A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SHOW

By Malcolm Fare

In August 1862 the first Hanley Castle Horticultural and Flower Show was organised by the gentry of Hanley to encourage horticulture among the cottagers, and to stimulate them to neatness and order not only in their gardens but their households”. This object of social improvement was strongly supported by Sir Edmund Lechmere, who had recently established the Hanley Working Man’s Institute on the site of a former pub and who allowed the exhibition to be held in the grounds of Severn End (at that time about to be restored). The cost of admittance was one shilling, the cottagers having special tickets given to them. Amateurs (the gentry) and cottagers competed in separate categories, with the amateurs receiving certificates and the cottagers cash. Prizes were awarded for the best stocked and neatest labourer’s garden not exceeding one acre, neatest kept labourer’s cottage, and best pig, which must have been in the exhibitor’s possession at least one month, as well as for vegetables, fruit and flowers. Rustic sports followed, and the Hanley Castle Institute Band and the Upton Rifle Band played until evening.

    

The following year the event was hosted by John Vincent Hornyold at Blackmore Park. Soon the show widened its catchment area to include the parish of Welland and its location moved around each year, although it was most frequently held at Severn End.

    The 1864 annual flower show of what was now the Hanley and Welland Horticultural Society was organised by the Society’s Honorary Secretary, John Holder of Yew Tree House. The Worcester Journal reported that Sir Edmund Lechmere showed a specimen plant of the Liliana longiflora and a fine Stephanotis floribunda, as well as some ferns, geraniums and balsams, and a fine collection of grapes, strawberries and currents. John Vincent Hornyold sent a splendid collection of greenhouse plants, caladiums and fuschias, not for competition, and his melon and dishes of peaches were very good. Earl Beauchamp sent some fine roses and a collection of caladiums, which were much admired. Mr H Holder’s specimens of balsams and stocks gained first honours, and the first prize was awarded to Mr F M Gregory of Upton for verbenas. Various amusements were provided, of which donkey racing and sack racing were the most prominent. The Upton Workhouse children were invited and were bountifully regaled by Sir Edmund and his lady. The Hanley Institute band, under the leadership of Mr Langdon, played a selection of music.

     In 1873 Samuel Martin of Catterall (now Brummell Court), who was funding the building of St Gabriel’s church, added £10 in prizes “to be given to those labourers with families who were most distinguished for their sobriety and general good conduct”. At the show two years later, Lady Lechmere invited children from the Upton workhouse to tea and presented them with some of the prize fruit. Sir Edmund complimented them on their healthy appearance, and gave them sixpence each to spend on themselves. 

    By 1893 the show had moved to Malvern Wells and was as well attended as usual, although one irate gentleman wrote to the Worcester Chronicle complaining about being unable to hear the music from the Malvern Rhine Band:

 

owing to the blatant fog-horn-like sounds of a hideous merry-go-round with a steam attachment. Thus one was straining the ear to catch the delicate strains of Strauss and Sullivan, whilst The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo, Wot Cher and Oh! Mr Porter were being rolled out with 20 horsepower by the aforesaid infernal machine, the proprietor of which declined to stop when requested. Lucky for him that he is in England and blowing his terrible reeds to a long-suffering nation. We manage these things better in the colonies, as he would have found to his cost had he persisted against the wish of a colonial audience. It would be well for the committee to remedy this on a future occasion. I enclose my card and remain... A Disgusted Colonist.”

    At some point in the first half of the 20th century, the show seems to have stopped functioning, but was revived in 1952 to raise funds to build Hanley Swan village hall. It was now a village fete and show with flowers, vegetables, preserves and cakes, plus a section devoted to children’s pictures. All competitors were considered to be amateurs and professionals were not expected to take part, so noses were put out of joint in the late 1950s when Percy Clutterbuck, a local professional gardener, started entering his superb collection of vegetables. He and his wife Holly are commemorated by two Clutterbuck Cups. In the 1980s the fete element was dropped in favour of the increasingly popular car boot sale. 
 
Malcolm Fare 

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Sir Edmund Lechmere

Severn End, Upton on Severn

Two young children from a Victorian Workhouse

"an infernal machine" - carousel with steam attachment

Visitors to a horticultural show, 1950s