The Royal Bath and West of England Society, founded on 8 September 1777, is the oldest Agricultural Society in the country. It was not the first, but it has outlived all its predecessors.
Founded in an age when there was no Government departmental input into agriculture, the Society, along with its private landowners, scientists and individuals in politics and public affairs, made a remarkable contribution to the development of farming practices and other aspects of the rural economy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The Royal Bath and West is unique among Agricultural Societies in that research, the application of science and quantitative trials were at the core of the Society’s activities from the start, well in advance of annual shows. It was the pioneer of agricultural experiments and it was also unusual among agricultural societies in its focus on education. Already by 1780 it had established a Library, and in the following year, issued the first volume of the long-running series of occasional publications, the Letters and Papers, which, together with the Annals of Agriculture rank as the most important printed sources for the agricultural history of the period. Other initiatives included the setting up of the first experimental plot, and the first ‘chemical laboratory, specialising in soil analysis. These innovations served as models, and were widely imitated.
This founding spirit of innovation is being realised once again with the advent of a new branch of the Royal Bath & West family; Bath & West Innovation.