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Messingham and the Feast

A red-letter day in the village’s calendar is undoubtedly Messingham Show Day. The Show was at one time part of the Messingham Feast celebrations, which has origins going back centuries. The Feast was very much bound up with the Church’s Patronal Festival, Trinity Sunday and in his history of 1825, the then curate, the Rev John Mackinnon, gave a picturesque account of the Feast.

He described how before the Feast beds were prepared and provisions gathered in preparation for the influx of visitors who stayed for a full week’s festivities. The cottages were given a fresh coat of whitewash so that everything was spick and span for the great ‘Jubilee’. When the great day arrived ‘cheerfulness was seen on every countenance’. Many relations arrived on horseback, often whole families on one horse whose customary occupation was working the land. First the assembled company sat down to a wholesome spread and then went to the sports of the Feast, where games were played and prizes won. The days festivities concluded with a dance, ‘when every girl who had not, hoped now to gain a beau’.

It appears that the Show was first put on a formal basis in 1895 when at a meeting in the Horn Inn the ‘Messingham Horse & Foal Show Committee’ was formed, although it was probable that shows were held before that date. In the early days the Show was held in Mason’s Field at Hall Farm but then moved to the ‘Park’ down Church Street where it remained for the next sixty-four years. The picturesque setting together with the high standards achieved by the officials of that time led to the Show acquiring national recognition as the ‘Queen of Lincolnshire Shows’.

The fair of ‘Feast’ as it was known, was an important part of the celebrations and after the show, as dusk fell, the village was alive with people making their way up Church Street and along High Street to the ‘Feast Field’ at the rear of the Horn Inn.

It is during the last twenty-five years that the greatest changes have taken place. In 1966, the introduction of the ‘Spring Bank Holiday’, which replaced traditional Whitsun, left the Committee with no option but to fix the show date. Only occasionally then did the Show fall on the day following Trinity Sunday. The loss of the ‘Feast Field’ was the next setback and the Feast was accommodated in the showfield until the owner of the Park died in 1971 and the land sold for building. Another showfield had to be found and the Show has moved four times since then, firstly to Northfield Farm, then to Holme Lane for one year, then to Grange Park and finally to the Parish Council’s Holme Meadow Field on Holme Lane.

1990 saw the Show held for the first time on a Sunday. It was not an easy decision but the Committee felt that now the local schoolchildren are no longer given a day’s holiday it would again become the family day that it used to be.

John England