The Belper Steam & Vintage Event is a family orientated show, where the committee try to accommodate for all family members and age groups through our exhibits, stalls, and attractions. Each year we try to do something a little different…
So let’s have a look back over the years that the show has been running. The first show wasn’t big but it was something new and different for the town. For those who visited that first show they would remember the steam galloping horses owned by Fred Coupland, something which has been a feature over the years since. There were only five engines listed in the programme for that year – but they were all interesting and each one different, a showman’s, a roller, a tractor, a road loco and an agricultural.
Commercial vehicles have always played a big part and are a special feature of this event, as they were right at the beginning. The following year the number of engines had grown to nine including a steam wagon adding to the variety. 1991 represented the coming of age of the show. On the fairground the longest attending tenant put in his first appearance, Mick Keeling, who still supports the show to this day. There were eight fairground organs, a beer tent and street parades by the engines and other exhibitors. The Vintage Event had
firmly established itself as something to look forward to! 1992 was another record year in more than one sense and records were broken, or attempted at least, by strongman John Evans and Fire Eater Peter Mantrell! 1993 brought bad news financially when sponsors Exchange and Mart pulled out – but the local traders and the Town Council rallied round to help keep the show going.
The following year there was a Wall of Death – a feature for another two out of the following three years. By now the Belper Festival was almost extinct, it carried on for another year or two but it was the Vintage Event which was the major attraction.
The event had also expanded into nearby fields – the big traction engines had moved from their somewhat aloof position on the hard standing outside the ground to the main event and for the first time were able to appear in the arena. By now there was music in the beer tent and dancing shows outside – not only the exhibitors on site but locals from the town came down to make Saturday night something to remember!
And so things continued to grow, there was a fairground art exhibition in 1996 followed by an even bigger one incorporating fairground history the following year.
1998 was the tenth anniversary and one to remember – It was the biggest and best show ever, Allan Ford’s Wall of Death, a bigger fair, more exhibits and... a sea of mud!! Heavy rain made vehicle movement almost impossible – there was even Fiona Beale and her motorcycle stunt act in the arena on Sunday, slipping and sliding literally in the mud.
And so on into the new millennium, bigger and better than ever including, for the first time a display of heavy horses, a popular feature ever since. The following year the event was
able to go ahead despite many others having to be cancelled because of the foot and mouth epidemic and, for once the weather was kind!
This was not to last and the following year the rain came back. It was to prove to be a first and a last, the first appearance of Jack Schofield and his steam gallopers and the last on the meadows ground as the show had outgrown the site and it was decided to find a new location.
The following year the show moved to Eyes Meadow at Duffield and remained there until 2007, plenty of room for growth and the people still came from all over. 2007, one year before the 20th anniversary, the World’s Fair reported it as the biggest and best yet – but more changes were on the way.
The ground at Duffield was lost and once again a new site had to be found, and in time for the twentieth show. After a lot of hard work by the Committee a new ground was found on Street Lane at nearby Denby and an extra big show was planned to celebrate the anniversary – but it never happened! Issues over access to the ground caused the show to be cancelled at the last minute. The following year all was resolved – but again it rained and some 30 hours of rain resulted in a washout.
Like a phoenix from the ashes the show rose again in 2010 and a successful show was held on the new ground. It wasn’t to last and the following year heavy rain prior to the event caused the Committee to take the bold decision to postpone the show because of ground conditions. The postponed show was held in September that year – and it worked, proving to be a huge success. The fairground featured a ride with considerable local interest, a Noahs Ark ride presented by Robert Sweeting, the ride having previously been open on the Morledge at Derby from being new in the 1930’s until just after the war. The ride has been a feature of the fairground ever since. Another ride, the hurricane jets presented by Paul Hyman for the first time, Paul, was a longtime tenant and supporter of the event having brought along his traditional dodgems for some years previously before selling them in favour of the Jets.
2010 also saw the first flypast by the British Memorial Flight (BBMF) over the show ground by the Dakota, a sight which we have been proud to have had in all the years since.
Since 2010 the new ground has proved to be every bit as successful as the previous one, seeing good weather and record crowds again. The show during these last years has also seen various dancing troops perform, the Crusader Bowmen, Gun dog display teams, and falconry displays.
2014 saw the Belper Steam & Vintage Event celebrating its 25th anniversary. And we were able to bring two firsts to the show: Sky Symphony Kites display team and the Dancing Doe display team. Both of which are still talked about today. We also saw friends come from the Isle of Man who brought their 1908 Fowler A4 General Purpose Engine and 1934 Super Sentinel S4 Engine.
2015 saw our main sponsor, H.L. Plastics celebrate their 40th anniversary at the event, the event saw Titan the Robot make an appearance and saw the first appearance of the Welsh Horse Yeomanry, who performed the emotional re-enactment CADFARCH (Welsh War Horse) and Cavalry Through the Ages in the main arena. Team Falchion Knights also showed visitors through crafts, education and combat what it was like to live in the 14th century.
Each year more and more familiar faces return to enjoy the attractions we gather together to provide an entertaining show. As you explore the show ground you will have the opportunity to view and admire the results of many hours of dedicated patience, skill and craftmanship which have resulted in the various exhibits on display.
It has not been without its trials and tribulations, but the committee has persevered and steered their way around the obstacles. This would not have been possible without the hard-working team of volunteers who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes before and after the event has taken place and the support of our exhibitors and visitors.