The Melplash Agricultural Society Show is one of the South West’s premier agricultural exhibition and is held at The West Bay Show grounds, Bridport, Dorset on last Thursday before the August Bank holiday. The first show was held in 1847.
Origins of The Melplash Agricultural Society
Whilst the exact details may be uncertain, the origins of the Society and the Melplash Show go back to the day that the church was consecrated on 20th October 1846. The Church had been built by Mr James Bandinell of Melplash Court, a well known benefactor, and a new parish was carved out of the parish of Netherbury.
On the same day a ploughing match, was held to resolve a dispute between two farmers as to whose ploughman was the better. Each staked £5, a not inconsiderable sum in those days, and in the celebrations put on for the consecration of the church and at the feast that was held in the Melplash Inn, now the Half Moon, the assembled farmers and landowners agreed to form the Melplash Agricultural Society and hold a ploughing competition open to all comers on 20th October 1847. So began the association between Church, Village, Society, Ploughing Match and Show.
After the show was suspended throughout World War II, it restarted permanently in Bridport in 1946. It was initially in the fields opposite the Crown Inn (on the site of Groves Nursery). By 1948 the show was held on its present ground in West Bay Road. In the 1960s the show began to be held on a Thursday, early closing day in Bridport.
In 1945 there was no show, just a hedging and ploughing competition. In 1946 classes were reduced. There were none for sheep, pigs or dairy, but there were entries in hunter classes, cart horses and cattle. There was a well-filled horticultural tent which had a new feature- home produce and handicraft organized by the WI. The Dorchester Police band played in the main ring. The cost of starting the 1949 show was around £2000.
Before World War II it was customary to hold the show in alternate years at Bridport and Beaminster.
Charles Tamar Phillips (father of Mrs. May Walbridge) purchased the land west of West Bay Road in 1919 and sold building plots alongside the road in the 1920s. The land behind these houses has been the showground since. The land was gifted by Mrs. Walbridge after her death in August 1998.
Today, the Society is a registered charity (charity number 1130201) with the aim of promoting and improving agriculture and horticulture in West Dorset for the public benefit. The Board of Directors and trustees provide guidance and governance regarding the overall running of the charity and ensuring the aims and objectives of the charity are complied with at all times.
- Chairman – Mrs Jo Sage
- Vice Chairman – Mr James Vickery
- Treasurer – Mr Charles Dupont
- Company Secretary – Ms Lucy Hart
- 2019 President – Mr Tim Frost
- Mr Marcus Beresford, CBE
- Mr Dan Newman
- Mr Richard King
- Mr George Rendell
- Mr Philip Crawford
- Mr Philip Hardwill
- Mr George Streatfeild
- Mr Cleeves Palmer
- Mr Robert Bowditch
- Mr Nigel Jones
- Mr Will Frost