The Society From 1777
In the Autumn of the year 1777, several gentlemen met at the City of Bath, and formed a Society for the encouragement of Agriculture, Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. in the Counties of Somerset, Wilts, Gloucester, and Dorset, and in the City and County of Bristol.
The meeting, at York House, was attended by twenty-two people. Among them were Edmund Rack, the Society’s first Secretary, William Matthews, who succeeded him, and Dr. Falconer, Fellow of the Royal Society, and Physician to the General (now the Royal United) Hospital in Bath. None of the twenty-two had any direct connection with farming.
In November 1777, a much larger group of people than had assembled at York House two months earlier elected the principal officers of the Society, including the Earl of Ilchester as President. The founding fathers were very local – Lord Ilchester was the only prominent county member – and this fact was emphasised by the original title of the Society. It was the Bath Society and it was thirteen years before it widened its horizons and became the Bath and West of England Society. The original group was gradually supplemented and strengthened by the addition of people of greater influence and expertise, men like Arthur Young, Dr. Priestley, the chemist, and Thomas Curtis, the botanist.
The Society Today
The modern Royal Bath and West of England Society has moved forward with the times. Having held its annual show in Shepton Mallet for the past 50 years, the days of the perapatetic show are long since gone.
January 2015 saw the arrival of a new Chief Executive, Rupert Cox, who brings with him the energy and foresight to take the Society into the next 50 years. Supported by a Board of eleven Trustees his vision for the future is exciting. Development plans have begun to take shape on part of the Showground, giving the Society the funds to engage in new projects to guarantee the longevity of the Royal Bath and West of England Society.