The Rutland Agricultural Society’s origins date back to 1788 to the Leicestershire and Rutland Agricultural Society. The first supporter of this was the Earl of Winchelsea, owner of Burley on the Hill Estate. In 1794, John Crutchley, of Burley on the Hill, wrote in a Board of Agriculture report, ‘Are there any societies instituted in the county for the improvement of agriculture? Answer none’.
The cause was later taken up in the 1830’s by Sir Gerard Noel Noel, 2nd Baronet of Welham Grove in Leicestershire and Exton Park in Rutland, who became increasingly involved in promoting agricultural improvements, predominantly by supporting the work of his estate steward, Richard Westbrook Baker, who had worked on the Exton estate since 1812. Baker was quite a pioneer in the agricultural world as well as helping to found the Rutland Agricultural Society he instigated the Rutland General Friendly Institution, the Rutland Farmers and Graziers' Club, the Agricultural Hall in Oakham (now Victoria Hall) and the Small Allotment Scheme. Baker also built a brewery at Langham (taken over by Ruddles in the early 20th century), invented the 'Rutland Plough' and was a renowned stock breeder, particularly of Shorthorn cattle.
With the need to gain stability in cereal and livestock prices, Sir Gerard Noel Noel called a public meeting in September 1831 at The Crown Inn, Oakham whereby a livestock market was established on October 17th of the same year. A further meeting on November 7th1831 formed the Rutland Agricultural Society as it is today.
The first Rutland County Show was held on Monday December 5th 1831 at an indoor riding stable in Catmos Street, Oakham (now Rutland County Museum). The first show was attended by 500 people. It was more like a Fat-stock market where prime animals who have been fattened for market are shown.
Eventually, the riding school soon became too small and the show moved to South Street, Oakham (now Oakham fire station and South Street car park). The show then moved again to a 17 acre site in Barleythorpe, but due to the original proposed Oakham bypass, the show moved once again across the road to the 28.3 acres of land adjourning the Stud House, now a new housing estate. The entrance to the showground consisted of three double gateways with a central arch constructed and installed by Messrs. Duckham & Co. Ltd. The 1965 Society’s accounts show that Rutland County Council eventually bought the original Barleythorpe site for £21,750.
In 1965 the government planned to alter the date of the official bank holiday from the first Monday in August to the last Monday in August. The show which had been held for 30 years on August bank holiday decided to move the show date too.
The show soon out-grew this site and in 1976 it moved out of Oakham to Burley on the Hill’s Court d’Honneur, supported by the goodwill of Mr. Hanbury, who was President that year. In 2003, the show moved into the main Parkland area at Burley on the Hill. Around this time the show was struggling financially after a number of wet years, and a number of sponsors were sought so along with generous members’ donations kept the show afloat.
In the mid 2000’s an opportunity arose to sell the land in Oakham, this was discussed at much length amongst the committee and members. The simple truth was that after several wet years coupled with the cancellation of the show in 2001, due to the foot and mouth outbreak, the show was struggling and reserves in the bank were low. A deal was struck with developers and Rutland County Council to move the Society along with Oakham Rugby Club and Royce Rangers Football Club to the new showground positioned north of the Oakham bypass.
The move to the new Rutland Showground took place in 2014. The first show saw a huge increase in numbers through the gates as the sun shone with many visitors able to walk to the new showground from town. Today the Rutland Show has established itself as the largest one day event in the county and offers a fabulous day out for all ages.