Slaley Show has been drawing visitors for 159 years, cancelled only for the war years and several foot and mouth outbreaks. The Show began life in 1845 only a few short years after Dukesfield Smelt Mill closed. Those first exhibitors would have known the smelting workforce, and they may have been related to people who worked at Dukesfield or even been ex-smelters themselves. It was important to bring back the smelting history to the visitors of the 21st century and so a marquee space was booked and relevant classes were organised which would help exhibitors look beyond the present day to life in the lead smelting days.
The marquee space was used to display interpretation drawings, copies of transcribed documents, photographs, a lead pig, a basket of different rocks for people to hold, feel and look at closely before giving an educated guess as to which rock contained lead. Children were made to feel welcome in the marquee, there was a colouring table with copies of a Galloway Pony carrying Lead Ore all ready to colour from a box of crayons. The older children were given a word search made up of Dukesfield & Lead related words. As a special take home gift the children could have a small spar box. The classes that first year were floral art, stories and poems, a typical packed lunch for a Carrier, photographs, painting or pencil sketch and a three-generation class.
The second year reflected the many activities over the previous 12 months and the finds uncovered by the archaeology. Much interest was generated from the competition to find a name for our specially brewed beer, and the winner of the competition was actually a visitor to our marquee on show-day. Classes were reduced to three – a collection of ten assorted stones; an item from a different decade, found whilst digging the garden; any item of art; a photograph, a painting or something else.
2014 was the year children could do archaeology on the show-field. Large pits filled with sand covered skeletons and memorabilia from the lead smelting days –this was going well until a doctor on the showfield informed the adult in charge that she was attaching the arms on the rib cage where the legs went! Adults and children were able to try a rolling a wooden ball against a 19th century skittles game.
Slaley Show 2015 will host the final Dukesfield marquee, where the full touring exhibition will be displayed together with the walks leaflets, cycle route, and printed greeting cards showing prize winning art exhibitions.