A History of the Society

From the beginning

The roots of The Trumpet Agricultural Society go back more than 60 years, to the Second World War.

Home guard members were not only busy practising wartime doodlebug and blackout drills, but also hatching a plan to form a society whose match was to become the biggest one-day draw for ploughmen.

Today, some of the best competitors in Britain know full well that to win at Trumpet carries a top honour.

In the war years, those who were not fighting on foreign soil were digging for victory at home and putting their thoughts to ensuring that agricultural standards were not being sacrificed.

The Dad’s Army volunteers met in a tin shed at the side of the Trumpet pub at Munsley to form the Trumpet and District Home Guard Hedging Society later to become the Trumpet and District Agricultural Society. Crowds flocked to the fledgling group’s first hedging match at Priors Court, Aylton in March 1944, under the chairmanship of Mr W.H.Barrett. The prize money then, totalled to just £28.

Afterwards there was even more support for the dinner in Munsley Village Hall, with food being short, members took along what they could, crockery was borrowed and to cover costs there was a charge of 2s 6d. The whole day proved a wonderful get-together and it set the tone for support in the future.

Later in 1944 the first ploughing match was held at Marley Hall, Ledbury the home of the society’s first president, Lieutenant Colonel, the Rev J.W H. Toynbee, four members who ploughed that day were still ploughing at the annual match fifty years later. They were Geoff Eversham, Albert (Titch) Morris (who was champion ploughman with horses before taking to tractors), Stan Hill and Phil Cox.

The secretary at the start of the society was Mr Archie Cowell who put a lot of credit for the society down to its President at the time Rev Toynbee, who held the office for six years, also to Mr George Foxwell who lived at Massington Farm, Ledbury and moved to the Trumpet area in 1944. In Archie’s words” he was the brains of it all”.

By 1947 the occasion had taken on the appearance of a fully-fledged agricultural show with classes for hops, fruit, roots, leys. One of the longest standing Presidents – thirteen years – was Mr Jim Roberts, who being an excellent fruit grower, introduced the crop section to the Society schedules and in 1962 saw a small fruit section expand to become The West of England Show, which still exists at present day matches. Mr Peter Fraser who preceded Mr Roberts also did much to help in the success of this venture.

After the first match in 1944, interest grew and so did the prize money, which totalled £265, and new classes were introduced for root, leys and fruit, there were also awards for the best-thatched ricks of hay and straw with prizes of £1 and 10 shillings (those were the days).

In the following year 1946, more classes were given to tractors and the horses had only two classes and produce introduced itself to the schedule. Archie said the match of 1947 stood out in his memory as it had record entries – 23 horse teams and 77 tractors, which was quite an achievement in those days, the match really started to develop into the biggest and best in Britain. The merit of durability is certainly shown by the officers. Members like the late Archie Cowell who was secretary for 40 years. Many families have continued their association with the Trumpet. Tony Cotton, of Chapel Farm, How Caple, the president since 1996, started with the society as a teenager and his father, R.F. Cotton was president before him.

Horse ploughing still remains a big feature at the Trumpet match. Some matches draw a trickle of the gentle giants but the Trumpet often has around 20 and sometimes more, helping to turnover the pale stubble fields with their jerky and laborious action.

The power and majesty of the horse teams might be sufficient to satisfy many of the visitors but the blend of old and new ploughing techniques at the Trumpet is often supported by such attractions as stationary motors, veteran tractors and old threshing machines, driven by steam.

The classes for fruit, flowers, handicrafts and cookery are supported by those for roots, cereals, leys and hops which have been grown for centuries in the Ledbury area.

1951 saw the start of the Ladies Section, which started with about 40 classes and was run by the Ladies of the society mainly wives of the men’s committee. That year also saw the cups for ploughing increase to 12.

1960 also marked a turning point in the affairs of the society. The headquarters had always been the “tin room” at the Trumpet Inn, this was a corrugated tin hut at the back of the pub, with the demolition of this shed meetings had to move to the Hopton Arms at Ashperton.

In 1960 Mr John Gwilliam – representing Stoke Bliss ploughing society – won the World Champion Ploughman and won the coveted Golden Plough. He lived at Tarrington and was a member of the society.

1961 saw the horse ploughing classes dropped and the tractor reigned supreme, and it was not until 1967 that horse ploughing was reintroduced.

By 1964 the cup list had risen to around 40. Today we have 62. Quite a glittering display on match day!

An array of silverware at a ploughing match.

1969 marked the Silver Jubilee of the society. Celebrations were the order of the day and Archie Cowell was presented with a cheque and a gold watch in recognition for all the long hours he had given the society. Only twice has the ploughing match been cancelled due to bad weather.

1958 the Fruit, Hops and Domestic sections were moved to Ledbury market and in 1980 it was too wet to plough but the Domestic Section was still held, I gather Mr Price from the Fir Tree pub did a roaring trade that day and many a tale could be told!! In 2001 there were no matches held at all due to foot and mouth.

The society, although many of its members are getting older, is still thriving and we are full of hope and confidence that the society as we know it today, with the help of some new young members, will remain in existence for many more years to come.

A gathering of past chairmen and treasurers outside the Trumpet Inn.

The Trumpet Society - synonymous with the name of Archie Cowell

No reference to the Trumpet and District Agricultural Society can be made without thoughts turning to Archie Cowell.

Archie was a, if not the, founder member back in the dark war days of 1944 when most forms of travelling were banned due to petrol rationing but certain agricultural events, such as an instructive competition, were exempt; so what better than form the Trumpet & District Hedging Society later to become the Trumpet & District Agricultural Society as we know it today.

Archie was to become it's first secretary and retained that office for 44 uninterrupted years till his death on November 26th 1987.

After 40 years as secretary this is what you get - a coffee table.

He was a real character, full of fun, enjoying a drink or two and mixing with people but not very good at putting pen to paper. Having a fabulous memory he had no need to and all knowledge of competitors addresses, match plans etc were kept in his head making him a very hard act to follow as Mrs. Jean Eversham found out when she followed him into office. His main passions in life were the Trumpet Agricultural society and the Ledbury Hunt and in between the two was his milk round.

Archie was normally responsible for obtaining match sites and he had a knack of not asking donors but telling them that they should have the match on their ground and what a great honour it was!

Archie Cowell, founder member and secretary for 43 years until his death in 1987, pictured at the Trumpet Inn where the society was founded in 1944.

"In The Wake of the Plough"

This excellent publication chronicling the entire history of the Society with many photographs is available @ £10 plus postage from Mrs. Margaret Probert, Church House Farm, Weston Beggard, Herefordshire. Tel. 01432 850 368

Mrs. Jean Eversham - General Secretary from 1987 - 2012

2012 unfortunately sees the retirement of our long standing general secretary Mrs. Jean Eversham. Her first attendance to a Trumpet event was on Saturday February 5th. 1949 at the hedging competition held at Hall House, Ledbury by permission of Mr. A. L. (Archie) Cowell and she recalls that she arrived on the back of a motor cycle. Her first full ploughing match attendance was in 1951 when she arrived as a passenger with her husband to be, Geoff, on a Fordson Tractor, stopping on the way to cut some hazel sticks to be used as copping pegs to ensure straight ploughing!

Secretary Jean Eversham and Treasurer Tom Nellist being interviewed on film at the 2011 match at The Rock Farm, Dymock.

In 1962 Jean competed in the Ladies domestic section and a year later was invited to join the committee of which 50 years later she is still a member and competitor.
Jean is personally known to all the top ploughman and has travelled thousands of miles over the years to other society matches to ensure that these men come and compete at the Trumpet. It was very fitting that the 2012 match was held on her doorstep thanks to her personal friendship with the Blandford family at the Old Rock, Dymock.

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