Whitefield Horticultural Society

leeks

History of the society

Whitefield Horticultural Society has a long and interesting local history which can be traced back continuously for over 100 years and there is a possibility that it could be much longer than that.

There are records dating back to 1820 documenting the formation of a ‘Botanical Society of Prestwich and Pilkington’. (Pilkington Park remains to this day an electoral Ward within Whitefield). The members then, as now, came from all walks of life, but with one common interest – plants and their cultivation. Jump then eighty years or so to the early 1900s when there are records of our fore-runner, the ‘Whitefield and District Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Society’. Unfortunately, we cannot positively say that there is a connection between these two Societies, but there is just the possibility that we could be over 190 years old!

War time

During the First World War (1914 – 1919), the Ministry of Food, working through local councils, tried to encourage the growing of more vegetables and to this end urged the formation of associations through which they would distribute scarce fertilisers. For this purpose, on 30th April, 1917, the Whitefield Allotment Holders Association came into being, incorporating the original Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Society. Some may recall similar encouragement during the Second World War with the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign.

In 1924 the Whitefield Urban District Council was requested by the Association to purchase land for a permanent allotment site. This was finally accomplished in 1926 when the Council purchased from Lord Derby the 4¼ acre site at Nipper Lane. As was customary in those days, the Council owned the land and collected the rents, whilst the Association managed the site, including the lettings. This arrangement continued for 70 years or so until, in 1996, the Council passed full responsibility for each allotment site over to the tenants and most sites, including Nipper Lane, formed their own self-management committees.

In 1959 the name was changed to its present-day, Whitefield Horticultural Society.

Shows and trophies

From earliest days annual horticultural shows were organised and this tradition continues. We are looking forward to 2016 when we shall be able to celebrate with a special centenary Summer Show.

trophies

From old show schedules it has been found that the prize money awarded at each Show exceeded £50, which was a very large sum in those early days - but as the Association flourished and membership increased, so did the number of classes at the Annual Show - and all profits from the Association’s activities were originally donated to charity.

The first Late Chrysanthemum Show was held in 1930 and continues to be a popular end of season event. Now known as the ‘November Show’ we recently held our 83rd consecutive show.

The society has an impressive range of over 20 cups and trophies donated over the years, and still keenly contested. For example, the Frank Hulme Platt Challenge Trophy, presented to the Association in 1939 is still one of the main prizes in the November chrysanthemum classes.

In 1934 and 1935 large exhibitions were held in the City Hall, Manchester with the Evening Chronicle offering a 50 guinea trophy. This trophy was won on both occasions by Whitefield Allotment Association.

Garden Society of the Year certificate

In the late 1980s show activities were extended to include handicraft and children’s classes, with junior rosettes and trophies - so that the Shows became family events.

In 1989 we became Garden News 'Garden Society of the Year' and were awarded a cash prize of £500 and a silver rose bowl.

The 1990s saw an upsurge of interest in growing and showing chrysanthemums within the Society, such that a 'Chrysanthemum Mini Show' was introduced as a springboard for our chrysanthemum growers into the November Shows in London, Manchester and Harrogate. During this decade the Society had at least six chrysanthemum growers of national standard, and was winner of the League trophy in Manchester. Recent years have, unfortunately shown a decline in numbers of growers, but we still have a handful of dedicated showmen and ladies and these attractive flowers continue as a main feature in our November Show.

RHS Tatton Show

In 1999 the Royal Horticultural Society ventured north and commenced staging one of their prestigious annual Shows at Tatton Park, Cheshire, inaugurating a National Flowerbed Competition. In 2003 the Society entered into a unique partnership with the local Bury Council to stage the first joint Community/Council entry into the Flowerbed Competition, with Society members themselves growing over 3,300 flowers. This joint working soon led to the acquisition of a Community greenhouse, located in the grounds of a Whitefield school. This project brought together school children, the Society and the Council to grow plants for the flowerbed competition and thus encourage the next generation of gardeners. The partnership with the Council continued for a number of years and won several prestigious RHS awards acknowledging the achievement of high standards of excellence and professionalism. The theme of the flowerbed was always one representing local history and heritage. Thus, over the years this featured, amongst others, Sir Robert Peel (Bury born founder of Police, and introducer of income tax!!), Bury’s Famous Market, ‘Just William’ children’s books (Author born locally), Kay’s flying shuttle and the World championship black pudding throwing competition.

Sadly, the withdrawal of funding in a round of financial cuts meant that the 8th joint flowerbed entry in 2010 was our last. However, some of our members, who also belong to the National Vegetable Society (NVS), continued until 2013 a Tatton Show link by growing and participating in the staging of the NVS entry, an eye-catching vegetable display, which gained an almost unsurpassable 6 consecutive gold medals and won ‘Best in Marquee’ on a number of occasions.