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Southern Counties Canine Association


was one of the earliest canine association and shows under that name were held at Maidstone as early as 1870. In 1911 several societies amalgamated to hold the Association's first Championship show, which has been held each year since except during the two world wars.


You can see what those shows would have been like by clicking on this link and access our photo archive by clicking on this one.  There are dozens of pictures here - you might well be on one of them.


Shows have been held at The Dome and Preston Park, Brighton, the cricket ground at Hove, at the South of England Agricultural Showground at Ardingley, and at the National Jumping Course, Hickstead.

When the Hickstead venue was required for a national jumping event on Southern Counties' show date in 1985 the Association decided to buy its own showground. Time was short but a 23-acre site was found at Ifield Wood near Crawley in Sussex. Roads were laid, cesspools were constructed and bridges built - all within the space of two months. For the first two years the show was held on what was, in effect, mown straw stubble but in 1986/7 land drains were laid and the whole area re-sown with a high quality parkland grass mix. The 1997 show was much better and by 1998 the layout was complete. The showground was generally recognised being the finest outdoor surface for showing dogs in Britain.

In 2002 the Committee felt that the Association had outgrown its showground at Prestwood Lane. Space was limited for caravans and if the weather was poor in the run up to the show the benching tents were very wet. There was also the narrow access along the lane that delayed exhibitors on the last mile to the showground. The Committee decided that a change was needed and applied to the Newbury Agricultural Society for the use of their Showground - all 146 acres of it! The first show on the new site was held in 2003. Exhibitors and trade stands felt that it was successful and a three-year rolling contract was agreed between the two Associations. The Showground at Prestwood Lane has not been sold and there are no plans to sell it.

Southern Counties has a long history of service to the exhibitor and its committee has always been composed of those who actually breed and show dogs. It is not a wealthy society but the mortgage that was taken out to buy the showground was repaid (three years early) in 1997 so the freehold now belongs to the Association.

The committee is anxious to ensure that it is providing what exhibitors want so suggestions and comment are always welcome. Contact a member of the Committee (a full list is always printed in the Schedule) or e-mail the secretary

Southern Counties committee members remember...

As printed in Our Dogs in 2014


I have many memories of Southern Counties - both off and on the Committee – all weather related!
Stewarding at Hickstead and watching judges, dogs and exhibitors scattering to any place they could get cover - by the time we had re-assembled the water level in the inside ring was getting interestingly high. ……

Helping others get out of the mud in the car park that same day and slipping over in the field for my efforts…The first year at Ifield Wood - Everybody praying it didn't rain as it was literally a converted farmers field that year- It didn’t so we had no grass either - it was very hot!
Patrick Holbourne


Once upon a time Southern Counties Championship Show was held in the park at Hove. Carol and I were mere beginners then, but it might have been our finest hour. The mayor of Hove had decided to make a mayoral visit to the show and an astute local reporter thought that a photograph of him with a local exhibitor and dog would make good copy. Carol and I were selected to be the local exhibitors and Booksale Bolingbroke, our first champion, as the dog. Our photos appeared in the Brighton and Hove Gazette – which everyone knows is a famed international broadsheet.
The show moved sometime later to Douglas Bunn`s Hickstead showground. This was a good venue, even better than Hove in our eyes because it was truly local being just down the A 23 from our home. By this time we had been roped in, Carol onto the committee and me as the show vet.
Tom Horner was a particular mentor of mine. At that time he proudly wore his tropical kit when judging which consisted of a bush jacket, long ‘colonial’ type shorts and knee length stockings. On the particular day we recall, the weather was foul (the sun didn’t always shine on Southern Counties) and Tom had to wear a raincoat over his tropical kit, which came to below his knees and gave the impression of him wearing nothing other than his stockings below the coat hem.
Sometime in the mid 70’s the Association had a coup. All respectable show societies have to have a coup at some stage in their history, and this one resulted in the establishment of Dave as Show manager, and Angela as Secretary and a new era for Southern Counties

It was also a time when a number of societies realised that renting their venue annually could be an expensive undertaking, particularly as the owners of the grounds realised that they were possibly onto a good thing financially. In consequence Southern Counties cast around for a suitable site to buy rather than rent and we eventually settled on 23 acres of land at Scrag Copse, Isfield, near Crawley. The land itself as we saw it at the time we bought, was quite a good venue, if you ignored the problem of an almost impossible access, (we had to get road closure orders for the days of the show), and the fact that it was in the direct flight path to Gatwick airport!

Our first year at Scrag Copse was a near disaster. We had been led to believe the land was being used only as pasture, for sheep. I was happy with that, with memories of sheep lawns in Kent, where the grazing truly resembled a lawn, perfect for a dog show. Unfortunately the previous owner decided to grow a crop of some sort of corn, which resulted in the “lawn” looking like and trod like a spiky surfaced battlefield. The Kennel Club had mercy on us, and allowed us a second chance. They had already rescinded one championship society’s tickets, and perhaps they thought another might be one too many, but there was a great deal of work done before they allowed us to continue for the following year.

It must have been in the latter days on the Hickstead showground that I first realised that the primary duty of the honorary veterinary surgeon was to supply Marjorie with her ice cream (and ssshhh – gin and tonic) , which I then did each year until we left. I had retired and left England by the time the Association moved to Newbury but I was given the opportunity to judge my breed there. Bull terriers have never been strong in numbers at Southern Counties, due apparently to the comparative remoteness of the show ground from the main areas of Bullie breeding. At Newbury it was no better, so what the excuse is now I don’t know. Could it be the judge? But I did have the privilege of judging one of the best minis I have seen when I was there, good enough to get a place in the Group. Carol and I went to the show at Newbury again when we were last in England, it’s now an excellent venue even though they put the Bull Terriers at the far end of the new covered rings. I won’t come again until they move them closer to the beer tent.
Peter Larkin


Despite all intense (and increasing) paper work involved throughout the whole year, my memories of Southern Counties over the years are mainly of the comradeship of the committee during the days before the show. Frank and Marjorie Cleaver used to lend us their caravan for the duration, and with the Chairman (later Treasurer) Bun Hazelgrove and his wife and other committee members, we all camped out on the ground to save hotel fees. It did have one disadvantage – listening to the rain pounding on a caravan roof the nights before the show is enough to give any secretary heart-failure!
             en and Olga Bullock (Ken was then secretary of Leeds) used to stay with Marjory and Frank Cleaver and bright and early every morning were on hand to help. The main meal of the day was a fish and chip supper (outside if we were lucky with the weather) and Ken was brilliant at clearing up rubbish from the ground each night and after each show day. In those days, Marjorie and I used to have to get the several thousand dog numbers collated into classes and it took a whole week. Probably the worst of those weeks was the one when I was trying to call out the numbers while suffering from what was later diagnosed as glandular fever!

Even to this day committee members are hard at work on the show ground the week leading up to the show and there is still a great feeling of ‘pulling together’ and lots of laughs but we have progressed to staying in a hotel for a couple of nights!

I always enjoyed the run up to the shows, especially working with Marjorie Cleaver: she was the first lady Chief Steward on the Championship show circuit. We also ‘trained’ Mark Hutchings who later became the Association Chairman and Chief Steward at Crufts.

As far as show grounds go, we only stayed at Ardingly for one year and then in 1976 moved to Hickstead. Douglas Bun, the owner, had agreed readily to our request, but I think although he had been sent detailed plans, he had had this idea that 6,000 or so dogs would walk in on leads, run about a bit and go home. As he saw the tents being erected he came to our caravan one morning, resplendent on a white charger and I was convinced he would ask us to take everything down and go away! Luckily his only condition was that it would be professional and he could see that this was the case. He could not have been more helpful or accommodating, even flying me over the show in progress in his helicopter – a somewhat eerie experience! The reason we moved away and bought our own ground near Crawley in such a rush, was that he still did not quite comprehend the enormity of putting on a show such as this and less than six months before our 1985 show asked us to change our date as he had negotiated a television contract for a horse show on that date. Both events were, of course, immovable feasts!

Transforming the new showground from a field of winter wheat to a showground during one of the coldest, dryest springs ever could take up a book, but committee member, Graham Birch was on hand with a digger with which he miraculously made a hard core road running from the car park to the top of the showground and dug the hole and ’planted’ the huge cess pool needs for the portable toilets! The first year we held the show there, local people, who had not realised what little impact the few days the ground was in use would have on them, blocked the road to the ground handing out leaflets to our exhibitors and holding up traffic onto the car parks. (Why did they not just come and talk to us?!)

There are obviously many more memories, but here is my final one and again (no, I am not paranoid) it concerns rain. The years at Hickstead had been blessed with fine weather, but our final year there followed several weeks of practically non-stop rain. We warned exhibitors that although there were hard roads, the ground was very wet and to wear boots. True to form, the first two days were sunny and warm. But at 2.00pm on the final day, suddenly the sky went black and the heavens opened. I have never seen such rain in my life! The secretary’s tent was full of exhibitors and judges as everyone ran for cover. Within minutes the showground was like a lake. Everyone looked at me, expecting hysterics, I think!! However, it was so horrendous that all we could do was laugh and after some time, when the rain eased to a normal pattern Rainer Vuorinen announced ’I have judged Bichon Frise in fifty centimetres of snow’ and he raised his umbrella like a tour guide and led steward Sue Pudney and his exhibitors to his ring! The storm left all the marquees flattened.

Ad on a final note – the things that make a show secretary’s life worth while. That year we had to change the Group Ring to a patch of raised concrete at the far end of the ground that day (incidentally Terry Thorn’s first ever appointment as a BIS judge). As I went down to the ’main ring’ I passed a man struggling through the mud with a Samoyed round his neck going to the group. ’Oh’ I said ’I am so sorry’. The exhibitor looked at me ’You are sorry’ he said, ’you have spent a whole year working for this show, we should be feeling sorry for you’.
Angela Cavill


I joined the committee of Southern Counties while I was living in Brighton and had a very speedy introduction to the requirements of a General Championship show committee member. For the most part at that time, meetings were held at the beautiful and welcoming home of Dagmar Kenis and we sat in Dagmar’s very comfortable sitting room attempting to think of the perfect judge for Sammies and Scotties that no one else had booked four years ahead.

Southern Counties is a show keen to ensure that it does its best for exhibitors and finding the ‘right’ showground had proved troublesome so, following on from both Ardingly and Hickstead, we moved to our very own showground in the middle of the Sussex countryside. It brought its own problems though – mostly exacerbated by the British weather but the good humour of fellow committee members (and the majority of exhibitors!) saw us through. Southern Counties moved on again and has gone from strength to strength – embracing change and opportunity in equal measure. On moving to East Anglia I stood down from the committee but had learned much from the experience – broadening my knowledge of the running of Championship shows and my respect for the work the committees do.
Caroline Kisko


Southern Counties is where I gave my first set of CC's in American Cockers, in 1988 long before I was a member of the Committee so it holds a special memory for me. Since then I have awarded them on twelve more occasions, including Crufts. My wife Maggie also gave her first set of American tickets there as well in 1993.

More prosaically I received a welcome to beat all welcomes onto the Committee at Ifield in 2002, when I was immediately presented with a shovel, hosepipe and broom and instructed to clear a nine inch deep mud bath from around the portable toilets. I'm not sure that people quite appreciate what goes on prior to their arrival at a show.

Bill Bunce


I was honoured to become a member of the committee of Southern Counties and, later, Chairman of this very progressive Canine Society. y memories are many but I will never forget the Chief Steward at the time, Marjorie Cleaver, who had an answer for everything, and the late Terry Giles a proud exhibitor of Staffordshire Bull Terriers a Cockney and supporter of Millwall FC. Of course there were others including the Cavills and the previous Chairman Bunny Hazelgrove. It was a very happy time in my life but cut short only because of other canine commitments.
Mark Hutchings


Still with me after nearly forty years on the committee is of the year it rained so heavily that judging came to a sudden halt. Exhibitors crowded into the administration tent and the ground was soon under water. Knowing what a perfectionist Angela is, and how everything had to be 'just so' I rushed in to see if she was alright. We just took one look at each other and burst into laughter. After that I think Angela was more relaxed about the shows. One year she even had me ironing the tails on the hundreds of rosettes because they had got crumpled.
Marjorie Cleaver


Long before my involvement with the committee, I was once asked to take a friend’s Canaan Dog to Southern Counties. I had not long passed my driving test and set off in my ‘trusty’ metro.
Five miles before the venue (in the middle lane of a roundabout) the clutch gave out and we were stranded. Within seconds a number of exhibitors had stopped to offer help and I ended up (with the Canaan dog!) in a car full of Dalmatians and taken to the show - whilst Rob spent the day trawling garages for replacement parts. If I remember the results correctly - I think he got the better deal, but to this day I remember the kindness of so many exhibitors who stopped despite needing to get themselves to the show.
Hannah Thompson


At one committee meeting I inadvertently suggested that I was prepared to replace the stewards’ boxes, thinking that I only had to make up the ones that were damaged and I was horrified to read the minutes to see that it had been interpreted that I would replace all of them. My garden at home became a small manufacturing site when I made up about 90 of these boxes painting them with yacht varnish; we still have them to this day.

One of my duties was that of managing the trade stand holders, many of whom have become friends, some were not so easy to manage, with all sorts of problems arising, At Ifield, The Whole Hog, was one who decided to arrive at midnight in the teaming rain and became stuck in the mud: getting the unit out was no small task but was essential as they were blocking up the access to the show area. Ifield had the problem of having the topsoil on top of clay, which did not drain easily and the heavy machinery used in erecting the tents and benching churned up the ground, making ruts of about 18 inches deep. I forget how many lorry loads of stone we brought in over the years but is was many tons.

Istill manage to take on all sorts of projects for the show the ones being creating breed signs for the benching and rings so that exhibitors will be able to find their way around easily.
Ifield Wood was hard work: power washing the toilet block, working up to midnight the night before the show when it was wet, organising that only 4x4s were allowed onto the far car park as other cars would not have been able to get out - the number of incidents is too long to relate - these are just a very few.
David Hutchinson


Long before I was on the committee, I can remember when Southern Counties was a one day show and showing my Beardies at the park in Hove and at Ardingly. The wet weather at Hickstead and showing Beardies under Rainer Vuorinen stands out in my memory. The exuberant Beardie BOB jumped up at Rainer, dressed in an immaculate white suit, covering him in large muddy footprints. Was he bothered? He did not appear to be but the poor exhibitor was terribly embarrassed.
Toni Teasdale

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