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A BRIEF HISTORY IN TIME
The David Broome Event Centre is situated at the family home of the famous show jumping Olympic medallist and world champion show jumper, David Broome, at Mount Ballan Manor, Crick near Chepstow in South Wales.
The Showground welcomes many thousands of visitors throughout the year and it has certainly gone from strength to strength since it began over 45 years ago.
HISTORY OF THE AREA
Close to the showground at The David Broome Event Centre, Caldicot Castle stands in a beautiful setting of 55 acres of wooded Country Park. Evidence of slight remains which exist to this day indicate that an early Norman motte and bailey castle is believed to have stood in an adjoining field in Crick at Ballan Moor, probably built by the Ballon family in the late 11th or 12th Century
Caldicot boasts a fascinating past as the whole area is steeped in history. People have lived in the Caldicot area since at least the Neolithic period, the earliest inhabitants probably having lived close to the banks of the River Severn. There was considerable activity during The Bronze Age. Recent excavations near the Neddern Brook, which runs through the farm at Mount Ballan, have revealed a plank from a Bronze Age boat in the former river bed. The remains of a Roman City can be seen at Caerwent, known to the Romans as Ventra Silurum. This Roman village with its soldiers’ barracks was one of the oldest settlements in Wales. At the time the River Neddern was a substantial waterway and it is likely the Roman trading vessels sailed up the river to Caerwent.
From Norman times when William Fitzosbern, King William’s cousin, held the lands of Caldicot, to when the Black Death hit Caldicot in 1349 and again in 1361, through the Middle Ages to the more prosperous times of the Tudor period, the terrible floods of 1606, and during Victorian times when the population of Caldicot was 450, virtually all of Caldicot’s inhabitants were engaged in farming or in trades serving the agricultural community. There was no school then, the only education being provided by a widow in her cottage. She was paid a by local charity to teach children to write and to read the Bible!
In 1850 Caldicot entered the “Railway Age” - a development that was to fundamentally change the nature of the village. The South Wales Railway was opened and attracted more industry. The Severn Tunnel was built primarily to transport coal from South Wales to England, particularly to the Royal Navy dockyards at Portsmouth which was opened in 1886.By the late Victorian period, Caldicot was no longer the purely agricultural community it had been for centuries. In thirty years between 1851 and 1881, Caldicot’s population had more than doubled from 661 to 1,401, reaching 1,770 by 1951. In 1962 Llanwern steelworks opened and by the end of the decade Caldicot was occupied by 7000 people and was still growing. The Severn Bridge was opened in 1966 strengthening ties between Caldicot and Bristol, and the M4 corridor brought new industries to the town.
HOW THE SHOWGROUND BEGAN
The Broome family moved to Mount Ballan Manor in 1947 living firstly in the The Ballan and then later moving to the old Coaching House to the Manor, farming the land here whilst producing ponies and horses. All four of Fred and Millie’s children, David, Liz, Mary and Frederick had an interest in riding and Fred himself used to ride in his youth whilst growing up in Cardiff. Fred’s Father used to work for the local vet and had many an old fashioned remedy for horses’ ailments which he passed on to his family. Fred passed his knowledge of horses onto his children and helped to train many successful ponies and horses here at Mount Ballan, thus encouraging the family’s love of horses. Ballan Silver Knight, Bess, Wildfire, Disquitido, Sunsalve, Mr Softee, Philco and Sportsman were some of the horses that took David and Liz on to gain international success throughout the world. Whilst having helped to get his children to the top of the equestrian world, it was his dream to create a showground here in South Wales.
CREATING WALES AND THE WEST SHOWS
In 1968, The Wales and West Shows were created by David’s Father, the late Fred Broome. He had the foresight and courage to establish Wales and West and would certainly be delighted at what has been achieved over the years. Being a very proud Welsh man, it was his dream to create an equestrian Show Centre in Wales and to host a Welsh Derby in order to put Wales firmly on the map in the world of equestrianism.
Fred was a very ambitious, hard working, no-nonsense gentleman who would not take “no” for an answer. “Holiday Pay?” he used to screech “don’t be so ridiculous – whoever heard of anyone getting paid for being on holiday?” His old fashioned work ethic, his unfaltering enthusiasm and his utter belief that he could achieve whatever he set out to do helped to ensure that he enlisted an equally dedicated team of friends and colleagues to help him get this show off the ground. Joe Dudley, who ran a very successful shop fitting company in Cardiff, became President and built the original Judges boxes. David Weaver, a family friend, was a huge supporter and was enlisted as Treasurer. John Wilde (Father of the highly successful and talented commentator, Steve Wilde) was a major player in running the shows, dashing about trying to organise everything and everybody in the office and doing a brilliant job. Bina Ford had the unenviable job of Stable Manager. John Doney, Bob Ellis, the late Trevor Jenks and Idwal Price, were some of the many Course builders who could be seen in the Castle Ring building challenging courses in those early days.
The then 12.2 courses in the Ballan Ring would have certainly had the Health and Safety Executive of today asking questions and scratching their heads and would even have made a Grade A rider look twice but they were fantastic classes where children who jumped 3 clear rounds, which was certainly no mean feat, collected their first prize red rosette – no racing against the clock in those days – merely learning to jump a big fence usually won the class – even when you were 12 years old.
Back in 1968 the Showground then was a far cry from the Showground that everyone enjoys today. A small, old, blue and very cold caravan (probably one that Fred had reclaimed from being destroyed) was refurbished and became the “Secretaries Office”. No heating, (an unnecessary luxury), a Gestetner duplicator (that generally didn’t work) needed more than a bit of gentle assistance to print off schedules on a regular basis - certainly no computers working everything out - all entries hand written in a triplicate entries book and handed to the collecting ring staff and judges.
Another stalwart and family friend, Muriel Morgan, used to work on the Collecting Rings and visions of her standing there braving blazing heat waves, pouring rain, fierce snowstorms, clouds of dust, swirling fog, ferocious winds and whatever else was sent her way, are hard to forget - but never a word of complaint was ever heard from her throughout all the years she worked here - and all of this for a glass of whisky (or whatever) and a “thank you”.
Despite these rather primitive standards, the shows were immensely popular and people came from everywhere, much to Fred’s delight. Judges such as John Jones, the late Alan Jones, Dennis Pass, Idwal Price and Trevor Jenks were but a few of the “A Team” who supported Fred in his venture in those early days and were invaluable to him. Back then there were just 3 shows a year – the April Show, the August Show and the Derby show.
Instead of a fence, a rope ran around the perimeters of the Main Castle Ring. The Manor Ring (now the All Weather Sand Arena) was a test of stamina and horsemanship with its undulating ground. The late Fred Broome always maintained that a true horseman should be able to ride on this ground allowing for the inclines and adjust their riding accordingly. (Not sure how many riders would agree with this philosophy in these days of flat level sand arenas however!) He was determined to host his Welsh Derby and so the Bank, the Table and the Devil’s Dyke were proudly built on Welsh soil, replicating those from the Hickstead Derby, and these same obstacles are still there to this day. For over 45 years riders have tackled these same obstacles, some with fear and trepidation, but always feeling a huge sense of achievement at having got round the Welsh Derby Course!
Fred was a keen Carriage Driver and introduced Carriage Driving to his Shows in between the Show jumping classes. He loved to invite his driving friends to an exhibition of Turn Outs in the Main Ring which was an impressive show of Carriages and he regularly competed in shows himself. He totally loved his driving - something he passed on to his grandson, James. Fred had a team of Black Welsh Cob Stallions which he could regularly be seen exercising on the roads around his beloved showground. One particular day when he was driving his carriage along the road, something went wrong and frightened his horses and the deafening sound of four Welsh Stallions with a carriage on its side came thundering around the side of the office. Everyone was terrified that the then 76 year old Fred had “met his Waterloo” but they had not allowed for his indomitable spirit and ten minutes later he was seen running up the drive, with blood pouring down his face, in pursuit of his beloved horses. 56 stitches in his head at the hospital later and then the next day travelling to a BSJA meeting maybe reminds us why he was never to be messed with!! A special man indeed and one whom we look back on and say “thank you” for his vision and for his courage. It is only because of him creating the venue that many thousands of people come to enjoy the facilities here to this day.
Our showground here at The David Broome Event Centre is set in 90 acres of beautiful Welsh countryside at the foot of the Wentwood hills, with Caldicot Castle nestling in the distance. Our Centre now welcomes visitors from all over the world and we are proud and delighted that it continues to flourish. It is still a family run business and much to our delight people from 2 – 82 years of age compete here. People from every very walk of life enjoy these facilities – professional and amateur show jumpers, Dressage riders, Eventers, Mounted Games riders, Showing competitors, Carriage Drivers, young and not quite so young! We have 5 all weather collecting rings, a superb All Weather Arena , a majestic Grass arena, a large lorry park, a Stable Village with 334 permanent stables as well as an excellent Restaurant and Pavilion where people have enjoyed gathering together to have a drink and socialise – a place that has certainly seen a lot of fun over the years and probably been responsible for one or two bad heads in the morning too!
Certainly old Fred Broome would be twanging his braces with pride if he could see the dream he created and what it has blossomed into today. David now takes great pride and pleasure in giving people a warm welcome to the shows and loves seeing everybody here enjoying competing their horses, as David has done throughout his life.
Our aim is to run these shows professionally whilst making sure we always keep our showground a very friendly place to visit. Sometimes stress levels get a little high and tempers may possibly get a little heated on occasions but generally we always try to make your stay with us a happy one. We are delighted with the support we get from competitors, sponsors, friends and visitors and from the positive feedback we hear from people who have loved their experience here.
Let us hope we can continue to flourish for many years to come.