In 1958 Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister, the first Paddington Bear book was published, the parking meter was launched and the first-ever Game Fair was held at Stetchworth Park, Newmarket.

If you’d been a member of the CLA (Country Landowners’ Association), entry to the Game Fair would have been free, otherwise adults would have paid 2/6,  children under 14,  1/3.

You’d have paid 5/- to park your car if you had one, but in any case the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company was running special buses from Newmarket.

Useful facilities included a mobile post office with a public coin box. Trade stands offered everything for game rearing and shooting.

There was a Gunmakers’ Row, falconry, a game rearing field, archery, clay pigeon shooting, gundog tests, small bore rifle competitions and films shown throughout the day, including: Game Harvest, Bells on her Toes, More Pheasants (two showings), Birds of the Prairie Marshes, The Wild Geese of Uist, Prairie Wings and Bobwhite through the Year.

Films were obviously a draw because the following year in 1959, the CLA Game Fair showed: The Small Bore Game, Blagdon Trout, Badger Cups, Ring-Necked Pheasant, Falconry. More Pheasants had another outing.

An exhibition of transport for shoots was on display, including a 1903 M.M.C Wagonette, chain driven by a 20.h.p 4 cylinder motor, which was regularly driven to Scotland for the grouse season. There was Lord Portman’s 1913 Daimler Shooting Brake which he used for shooting in Scotland, complete with gun racks and a seating capacity of 10-12 persons. Lady Delamere’s 1932 Bedford shooting brake was also on display and in 1958 was still regularly used for shooting parties.

Some things change little. Grey squirrels were causing concern back in 1958, with an article by the Forestry Commission in the programme stating:” Today grey squirrels give rise to very serious losses, both to growing trees and to sporting activities owing to their feeding habits.”

The first Game Fair was a success and the following year the Game Fair boasted a thicker, glossier brochure with more advertisers and more exhibitors. There was a Fisherman’s Row and casting events, including trout fly accuracy casting competitions.

It’s heartening to see that many of our exhibitors from 1958 are still around today. James Purdey & Sons, Holland & Holland are all renowned names you’ll see at The Game Fair on Gunmakers’ Row in 2024.