How it all began
The first Sherfield Village Flower and Produce Show was held in September 1966 and was conceived as a new way to raise money for the 3rd Basingstoke (Sherfield) Scout Troop. Jim Searle, Harry Moore and Bert Bowman took over the fundraising side of the Scouts and between them came up with the idea of a Show and Fete. Other well-known villagers from the early days were - Jean Wright, Percy Sims, Sandy Johnston and Sonner Bowman, to name but a few.
They began with £27 in the kitty and the help of Scout leaders, friends and families. Taking ideas from shows they’d visited and borrowing vases from Old Basing and Basingstoke Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society, things began to take shape. Then, as now, the ‘Show Bible’ or ‘standard reference’ was the Horticultural Show Handbook. This outlines the Royal Horticultural Society Rules, gives details for staging and judging exhibits and makes suggestions on scheduling and organisation. There’s always been a copy to hand at every Sherfield Show!
Local contacts soon provided a team of judges, who gave their services freely: Lord Sherfield’s gardener, Mr Alvaris, did sterling work in the Horticultural Divisions over the years, as did Mrs Collins from QMC on the Domestic side. Two other noteworthy judges were Mrs Singleton and Mr Cooke.
Divisions for that first show were Horticultural (Flowers, Floral Art, Vegetables and Fruit) and Domestic (Cookery and Handicrafts). Mr. Roger Gresham Cooke CBE, MP for Twickenham, who lived in Wellington Cottage, Turgis Green, donated the Gresham Cooke Trophy for the Flower Division. Scoutmaster Jim Searle, working at Bramley Camp, shared his enthusiasm for scouting with the Camp Commander who donated the Bramley Camp Shield for Handicraft classes.
The first venue was a marquee in Boxer’s Field; sometime home of the old horse ‘Boxer’, later SCATS Garden Centre and now Mole Valley Stores. Once the schedules had been printed and delivered to every house in the village by the scouts, all was set! However, as every organiser knows, there’s one thing you can’t control! There was a terrible storm and the weight of water coming through the roof onto the tables wreaked havoc with the exhibits. Nearly everything had to be re-staged. “At first, you couldn’t move in the tea tent, as we all ran for cover. But, everyone rallied round, the judges were very understanding and the show was a great success, netting a profit of £50 – a tidy sum in those days.” Lady Sherfield presented the prizes, with over 150 entries and 200-300 in attendance. The judges praised the high standards. Willis the jewelers engraved the awards.
For the second Show, Lord Sherfield donated the Sherfield Trophy (for combined points in All Horticultural Classes) and local businessmen, farmers and well-wishers contributed to an array of other splendid trophies, which all continue to be awarded at each annual show. See Cups and Trophies. Percy Sims acted as Show Secretary for a number of the following years.
The Third Show was held on 24 August 1968, combined with a village fete and baby competition. Over 300 attended in bright sunshine. The Show Secretary, Percy Sims, recorded 291 entries. Read the Gazette newspaper cutting and see a photo of Bert and Sonner Bowman.
In the early years, North Foreland Lodge Independent Girls’ Boarding School (Sherfield School, since 2004) and the Old Rectory in Reading Road hosted further shows. The marquees usually came from the Scouts, but Bert wryly remembered negotiating one year with Tadley Guides! In later years, the move was made into Sherfield Village Hall, where it is currently lodged.
1970s – 1994 The Bowman Family
Sometime in the early 1970s, Bert and Hilda Bowman led the team and continued at the helm for about 14 years, when Bert’s brother Sonner and his family – wife Grace and their son Albert - took the reins.
In the 1980s, further trophies were donated by loyal competitors. Mr S Eustace was the first giving the Eustace Cup for combined points in the Domestic Division. The Bowman Trophy, Crowson Cup and John Hill Trophy were donated in this decade, too.
The two Bowman families always worked together, sharing their wish to raise money for the local scout troop and their enthusiasm for village shows. It was Bert and Sonner who advised Phil Davies on setting up the Bramley Show. Bert kept up his association with the Bramley Show by continuing as its auctioneer right up until 1998.
Only one year (1991) saw no Show – when Grace was in hospital. In 1994, with Bert again at the helm, the Bowman family decided it was time to retire and asked for volunteers to carry on what they had worked so loving hard to develop.
The story so far is based on interviews, over cups of tea and cake in their homes, with all five members of the Bowman family – Bert and Hilda and Sonner, Grace and son Albert. Chatting about people who’d helped them to make the Show such a success, Bert and Sonner fondly remembered Arthur Kew, H J Isley, Mrs M West, Mr & Mrs M Durrant, Mrs N Welch, and Mrs Jackson. ‘Mrs Jackson always gave a special prize for the longest runner bean’. Sonner always treasured a prize trowel ‘won years ago’! The village owes them a great debt.
See photo of all four Bowmans in later life, having just visited the Show in 2012.
1995 – 2008 Sally Brain and family
Having moved into the village, about fourteen years previously, Sally and Gordon Brain had taken a keen interest in the Show, exhibiting in vegetable, fruit and flower divisions. Sally valued village life and "did not want to see the Show die." So, under the expert eyes of Bert and Albert, and with help from her family, Richard Elphick, Jenny and Laurie Butt and Natalie Larner, Sally prepared the 1995 Sherfield Show. Sally said she didn’t want to make many changes, as it worked so well already! However, as fewer people were growing vegetables, and interest in handicrafts was booming in the 1990s, Sally’s first schedule made some amendments to reflect those changes. Neither were there classes for ‘plain boiled potatoes’ or ‘the most decorative salad, judged on variety of ingredients and appearance’.
The breaking of the link with the Scouts was another change. During Sally’s stewardship, Show profits were donated to a different village organisation each year and their members were asked to help with the teas. Do visit the Charities page to see the list of beneficiaries.
Other committee members during this period included Sheila Banham, Terry and Brian Raisborough and Elizabeth Frewin. After her move to South Wales, Elizabeth would travel back to Sherfield to judge the Cookery section and to meet up with old friends. The Elphick family would organize the Raffle and Brian did sterling work as Auctioneer. For many years, Sally would invite Terry, Richard and Natalie to plan the classes for the following year’s show, while enjoying a glass of wine and the view over her lovely garden.
Technology also began to play a part. Natalie and Mervyn Larner computerised the entries and results, and arranged for the printing of the schedules. Place cards were still being handwritten by a willing team of volunteers.
Sally continued the friendship with Bramley Show. The committees would help each other to locate judges and the sharing of resources - flower vases and display boards – continues to the present day.
Support for Sherfield Show continued to be strong and eight new trophies were kindly donated between 2000 and 2008.
During this time, there were many things to smile at - Gordon having his eye on Bert’s prize onions; the Revd. Bob Politt innocently bidding for Rosie Burgess’ whisky-laced jam; the absolute panic of receiving only 5 entries by the Wednesday before the Show and phoning every past entrant; or Sally coming back from holiday two days early to set up the Show!
In September 2008, after the presentations, Sally announced that she was retiring as Show Secretary after 15 years. In recognition of her hard work Brian Raisborough paid tribute to Sally and she was presented with a lovely orchid.
Huge thanks must also go to husband Gordon and their children, Lucy, Sarah and Guy who have all played such an important part in the Show’s successes over the years. Sally will be sorely missed as Show Secretary, but promises to help out on Show Day if she and Gordon are at home.
2009 – 2019 Some old hands and some new faces
For the 2009 Show, Richard Elphick, Terry Raisborough, Sue Cooper, Catherine Bartrum, Rody Politt and Natalie Larner formed a new committee and Natalie became Show Secretary. (Natalie had moved to Sherfield in 1994 and was keen to get involved in village life. She entered a piece of needlework at the Show that September and offered to join Sally Brain’s new committee for the 1995 Show).
During that first year, a Show website was launched and the schedule and entry form could be accessed at home. ‘The Most oddly-shaped home-grown vegetable’ appeared in a new Fun Class, judged by the public and the Liddell Hall made more room for classes and held a beautiful Display of Work by Loddon Quilters. Happy Faces Playgroup, based in the Liddell Hall, presented the first Happy Faces Trophy and the winning entrant was given a sunflower statuette to keep. The Best Allotment Trophy was presented on behalf of Sherfield Parish Council and a donation was made to Sherfield Lunch Club. See Charities page.
To help with running costs, the first adverts appeared in the 2010 schedule and a small number of stalls brought added interest for visitors. In 2011 a new Liqueurs and Soft Drinks section was added. In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee year, children who entered received not only monetary prizes and rosettes but chocolate gold medals, too!
In 2014 some difficult decisions were made. It’s nothing new at village shows, but the original award definitions meant that the same few people were regularly taking home many of the trophies! The subject had been talked about before but in 2014, the committee decided to bite the bullet. The Quenchers’ Cup, the Farmers’ Cup and The Bowman Trophy were redefined and dwindling classes for secondary school pupils were removed, to be replaced by ‘I grew this myself’ open to all Juniors. The committee hoped to offer more encouragement and awards to a greater number of entrants. For the 2015 Show, another major decision was made – to move to Sundays!
The Golden Anniversary Show
This was held in 2016 and its 50 years were celebrated in style, with many things ‘golden’ and a Sunflower Competition. The committee were hugely pleased that members of the Bowman family were able to present the awards, which they did with much pride and not a little nostalgia.
Over these years, three new trophies were donated and sterling work was done by committee members. Richard Elphick, Terry Raisborough, Sue Cooper, Catherine Bartrum, Rody Politt, Chris Horton, Anthea Spurrier, Joyce Hill, Anna Scott, Jane Jordan, Rhiannon English and Pat Townsend all served for various lengths of time, with Terry frequently running an outdoor plant sale. Awards were usually presented by a trio: a chosen guest, a member of the Gardening Club to present their trophy, and Peggy Hutchins, founder of Happy Faces Playgroup, to present the children’s awards and rosettes to every child who took part. The Show began to host a display of entries for the Loddon Valley Link Photographic Competition. Each committee very much appreciated the help it received to stage successful shows: from the judges, local businesses, stewards, café teams, ‘gate’ teams, our hosts Sherfield Village Hall and from two loyal friends of the Show - Bruce Batting as auctioneer and `class-card supremo’ Chris Horton.
In 2018 the Loddon Valley Link, the local church and commuinity magazine, integrated its annual cover photo competion with the show. Rather than just reporting on the show it became a part.
During 2019, after many enjoyable years, Natalie decided to step down as Show Secretary. Richard Elphick presented her with a bottle of champagne at the 2019 Show and she wished the new committee every future success.
Although this period saw a change in the balance of the entries: horticulture slightly declining, while art and photography were on the increase, Natalie said that some things didn’t change. ‘It was always brilliant to hear the Judges remark on the quality of the entries, to see and smell the flowers, to wonder at the talent on display and to enjoy the friendly warmth at our lovely show.’
Richard Elphick takes The Show online in 2020
Undaunted by the Covid 19 Coronavirus pandemic, Richard Elphick’s new committee grasped the opportunity and took Sherfield Show online!
If you would like to contact the Show Secretary, please do get in touch.