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(Updated 10/4/01)

The WELKS Ladies celebrate 70 years in style

By William Moores

WAS IT really thirty four years ago that I attended my first WELKS show in the grounds of Boddington Manor just outside Cheltenham?!

Unable to drive, I hadn’t passed my test, I travelled there by train, the stock for the stand had been sent on a week before by rail.

I recall the M5 finished at Cheltenham and the taxi driver who took me from the station to the hotel and then every day from the hotel to the showground wore a peaked cap and the old Mercedes 190 he used smelled of quality leather!

Mrs Ferelith Somerfield, sporting an elaborate, and we are told borrowed, hat kept the members and guests amused.

This was to have been a special year for the ladies of WELKS - a celebration of seventy years since the formation of the society the shows of which have become a firm fixture in the spring calendar. Sadly this year it has been decimated by postponements and cancellations and the WELKS championship show was one of first to fall victim to the spread of the dreaded Foot & Mouth Disease which has affected so many.

That the celebration lunch and the AGM was held in the splendid surroundings of the Pittville Pump Rooms in Cheltenham last week was no coincidence. For the very first WELKS show was held in its grounds in May 1931attracting 2880 entries from 1199 dogs.

Built between 1825 and 1830 the Rooms exude the faded elegance of its time but represents the strong palladian proportions which made it the fitting centre piece of the estate of Joseph Pitt. The famous spa water which is the only one to contain natural alkaline can still be ‘taken’ in the rooms.

The French windows on the south side of the main hall looked across
to the lawns of Pitville Park which hosted the first WELKS show in 1931.

It was fitting to note that the restored building was open in 1967 by the Duke of Wellington who himself is a Vice President of the Kennel Club.

Almost 100 members and guests enjoyed the wine reception and lunch with the guest speaker Mrs Ferelith Somerfield keeping everyone amused with recollections from the shows in the 1950s.

Another guest of honour included Mr Peter Hull, now a retired vet who had many years of association with the
society from the 1960s until its move to the Three Counties showground near Malvern in 1976 and for many years on.

Chairman Miss Sybil Churchill expressed her disappointment at the need to cancel this year’s show and spoke appreciatively of the committee and officers’ efforts.

Former vet Mr Peter Hull and WELKS Chairman Miss Sybil Churchill.

For many of today’s exhibitors WELKS is Malvern. Those who have been around a bit longer will recall the venues at Boddington, the one show at Earl Bathurst’s estate at Cirencester in 1975. At Staverton when some dogs arrived for the show by plane arriving at the nearby airfield!

Then there was the fact that it was the first show ever to hold a general championship event on a Sunday; the Golden Jubilee event in 1981 which endured heavy snow on the third day; the sixtieth celebration lunch at the Stratton House Hotel in Cirencester which in February 1991 was similarly affected by apalling snow and gales.

The ladies now look forward to their next show in 2002 and we all hope that a resumption of normal show activities will ensure a smooth start to the season next year.

Don’t look up! A view on the assembly from the balcony three storeys above!