The Great Harwood Agricultural Society was formed in 1857, organised by Mr Lawrence Catterall and Mr Lawrence Lee of Martholme. Entries for that year included horned cattle, horses, bulls, sheep and pigs. Year by year entries increased and new classes were introduced, including dogs and poultry. There were classes for butter, cheese and oatcakes. In 1868 the first prize for a "firkin of old butter" was won by Great Harwood Co-operative Society.
A hundred years ago entries were topping the 800 mark and that year a new interest was created by adding trotting races. Six competitors raced six times round the course.
In December 1925 the society bought some land off Wood Street, Great Harwood. It was named, not surprisingly, the Showground. Here, with the exception of the war years and for two years due to the restrictions of foot and mouth disease, the annual show was held.
In January 1970 part of the land was sold to Great Harwood Football Club, but the show continued to be held there. Over the years, different attractions and more show classes have been added, changing to suit the times and tastes of exhibitors and visitors, with the society trying to avoid the fate of many of the other agricultural societies, which have sadly disappeared, mainly due to the lack of committed helpers and the financial situation.
In 2008, after several years of looking for a suitable alternative site to accommodate the growing size of the show, the society seized the opportunity to buy a 40 acre site on the junction of Harwood Lane and Whalley Road. This is now known as the New Showground. A lot of effort was put into improving the site in time for the 2009 show; adding roadways, making wider gateways for safe access, draining the field, fencing off an area for the car park and trimming and replanting the hedges and boundaries. We are building on the success of the move by continuing these improvements.
The first show held there was a resounding success, attracting more than double the usual number of visitors. Each year since, we have continued improving the land to accommodate larger marquees, more rings for the ever-expanding livestock sections, permanent display arenas, and more agricultural and community–related events, with local produce, crafts, stands and competitions for our visitors, particularly for children.
In 2017, after several years of negotiations, part of the showground was leased to Great Harwood Rovers FC and four new pitches were built, with a pavilion to follow in 2018. This will greatly improve the facilities for the area, which is the ultimate aim of the society. Sadly, Mr Geoffrey Hanson, our Chairman for over 50 years, and latterly the President of the society, passed away this year. He was a major player in the development of the showground and a stalwart of the society as a whole and will be greatly missed.
We hope to share our success with other societies, groups or individuals by offering the use of the New Showground for their events and publishing the details on the News page. To take advantage of this, please contact the secretary.
By having an advertising banner at our shows, sponsoring an event, or becoming a subscriber, you can help to ensure the continuation of a tradition which is slowly but surely dying out in most urban and many rural areas.
The society has continued to promote the traditional sights, produce and crafts of Lancashire, particularly from Great Harwood and the surrounding areas and we now include more of the local community - groups, schools and individuals - in our events and invite you to use the links to browse our pages and discover what we have to offer.