The first Timsbury Horse Show and Gymkhana was held in 1956 on Honeylands in front of Parish’s House and was deemed to be one of the biggest seen locally for years. It was organised by the Timsbury branch of the North Somerset Conservative Association which had recently been revived.
The key individuals involved instigating the show were Bernard Cayzer, Colonel Pye, Major Bartlelot and Maurice Jenkins. After World War II there were many horse shows in the local area including Chelwood, Marksbury and Newton St Loe. Robert Gardiner of North Hill Farm said, “There was a horse show on almost every weekend in the local area”.
Bernard Cayzer lived in Parish’s House and was Deputy Chairman of The British and Commonwealth Shipping Company Ltd and Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company, a director of Cayzer Irvine and Company Ltd and Clan Line Steamers Limited. He was a great supporter of the village of Timsbury community; being instrumental in the development of the Conygre Hall and being Presidents of the Timsbury Cricket Club, Timsbury Football Club, Timsbury Horticultural Society and the Timsbury Branch of the St John’s Ambulance Association.
He was described by Timsbury Parish Council as one of the greatest benefactors the village of Timsbury ever had. Another interest he had was horses and horse racing. So, it would be no great surprise that Bernard Cayzer was keen that Timsbury should have its own horse show.
Colonel Pye was chairman of the Friends of the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath. He became chairman of the Horse Show and in 1968 became its President. One recollection about Colonel Pye was that he was very keen that the sausages used as part of the refreshments used at the show came from Tunley, presumably Weavers!
Major R G Bartelot lived at Vale House on Loves Hill. He and his wife were also actively involved in village life. Major Bartelot was Chairman of the Timsbury British Legion and his wife was President of the Women’s Institute.
Maurice Jenkins lived at Tyning House in Tyning and was prominent in local politics. He was Area Chairman of the Conservative Party and a village Parish Councillor. He also represented Timsbury in the area quiz competitions and was a church warden for many years at Farmborough. Maurice was for many years the Horse Show treasurer and was responsible for the show at Timsbury always being run on a very sound financial footing.
The outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the Bath area in 1957 caused some complications for the show and an obedience demonstration by the Bath Alsatian Training Club had to be cancelled. One other effect was that the winner of the first prize in the skittles competition – Mr. Merrick of Priston – had to wait for his pig until the restrictions were lifted! Despite this, the show thrived and celebrities were invited to attend. Actor Bob Arnold – Tom Forrest in The Archers – attended the show on September 19th 1959.
The Timsbury Horse Show became an annual attraction. The show moved to a new venue in 1961, it was held in Brian Newth’s field at Kingwell Crossroads and featured the regional finals of the Daily Express Foxhunter Championships. Malcolm Tucker remembers the number of top names in the sport who appeared regularly because the first three horses in the event qualified for the Wembley Horse of the Year Show. For the record Sheila Barnes from Hampshire was first, Graham Gingell of Bruton was second and Somerton’s Gerald Brake came in third in 1961.
By 1966 Timsbury Horse Show took place in Emlett, the large field in the north east of the village, south of the Hayeswood Road and Sleight Farm. This introduces another important name to the story of the Timsbury Horse Show – Holbrook. Joseph Holbrook owned Home Farm on South Road and lived at Oakhill House on Maggs Hill. In 1901 he is described as a cattle dealer and beer retailer and in 1911 a farmer and cattle dealer. Joseph Holbrook bought Sleight Farm and the story is that all the trees on the estate were cut down and sold to help finance the purchase. Joseph died in 1956; his son John James (1895-1985) was very keen on developing the horse show which probably explains the use of Emlett. His son Joseph John (1938-2002), who was a biochemist at the University of Bristol, was also very supportive in later years.
In 1966 the Show was held on 29th August, the Bank Holiday Monday. It included a jumping parade of Mendip Farmer’s Hunt and a musical ride by Banwell Hunt Pony Club. The 1967 Timsbury Horse Show was an unqualified success with fine weather encouraging the best attendance for more than five years. Added attractions were licensed refreshments, sideshows, fun fair parade of the Mendip Farmer’s Foxhounds and a visit from Charlie, the last British Railways shunting horse who lived in retirement at Ston Easton. Tom Fussell, the farrier from Kelston Forge, was also the centre of much interest.
In 1970 the Show had three rings, a driving marathon (single horse drawn vehicle), parade of the Chilmark Beagles, side shows and entertainment and licensed Refreshments. The entrance fee was 15p for adults with reduced charges for children and OAPs.
By the 1970s some new names became prominent within the Show. Alan White of Tabor Farm in North Road had become Chairman and Robert (who became Vice Chairman) and Marilyn Gardiner became involved in 1975. Their daughter Sally was a regular competitor at the Show. Here she is on Peter Poppins in 1974. Robert and Marilyn presented a Peter Poppins Memorial Cup in later years.
In 1980 there were record entries for Timsbury Horse Show at Emlett with many more trade stands than in 1979. The Avon and Somerset Police caravan proved a big draw. Alan White, the Show Chairman paid tribute to all those villagers who had helped to make the event such a success particularly 69-year-old Phil Snook who had been a founder member of the committee and was still doing his bit.
The show at Timsbury was affiliated to British Show Jumping Association which is the governing body for show jumping in Great Britain and sets the rules under which affiliated competitions are held. Some big names in show jumping jumped at the show including David Broome, Harvey Smith, Pat Smythe, Anne Moore, Ted and Liz Edgar. Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips were there just before their engagement announcement.
One local resident remembers her small dog lining up for a wee on the edge of a horsebox ramp and the man sitting on the ramp laughingly said “Don’t you dare, m’lad!” She looked up and saw that it was David Broome.
Planning meetings were essential for the smooth running of the Show. Early meetings were held at Parish’s House. They then took place at the Royal Oak, the former pub at Kingwell crossroads. In later years the meeting took place at the Ring of Bells in Priston.
Setting up all the jumps took place on the Thursday and Friday before the event on Bank Holiday Monday. The show expanded from three to seven rings. One year some vandals caused significant damage to the jumps and a group of the organisers went down to Kendalls (now Travis Perkins) to collect all the materials needed for the repairs. They were very busy but managed to get everything back to how it should be and the show only started 15 minutes late on the Monday.
The programme from the 1989s shows details of the Show.
In 1981 Bernard Cayzer died. He had been a life-long supporter of the Show. A memorial plaque was created at the end of the Ha-Ha and a copse planted in his memory.
Timsbury Horse continued successfully during the 1990s. However, the last show at Emlett was planned for 2000. The 2001 show didn’t take place due to a foot and mouth outbreak. By 2002 the Show moved location to Tilly Farm in Farmborough. At this time many of the long serving members of the Show Committee retired and the Show became smaller. In fact, the Timsbury Horse Show still continues and takes place at Clutton without direct links to Timsbury.
The Timsbury Horse Show was a prominent event for nearly 45 years and many local residents have many positive memories of the Show. Indeed, a recent request for information about the show on Timsbury Rocks brought a wide range of recollections.