New Springs Horticultural Society (NSHS) allotment gardens were definitely there in 1912, but I wanted to know when they started, whose idea it was and why? Who were the early plotholders? If the land was rented from the Earl of Crawford there must have been a rental agreement and I wondered if it had survived in the records of the Haigh Estate. In February I contacted Wigan Archives to ask if there were any references in any of the indexes to NSHS. I quickly had two replies. One archivist replied saying that there were 2 references in the Haigh Estate records – details of rents payable to Haigh Hall, including NSHS, c1935 and a balance sheet dated 1883. Another replied saying there were four references in the Wigan Observer index concerning NSHS annual shows in 1882, 1883, 1912 and 1913. This was exciting. There were newspaper reports of the shows of which I already had the minutes (1912, 1913) and there was evidence that the allotments were in existence in 1882/83. I made arrangements to visit the archives and view the records.
First, I had to learn how to use the microfilm reader, then I found the report of the 1912 show. It was short, just that the second annual show had taken place in St John Baptist School and was a great success. The exhibits numbered 400, 150 more than the previous year and that it was opened by Mrs Dr Monks who offered a few interesting remarks on horticulture. This brief introduction was followed by a list of the prize winners. This report suggests that the first NSHS show had taken place in 1911. So, what happened in 1882 and 1883?
The report of the 1913 show was so lovely and it made me smile, so I have included it almost in full:
“On Saturday the above society held its annual flower and vegetable show in the St John the Baptist Schools kindly lent by the Rev. CH James. The room was beautifully decorated for the occasion. The exhibits in the floral section were of a highly pleasing and gratifying description both as regards entry and standards of the exhibits, these being of great variety. There was a good number present to witness the opening, including the officials of the above society. Mr Henry Gibson, chairman of the society, said it gave him great pleasure in calling upon Mr Gillott to open the show. Mr Gillott said in the first place he wished on behalf of Mr Hewlett to express his sincere regrets at not being able to come amongst them once again as he left for Scotland the previous day. It gave him the greatest pleasure in coming there to open the show. The exhibits which he had seen that day were most beautiful to look upon and he was heartily thankful for the honour which they had bestowed upon him. He then declared the show open, and wished them every success that day and in the future (cheers). The Rev. G Hosbon said it afforded him the greatest possible pleasure in proposing a vote of thanks to Mr Gillott for coming to open the show. He was impressed to see the care which had been expended upon the arranging of the flowers and plants etc to make them look presentable and that visit had given him the opportunity of seeing something which was magnificent and remarkably well worth looking upon. He then proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Mr Gillott for coming there that day (cheers). Mr Gibson had very great pleasure in seconding the vote of thanks to Mr Gillott for coming amongst them to perform the duty which Mr Hewlett had previously performed. Speaking on behalf of the committee he hoped that Mr Gillott would enjoy life and prosperity for a very long time to come and wished that he might at some future time to come be at liberty to come amongst them again. The motion was cordially passed and Mr Gillott responded.”
We`re left to imagine how effusive was Mr Gillott`s response. What a thoroughly enjoyable and good natured occasion it sounds to have been!