The story of the society
Whitefield Horticultural Society has a long and interesting local history which can be traced back continuously for at least 100 years and there is a possibility that it could be much older than that.
The present day aims and objectives of the Society are to create an interest in horticulture and crafts in Whitefield and surrounding districts in both adults & children. This follows a tradition dating back 160 years or more.
The WHITEFIELD FLOWER AND VEGETABLE SHOW sounds familiar, but is in fact the heading of an 1859 newspaper article (Bury Times, 15th October 1859) announcing the 3rd Annual meeting of this Society for the exhibition of flowers, celery, potatoes and other vegetables.
In the same newspaper there is also an announcement that the 6th Pilkington flower, celery and potato show was to be held at The Swan Inn, Stand Lane, Pilkington that very day.
In a subsequent report in the newspaper dated 29th October, 1859 regarding the Whitefield show:
“This had been a good show. . . . and . . . .it would go on progressing from year to year.”
160+ years later and the present day society echo similar hopes.
Early Days - 1917
During the First World War (1914 – 1919), the Ministry of Food encouraged vegetable growing and urged the formation of associations through which they could distribute scarce fertilisers. To this end on 30th April, 1917, the Whitefield and District Allotment Holders Association came into being, incorporating the original flower, fruit and vegetable societies.
Our archives contain numerous newspaper reports of our shows throughout the 1920’s and 30’s. For example, the 7th annual show, held in the Wesleyan School, Elms Street in August 1923, records that there were excellent exhibits in the collection of vegetables class, and the judges took three-quarters of an hour to decide first place. Eventually Mr. A. O. Broome was given this honour. Interestingly, the A.O. Broome Cup, donated in 1932, is still presented for the best exhibit in chrysanthemum classes at our November shows.
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 the Whitefield Allotment Association.
In 1959 the Society’s name was changed to its present-day, Whitefield Horticultural Society and in the late 1980’s show activities were extended to include handicrafts and junior classes with rosettes and trophies, so the shows became a family event.
In 1989 we became Garden News 'Garden Society of the Year' and were awarded a cash prize of £500 and a silver rose bowl. At one time 4 shows were held each year, then known as the annual summer show, the autumn show, the chrysanthemum show and the mini (table-top) show.
By 2000 we were down to 3 shows, and in 2006 the autumn show was dropped, since when we have had 2 shows. We continue to hold the 2 shows each year, the Summer show and the recently named November show. Both are open to all and these continue to draw in exhibitors from a wide area.
In 2016 we celebrated our 100th consecutive Summer Show with a centenary souvenir brochure, and as part of the celebrations, hosted Radio 4’s popular Gardeners’ Question Time. This was broadcast in February 2017 and is still available to listen to on the BBC website.
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 have reached our 90th consecutive event.
Shows and Trophies
The society has an impressive range of over 20 cups and trophies donated over the years, and still keenly contested. For example, the A.O.Broome Cup dating from 1932 and the Frank Hulme Platt Challenge Trophy, presented to the Association in 1939 are still two of the main prizes in the November chrysanthemum classes.
RHS Tatton Show
Since 1999 the Royal Horticultural Society has staged an annual show at Tatton Park, Cheshire, inaugurating a National Flowerbed Competition. In 2003, in partnership with Bury Council, the Society entered the first joint Community/Council entry into the Flowerbed Competition. This partnership lasted till 2010, winning silver-gilt medals in four consecutive years.
The Present Day
We are happy to report our Society continues to flourish when many others locally have ceased to exist. We have a thriving membership, weekly Saturday coffee mornings, annual plant sales and in recent years have organised day trips to national shows such as Southport & Harrogate.
Our two annual shows are more popular than ever, open to all, and we strive to maintain that ‘village show’ atmosphere. New members, novice or experienced are always welcome.