With thanks to the Bromyard History Society for allowing us use of these archived photographs.
The first Bromyard Gala was held way back in 1967 – a one day affair, little bigger than a town fete, but it was the start of something which was to dominate the Bromyard calendar for a generation.
The town was at a low ebb – less than half the size it is today – and with the railway closing, and business faltering, the local Chamber of Commerce was looking for an event to out Bromyard on the map. The suggestion of the show was made by the late John Wilkins, a newly appointed bank manager, who was to become a prime mover of the show right through to his death in 2004. The show was designed to put Bromyard on the map – something in which it has really succeeded, and the involvement in all aspects of the town as a community – exemplified by the carnival – has been crucial to its success. John’s interest in steam, with that of many of the other founders – but especially that of Bill Morris, the local bus operator - brought about the unique inclusion of Traction Engines, Fair Organs, Tractors, Oil Engines and suchlike, making it the truly unique event that it is now.
That first show was little more than a town fete on the old football field at Broadbridge, but the following year it went over the road to a much bigger location. Future growth saw it move to where it was to remain for very many years, at Mintrdge, Stoke Lacy, care of the late Henry Hodges. It was there that the vintage side became really strong, and the show celebrated its 25th anniversary with the Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry – an event very well remembered. Who cannot also forget some outstanding carnival entries; the Aardi Sea ship from the Council, the Elephant from Boustons – so many to recall.
When Henry retired and sold the farm, the Stephenson family from Birchyfields came to the rescue, and we had ten years at that delightful parkland setting, with stunning views over the Herefordshire countryside towards Wales. There was once a fabulous Firework Display by Dragonfire, an event which lit up the countryside for miles around.
After John stood down as Chairman after very many years, due to his declining health, Liz Huffer took the helm. Sadly for the money side of the show, two of the Birchyfields events were effectively lost – one to Foot and Mouth Disease, and one to the tremendous rains of 2012.
Another move in 2014 saw the show move to the new site at the Burgess, Munderfield, where it is today – four open fields with again the superb aspect to the West. Steve Matthews has been Chairman since the last move, and a great deal of work has turned those four fields into a well-serviced showground, with all the pay cabins, office and stores painstakingly relocated.
2017 saw the celebration of the 50th show, with the spectacle of the JCB Dancing Diggers, and a memorable display in the History Society tent of Galas old and new.
Looking back brings back memories of many kinds, but none more so for those involved than those who were so much a part of the show, very many no longer with us, and too many to recall here. But we should perhaps all raise a glass to the late Bill Morris, the local bus proprietor, whose fearless manual skills made the workers believe that nothing was impossible, anything could be achieved, and with a great deal of enjoyment in the process.