The Old Pateley Feast

Nidderdale Agricultural Show, Pateley Show, the Nidderdale Rant or Pateley Feast – call it by any of these familiar names and you will easily conjure up a picture of a very busy, thriving Show set in beautiful surroundings in the small market town of Pateley Bridge.  The favourable position of Pateley Bridge led to a charter being granted in 1320 by King Edward II for a weekly market to be held.  The grant was made to the then Archbishop of York, Primate of England, William de Melton, it stated that “that he and his successors forever may have one market every week on Tuesday (now held on saturdays) at his manor of Patheley Brigge in Nedredale, in the County of York, and one fair there every year , lasting five days to whit, for three days before the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on the day and the morrow of the same feast”.

The origin of how the date of the Show became fixed in the calendar is itself a subject of interest often discussed among locals and visitors alike.  References to this can be found in the writings of various local historians, all of whom recognise that the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is a religious commemoration, fell on the first Sunday after the 17th September.  This in its turn determines that the Annual Show should fall on “the morrow of the feast”.  Thus Show Monday should never fall before the 19th September.

Founding of the Society

The Nidderdale Agricultural Society was founded in 1895 and the first Show was held at Grassfield on Monday, 23rd September. The first Show was voted a success, with entries for all classes numbering 206 in total.

In 1896, Mr J C Yorke gave permission for the Show to be held in Bewerley Park and over the next few years the Show gained in popularity.

Each year new innovations were added to the Show programme.  The 1898 Show included classes for cattle, sheep, horses, butter, eggs, honey and a sheep dog competition.  The following year pigs were introduced.

The Early Years

In 1900 a poultry section was run independently and 1902 saw the establishment of showday cricket. The Society’s first annual dinner was held in 1911 at the Crown Hotel, Middlesmoor.

With the outbreak of the 1914-18 War, the Show was suspended and resumed in 1919. During these years, the Committee organised sales on behalf of the British Farmers’ Red Cross Fund. The organisers of the 1919 Show must have been very satisfied as even though the weather was unpromising, there was a record attendance.

The 1920s

The 1920s began an era in the Show’s fortunes which was marked by steady progress and enterprise. The Society had a bumper year in 1923 and in 1924 it was resolved that ‘four policemen were required, cheap jacks and hawkers were not to be allowed and that a ladies tent be engaged with four stools’!

1925 saw the beginning of negotiations for the purchase of Bewerley Park and the transaction was completed in 1926. It was resolved that a Company be formed to take over the present Society with its assets and liabilities. The committee showed great foresight and faith at a time when the prospects for agriculture were anything but rosy. That year poor weather affected the Show. It was decided to let the Park for the agistment of stock and various local groups soon realised the advantages of being able to use the Park. The amenities were improved by the erection of a permanent grandstand which could also be used for storage.

The 1930s and 1940s

There were other significant changes throughout the 1930s.  The cricket club erected a new pavilion and the main entrance to the Park was improved.  In 1936 over 100 young trees were planted. The number of people attending the annual Show continued to increase as did the variety of classes.

During the War Years, a small revival of the Show was held on Feast Saturday. Part of the Park was ploughed up and planted with oats in 1942 after a visit by officials of the War Agricultural Committee.

In 1946 the Show reverted to a Monday.  The number of classes for farm stock was considerably increased and the fur and feather section revived.  Young Farmers classes were a prominent feature and the sheep dog trial took up the whole day.  Dog showing was introduced in 1946 with a 50 Class Open Show. The Women’s Institute were asked to organise a tent. This new feature of the Show proved highly successful and drew a large number of entries. Attendance at the revitalised Show reached 10,000.


Work continued to improve the condition of the showfield with the erection of new fencing, the building of new roads and the creation of a car park between the Lodge and the river.

The 1950s to 1970s

The year 1951-52 was a milestone in the history of the Society.  It was decided to pay out all Debenture holders making the Society free of debts.  Efforts continued to develop the Show even further.  Heavy congestion at the Park gates resulted in the widening of the entrance.  The late 1950s also saw the installation of permanent turnstiles.  New gates were completed allowing a double carriageway into the showfield and a flow of traffic without congestion.  The first permanent toilet block was built in 1962 at a cost of £529.17s/4d.  Throughout the 1970s classes were constantly under revision and improvements made in the Park.

The 1980s and 1990s

In 1980 a new entrance was made from Bewerley into the field which relieved the main gate of much of the main traffic coming from Otley and Skipton.  In 1988 a new toilet block was completed near the sheep lines at a cost of £16,000 and in 1989 a new road was constructed down the riverside.  This decade also saw the introduction of the Sponsorship Scheme and the introduction of the Supreme Championships in the cattle and sheep sections.  Other new ventures included the introduction of the ‘Food from Nidderdale’ marquee and dressed carcass classes.

The 1990s saw the extensive refurbishment of the Grandstand, including a new toilet block and commentary box, whilst a new pedestrian access was constructed with a new layout for the turnstiles and a new vehicular access.

In 1995, celebrations were held to mark the Centenary of the Society.

To mark this occasion, the Society published their Centenary book – the ‘Pateley Rant’ – the story of the Nidderdale Show 1895 to 1995.

2000 to Present Day

The new Millennium onwards saw the official opening of the Coach and Car Park at the main gates to the Park; the construction of a flood barrier in the showground; renovation of The Lodge; the construction of a new building for storage of sheep hurdles; upgrading of electrical provision; new gates at the Bewerley Entrance; refurbishment of the Secretary’s Hut; tarmaccing of the main roads around the showground and creation of new roads; extensive improvements to the water supply to the toilet blocks; extensive levelling and drainage works greatly improving the condition of the land.

The Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001 meant that the Show that year could not go ahead, and there were no livestock classes at the 2007 Show because of a further outbreak.

In 2011 one of the oldest oak trees in the Park succumbed to disease and had to be felled. The trunk was carved in to a seating area comprising a cow, sheep and pig by local sculpter, Rose Badger.

Nidderdale Show Stone Carving by Carl Foxton

And in 2012 the Society was presented with a magnificent stone carving by local retired builder Carl Foxton. His carving is a pictorial depiction of all aspects of the show and it has been installed at the Main Entrance to the Park.

013 show 20132013 saw the return of Harness Racing to Pateley Bridge after an absence of over 70 years and £2,227 was raised for Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

The Sheep Dog Trials at the 2016 Show featured on BBC programme The Farmers Country Showdown.

2016 also saw the construction of a new meeting room and show day accommodation.  The Princes Countryside Fund awarded a grant towards it’s construction.


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