1991 | Stalham Farmers' Club | Leading speakers from the agricultural industry.

Club prepares to celebrate milestone

Eastern Daily Press, October 1991

One of the country’s oldest farming clubs is set to start the autumn season with a splendid celebration on Friday evening.

Members and guests of Stalham Farmers’ Club will mark the 150th anniversary with a dinner and dance in Norwich.

There has been remarkable support for the club during the past decades although there was a significant reduction in attendance during the late 1920s when the last severe agricultural depression caused such severe hardship to the industry.

It was noted at the annual meeting at the Town Hall, Stalham, on February 26, 1929 that “about 14 members sat down to tea. In the absence of the president, the chair was taken by Mr Wright. In view of the indifference shown by a good many of the members in attending the meetings of the club, it was agreed that such members should be informed as to the position of the club and be asked whether their desire is to give it further support. It was suggested that a discussion take place at a future meeting with regard to re-organisation of the club.”

It was agreed at a further meeting almost a year later to “knock off the tea for the next meeting which might begin about 7.30pm.”

At the December 3, 1930 meeting, the then secretary, Mr Roy Wright, noted that the (late) John Mann had been elected as a new member by a “good company.”

The club gained further support during the following year as a series of new ventures and innovations were discussed. More than 40 members attended the 1932 annual meeting to hear about the canning factories under construction.

Mr J C Wallace, principal of Kirton Agricultural Institute, talked about the cultivation of peas. He reported that an early variety, Alaska, was worth 19s (95p) cwt with the main crop variety, Lincoln, fetching 17s (85p) cwt for shelled peas delivered to the factory on haulms.

“If delivered in pods, 3s (15p) per 40lbs was usual. Alaska cropped about 150 bags an acre and Lincoln about 250 bags with picking pods by hand cost 1s (5p) per 40lb bag.

“A director of Norfolk Canneries Ltd, Mr F W Corbett, of the Park Hall, North Walsham factory, said that the factory was ‘being built in East Norfolk because that district has no rival in the world for growing best quality fruit and vegetables. The intention was to start canning the following fruit this year and fresh pears the following year (1933).

Mr Blofeld said that was not the intention of the Wroxham factory to can peas for a few years.

One of the club’s long-serving secretaries for almost 20 years, Nigel Wright, of Church Farm, Stalham, who has delved into the available minutes and records of the club, said that the membership had remained remarkably static throughout the 1870s at around 70 members although in the late 1930s, it had fallen to around 40.

A series of crop competitions proved popular. The first awards were presented in 1879 when the best globe mangold, long mangold and Swedes and turnips were judged. The increasing interest in sugar beet was recognised by the English Beet Sugar Company’s Cantley factory, which agreed to present an annual trophy in 1927 and 10 years later, a barley competition was held.

One sugar beet trophy, which was presented by the Cantley factory in 1928, recently came to light after almost 70 years’ absence. It was returned to club officer Roger Beck, by Peter Boardman, who found the missing and long-forgotten trophy.

Over the years the Stalham has invited a series of leading speakers in the agricultural industry to address members. Although meetings were suspended from around 1916 to 1919 and again in the Second World War, the club’s long-term success has been helped by the loyalty of succeeding generations of members and officers.

There have only been eight presidents since the club was formed in December 1841 and some 15 secretaries during the same period.

In 2014 – it stands at 10 presidents and 16 secretaries.