Founded on May Day 1899 the very first Kings Heath Horse Show took place in the form
of a parade. Led by a silver band, the parade took the five mile route from Kings
Heath Station Wharf and progressed up the High Street to Parsons Yard (later to be
known as the site of Kingsway Cinema) continuing into Vicarage Road and came to an
end at Kings Norton Green.
Eyewitness reports say that the crowds were two deep on both sides of the road for
the whole of the route with people waiting to watch the spectacular site of the two
hundred horses, ponies and trade turnouts. A wide range of horses were used in the
area, mainly to draw tradesmen’s delivery vehicles owned by the Railway or Breweries.
Motor cars were a rare sight during this period, therefore the horse was a very much
valued part of society, the parade itself was very similar to one held in Regent’s
In the early 1900’s the parade developed into a horse show and was held in the grounds
of Highbury Hall, the home of Neville Chamberlain. His stepbrother Austen Chamberlain
was the first president and was often seen at the show wearing a home grown Orchid.
After four successful years the show transferred to The Priory in Vicarage Road,
the home of Major J Howard Cartland, who became the second president of the society.
In 1923 several of the committee members formed a shareholders company and purchased
a ten acre site at Alcester Lanes End, Kings Heath and named the venture ‘Kings Heath
Horse Show and Recreation Ground Limited’.
As well as the annual horse show many other sports were catered for, the ground was
converted for Greyhound racing in May 1926. This lease was taken over by H Leo Craven
in 1936 and he and his associate Herbert Mansfield were both invited to join the
horse show committee.
From 1944 the subsequent war time shows were an enormous success with the attendance’s
over 8’000, the turnstiles were forced to close early for safety reasons and thousands
of pounds raised was donated to charity.
In 1949 the Greyhound racing company bought the freehold of the ground and a Trust
was set up by the original shareholders enabling the show to continue with a long
lease on Whit Mondays, with a cash balance of £2,241 7s 2d.
The Lord Mayor appeared to be a regular visitor to the shows during this period of
time; the shows even attracted some famous riders such as Dawn Palethorpe, Ann Moore,
Ted Edgar and Wilf White.
In the 60’s ‘a move to the country’ became inevitable due to the development of Alcester
Lanes End and the Kings Heath area in general. A 22 ½ acre site was purchased at
Tithe Barn Lane, Earslwood and exchanged for the Lease. It is rather unique for a
show to own its own ground and the show is still held there to this day.