The current Wrenthorpe Show was established in 1980. But almost a century before, the village also boasted its own annual show – the Potovens Flower Show – which ran for over 20 years from 1881. The event took place in the long rope-making sheds of the Calverts’ Rope Works in Jerry Clay Lane.
The earliest found newspaper report of the Show dates from 1884. The sports events included ‘potato gathering’, which surely deserves reviving, it’d be great at the next Olympics.
Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 23 August 1884
POTOVENS THIRD ANNUAL FLOWER SHOW, SPORTS AND GALA
On Saturday afternoon, notwithstanding the Thornes Park absorption, there was a very fair attendance at this third annual show of plants, flowers, fruit, and vegetables, which held in the New Ropery, Potovens [site of Jerry Clay Drive], (kindly lent for the occasion by Mr. John Calvert). At two o’clock the show was declared open by Alderman F. Milthorp. The bouquets of wild and hardy flowers formed a principal feature, and excited considerable interest. The officers having the management of the affair were Alderman Milthorp (president), Councillor Lupton, and Messrs. B. H. Ramsden, Joseph Glover, and John Calvert (vice-presidents), and Messrs. W. Calvert, J. Beacher, T. Gill, J. Fletcher, J. Hebden, W. Shaw, G. Cuthbert, C. Render, J. Pickles, T. Arnold, W. Wild, J. Smith, J. Calvert, G. Brook, C. Land, B. Simms, F. Wild, G. Robertshaw, G. Freeman, J. Parkin, P. Firth, F. Wilkinson, W. Bedford, Joe Parkin, and H. Ivenson, who formed the committee; Mr. Alfred Hardy acted as treasurer, Messrs. Charles Calvert and George Hebden officiated as secretaries.
The programme for the event was full of variety, containing prizes for the best cultivated cottage gardens, best groomed draught-horses, for ponies, foot-races, potato gathering, also dancing, &c. There were six competitors who considered their cottage gardens eligible, and no less than ten proud owners of draught horses in their interesting competition. The judges in the floral department were Messrs. George Brown, (Hatfield Hall), Linton, (Wakefield and West Riding Asylum), Duffield, (gardener to Mr. T. K. Sanderson), whilst Mr. Samuel Jackson, of East Ardsley and Mr. T. Spurr, of Lofthouse Gate, determined the winners amongst the horses and ponies. £l0 4s. was in the hands of the treasurers to the credit of the show prior to this exhibition. As regards the sports they commenced with a 100 yards Handicap, open to all comers, in which Charles Parkin and Joe Roberts were the first and second respectively. Parkin won by this accomplishment a guinea tine-piece, and Roberts a copper-kettle, valued at 10s. The gathering of 40 potatoes, one yard apart, was the of cause of much excitement, Albert Moorby eventually proving himself to be the most active competitor, whilst Wright Whiteley, of Westgate Common was second. The prizes were a 12lb leg of mutton, and three stones of best flour. Eight lads entered for the youths of the district race, 100 yards, which was run in two heats, and a final. H. Smith, of Kirkhamgate, and H. Pickersgill, of Alverthorpe, won the heats and Smith came first in the final, receiving a 10s. time-piece as an acknowledgment of his prowess. Pickersgill became the possessor of a tea-pot, valued at 5s. [The article finishes with a long list of show classes and prize winners].
Ten years on, the Show has become an established fixture…
Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 25 August 1894
POTOVENS FLOWER SHOW AND ATHLETIC SPORTS
Favoured with fine weather, the above annual fixture, which came off last Saturday, was a decided success, the attendance being larger than any precious occasion in the Society’s existence. Thirteen years ago, Potovens Show had a small beginning, and for a time, so to speak, hovered between life and death. The committee, however, struggled hard against big odds, with the result that they finally overcame their difficulties, and succeeded in placing the Society on a sound and satisfactory basis. One important feature contributing to the success of the show has been the almost entire absence of rainfall on the day chosen for the annual exhibition, a matter wherein many similar, but less fortunate societies have great losses, and in some instances disaster. This year was no exception to the rule; people “streamed” into the village from all directions, and the Wakefield ‘Bus Company and other owners of vehicles did brisk business during the afternoon. The large sum of £80 given in prizes – large, of course, in comparison with the size of the place – testifies in an unmistakable manner to the zeal and energy thrown into the movement by the officers as a whole, most being men of the right calibre – men in possession of plots of ground and greenhouses, and full enthusiasm in regard to gardening and the cultivation of flowers and vegetables. Messrs. Charles Calvert and J. W. Moore again acted as joint secretaries, and they carried out the arrangements for the event under the instructions of the large and influential committee, consisting of no fewer than thirty-four gentlemen, in a most complete and business-like way. Through the kindness of Messrs. Calvert Bros. the exhibition was held in the new ropery and the athletic sports, which were a great source of attraction during the afternoon, took place in a field adjoining, The various events were witnessed with the greatest interest by a large throng of spectators. Mr. J. H. Fallas acted as handicapper and referee, and Mr. Parkin was starter, and the duties of judges were discharged by Messrs. H. Crutchley, H. Jones and W. Crawshaw.
[Long list of athletics results]
The large bulk of visitors spent most of the afternoon in witnessing the sports, so that those at all anxious to inspect the beauties of nature in the shape of flowers and plants, as well as the vegetables and fruit were able to do so with comparative ease and comfort. In former years, without the sports, the crush of people under the covered band walk, where the exhibits are made, rendered it very difficult to get about. We noticed several improvements in the arrangements, not the least important as a source of income to the Society being the enclosure, with a charge of 6d. extra for admission, for to those wishful of having a seat during the races. The strains of the Belle Vue Brass Band, under the leadership of Mr. W. H. Dykes, seemed to inspire life into the visitors, especially at night when the gala was held, for there were plenty of trippers, of both sexes, to indulge in the pleasure of a dance. Refreshments were provided in the grounds, and there were other things to engage the attention of the large throng of visitors. A display of fireworks at night by Messrs. M. Riley and Son, Ossett – a new feature in the proceedings – closed a most successful event, the receipts from which totalled half as much again as the takings amounted to last year. The judges of the exhibits were Mr. Hudson, Mr. Vere, and Mr. Thomas, of Woolley, Milnthorpe, and Bishopgarth respectively.
[Long list of show results]
…and 20 years after its foundation, the Show’s drawing an attendance of 2,000.
Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 24 August 1901
POTOVENS FLOWER SHOW AND SPORTS
In spite of the showery weather on Saturday afternoon, this event, which enjoys an enviable degree of popularity, was largely attended, and passed off successfully. The general arrangements, thanks once more to the tact and energy exercised by the officials, were excellently carried out, the exhibition of fruit, flowers, farm produce, etc., being held, as usual in Messrs. Calvert’s new ropery, while the athletic sports took place in the adjacent field, which had undergone due preparation and was in good condition.
The show of fruit, flowers, etc, was, as formerly, divided into four departments, viz, open class, cottagers’ class, farm produce section, and plain and fancy bread competition; and while the entries, numerically speaking, showed an increase on those of last year (they totalled 60), there was also noted a commendable improvement in the quality of the exhibits generally. Competent judges expressed surprise at the all-round excellence of the exhibits staged throughout the show; in not a few instances a much higher degree of quality was met with than had been anticipated, and more than once the judges themselves encountered considerable difficulty in making the awards. There is not the least doubt that at the show on Saturday agriculturalists and horticulturists alike of Potovens and district fully maintained the reputation they have won of being able to grow flowers, fruit, vegetables, etc., of the choicest and best description; most of which they invariably stage most attractively. The competition in plain and fancy bread was extremely lively, and the greatest interest was demonstrated in this department by the lady visitors to the show. The judges, whose decisions appeared to give universal satisfaction, were Messrs. A. Smith (gardener as Chevet Park), Jonathan Hebdon (gardener at Chapelthorpe Hall), Hazel (gardener to Miss Mackie, St. John’s, Wakefield). Hirst (head gardener at the Wakefield Asylum), F Greaves (Topcliff Colliery), Greaves (Kirkhamgate), and Atkinson (West Ardsley), the three last being the adjudicators in respect to the farm produce.
[Long list of prize winners]
The main source of attraction was undoubtedly the athletic sports, fully two thousand persons witnessing the various contests. Class was only moderately well represented, but some excellent racing was provided in both the cycle and foot races. In the cycle races several wheelmen came to grief at the slippery, wet corners, though not one of them was hurt. The following are the officials, and they are to be congratulated on the precise and satisfactory manner in which they did their duties:- Handicapper, Mr W Helliwell, N.C.A.A. and N.C.U.; referees, Mr J H Fallas; starter, Mr Holland; timekeeper, Mr H E Horridge; judges, Mr H Whiteley and Mr Horridge.
The prizes, supplied by Fred Land, were of a substantial and well varied character, and were distributed at the close of the sports.
At frequent intervals during the proceedings the Lee Moor Brass Band, under the conductorship of Mr James Turner, discoursed an admirable selection of music, including excerpts from Handel, Donizetti, Bellini, etc., which the gathering greatly enjoyed. Refreshments were also provide on the ground – the eatables by Mr T Swales, Alverthorpe and Wakefield, and the liquids by Mr Gold, Malt Shovel Inn, Wakefield.
[Long list of winners].
But then it seems just to fade away. The last press coverage of the event seems to be in 1903. By 1908 the Flower Show was no more. A piece in the Wakefield Advertiser & Gazette of 16 June of that year, talking about the Paxton Society’s idea of reviving the Wakefield Flower Show at Lofthouse Park, tells us: ‘Thornes and Potovens Flower shows have become things of the past, therefore the scheme we suggest will not in any way clash with the other Show in this.’