In spite of being a relatively small community, the village has a history of staging farming, sporting, family and entertainment events which have helped to strengthen the community and make it a popular village for people to visit and to live in. In today’s fast-moving high-technology society, it is useful to reflect on what used to take place in small remote villages such as Brompton Regis, or Kingsbrompton as it was sometimes known, in the last 100 years.
Acknowledgements to Mollie Leadbeater, Margaret Buckinhgam and Elizabeth Luxton
In the 1890-1900s, Kingsbrompton had a thriving football team. The photograph shows the fully-kitted team players of that time and there is a record of them being beaten 4-1 by their local rivals, Bridgetown, in 1902!
The village was also able to boast a first-class cricket team in the 1930-50s. They played matches in the old cricket field at the top of Sanctuary Lane before the field (and pavilion) was moved to what is now called the Cricket Field at Renford Knap. They played three matches against Somerset CC before the 1939-45 war, drawing two and losing one by 133 runs to 135, and a photograph of the event shows a very good crowd of spectators. Mr Bullivant of Baronsdown was a keen supporter and generous a benefactor to the village. If anything was going on, he would help out by putting his hand in his pocket.
During the 1960s and 70s, the village was represented in other sports as well, including table tennis, billiards, ladies hockey, netball, badminton and athletics in addition to skittles and darts. There was also a regular inter-village competition with the neighbouring villages involving several of these sports. One of the more ‘fiercely contested’ events was the football match between the Brompton Beautys and The Boys on the George Meadow in April 1973 which was won 4-1 by The Boys. It was hoped to show a film of the event in the Village Hall ‘after it had been censured’ but it is not clear if this was ever premiered.
Although not strictly a sport, in April 1978 the village mustered a sufficient number of willing soles to enter a ‘Its A Knockout’ competition held at Bath. Maybe someone who took part can tell us how well they prospered?
The men’s and ladies’ skittles and darts teams continue to play regularly in the local leagues at The George Inn and we now have a strong representation in the West Somerset Short Mat Bowls league with an increasingly popular Short Mat Bowls Club doing well in the league and on the verge of forming a second team.
In the 1930s, the Kingsbrompton Fair was a major event in the farming calendar. It was held each year on the third Thursday of October in the Auction fields opposite the Village Hall. The fields were owned by the auctioneers Risdon, Gerrard and Hosegood of Wiveliscombe and were let to Weatherham Farm on condition that they were made available for the Fair.
Preparations began about a week before the day of the Fair when two long rows of hurdles were erected to accommodate about 2,000 lambs in the middle Auction field and to split the Fair field into two halves for the cattle. A smaller ring was erected between the two halves so that the cattle could be moved from the first field into the smaller ring to be auctioned and then into the second field once they had been sold.
On the morning of the Fair, the local farmers would be up before daylight to bring their lambs to the Auction field and ensure they had the best place to sell them. At about 10am the cattle started to arrive after being walked there by the farmers. They were held up in the lane leading to the fields, where they were marked with a branding iron dipped in white paint, before they were turned loose into the first field.
The auction started at 11am after the ringing of a large brass bell. The auctioneer for the sheep, which were auctioned first, was Mr Stanley Hosegood. After the sheep, the cattle were auctioned.
During the morning, buyers and spectators would arrive on horseback or by horse and trap. In those days, there were very few cars to be seen. Only the dealers from a distance came in motor cars.
There were also very few cattle lorries so many of the cattle were left in the field overnight to be walked to Dulverton Station by drovers the following morning. They were paid 2/6d per animal for taking them the 6 miles to the station. Sometimes there were over 100 animals that needed to be taken there to be sent to various parts of the country in railway trucks.
From 1934, the Young Farmers Club held their own show and sale of calves in the Auction field and this raised a lot of interest as the young farmers were all local.
In the middle of August, up until 1939, an animal show and sale of Closewool and Exmoor Horn breeding ewes and rams was held in the Fair field. Cups were awarded for different classes, including a class for lambs, which were sponsored by feed and veterinary companies.
Baronsdown, which was a rather magnificent place until WW2 when it fell into disrepair, held a garden fete in 1920 and a pageant in 1937. We have a ticket for ‘An Invitation Dance’ at The George Hotel on Thursday December 6th 1928 (Admission 3/- for Ladies and 3/6 for Gents) and an advert for a Dance at the Kingsbrompton Reading Room (Village Hall) on September 3rd 1935 with music by Dorothy Bond’s Orchestra (Admission 1/6d). A village concert headed “Brompton Thro’ the Ages” was held in 1976 featuring an impressive list of many of the residents - click here to download a copy of the programme and see for yourself. There are also photographs of some young-looking villagers enjoying themselves at a fancy dress ball and performing on stage in a music hall event in 1975 and concert in 1984. Dances, film shows and social events of all kinds continue to be an important feature of village life in spite of the influence of television on how we now spend our leisure time.
On Saturday August 14th 1954, the first Summer Fete was held. As you can see from the photograph of an entry ticket, admission was 6d and it featured stalls, sideshows and competitions including sheepdog trials, a whist drive and a dance afterwards.
The following year, it was decided to organise a pony gymkhana on the same day and it became known as the Brompton Regis Gymkhana and Summer Fete. At the time, it was quite common for farmers to use cart horses to work the land and a cart horse race was introduced along with tractor and trailer competitions, foot and bicycle races and a dance in the evening in the village hall.
In 1965, the show started in the morning (11.00am) for the first time and in 1967, the introduction of the sheep show with four classes, Exmoor Horn, Closewool, Blackface and Any Other Breed, proved to be very popular. Click here to see the 1987 Show & Gymkhana Schedule which confirms a full day of events starting at 9.30am
By the 1980s, it had grown to become the Brompton Regis Show and Gymkhana with the inclusion of horse shows and horse jumping competitions as well as livestock shows supported by all of the local farmers
Unfortunately, in 2001, the outbreak of foot and mouth disease resulted in the restriction of all animal movements and all livestock shows were cancelled including our horse show and gymkhana. However, not to be deterred, a smaller show was successfully held on the Millennium Green. Since then, the controls that have been put in place to prevent a recurrence have discouraged farmers from showing their stock at local shows such as ours and the Sheep Show has been discontinued.
After 58 years, today’s Show and Gymkhana still retains its welcoming charm as a traditional village country show run by the community to raise funds for local charities and good causes….and for families to have a good day out! Its tradition is maintained by not succumbing to the advertising boards or trade stands that are found in many other of today’s shows.
The villagers have never been reticent when it came celebrating a royal occasion. There are pictures of the celebration of King George V Silver Jubilee in 1935 (including a report in the West Somerset Free Press dated May 11th 1935), King George VI Coronation in 1937, Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1953, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 and Golden Jubilee in 2002. They have always been great occasions for the villagers to get together and enjoy themselves.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration in 2012 was no exception. Starting with a church service at 10.30am and followed by a ‘Big Lunch’ in the village hall enjoyed by over 150 people in two sittings, the celebrations continued with a children’s treasure hunt, children’s games, adult games (the tug of war had to be cancelled owing to the weather), raffle draw, planting of a memorial tree, group photo and cream teas. Royal scarecrows were displayed all around the village as part of a scarecrow competition and there was a royal crown competition for the children. Some 1950s memorabilia was also on display in the village hall. Although it was a rather wet day, it did not dampen the spirits and proved to be a great community event as you can see from the photographs here. A full article covering the event including coverage by the West Somerset Free Press can be read here.
During the late 1970s into 80s, the village held a number of carnivals, one of which was for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, when decorated floats of all kinds made a procession through the village. There was music, dancing and a carnival queen elected and, from the photographs that exist, everyone, including the men, seemed to enjoy dressing up for the occasions.
Exmoor is renown for its long tradition in hunting and shooting and Brompton Regis is no exception. A number of hunts meet in and around the village to add a splash of colour and excitement to the social scene. The sight of the red-coated huntsmen mounted on their horses with a pack of hounds pacing through the village is a sight to behold.
The Devon and Somerset Staghounds and West Somerset Foxhounds are the main two hunts although the Quantocks Staghounds, Dulverton Farmers and Dulverton West Foxhounds also organise hunts in the area.
It is a tradition that continues in spite of the hunting legislation passed in 2004.
Devon and Somerset http://www.devonandsomersetstaghounds.net/
Dulverton West Foxhounds: http://dulvertonwestfoxhounds.com/
Sheepdog trials are held every July at Nigel Cowlings farm, Rugglands. They were started in 1962 by Nigel and by the late Bertie Evans who farmed at Pulhams Mill. Bertie competed in sheep dog trials all over the country.
Working closely with the Cowling family, Margaret and Arnold Veale ran the sheep dog trials from 1982 until 2009! During those 27 years, except for 2001 when the foot and mouth outbreak closed the countryside, they raised almost £10,000 for local good causes, especially the Children’s Hospice Southwest. The main members of the team, which they drew together, continue to run this popular event with the invaluable assistance of Nigel and Rachel Cowling.
The trials continue to attract competitors from far and wide and have become probably the biggest event of its kind in the South West.
Agricultural shows are an important part of the farmer’s way of life. Not just to meet up with old pals or sell and buy new stock, but also to show their own breeding stock. From the time of the Kingsbrompton Fair, and probably earlier, our local farmers have taken a great interest in showing their stock and, in some cases, developing championship winning bloodlines.
Pictured here is Colin Hutchings with his 5 year old prize-winning Aberdeen Angus bull, Kingsbrompton Endeavour, who is overall supreme champion for winning the most points for Aberdeen Angus in the UK. He comes from excellent breeding stock as his mother, Kingsbrompton Miss Ethel, won more supreme Aberdeen Angus Championships in the UK that any other Aberdeen Angus.
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