Wartime and Showtime in Long Marston Episode 1

This story is a semi-fictional version of events, based on the actual minutes of the meetings which took place in Long Marston 1936-1940, and further information obtained from interviews with long term residents. The information from residents is based on their memories of past discussions with those who were there at the time so may not be totally accurate

Episode 1 – Joe Chandler’s story, February 1936

This is a great time for our country, we have a young and handsome new King and at last we seem to be recovering from the depression and the impact of that awful ‘war to end all wars’. And it is great to be living in Long Marston, such a lovely village with lots of friends and families who all know each other and get on so well together, at least most of the time.

But over the last few years, a number of us have been thinking that maybe we can do more to bring the people of the village together. We had a chat about this issue in the Queens Head last Saturday night and someone – I think it was John Chapman – suggested that we should have a Village Show of some kind, also including Puttenham, many of whose residents have close links with Long Marston through the Church. John pointed out that Puttenham launched their annual Jumble Sale five years ago and it has been a great success, bringing people together and attracting visitors from surrounding villages.

So, after talking to various members of the leading families here – Southernwoods, Gregorys, Chapmans, Reeds and Rodwells – I decided to call a meeting of all those interested for 21st February, to discuss whether we could launch an annual show of some kind. After discussion with William Southernwood, he agreed to chair the meeting and I am impressed to see 29 people from the two villages here and, it appears from earlier conversations, all keen to see things happen.

The first proceedings of the meeting are to confirm William as Chairman, John Chapman as Treasurer and me as secretary, with the responsibility for taking the minutes. I have brought along a specially purchased new exercise book that will record each meeting going forward. William also suggests that we make some nominations as Vice Presidents, important people from the area who will add status to our new venture. Various names are shouted out and I eventually take down a list that includes Lords Rosebery and Rothschild as well as our local MP Sir John Davison and the Reverend Anthony. I feel like saying – why don’t you ask the new King and President Roosevelt? – but I decide to keep quiet. I am given the task of approaching these distinguished gentlemen.

A few more realistic decisions are made and I note these in my new book. We will hold the first event in Long Marston School on the first Saturday in August and I will make enquiries about the likely rent to be charged. We will contact local farmers and businesses to ask if they will provide prizes for the various competitions. And we will charge a realistic entry fee of one penny.

I intervene in the discussions to make the point that this event needs to be more than a conventional flower and vegetable show; we need to have some sports events and these will need generous cash prizes, not just those provided by local businesses who tend to be rather tight with their cash. I suggest a prize fund of £5 for this purpose and our Chairman becomes quite difficult, saying that £4 is plenty; he really can be a skinflint and always seems to disagree with me. I can see that working with William is not going to be easy.

Someone intervenes to ask a valid question – where is the money going to come from? We are in more agreement here; a series of whist drives in both Long Marston and Puttenham is thought by everyone to be the best way of raising funds.

There is further discussion about the events to be included and this produces some interesting ideas; a ‘Carnival Parade’ is suggested – which everyone thinks is a good idea – though the proposal that there should be a prize for ‘the most humorous walker’ is not received quite so well. But I note it down in the minutes.

An Action Committee is appointed and my role as minute taker is confirmed. But I plan to be more than that; I want to make sure that this show will be one to remember and will last for many years to come. And persuading our Chairman that we need to provide the necessary funds will be one of the most important tasks on my action list.

Next: Episode 2

Editors Notes:

  • The first bombs fell on London in September 1940, a month after that year’s village show.
  • The bomb fell on Long Marston School on January 13th 1941.
  • The Village Show continued every year of the war and thereafter until 2020, when it was cancelled due to Covid

One Comment “Wartime and Showtime in Long Marston Episode 1”

  • Sue Gascoine


    It’s lovely to Read about the Village I grew up in, To Me it’s still Home !!

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