decorations were of outstanding excellence and many beautiful flowers came from Mr G. Hunnybun's garden.
Children made an attractive display with wild flowers and several classes for honey, poultry and needlework added interest to the exhibition whilst Mr Pledger's well-kept grounds afforded pleasure for the visitors. Eynesbury and St. Neots Town Band played during the afternoon and for dancing in the evening." (Hunts Post 10th August 1922)
An extraordinarily good show in view of the season' was the opinion shared by judges and the general public at Godmanchester Horticultural Society's annual Show held in the grounds of Farm Hall lent by Mr. R.L. Towgood on Monday.
Brilliant sunshine attracted a large crowd and a remarkable feature of the event was a baby show, nearly 70 babies attending with their proud mothers.
Mr. A.H. Kisby the energetic joint Secretary of the show again walked away with the bronze medal for the most points in the division open to all residents of Godmanchester. Mr. Kisby has been head of this division since 1935 without a break." (Hunts Post 4th August 1938)
In 1943, there was a "Victory Garden Show" held at Riverside, and it raised £160 for the Red Cross. The organisers this time were the Godmanchester Allotment Association and the hostess was Mrs Garrard.
"Mr. G.E. Wells was organising secretary, assisted by the Committee of the Association of which Mr. Stanley Pettit is chairman, and members of the Red Cross organisation, including Miss P. Looker, Assistant County Controller.
The Mayor and Mayoress of Godmanchester (Ald and Mrs. W.E. Ashley) were most active supporters of the effort, and the Mayoress performed the opening ceremony at which Miss P. Looker told of the great work of the Red Cross especially the branch sending parcels to British prisoners-of-War.
In addition to the garden show other popular attractions included a fancy dress parade by the children, a baby show and also Maypole and Country dancing by pupils from the local Girls' School, trained by Miss Thackray, headmistress." (Hunts Post 5th August 1943)
By the 1960s there were fewer town shows reported in Godmanchester. There is a Hunts Post report of a 1965 show, held in the Commemoration Hall in Huntingdon and organised by the Huntingdon, Godmanchester and District Green Fingers Club.
The Godmanchester Town Show was revived successfully in 2015 and the next show will be on 3rd September 2016.
For more details please visit WWW.godmanchestertownshow.uk
With thanks to Mike Grice and the Staff of the Huntingdonshire Collection, Huntingdon Library.