Chatsworth country fair then and now after 35 years

An aerial view of the first Chatsworth Country Fair in 1981
An aerial view of the first Chatsworth Country Fair in 1981

Chatsworth holds its 35th country fair next month and two event organisers past and present have looked at the popular event then and now.

Andrew Cuthbert was behind the first fair in 1981 and Sarah Green is preparing this year’s.

The Household Cavalry entering the ring at Chatsworth on their first appearance in 1981

The Household Cavalry entering the ring at Chatsworth on their first appearance in 1981

The number of visitors in 1981 was around 50,000. This figure is now closer to 90,000.

Sarah said: “The site is roughly the same size now. “The mapping is a little like doing a massive jigsaw puzzle – except that when you remove a piece it always seems impossible to squeeze it into another slot. ”

Andrew said: “I would arrive a fortnight before the event in the park with my caravan to mark out the ground with white pegs.

“I would always allow an extra day and a half to be greeted by all my Chatsworth friends, who would call on my caravan to offer their help.”

Former Chatsworth Country Fair president , TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh

Former Chatsworth Country Fair president , TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh

The Red Socks is a team of volunteers who play a vital role in running the fair. In 1981 there were 15 Red Socks but now there are 60.

Notable members include Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent and his late brother Thomas, who both volunteered as youngsters.

Andrew said: “I could not have done it all without the help and cooperation of my wonderful band of Red Socks.

“They do not only make the show tick but also take a share of the proceeds for the Red Sock Trust which they in turn give to so many deserving charities.

“Over the years, the Red Socks must have given well in excess of £1 million to charity.”

Around 300 animals took part in 1981 including falcons, foxhounds, sheepdogs, dressage horses, lurchers and ferrets. Possibly the most unusual was an antelope in 2002.

BBC gardening favourite Alan Titchmarsh, England cricketer Michael Vaughan, IAAF president Sebastian Coe, BBC Countryfile presenter Adam Henson, Matthew Pinsent and just announced, Sheffield superstar athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill, complete the illustrious line-up of fair presidents.

The Guards Free Fall Parachute Display Team opened the first fair in 1981. This year the Grand Ring will be led by The Household Cavalry Musical Ride, Imps Motorcycle Display Team and The Red Arrows, who first appeared in 2010.

Andrew said: “A bad memory was the clear-up following the big flood on the weekend of Princess Diana’s death.

“It rained so heavily that when it was time for the Gurkhas to give their display I offered to cancel it; however, the Pipe Major told me rain and eight inches of standing water was not going to put them off from coming into the Grand Ring and giving their best. And they did.”

Sarah Green added: “My biggest challenge? Always the weather.”

The fair takes place this year on September 2-4. For more information, visit www.chatsworthcountryfair.co.uk