President’s delight at Suffolk Punch’s role at show
Suffolk Show’s president has expressed her delight that Suffolk Punch horses, which featured heavily in the lives of her late husband’s farming family at Sudbury, were chosen to promote the 2018 event.
The honorary presidency, a year-long post, this year went to Baroness Hazel Byford, who sits in the House of Lords and is an expert on farming matters. She was voted in by the organisation behind the Trinity Park event, Suffolk Agricultural Association.
Through her late husband, Barrie, who died in 2013, her family has a long association with Suffolk Horses, going back many generations.
By coincidence, show organisers, who choose a different farm or native animal to promote the show every year, this year chose the county’s own heavy horse, a rare breed whose future remains precarious.
Suffolk Punches, used extensively on farms, and remembered fondly by Barrie as part of his childhood, were now “sadly, a rare sight”, she said. “It was very important to him.”
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Baroness Byford’s daughter, Lizzie, now manages Slough Farm at Acton, which has been in the Byford family for five generations.
Lizzie is descended from Joseph Byford, who was born in 1794, and whose eldest son, William, who died in his late eighties in 1910, bred the horses on the farm.
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Most notable among them was Bounce, who won the championship at the Royal Windsor Show in 1889 and was descended from the first recorded Suffolk Horse, Crisp. Under Joseph, who came to Acton from Cavendish, the Byfords became known as ‘Carriers to London’, transporting goods to the capital.
Baroness Byford, who attended Moulton Agricultural College, married Barrie in 1962, and has been a working peer in the House of Lords for the past 20 years. She was shadow minister for MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), then DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), from 1998 to 2008.
It was a “huge thrill” to be president, she said.
“It has been a real joy to look back on our family history and reflect upon it. I did not realise the great successes that William Byford achieved in his lifetime,” she added of the family association with the breed. “I’m deeply touched to be asked to be president this year. I’m only sorry Barrie passed away before the honour - he would have been chuffed.”