With its setting the lovely town of Framlingham and with a backdrop of the magnificent twelfth century castle of the Earls of Norfolk, Framlingham show can claim to be the loveliest of its size in the country.

The beginnings of Framlingham Show were set in 1879, when various gentlemen resident in Worlingworth held a show of cart colts, which was so popular that it was repeated in the following year. At the first Show, held at the Swan Inn, there were thirty-five entries and the first prize was £1 with a new collar and dutfin; the second prize was £1 and the third 10s. 0d and the catalogue was printed on a single sheet of paper. Three more annual shows were held at Worlingworth but in 1882 the Suffolk Show was held in Framlingham and this stimulated the formation of the Framlingham Association for the exhibition of livestock, which was founded in 1884. The Chairman was Charles Austin of Brandeston Hall and the Patrons included the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton of Easton Hall, Lord Tollemache of Helmingham Hall, Lord Rendlesham of Rendlesham Hall, Sir Richard Wallace, M.P. of Sudbourne Hall, Frederick S Corrance of Parham Hall and Mrs Austin. The President was Mr Charles Austin and there were twenty-five members of the Committee, the Treasurer being George Adamson and the Secretary John Martin both of Framlingham. The Association’s first annual show was held on Friday, 26th July 1884 and was followed by a public dinner at the Crown Hotel at 5 o’clock, for which the tickets cost 2s 6d. Framlingham had already had a Farmers’ Club for many years and this Club held discussion meetings during the winter with an autumn show of poultry, roots and corn and the new livestock show was really an end of the latter, which had shown what could be achieved in a small village. The first Framlingham Show had the remarkable entry of two hundred and twelve, none being duplicated, with Class 1 for Suffolk Mare with Foal at Foot having twenty-seven entries. The catalogue was bulky and many favourable comments were made on the fact that it contained the pedigrees of all the animals exhibited. There were classes for carthorses other than Suffolk’s and the quality of all the stock forward, but especially the Suffolk’s, was considered by the judges to be excellent. Among those advertising in the first catalogue were John Self; S C Carley & Co; William Baker, Agricultural Ironmonger of the Golden Plough; Gibson Chandler, Agricultural Machine Agent; E Row & Son, Manure Manufacturers; Hatsell Garrard, General Drapery; Edward Wells, Practical Tailor and F Read, Fellmonger.

The Committee had as their main object the promotion of a tenant farmers’ exhibition, in the belief that such people were breeding first class stock, which were never seen in the County show yards. In 1902 Arthur Cooke, who owned a fine stud of Suffolk’s at Dennington Lodge, took over as President and the Show continued to enlarge and prosper. In 1905 the name of the Association was changed to Framlingham Livestock Association, the title it has continued to hold. At the public luncheon held at the Show in that year, Herman Biddell, the first Secretary of the Suffolk Horse Society, concluded his speech by saying “If I were asked to point out the place in Suffolk where our best breeds of stock are to be found, I should say that, that place was in the radius around the town of Framlingham.” Great interest was aroused at the 1906 show by the early arrival of Sir Cuthbert Quilter Bt., due to his haven driven over to the Show in a motorcar. From 1928 to 1931 the Show was held on Fairfield Meadows and from 1949 to 1952 at White House Farm but these were never as popular as the Castle Meadow, due to its lovely setting and its immediate proximity to the centre of the town. While the Meadow has a disadvantage in its lack of space, it has an unrivalled picturesque setting and this has been a major factor in creating the wonderful atmosphere, which has continued to prevail. In 1925 the classes for Shires and crossbred mares and foals and the wagon parade were dropped. Classes for cattle and pigs were discontinued in 1932, although they were re-introduced in 1937 for one year. The highest number of Suffolk foals to be shown was seventy-two in 1885, with the next best year being 1919, with fifty-four. Heavy horse entries in 1947 were seventy-six and the rapid increase in agricultural mechanisation saw the entries fall to seventeen in 1964, when the re-birth of interest in heavy horses caused the numbers to start to rise again. However, at the time the decrease in heavy horse entries was more than matched by the tremendous increase in light horse entries, as riding was becoming a very popular pastime.

The show has continued to hold a variety of classes for light horses, including in-hand, ridden show classes, driving and jumping competitions, while maintaining classes for Suffolk horses. Opinions differed as to the wisdom of holding Shows during the 1914/1918 World War, but they were held and it was due to the promoters of the Show to say that their action was prompted by national interests, as there was a chance, and that not a remote one, of the horse breeding industry of the district deteriorating. A public luncheon and the jumping and driving classes, however, were discontinued for these war time Shows. No Shows were held during the Second World War. In 2001 there was a national outbreak of foot and mouth disease and the Show Directors decided not to hold a Show as a precaution against the spread of the disease.

The cups and trophies presented at the Show bear names, which evoke memories and associations of those who have supported the Show and of some who continue to do so. When Eye Show ceased to function, its Suffolk Foal Cups were presented to Framlingham Show. Throughout the Show the catalogue can be seen the names of many who have been great supporters of both the Show and the various breeds and types of horse for whom classes are presented.

The past and continuing success of Framlingham Show is due to the hard work of the Association’s officers, Committee members, sponsors and exhibitors and these have included so many who are household names in the County of Suffolk.

Philip Ryder-Davies