Greenholme Gala and Agricultural Show  

1948 – 1998


One evening, back in 1948, a group of lively young lads sat round a table and argued long and hard with their ‘elders and betters’. The argument lasted until late into the night until all of the ‘old guard’ capitulated: “Why don’t we give the lads the chance to make a go of it?” And that was it – Greenholme Show was born! 

          The argument had been over 20 left in the kitty since 1939, i.e. the outstanding balance from a Greenholme Gala which had been interrupted by the War.  This Gala had been an annual sports day for the children of Greenholme School, supplemented by ‘open’ adult sports such as Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling, slow bike racing, fell running, pillow fighting, high jump and tug-of-war.  Now that peace had arrived and brought the possibility of re-starting the Gala, the lads were keen to include an agricultural show.  Pre-war interest in sports had waned, with the best competitors travelling further afield to bigger fixtures and many others had stopped entering since the same people won year after year. (Jack and Joe Bell, for example, were unbeatable pillow-fighters and Andy Rae was legendary at the high jump!) 

          If the Gala was to be revived, the lads argued, then something new had to happen to make it worth doing – and that ‘something’ should be a Show. The 20 in the kitty, insisted the old guard, was for Greenholme children and should not be spent on anything else!  Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Youthful enthusiasm and desire for change, versus the traditional conservatism of age! 

          Those lads, all then in their early twenties, included:


Tom Cox, Frank Kipling, Jeff Metcalfe, Les Thackeray, and Edgar Metcalfe.

Greenholme Show Committee 1950's


          It is their recollections, together with those of Frances Metcalfe who joined the committee in 1950, that make up this potted history.

They were all farming in Gaisgill and Greenholme in 1948 – with four of them still farming fifty years on and three of them remain active members of the Show Committee in 1998  - as headstrong and forthright now as they were then!

          In the early days of Greenholme Show there were 74 classes in the schedule:

                   28 cattle classes

                   7 sheep classes

                   4 horse classes

                   12 confectionery classes

                   12 handicraft classes

                   2 photographic classes

                   5 juvenile classes.

          There were between 350 and 450 entries for the Show and prizes ranged from 6/- for handicrafts to 25/- for cattle. 

          The horses were the first to go; widespread mechanization meant that the contribution of working horses to farming life rapidly declined in the post war years. By 1954 only 9 horses were entered and soon afterwards the horse classes disappeared from the schedule altogether. 

          The cattle classes were the next to go. In 1953 there were 27 cattle classes – 18 for Shorthorns and 9 for Friesians. The growth of TB put difficulties in the way of anyone wishing to enter cattle in the show.  Farmers needed a special permit from the Ministry of Agriculture to move cattle off their own land: a measure that was intended to stop the  spread of the disease. For the same reason, attested and non-attested cattle entered for the show had to be exhibited in separate fields.

TB was not, however, as big a threat as brucellosis – a highly contagious disease also known as  contagious abortion that could also be caught by humans (undulatory fever). It was concern for the spread of brucellosis that eventually led to the disappearance of cattle classes from Greenholme Show. By 1966 only one animal was shown in the section for Shorthorn and Ayrshire cattle. 

          Conversely the showing of sheep has gone from strength to strength; from only seven sheep classes in 1953 to thirty four in 1998. The area bounded roughly by Sedbergh, Ravenstonedale, Shap and Grayrigg has always been a stronghold of high quality Rough Fell sheep, and year after year the judges have praised those entered for the Show. 

          In the early days, stock entries were judged by two people – an experienced judge and an 'apprentice' from the ranks of the Young Farmers Association. This was an ideal opportunity for young farmers to develop a discerning eye and to learn the finer points of stock judging. To this day, many Young Farmers Clubs in Cumbria have stock judging contests as part of their annual calendar of events, though the practice of 'apprentice' judges has long since gone. 

          Handicrafts, confectionery and produce have always been a feature of the show though these classes used to be referred to as the “Industrial Section” or the “Ladies Classes” - no men's baking in those days!

Many of the handicrafts reflected the make do and mend frugality of post- war Britain: prodded rugs made from scraps of fabric, a “something new from something old”, and, best of all, 'an article made out of a five stone flour bag'.  Apparently this involved bleaching the cotton bag until the writing disappeared before re-fashioning it into a nifty pinny or embroidered tablecloth. Those were the days , of course, when no-one threw any clothes away without first removing the buttons and zips for re-use and when woollen jumpers, already hand knitted, became too small and too full of holes to darn any more, were unravelled  and knitted up again into something new.

          Finally at the end of Show day, there was a dance in the village hall to the mellifluous music of the Peaslands Band – a mother, daughter and son combo of piano, drums and accordion. People walked as far as five miles to cram like sardines into the Hall. On one memorable occasion, the Show Committee had to man the barricades to prevent a crowd of late-comers (from the pub) from crushing into the hall already full to overflowing with two hundred revellers. Ah, Peaslands, where are you now? 

          Greenholme Gala and Agricultural Show is fifty years old this year (1998 )and many would say it really hasn't changed at all: there have been a few changes to the schedule; the cattle and horses have gone and Quad Bikes have arrived but, ultimately , the spirit of Greenholme Show remains constant. It is a small local show untouched by the commercialism of large shows. It remains a truly 'amateur' Show – it exists for 'the love of it' and people enter, or give their time to it, purely for its own sake rather than financial gain. 

          The world is now changing more rapidly than ever before and the speed and scope of change in the last 50 years shows no sign of slowing down. Most people are talking of the Millennium and looking to the future, to the 21st century. Maybe in this maelstrom it is no bad thing to occasionally look back - to strengthen, not sever, our links with the past  where the roots of 'our' show are, and let’s hope that the folk of Orton and Tebay continue to nourish them.

*This account of the Greenholme Show 1948 -1998 was recently given to the History Society, but unfortunately we do not know the author. Please tell us if you know who wrote it!