The Royal Agricultural Society Show was held in Park Royal in 1903-1905.
The Royal Agricultral Society prepares permanent grounds
The Royal Agricultural Society was formed in 1838. It held shows throughout the country displaying the latest achievements in agriculture including farm machinery and animals.
The 1879 event was run in Willesden, at a site which later became Queen's Park. Due to extremely bad weather the show was a huge loss, and the Society decided to set up a permanent show ground in order to reduce the costs of setting up and dismantling stands. Additional revenue could come from letting the site for other events when not required by the Society.
Towards the end of the century a suitable 102 acre site was found near Twyford Abbey, and the Society took a 50 year lease on it and formed a company, Park Royal Ltd to administer the venue. Main drainage was done and an entrance building was constructed at Abbey Road. (demolished in 1961).
The railways responded to the new undertaking by providing new lines and stations to serve the area. The Great Western Railway opened the Park Royal station in 1903, as well as providing goods sidings. The Metropolitan District Railway provided a permanent station to the south of Twyford Abbey Road, opening on 23 June 1903. The London and North Western Railway also provided a branch, initially for goods traffic, but also serving passanges when the Show opened.
The First Show
The first show at Park Royal ran from 23 to 27 June 1903. The Willesden Chronicle reported:
'The line of approach from Willesden to the Show had been adorned a day or two before with advertisement boards, on which abnormal fowls and dogs paid pictorial tribute to the advantages of particular brands of food. Down by the canal there was a semblance on a small scale of the Epsom route, crowds of loafers watching passers by or listening to peripatetic musicians, and in the evening partaking of the delights of a fair pitched in an adjoining field, the caravan dwellers moving to wrath a member of the Sanitary Committee of the Council, by their Kaffir-like indifference to the elementary necessities of sanitation. Entrances to the ground from bot the Park Royal station side and Willesden [Abbey Road] were provided, and the buildings, for temporary ones, were very commodious. Recent bad years, and the expenditure of £30,000 on the ground, has made the present move a severe drain on the Society's resources, but I imagine that the great attendance will well recoup it for the venture, whilst the possibility of letting the ground for similar shows should make the permanent provision a thorough financial success.
'There was an unending series of attractions for the visitor, whether agriculturist or layman - cattle to the huge total of 1,000 of the finest type of selective breeding, and including a great number of beautiful Jerseys and shorthorns; pens beyond for some 600 sheep and between 200 and 300 pigs; and sheds for the 400 horses and ponies. The six miles of shedding covered also agricultural machinery of the most improved and ingenious type,k and smart tents and summer houses delighted many a cockney who, perhaps, found little outside the jumping and riding oval to interest him.'
Willesden Chronicle, Friday, 26th June 1903.
The show was attended by Kind Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, and the Prince of Wales. However, there was only 65000 visitors - only a third of the attendance at Kilburn 24 years previously. Still, it must have been regarded as a success, and further developments were planned.
The Show's Misfortunes
The Middlesex Public House Trust Company built the Plumes Tavern at a cost of £6000 on the edge of the Showground in Abbey Road. It was completed in July 1904 and opened in August, just missing the Royal Show of that year. The name of the pub alluded to the father in Prince of Wales coat of arms. It was he who opened the Agricultural Show and allowed the area to take the name Park Royal.
Although no expence was spared in the preparation of the show, the 1904 attendance was even poorer than the previous year. The Society's losses were not recouped by attempts to let the site to other users - there was little interest with the exception of Queen's Park Football Club using the horse-ring for practice matches in August 1904 and moving their headquarters there from Kensal Rise that autumn.
The 1905 show, despite further royal patronage, received only 24000 visitors, the lowest number ever recorded. It was then decided that the whole idea of a permanent site had been a mistake and the Society resumed the 'travelling' Show. Park Royal ground was sold in 1905 and developed into an industrial site, with some branch railway tracks disappearing under the Heinz factory complex.
The two other Park Royal stations had limited lives, the District station closing on 6 July 1931 and the Great Western Station on 27 September 1937.
Reproduced from the Journals of the © Willesden Local History Society , all rights reserved
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