The Village Feast & Show

Seaton Ross has held a village celebration in July for at least 200 years and almost certainly longer.  Village Feasts started as celebrations of the parish churches’ patronal saint’s day.  As St Edmund’s Day was on 20th November it probably seemed only sensible to hold the village feast in the summer, before harvest.  In 1848 William Watson recorded that it takes place on “the Sunday after New St. Peter”, ie. the first Sunday after 29th June.  There have been many changes to the format over the years but the date has only moved within the four days of that weekend.

When Charles Preston from Old Mills wrote an article in 1926 about the history of the Feast he could just remember when the principal event was horse racing in the grass field of Mains Farm.  Older villagers then could remember when the horse races were held round the Common, before it was enclosed. George Johnson attended his 65th show in 1930. In the 1870s handicap foot racing started.  There is contradictory information about when the first official committee was formed but it could be as long ago as 1865.    The first known committee minutes (now lost) started in 1887.  In 1935 a special Seaton Ross carnival was held to celebrate the Feast Committee having been formed 70 years previously and the retiring Chairman that year, J.B. Johnson, had served on the committee for most of those years.

Newspaper articles are the main source of information about the Feast and Sports in the early years.  A 1918 article in the Yorkshire Herald reported that the sports had been held since 1896 and the exhibition of garden and agricultural products was introduced in 1915.  At this time the sports were held on a Monday and when Produce was added, on a Tuesday as well.  In 1900 the Feast was held on Monday in Mr T. Howden’s field (behind what is now Halifax House).  The Selby Town Band performed, a ventriloquist entertained in the intervals of the sport and for the first time there were cash prizes for an exhibition of cattle.  The sports included Handicap races, Bicycle Handicap races and a sack race.  One handicap race was open to hired farm servants only.  Prizes at this time tended to be items donated by local firms – cutlery set, clock, china tea service.  There were fairground attractions and a dance in the evening.  An account of the 1905 Feast, held in the same field, is reproduced in the Past Times pages and there are two photographs.

The Feast celebrations continued through World War I, though it’s not clear whether it was one day or two.  1920 was one day with sheaf-throwing, tug-of-war (which Bielby won) and high jump competitions, and this time the Pocklington Coronation Band.  In the late 1920s horse gallops started.  The first printed schedule extant for the sports is Saturday 7th July 1923 which lists 120 yards handicap races with prizes of £1 10/-, 15/- and 7/6 and a Consolation race.  Entry to the sports field was usually free but the 1926 Exhibition of Garden and Agricultural Products on Tuesday 6th July charged 4d per exhibit entered and 6d admission to the tent.  There were also events on the Monday.

There were no Feasts during World War II but it was back in strength on Saturday 3rd July 1948 when there was horse racing, a livestock show and various races, with entry fees of 5s. for horse races and 1/- and 3/- for ladies and mens races, with over £75 in prizes.  Catering was by D. Beck, and Shipley’s roundabouts and sideshows were in attendance. A band continued to be a staple of the Feast.  Villagers’ races were held on the Monday night.  From then on the number and variety of classes grew.  It also moved round the village for what suitable fields were available.

In the 1950s it began to be called Show or Show and Sports rather than Feast.  The 1957 programme for Saturday 29th June, price 6d, lists a full range of events throughout the afternoon and evening, with named judges and £200 in prizes. There was a growing range of produce and handicraft classes, livestock classes and sports including horse jumping and gallops, all pulling in competition from a wider area.  The programme includes a considerable number of adverts.  By 1964 the prize money was over £400 and the programme 1/-.  It cost 3/- to visit the Show and parking was extra.  A very popular gymkhana had been added and rabbit and dog shows. Entrants came from all over Yorkshire.  There was a Motor cycle display team and dancing to Roy and the Zeroes in the marquee in the evening.  Kitwoods of Goole provided the catering, as they continued to do for many years.  John Hall from Old Hall was the secretary at this time, and G. O. Worsley was President (a supportive role he undertook for many years).  There was a strong committee who continued to grow the Show, with generous prize money and many trophies donated.  Some of the trophies are in the display cabinet in the village hall.  The Show was held in various venues such as fields owned by Garsides of Park Farm, moving eventually to Melrose Farm, which provided a bigger area, at the end of the 1970s.   John Hall continued as Secretary until 1973.  The Show was now so successful it was seen as a stepping stone for the Yorkshire Show.

1979 was a one day show but in 1980 it became a two day Show held on Saturday and  Sunday, to cater for the growing number of horse and livestock classes.   There was extensive entertainment including, that year, camel racing.  There was a Goat Show, Dog Show, Cage bird Show, Fashion Show, Trade stands round the showground and in a marquee and a Produce tent.  In 1981 there was a Wild West spectacular, in 1983 the Royal Signals White Helmets put on a display.  According to the Press in 1983 “more than 11,000 people flocked to Seaton Ross to make the annual show one of the most successful ever”.  All this change was overseen by Chairman John Rowbottom and Secretary David Hesketh.

The Show was then able to donate money to local charities.  The Playing Field was now responsible for the children’s sports and the Show paid the prize money.  They also funded the annual Bonfire Night event.  The winter entertainment of a dinner dance also continued.

However, the Show began to suffer from a shortage of volunteers to organise everything so in 1991 it reverted to a one day Show on Sundays.  David Hesketh retired as Secretary after the 1996 Show.  The last Show at Melrose Farm was in 1999 as the committee was struggling. In the June 2000 Seaton Ross Times there was a call for helpers to maintain the tradition and keep the Feast alive on a smaller scale in the village.  A small village committee organised events and exhibitions at Old Mills, the Playing Field, the Church and the Village Hall.  Faced with declining interest, the last Feast, with produce classes and some children’s sports, was held in 2010 on the field next to the village hall.

From 2014 the village has held a biennial MusicFest on the Playing Field though Covid and lockdown temporarily rather disrupted the timing of them.

Jane Henley, 2023

sharing Seaton Ross's history