A Knight’s Tale (116: A Ploughing Contest)

On the misty morning of 26th September 1992 I produced a set of photographs of a ploughing contest in Southwell in Nottinghamshire. I could not find the negatives, so I scanned the prints. These images were in such good condition that I had no adjustments to make.

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Most of the contestants were very skilfully handling horse-drawn ploughs. The powerful animals were splendidly tacked.

Those tractors that were in operation were not as well-equipped as those of today.

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The Abbey Life cart became stuck in the mud. Watching the efforts to free it, I thought it unfortunate that all the heavy horses were otherwise engaged.

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Jessica, Michael & Heidi, Ploughing contest 26.9.92 013

Jessica, Michael, and Heidi could be seen in the sparse distant crowd, and nearer at hand.


  1. Superb photos and the horses are gorgeous. In the US we have Amish farmers that still use horses to plow. I just googled a comparison and if the farm is small enough, the horses may be more economical and satisfactory.

  2. Wonderful photos, Derrick. If the cars weren’t there, the photos almost could have been from an even earlier time. Those horses are beautiful and powerful.

  3. Those are beautiful images, Derrick. It is hard to believe 30 years has gone by.

    When I was young I remember what were called “pulling contests” at many of town and county fairs. Draft horses were hitched to loads to see how much weight and how far they could pull them.

  4. Yes, wonderful photos! Those horses are magnificent. I expect that’s how my great-grandparents plowed their fields in northern Maine in the late 1800s.

  5. I’ve actually seen horses as the standard way of ploughing. It was in Poland in 1969, when I can’t remember seeing a single diesel tractor working.

  6. The things farmers get up to for fun 🙂 My parents began farming with a single furrow plough, only they pulled it with a Jeep as they didn’t have horses. These are splendid photographs, Derrick!

  7. Never ben to the Southwell match, though I have ben to Flintham a few times. It doesn’t do to have too much excitement in a year. My father was once cornered by an irascible plough horse on his grandfather’s farm. That’s why I prefer tractors. 🙂

  8. Aren’t those horses wonderful creatures.

    I remember my father plowing the fields exactly like that, in Canada. The horses were gentle giants, of the breed called Belgian. Mom and dad migrated from from Belgium, which might explain his choice of that breed. But now I wish he was still alive so I could ask who decided to import that breed to Canada in the early 1900s.

    Well, Google helped me a little bit, with the first Belgian horse arriving in Quebec in 1902. I assume another of the opposite gender must have arrived not long after. 🙂

  9. Just wonderful. My maternal great-grandfather farmed, and had a team of mules that apparently were terrific at plowing. That had ended by the time I was a child, but we still went to plowing contests and shows of old farm equipment: particularly steam-powered threshers and such.

    Despite the anguish and seriousness of the war in Ukraine, I smiled to see the videos of Ukrainian farmers pulling captured tanks down the road with their tractors. It reminded me of one of my favorite songs: everyone should have friends with tractors! I’ve been pulled out of a ditch or two myself.

  10. A wonderful chance for a skilled farm worker to show of the skills that made farming so different and special. In Australia we have ploughing competitions but they are usually limited to a plaogh behind a little grey Ferguson.

  11. The mist adds a subtle charm to the proceedings. Farmers in Indian hinterland are still using bullocks to plough their fields, although maintaining the cattle calls for a certain patience and perseverance absent from the genes of the current generation. The posit has a lovely set of images.

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