The Great Yorkshire Show was born in October 1837 after a group of leading agriculturalists, led by the third Earl Spencer, met at the Black Swan Hotel in York to discuss the future of the farming industry.

They decided to form the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, to improve and develop agriculture and organise an annual agricultural show.

The very first show was held in Fulford, York, in 1838 and the first attendance figures were taken in 1842, when 6,044 visitors were recorded.

Like other similar shows in those early days, the Yorkshire Show would move to showgrounds around the county and didn’t have a permanent base.

It was held in all the main centres of population – no fewer than 30 towns in the three ridings – before the decision was taken in 1950 to build a permanent showground.

Take a look at a film of previous Great Yorkshire Shows put together by the Yorkshire Film Archive.

The Harrogate site was purchased for £16,500 and its imaginative layout and first class facilities led it to it being a trailblazer for others.

In 1992 the decision was made to remain at the Harrogate site and an ambitious £10m re-development programme was embarked upon. Since then the Showground’s prestigious conference and events venue, the Yorkshire Event Centre and Pavilions of Harrogate have gone from strength to strength. In addition the number of events staged on the Showground year-round has increased dramatically. It is now busy 12 months of the year and the YEC recently underwent an £11 million redevelopment, making it the largest event space in the North East.

History of Great Yorkshire Show

  • 1838: First Great Yorkshire Show held in the Barrack Yard of the 5th Dragoons at Fulford, near York.
  • 1839 – 1841: The show is held in Leeds, Northallerton and Hull
  • 1842: GYS returned to York and first attendance figures recorded: 6,044.
  • 1874: Hugely successful show in Sheffield with attendance of 64, 111 (nearly double any previous shows)
  • 1914: Largest recorded show held in Bradford with attendance of 82,461 (not exceeded until 42 years later)
  • 1915-1919: Show is cancelled due to the First World War.
  • 1920: GYS held jointly with the Royal Agricultural Society of England in Darlington.
  • 1926: GYS held on The Stray in Harrogate and was “the most successful in the history of the Society”.
  • 1931: GYS held in fields off Long Lane, Dalton, Huddersfield
  • 1937: GYS held on York Knavesmire “widely considered to be one of the best show sites in Britain.”
  • 1939: GYS held in Halifax, two months before the country went to war.
  • 1940-1948: Show is cancelled due to the Second World War.
  • 1949: GYS held in Wakefield and the Society decide to purchase a permanent showground.
  • 1950: Last “roaming” show in Malton. The Society bought a 200-acre site overlooking Rudding Park, Harrogate
  • 1951: First show held at the permanent showground, with attendance of nearly 54,000.
  • 1957: 100th show sees visitor numbers soar to 118,593
  • 2001: Show cancelled due to the outbreak of Foot and mouth disease in Britain.
  • 2002: Highest attendance for more than 20 years and since then attendance has never dropped below 120,000
  • 2006: Record breaking visitor numbers of 135,111
  • 2008: The show was attended by the Queen to celebrate the 150th show
  • 2012: First ever show to be cancelled due to weather after unprecedented rainfall (after the first day).
  • 2018: 160th Great Yorkshire Show
  • 2020: Show cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic

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