The Sandy and District Horticultural Association acknowledges with grateful thanks, the sterling efforts of former Association Secretary, David Thomas, who built the original website (which has now been fully updated into its current format) and compiled the following history:
Content has been taken from a number of sources, which are also acknowledged below and we are also grateful for the permissions given by Sandy Historical Research Group – a long time supporter of The Sandy Show and a regular attendee.
A short History of The Sandy Show
“The Greatest One-Day Show in England”
So it was billed in the 1920s.
The first Sandy Village Show was held in 1868.
The Sandy Floral & Horticultural Society was formed the following year and played a leading role in the subsequent Annual Shows.
The Sandy Show was held on the last Friday in August until 1893 when the day was changed to the last Thursday in August in order to allow shop workers to attend the Show on their half-day off.
From its inception in 1868 to 1953, when the last of the traditional shows was held, with the exception of the war years, the venue was Sandye Place. In 1891 owing to the death of Mr J. N. Foster of Sandye Place the Show was held at The Cricket Ground, Sandy.
Another exception, as recounted by W.G Western,* was in the 1920s when the show was held on Hawkesbury Meadow, off Everton Road, when a huge storm on the night before the Show wrecked many tents and stands, including that holding the Rabbit Show. Many rabbits took advantage of the breakdown in security and escaped into nearby Pyms Woods.
As can be seen from the accompanying illustrations the show became very popular. It reached its peak in the 1920’s and eventually became one of the largest of its type in the country, with crowds of up to twelve thousand, obliging the LNER to lay on special trains to accommodate those wishing to attend .
The 66th Show was held in 1939 and proved to be the last for several years.
The Show continued after World War II from 1946 until 1953, when Sandye Place, which had been bought up by Bedfordshire County Council, was developed into an educational establishment, today known as Sandye Place Academy.
In the 1966 the show was re-born at Sandye Place. In 1979 & 1980 The Show was held in the old Civil Defence Hall, London Road. From 1981 to 1997 the show, now held over two days was sited at Bickerdike’s Nursery in London Road.
From 1966 until 1989 The Show was sponsored by The Royal British Legion, Sandy Branch.
In 1998 the Show returned to Sandye Place, which remains its venue to date.
In 2007 with a completely new committee under the chairmanship of Nigel Aldis, former President of the Society, which had previously been concerned solely with the organization of the Show, became an open membership Association, with regular social events, talks, and outings throughout the year.
Today the main bulk of the work of the Committee remains the organization of the annual Sandy Show.
The last two-day show was held in 2012 and marked a low point in the Show’s popularity with Sandy residents. Since changing to a one-day format and the addition of more in the way of general attractions for children and families, whilst retaining the area’s most prestigious horticultural element, the Show attendances have improved dramatically. Indeed, each of the last three years have seen an average of 800 visitors come in to see The Sandy Show!
While the Association continues striving to preserve the tradition of Horticultural, Cookery, Brewing and Handicraft exhibits in its Shows, in recent years, the number of classes has increased and changed in order to recognise that there are younger entrants to encourage. With the help of Sandy Library, the Show has been able to engage with children in Sandy in order to enter specific classes, ‘just for them’.
The biggest change has been a recognition that social media and the internet now plays a large part in our lives and to this end, the Association has created an account on Facebook & Twitter, re-organised this website, utilised modern methods of communication with the public and of course this modernized, mobile friendly website.
It is remarkable that in the 85 years from its inaugural opening in 1868 till the last traditional show in 1953 only three people held the post of Secretary.**
Secretaries of The Sandy Show
1868 – 1913 – William Green [1838 – 1920]
1914 – 1938 – Frederick William Western [1874 – 1939]
1938 – 1953 – Brian S. Porter
1966 – 1971 – No record
1972 – Mr H. F. Barber
1973 – 1974 – No record
1975 – Mr Colin Osborne
1976 – No record
1977 -1978 – Mr R. A. Christopher
1979 – 1980 – No record
1981 – 1985 – Mrs S. A. Kettleborough
1986 – 1990 – Mrs J. Button
1991 – 1993 – Miss Hayley Merrington
1994 – No Show
1995 – 2006 – Mrs Linda Whiting
2007 – 2012 – Mr David Osborn
2013 – 2014 – Mr David Thomas
2015 – Mr Steve Purchase
*Our Little Town of Sandy. W.G. Western. 1997
** The Sandy I knew. Ken Quince. undated
***͋Details post 1966 are taken from surviving Show Schedules. You can download and view the latest Schedule from here.
^ Images courtesy of Sandy Historical Research Group
2016 marked the 50th annual Show of the modern era and was held on Saturday August 20th at Sandye Place Academy.