The Society From 1777
The Royal Bath and West of England Society, founded on 8 September 1777, is the oldest Agricultural Society in the country. It was not the first but it has outlived all its predecessors.
Founded in an age when there was no Government departmental input into agriculture, the Society, along with its private landowners, scientists and individuals in politics and public affairs, made a remarkable contribution to the development of farming practices and other aspects of the rural economy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The Bath Society was instituted ‘for the encouragement of Agriculture, Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in the Counties of Somerset, Wilts, Gloucester and Dorset’. In 1779, it was resolved that Devon and Cornwall, and, soon after, Hereford and other counties, would be welcomed if and when they wished to join. As its ambitions and its membership expanded, it was renamed the Bath & West of England Society in 1790. Following amalgamation with Devon County Agricultural Society in 1851 and then with the South Counties Association in 1868, the writ of the, now entitled, Bath and West and Southern Counties Society, ran from Cornwall to Kent to Oxfordshire, Hereford and South Wales. At the time of its Centenary, it was, without question, the strongest local society in Britain. It became ‘Royal’ in its Bicentennial Year of 1977.
Promotion of Agriculture is and always has been the raison d’etre of the Society and, thus, of its Shows. That objective, in turn, has embraced the whole spectrum of economic, technical, social, cultural and educational improvement to rural life and the nation’s rural economy.
The Society Today
The Society’s founding principles are as true today as they were in the eighteenth century, though the methods through which these objectives are achieved have moved with the times.
From its home at the Bath & West Showground in the heart of Somerset the Society realises these charitable objectives through an array of activities, projects and events; the most famous of which is the Royal Bath & West Show. The Society’s other events include The Dairy Show, Grassland UK and the Field to Food Learning Day.
As an agricultural charity the Society has a remit to offer awards, grants and scholarships for the promotion of agriculture and rural arts. This remit manifests through programmes such as The Prince of Wales Award, Environmental Youth Awards, Art Scholarship and Long Service Awards.