On 17 June 1885 The Royal Cornwall Agricultural Show, a two-day event, opened at Treneere Fields in Penzance. At that time the Show was held annually alternating between sites in East and West Cornwall and this was the second time it had been held in Penzance, the first being in 1869.
However, there had been serious concern that financial support for the Penzance Show was not forthcoming, as at the end of April the Cornish Telegraph reported that “after six weeks of money hunting we are informed at a meeting of the Committee that only sixty pounds have been raised and that several leading hotel keepers …….. have, with extreme munificence, contributed the extraordinarily large sum of ten shillings!
The situation obviously improved as on the 11th June they published a long article telling readers that the showground covered three extensive fields with the one entrance at St Clare Gate on the Madron Road. Great detail is given about erection of the sheds and in particular the grandstand, with a galvanised iron roof, which is placed at ‘the centre meadow of the group and is certainly a magnificent structure 166 ft long and containing eight tiers of seats affording accommodation for upwards of 800 persons, and, on a pinch, for at least 1,000. The roof is so constructed as to project 4ft beyond the line of the first row of seats so that the stand will be a safe refuge in case of rain or storm’. In addition, there were two refreshment tents ‘extensive in their character’ and numerous tents and marques supplied by Mr Jennings of St Ives. Local newspapers report that a most interesting Show is promised. Estimated entries for animals & livestock include around 150 horses, over 260 dogs, 360 poultry (a third more than the recent Devon show at Plymouth!), cattle, sheep & pig numbers not yet confirmed, plus dairy products and horticultural exhibits with over 170 classes.
As now the Show offered an opportunity for Companies to exhibit their wares. There were stands showing grist mills, lawn mowers, ploughs, reapers, carriages, furniture etc. Advertisements were taken out on front page of the Cornish Telegraph ranging from Chas S Wills’s (stand 26) ‘In order to grow the Largest Turnips, use pure crushed bones or dissolved bones’ to Thomas Bradford & Co, gold medallists at Dublin and Preston who ‘will Exhibit a collection of their celebrated ‘Vowel’ washing machines’.
On the day musical entertainment was provided by the Warwickshire Regiment who played on the show ground while the Penzance Choral Society attracted large numbers to St John’s Hall to hear Martha and a miscellaneous concert. Helpfully the Great Western Railway ran a ‘special’ train from Penzance after the concerts.
It was reported that the weather was good and by noon on the 17th June over 3,300 visitors had passed through the turnstiles. West Cornwall was well represented in the prizes, A Lawry from Varfell winning the Silver Cup for the Hurdle and Water-Jump and local people winning the vegetable and fruit classes, including an extra prize for Asparagus also won by A Lawry!