I knew very little about the history of the Society, but I thought it was probably closely associated with mining. New Springs is an old mining community, on the edge of the Haigh Hall estate, which had belonged to the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, and is now owned by Wigan Council. The allotments are situated behind the old St John the Baptist School. When we came in 1990, there was an open caste mine still working the Alexandra site behind the allotments, with a daily blast at 11.00am. That closed after a year or so, the last pit closed in 1993 and mining ended in Wigan. I knew the allotments had been there for a while, that they had rented the land, I thought from the Coal Board, but was told it was from the Earl of Crawford, and had bought the land some time mid twentieth century. But, other than that, I knew nothing.
The Trunk had been kept in the shed for years and the contents smelt musty and damp. Among the sheets of A4 papers – records, letters, lists, and other admin from more recent times there were some old hard backed minute books. The smallest had the minutes of the Show Committee from 1912 to 1914. The first entry was a meeting held on January 23rd 1912, carefully written in old script. The secretary did not sign the entries so I don`t know who he was, but he had obviously been taught to write “properly”. John Moore was the Chairman and there were 9 others present. They made a number of resolutions including that J Moore would be treasurer; that the show would be on August 17th; that the gardens would be judged twice, first time second week in July and then again in the same week as the show and that prizes for both double and single garden would be 7/6 5/- 2/6.
There were 11 more meetings arranging the show, two in February, one in March and April, two in May, two in June and two in July. In February they resolved to write to Rev CH James about using the school and to expel any allotment holders found damaging another gardener`s crops. The show seems to have engendered a keen sense of competition!
In February they also agreed on the rules:
1st All exhibitors must pay his entrance fee for all classes before he enters the room to stage his exhibits no second entry allowed
2nd The room will be open for staging exhibits from 9 oclock to 12 oclock noon when the room will be cleared for judging
Rule 3. Exhibitors will not be allowed to remove their exhibits before 9.p.m. without the sanction of the secretary.
Rule 4. Prize Money will be paid from 4 to 5 p.m. on day of show
Rule 5” Stands and vases to be provided by the exhibitor. Plates will be provided by the committee.
Rule 6. Two competent judges will be appointed and their decision will be final
Rule 7. The committee will not be responsible for damage done to flower and Vegetables during the show but all reasonable care will be taken of them
Rule 8” Vegetables or flowers will not be allowed to be shown except they have been on the allotments before July 15th (This rule applies to New Springs Allotment garden only)
Rule 9” Any allotment holder committing any breach of the above rules will be subject to dismissal at the approval of the committee meeting
Rule 10. The judges have power to withdraw any prize where there is not sufficient entry or where exhibits do not merit a prize
In March they changed the date to August 16th, resolved to ask Mr Boyd and Mr G Saywell to act as Judges, and Mrs J H Monks to open the show and give the prize money. (note to self: find out more about the people named in these minutes). In the rest of the meetings they continued in similar vein, discussing and refining the arrangements, what the prizes would be, who would provide timber (Mr Hewlett), paper for the tables (J Green), cater for the officials (also J Green) etc. Sometimes J Moore was chair, sometimes a chap called Hy Gibson. In June it was “moved that we don`t go back on past minutes”, which gives a little insight into what the meetings were like. The last entry from 1912 is dated July 31st when it was “moved that those who have no flowers in garden may buy a bunch and show them not for competition.” They start again in February 1913.