New Springs Floral Society – Second Annual Show of Window Plants 1879.

The 1879 report gave much more detail about the society which supported what I had been thinking and told me more about the people involved :

“The idea of establishing a floral society in the midst of the busy mining population of New Springs originated about 2 years ago with the Rev. C.H. James, the zealous and much respected curate of St. John the Baptist`s Church, and despite the difficulties which had to be encountered, the scheme was brought to a successful issue.  A committee was formed, and an energetic Hon. Secretary selected in the person of Mr. Thos Fairhurst.  The movement was encouraged and stimulated by the Earl and Countess of Crawford and Balcarres, the Rev. W. Bryan (vicar of Haigh and Aspull), Mr Hewlett, Mr W.H. Hewlett, Mr C.G. Jackson and several other ladies and gentlemen, who liberally subscribed towards it.  The first show, as might have been expected, was by no means extensive, but it was sufficiently encouraging to induce the promoters to continue their exertions.  The result has therefore been to engender in the inhabitants of the district a love for flowers and plants, which some have cultivated to surprising perfection under most difficult circumstances.”

So, Rev. Bryan was the vicar of the parish church and Rev. James was the curate of the local mission church, who was clearly working hard to promote horticulture among the people of New Springs.  I chatted with the archivist about what I was discovering.  Her ancestors had played in the Haigh Band and she was interested that they had performed at the flower shows.  She also told me that Rev. James had gone on to be vicar of Haigh, he had four sons who were all killed in the first world war and there is a chapel in the church dedicated to their memory.  How very sad!!

It is easy to imagine what the difficulties were.  New Springs was a mining community.  The Alexandra and Lindsay Pits were nearby, and the air would have been full of soot and chemicals. Most of the houses in New Springs would have been the old back to back houses with a shared yard.  (The shared toilet was in the yard, which was OK for the people living in the house at the back, but those who lived in the house at the front had to walk all the way to the end of the street and back up the alley to go to the loo!).  Any growing space would have been limited to windows or the shared yard.

Mr Jamieson and Mr Bell were the judges again.  “Both gentlemen expressed satisfaction at the progress made by the society , there being this year more entries than last, besides the plants sent in being of a superior kind.”  There were flowers and plants lent from Haigh Hall and a flower arrangement by Mr John Saywell, gardener to Mr Jackson.

This time Mr Jamieson was described as the Head Gardener at Haigh Hall.  So they had a judge of significant standing in the horticultural world.  I thought of the pelargonium cuttings he had been good enough to send to last year`s show.  Was that his idea or was he instructed?  I pictured him in a jacket waistcoat and tie, like Harry Dobson in the Victorian Kitchen Garden, directing his men to load a cart with plants for the display, and the hamper of cuttings.

“The show was open to the public from three o`clock in the afternoon till eight o`clock in the evening, and was pretty well patronised considering the unpropitious state of the weather, it raining the greater part of the afternoon.  The Haigh Brass Band was in attendance during the afternoon and evening, and discoursed some capital music.”  Rev. James presided and his mother distributed the prizes with “a kind and appropriate word for each recipient.”  Rev James then gave a speech when he thanked everyone, as usual, and spoke about “some misunderstanding as regarded the prizes for the best display of plants in cottage windows.”  Residents entering the class had to give their names and addresses to the secretary beforehand so that the judges had the opportunity to go and see the windows.  Unfortunately some people had not fully understood this, did not give in their details, or gave them to the wrong person and they were not included in the judging.

He also “hoped that those who had received prizes would be stimulated to put forth efforts to do still greater things next show, but those who had not received prizes must not be disappointed.  They must strive to gain prizes next year.  All of the competitors could not get prizes, but he trusted those who had been successful in obtaining them would be induced not only to do more themselves next year but to encourage others to take an interest in the cultivation of flowers.  It was pleasing to go round the district and see so many plants in the workpeople`s windows, and he believed that since their society had been formed the cultivation of flowers had largely been promoted. At least he knew that many people went in for rearing plants who did not take any interest in them formerly. (Hear, hear.)”

The Mr Bryan thanked Mrs James who had so kindly consented at so short notice to present the prizes to the successful competitors (Cheers).  He agreed with Mr James that not every one could win prizes and hoped that those who had not been successful would use greater exertions next year to secure a prize (Hear, hear).  This does suggest that winning a prize was the incentive rather than the love of plants and flowers.  Then Rev. James father thanked everyone on behalf of his wife (women give the prizes while men do the talking).  He agreed with the success of the show and the degree of perfection attained in each class, and he would donate a prize for the show next year (Cheers).  Then Rev. Bryan thanked Mr James and this closed the proceedings.

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