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Kent County Show through the years with Screen Archive South East footage

A time-honoured tradition, the Kent County Show has been synonymous with the south east for nearly a century.

Established in 1923 by the Kent County Agricultural Society, the event showcases everything from cutting-edge farming and competitions to family-friendly displays.

Watch: The Kent County Show in 1936

This year's event was due to take place from today, July 10, at the Kent Showground in Detling, Maidstone, but had to be cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Crowds will have to wait until 2021 to attend the show once again, which will take place on Friday, July 9 to Sunday, July 11.

But two organisations are bringing the event's rich history to life with the release of archive footage from over the years.

Screen Archive South East, in partnership with the Kent Archives, has made footage available from county shows as far back as 1936, giving us a glimpse into how it became such a huge part of Kent's history.

The 1929 Showground in Folkestone, with Caesar's Camp in the background. Picture: Kent Archives Service
The 1929 Showground in Folkestone, with Caesar's Camp in the background. Picture: Kent Archives Service

History of the Kent County Show

When most people think of the Kent County Show, it goes hand in hand with its permanent site at the Kent Showground in Detling.

But this was not always the location of the annual event - in fact, Kent County Shows have taken place all across the county over the years, including Sevenoaks and Canterbury.

The Kent County Agricultural Society was formed in 1923, the same year the show was held at Wombwell Park in Gravesend, at the time declared by the mayor as "the greatest advertisement the town had been privileged to enjoy."

More than 15,000 people arrived to see which prize animals would win rosettes, from cattle, to sheep and horses.

Watch: The Duke and Duchess of Kent at the 1937 show

The following year marked the first time a member of the Royal Family attended, with Prince Henry taking a visit to the show which was held at Barrow Hill in Ashford.

After a year at Knole Park in Sevenoaks the show moved to Folkestone for two years, introducing the jumping and driving classes as well as sheep dog demonstrations, which racked up lots of spectators.

Prior the outbreak of the Second World War the show was held in Canterbury twice, with huge crowds flocking to the event in 1937.

It was thought that good weather and an appearance from the Duke and Duchess of Kent convinced people to venture out to see what the event had to offer.

Watch: The Kent County Show in 1951

As the country prepared for war in 1939, the show was cancelled so farmers could focus their attention on producing food for the nation.

After the war had ended, the show took place at Mote Park in Maidstone from 1947 to 1963.

The winner for first prize in the "cow in calf" category in 1949 was none other than Winston Churchill, who collected his rosette and cup in person.

One of the big pulls during the 1951 show was the cherry and soft fruit show, though Kent cherry farmers were left in the dirt as they lost out to Berkshire cherries in the contest.

Ann Gilbert and Derek Moore with their pictures of Winston Churchill at The Kent County Show held at that time in Mote Park, Maidstone. Picture: KM archives
Ann Gilbert and Derek Moore with their pictures of Winston Churchill at The Kent County Show held at that time in Mote Park, Maidstone. Picture: KM archives

With food rationing still in force, many sweet treats would have likely been a rare sight.

By 1964 the Kent County Agricultural Society found their permanent home in Detling, where the show has taken place ever since.

Screen Archive South East are hoping to build an even more comprehensive archive of footage from Kent's past which they can digitise and make publicly available.

They are hoping anyone who owns or has access to any early film footage will get in contact with them.

To see more Kent County Show archive films, click here

To find out more about the County Show's rich history, click here

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