HISTORY and TALES FROM THE VILLAGE SHOW
Since 1904 the Village Hall in Finstall has been the centre of busy village social activity, and is held in great affection locally as a “grand old lady” who has seen the comings and goings of more than a century of village life.
Finstall Village Hall is situated on the Alcester Road in the heart of the village of Finstall and was built for the village in 1904 by the Albright family. Mr William Albright of Finstall Farm gave the land, and his sister Catherine Albright built the Hall. The building, which had accommodation for 150, was managed by a small committee with the object “to promote brotherly feeling, friendly and social intercourse, and recreation”
It was thereafter used for a variety of purposes with provision for billiards, chess, draughts, dominoes and ping pong, also a supply of periodicals and a small library. Social gatherings for women, adult classes for men, lectures, concerts and religious services were among its activities in the early days.
In 1937 Miss Albright handed the ownership of the Hall to the trustees with the object of “the provision and maintenance of a village Hall for the use of the inhabitants of Finstall and the neighbourhood thereof without distinction of political, religious or other opinions”. In those early days the W. I. was able to help considerably with the war effort with the making of jam for the local bank initiative. Since then the Hall continued to encourage the many clubs and societies which have emerged since its beginning.
The Village Show, originally a flower show, is an important event which has taken place annually in early September since 1904, with a break during the Second World War. This is a day of friendly competition where villagers and others from the surrounding area display their prowess in vegetable growing, craft, art, jam making and baking. The day finishes with a grand auction of produce, the proceeds of which go to the Hall. See below for some stories of past village shows...
The village has really changed little in the last 110 years, still retaining its essential rural character and charm, and the Oakalls and Parklands residents have been welcomed as an extension of the village community. Many of them enjoy the facilities of the Village Hall and the welcome cosiness and excellent beers of the Cross Inn.
The Hall itself has seen good times and bad in terms of the fabric of the building and it became rather tired and shabby, but it has recently been undergoing renovations and the attractive Edwardian character has been restored.
It has even been considered pretty enough to host some very happy local wedding receptions over the last two years.
And thanks to the combined efforts of villagers and the generosity of some local charitable trusts, including the Bromsgrove Institute and the Grimley Charity, the Hall now has a brand new efficient heating system.
Tales from the Village Show...
The village show has been part of local life for over 100 years. Held annually apart from a break for 2 world wars. The first shows attracted over 250 entries from 70+ local people.
The only interruptions have been due to world conflict in 1914 and 1939 where efforts were needed to increase home food production away from the frivolity of village competition and a hiatus for a few years in 1968, when the popularity of the show had waned. Presumably this was down to the competing attractions of the permissive society.
1968 was coincidentally the first year that the contraceptive pill could be prescribed for unmarried women
One feature of the early shows was that certain categories were only open to women, leading to the disgraceful situation whereby men were specifically excluded from putting in entries for, for example:
Plain apron (neatest sewing) or Firmest or neatest darned stockings or socks
Nowadays it could be very tempting to self identify as a woman for the opportunity to win the prize of 2/6d on offer. (a very generous prize – around £7.50 in today’s values – considerably more generous than the niggardly £1.50 on offer in today’s shows)
There was also a subdivision for women. With prizes for married and unmarried women. Married women were specifically excluded from entering “any kind of cotton undergarment – neatest finish” in 1908, which must have caused some women to put off their nuptials.
We have discussed reintroducing a category for unmarried womens’ underwear in recent shows but were unable to identify a suitably qualified judge.
Every year there is a long and contentious discussion to decide the schedule of categories for the village show. Some – mainly flowers and vegetables have stood the test of time (tho turnips have been dropped from the list.)
Here are a few categories from past village shows
Dish of boiled rice
Dish of boiled potatoes
Cold lunch for a working man
Two pieces of fried fish
These were only open to women – disgraceful. Although clearly a working man could not be expected to get his own lunch……
Traditionally produce is auctioned off at the end of the show. There is no record of the bids for fried fish, boiled potatoes and rice, or of any instances of post show food poisoning.
How about reintroducing other past categories?
One cockerel, dressed, plucked but not drawn
Child’s pet (fur or feather)* in a cage or box * presumably to exclude reptiles and insects
One pigeon in a cage
A single canary
Largest collection of queen wasps
Scandal in 1934
Every village show has its own stories. Probably the greatest scandal was the onion incident of 1934. I hope none of you are related to a Mr HJ Edwards.
An extraordinary meeting was held in August 1934 to discuss the suggestion that Mr Edwards had misrepresented the provenance of his entry into the spring grown onions category. Regulation 4 of the show stating that the Committee “have the power to visit the garden of any competitor” - a snoopers charter if ever there was one…
I will quote directly from the minutes of the meeting….
Captain Ryland reported that Mr H Clarke had lodged a protest on the day of the show, in accordance with the rules of the society, against Mr H J Edwards’ exhibit in class B 10 Spring Grown Onions – 1st prize and winner of the Burchell Challenge Cup. Two members of the committee had subsequently visited Mr Edwards’ garden and reported that in their opinion the onions had been recently planted because the bed had been recently forked up and several of the largest onions had been cleaned. One they removed came up easily, the root having been pushed into a hole in the ground.
Several other members of the committee reported that information had been given to them by persons who wish to remain anonymous, and a gentleman who also wished his name no to be mentioned came to the meeting and offered certain information as confirmation.
After a discussion it was unanimously agreed, with one abstention, that the protest be upheld. In accordance with regulation no 7 Mr Edwards forfeits all prizes. The secretary will write to him to this effect.
Raffle for a pig
Have you ever entered a raffle not knowing if you wanted the prize? Traditionally a ballot for a pig was held at every village show. A tradition that has sadly not been upheld.
In 1939 Mr Bampkin of Gibb Lane Catshill was the lucky winner of the pig in question. However when the farmer tried to deliver the animal, Mr Bampkin said there had been a misunderstanding and wanted the money instead. Eventually the committee agreed to give Mr Bampkin a cash prize of £1.5s in lieu of the pig.
Shooting and dancing
Another traditional activity at the show was the air gun shooting competition, open to all comers (no discrimination here) from 3pm till dark – entry 3d. For some reason it was stopped – health and safety gone mad…
These days the event is done and dusted by 5pm. In the 20s and 30s after the prizes were awarded at 8pm there was dancing to a local band until midnight.