Society History

The Forest of Arden Agricultural Society came into being in 1946, but before that it was known as the Skilts & District Farmers’ Society.

The Skilts & District Farmers’ Society, formed in 1935, was the brain-child of Sir William Jaffray, who was a very prominent hunting man in the North Warwickshire Hunt.  He wanted to encourage local farmers to keep their hedges in neat repair, (as this made hunting less hazadous!).  He  formed the Skilts & District Farmers’ Society and presented the Society with a cup – which is now used in Class 3 Hedge-laying. Sir William Jaffray  was the President and Chairman; the Treasurer being Major C W Barnard, Oldberrow. The Secretary was Mr S Emery, Skilts Estate Office, Redditch.  The original Committee consisted of Lt. Col. A W Newman, Messrs G Sollis, F T Cox, E Pugh, F M Walters, B Wright, D F Price, A E Chambers, H Palmer, J W Bridgeman, H S Jeffery, T Osborne, J G Michell, T E Jackson and J E Clarke, many of whose sons are now Subscribers or Committee members. The Skilts & District Farmers Club embraced a radius of three miles from Skilts on the West side and five miles on the North, South and East sides from Skilts.  There were four classes for Hedge-laying, one class for Ditching and one class for Fencing with Posts and Rails.There were 136 Subscribers.  The  other cup to be given to the Society was the W L Barber Challenge Cup, which was presented for the Open Hedge Cutting Class.  The Competitions were held in February/March, and in March 1937, competitors competed in 4-5” snow!

The Skilts & District Farmers’ Club ceased to function at the beginning of the 1939 war though some of the old committee members wanted to revive it at the end of the war.

Our third oldest cup is the Oliver Lucas Challenge Cup.  This was  presented by Sir Oliver Lucas who lived at Morton Bagot Manor.  He wanted to present a cup to “promote the arts of agriculture”  and he wrote to J G Michell who was then Secretary of Alcester branch of NFU.  Alcester Branch of NFU turned the offer down, but John G Michell brought the offer to Henley Branch of NFU as he was joint Secretary.  This Committee immediately took up the offer, and formed the Forest of Arden Agricultural Society in 1946, which incorporated members of the Skilts and District Farmers’ Society.  This beautiful old cup is now presented to the Champion Ploughman of the Day of Classes, 10. 11. 12 ,13 & 14.
The President was Sir Oliver Lucas, Chairman S J Beckett, Esq., Vice-Chairman Stewart Mitchell Esq., Hon Treasurer C Cort Esq., and Joint Secretaries, B Marden Esq., Kidpile Farm, Earlswood and J L Price Esq., Forde Hall, Tanworth-in-Arden.

There were six classes of ploughing, one of which included a class open to any lady who would plough 1 1/4 acres in the most efficient manner. Horse Ploughing was introduced and there were special prizes for ploughing including a prize for the Competitor with longest service with one farmer or on same farm, £1; and a prize of £1 for the youngest and oldest competitor.  There were four Hedge-Laying Classes, and the prize money for tractor ploughing and hedgelaying was 1st £3, 2nd £2, and 3rd £1.

In 1946 the Rules were that the Forest of Arden Agricultural Society should embrace a radius of 7 miles of Tanworth-in-Arden Church.  The competition was held on Thursday, 14th February 1946 and the front of the Programme says “First Annual Ploughing, Hedge Cutting and Ditching Competitions at Forshaw Park Farm, Forshaw Heath, Earlswood by kind permission of R Loveridge, Esq., J Fowler Esq., & H Wootton Esq.  Price Sixpence.  Refreshments provided by The Red Lion, Henley in Arden. “

The Ladies Committee was formed in 1966, the Ladies introduced Competitions for Handicraft and Cookery etc., and Childrens Competions.  Previously they had provided a packed lunch for competitors but now they provided a more substantial meal for them and also started to do catering for the general public.  All Competitors who enter, are entitled to a free lunch.  We do not charge an entrance fee, or a car parking fee but rely entirely on the subscriptions of our subscribers, and sponsorship of local firms and businesses to keep afloat.  The Society also runs other competitions throughout the year for subscribers to enter, i.e., in May the Ley and Livestock (Sheep) Competions, and in July the Growing Crops & Livestock Competitions, (Dairy and Beef).  We are invited to provide Judges for other Societies every year.  We also run several Social events each year, the proceeds of which are used to augment the Societys funds, which we encourage the Young Farmers to participate in.

Our Ploughing and Hedging Competitions are always held on the Third Thursday in September. We now have over 300 subscribers and we have 3 Hedge Laying Classes, 10 Ploughing Class, 1 Horse Ploughing Class and the Cereal & Fodder Classes.  We now operate from a radius of fourteen miles from Henley-in-Arden Church.

This Society is kept going by the voluntary hard work of its Committee Members, and
volunteers who attend on ploughing match day to help run the show.

I would like to thank the people who have kindly sent in old schedules to read and other memorabilia.  Also, thanks to the late Mr Bob Jeffreys who I was able to take notes from before he died, and thanks to the late Mr & Mrs John Price in Canada who have been of great help in supplying information.   Mrs Sue Westmacott