Farming has a long tradition of mixing business with pleasure and it is from this culture that the Mid-Somerset Show emerged over 160 years ago.
Legend has it that back in the early 1850’s that after a drink at The Bell Inn in the nearby village of Evercreech, the Evercreech Farmers Club was born and the inaugural annual ploughing match was held.
From the very beginning this was always more than just a ploughing contest between local farmers; there were also classes for the best Hunter and for cheese and butter making.
By the 1870’s the ploughing match had become a cattle show, and so more relevant to the Mid-Somerset area. The Show now had a clear role in ‘agricultural improvement’.
Also at this time Cheddar Cheese was being refined and turned into a consistent product, and farmhouse cider was being turned from a very varied hit and miss drink into a desirable, saleable commodity. Both have become synonymous with the Show with the South West Cheese Awards and the Somerset Cider Championship being held each year, and attracting entries from around the area.
By its 50th anniversary in 1902 the show had moved and settled on its current site, and the society was sponsoring research at the local school into the effects of fertilizers on crop yields and varied feedstuffs into differing constituents of milk. The society had been known to be prominent in political lobbying and in 1902 staged the first national Cider Conference.
Despite breaks caused by the two world wars throughout the first half of the 20th Century, the Society continued to champion agricultural improvement as well as providing farmers with a well enjoyed social function.
2002 was 150th anniversary of the Society and it was agreed to mark the anniversary in a number of ways. These included the publishing of a book on the history of the Society by Alan Stone; Shepton Show, a Short History, a painting of the Show with a limited edition of 150 prints by Shepton Mallet artist, Martin Alford, and the introduction of ‘free entry’ for pedestrians.
Sadly, at this time the Show was struggling with attendance numbers; only 2,000 – 3,000 visitors per year. Something radical had to be done. The Society Treasurer at the time, Mr Paul Frampton, suggested that free entry for pedestrians, and charge £5 for car parking was offered. Mr Frampton agreed that his company, Framptons Transport would underwrite the event in case the show suffered a serious loss but in the event this was unnecessary; the show broke even financially, and attendance was the highest it had been for many years; in the region of 7,000 – 8,000.
After the success of 2002 traders were keen to re-book, and the following year trade stand space sold out, the first time in many years and the rest they say is history. The show has gone from strength to strength and in 2015 the teams of volunteers that run and organize the show were named The National Outdoor Events Association Team of the Year.
It has very much become part of the calendar of Shepton Mallet as a market town. Someone once said that sleepy Shepton only woke up once a year for the Mid Somerset Show, and then went back to sleep.
Local farmers, aristocracy and many local businesses continue to be heavily involved in the show and the future is looking good very positive.