So much more than monster marrows

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IT began the year of the Queen’s Coronation, became so popular it out-grew its original site and eventually ended in the mid-1990s.ANDREW LEVETT looks back at the third year of the fledgling West Hartlepool Show.

THE Mail’s two-page preview spread of West Hartlepool Show, on Friday, August 12, 1955, described it as a three-year-old “toddler” but added it was already one of the most successful and attractive events of its kind in the North-East.

The show, at Ward Jackson Park, began when the town’s branch of the National Gardens Guild decided to celebrate the Queen’s Coronation.

According to the Mail: “The idea of a town show was not exactly original, but many of the features of its ultimate composition were.”

The un-bylined reporter continued: “This should not, the planners decided, be just a collection of tents of flowers and vegetables, but a town window of all the activities of the many voluntary societies and organisations which epitomise the social lives and pursuits of the whole community.”

There were plenty of flowers and vegetables in 1955 – entries were up 50 per cent on the previous year at more than 800 – but plenty for other tastes, such as high wire walker “Derrico”, who had been christened Derek and whose normal job was as a colliery engineer in Rotherham.

There were 700 entries in the various handicrafts classes and Hartlepools and District Kennels association had a number of “novelty” classes in its dog section.

The Hartlepools Amateur Radio Club set up a full-scale transmitting and recieving station, there were regular displays on the lake by Hartlepool Model Yacht and Power Boat Club and there was a fashion contest, with prizes of 10 shillings (50p) for winners in each category.

One tent was earmarked exclusively for Hartlepool Model Railway Group, who had worked all year preparing their layout for the show.

There was much excitement at the first visit to the North of England of a working telephone exchange which would demonstrate what would happen when you dialled 999.

West Hartlepool’s cacti expert W W Askew displayed 100 specimens and the town’s Civil Defence Organisation offered an emergency meals kitchen layout and demonstated radiation measurements.

The show would go from strength to strength in the following years, outgrowing its original venue at Ward Jackson Park and moving to Greyfields before falling victim to changing tastes after around 40 years.

What are your memories of Hartlepool Show?

Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@northeast-press.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.