Did you know the Chantry estate in Ipswich was a royal showground less than 100 years ago?
PUBLISHED: 16:13 06 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:13 06 December 2018
The Ipswich Society reveals how the Royal Show came to the town in 1934, causing quite a stir.
Until 1963 the Royal Show was held at a different venue each year (a different town), the honour of holding the show was an event to behold, much coveted amongst the provincial towns, in 1933 the Show had been held in Derby and it was destined for Newcastle in 1935. Both, you will note, manufacturing towns at the centre of their agricultural region.
When the Royal Agricultural Association announced that the show would come to Ipswich both the corporation and the Industrial Development Association (a group of manufacturing businesses) put tremendous effort to ensure a successful show. Their prime aim, of course, was to show Ipswich as a capable and functional manufacturing town with a wealth of industry and a skilled workforce.
This was particularly true of those manufacturers who produced machinery for the agricultural sector but the costs of promotion were shared by a range of businesses that would benefit from the diverse audience likely to visit the show.
Visitors were expected from all across the Eastern counties, and from elsewhere in the United Kingdom (LNER had special excursion rates to Ipswich). They were advertising a good service of restaurant car trains from London as well as excursions from the continent (Antwerp or Zeebrugge to Ipswich £2 10s 6p by train ferry) and Flushing to Harwich, and by ferry and then train to Ipswich: 28.50 Dutch Florins).
The show ground was just a few minutes by bus from Ipswich station, Ipswich Corporation Transport had purchased 10 new double deck trolley buses from Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies. Trolley buses were very futuristic, even in 1934; they were rubber tyred electric vehicles getting their power from twin overhead wires.
The wide open space at the end of Robin Drive (in 1934 the entrance to the show ground) was to allow for a turning circle for the trolley buses which, having discharged their passengers could quickly return to the station.
LNER had built a new marshalling yard at the bottom of Crane Hill to enable the unloading of animals travelling to the show which were then walked up the hill (Gwydyr Road) to the animal pens. The very close proximity of the show ground to the town centre was unusual for the Royal Show and the promoters made much of this, probably masking the fact that Ipswich was a considerable distance from middle England.
Ipswich was still, in the early 1930s, a manufacturing town of some repute. Alongside the long established engineering companies were the new arrivals, setting up their businesses in Ipswich because of the availability of the skilled workforce. New arrivals included Manganese Bronze (1916), Crane Fluid Systems (Nacton Road, 1921) and BSP (British Steel Piling, 1921). All wanted the world to know of their existence, their capabilities and their products. The Royal Show was the ideal opportunity.
An important key local business that took space at the show was the chemical fertilizer manufacturer, Fisons. Artificial fertiliser had been developed by Edward Packard in Coprolite Street, Ipswich with a manufacturing plant in Bramford. In 1919 they purchased the Stowmarket business of ‘Fison’ to become Fison, Packard and Prentice.
Sir Frank Guy Clavering Fison became chairman in 1929 and set up their business headquarters at Gippeswyk Hall, just one mile from the showg round. Fison’s also built a major production facility on the newly opened Cliff Quay together with the adjacent ‘top-site’.
The royal visitor was the Prince of Wales who piloted his own plane into Ipswich Airport, (he had officially opened the airfield just a couple of years previously). Edward was to become King on the death of his father, marry Mrs Simpson (who gained her divorce in Ipswich) and abdicate, to live life in France as the Duke of Windsor.
The show was however a great success, companies that had taken space at the show (there were almost one thousand trade stands) saw their business grow, unfortunately just five years later war broke out and conditions changed.
The Royal Show established a permanent home at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire in 1963 but after a disastrous rain soaked show in 2009 ceased to function. The ‘Royal’ showground in Ipswich became the Chantry housing estate after the Second World War.