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Edgworth and District Horticultural Society


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Society History 

In early 2014 an illustrated booklet about the history of our society was given free to members. This celebrated 40 years of EHS from its re-establishment in 1973 and though titled "A Potted History", author David Spencer gives an interesting and very full account starting from our origiinal founding in the early 1900s. This web page gives a shorter account of our history and though now out of print, you may view a copy of the booklet (at reduced definition to keep download times short).

At some point in the future an update and reprint may be undertaken so if you have further information about EHS or about the contents of the current booklet please email us at

Early beginnings

The Society in its present form was established in 1973 and has operated continuously since then. However, its existence goes back further, to the turn of the last Century. Records for this earlier period have been hard to find so far, and investigation is ongoing, but what follows has been discovered, mainly from newspaper articles.

In August 1904, it was reported in the Bolton Evening News that the 4th Annual Exhibition of the Edgworth & District Horticultural Society had been held on the previous Saturday, in the grounds of Greenthorne, Edgworth, thanks to the generosity of its owner, Mr. John Robert Barlow, J.P. The event involved the showing of flowers, fruit and vegetables by the villagers and comprised 242 entries displayed in a marquee erected in the grounds. The number of entries was down on previous years due to the day also having been chosen for similar events, but "the grounds could not have looked better, for they were bathed in brilliant sunshine, and everything conduced to a most successful venture". Greenhouse plants were the principal feature of the Show but there were also large numbers of cut flowers and window plants as well as 'unusually good class' vegetables. A new class for 'sponge cake' suggests there was a 'home produce' element to the Show and with children's games taking place and the Bolton Borough's Prize Brass Band playing "the afternoon was made pleasant for all".

The article also referred to the fact that the Show had been previously organised by the Turton Horticultural Society but this had been disbanded 5 years previously (1899) and the void had been 'creditably' filled the following year (1900) by the actions of local gardeners and residents who formed the Edgworth & District Horticultural Society. Reference has been found of the 3rd Show being held in 1903 and one being held in 1901.

Mr. John Robert Barlow took great interest in the Society and became its 1st President. His sister Annie was also an active member of village life and was involved with the annual Shows. The Barlow family, headed by father, James, had been benefactors to the village for many years and, in 1909, the Barlow Institute was opened having been erected by James's sons and daughters in their parents memory. At some time after its opening the Institute has been the venue of the Annual Show, and still is over a hundred years later.

Physical evidence of the Society's existence at this time was produced by one of our members, Derek Ramsden, when he produced a prize winners medal from 1905, which had been awarded to his grandfather.

Later years

1927 must have been a turning point for the Society as a Special meeting had to be held in April "To consider whether to carry the Annual Show ON or NOT. Owing to the lack of support during the last few years, it is now a matter for serious consideration".

There was obviously a positive response, as a poster advertising the 24th Annual Show, held at the Barlow Institute in August 1927, confirms the Society's continuing existence.

Press reports for 1929 pronounced the Show a success. "Attendance was excellent, the entries were well up on late years, and the receipts and sales must be gratifying". 1930 also produced a successful Show and "although entries were slightly down, the interest in the Show was more than maintained, and the visitors were more numerous than for some years. The introduction of classes for the domestic arts and crafts was a signal success and drew many entries".

The posters also indicate that there had been 3 years when no Show had been held. It is reasonable to assume that these would be part of the First World War years. It is interesting to note that the Closing Date for Show entries was a week beforehand and the Show opened to the public at 4.30 pm.

Whilst current practice is for the prize Cups and Trophies to be awarded for 1 year and to be returned for reissue each year, the practice at this time was that anyone winning a Cup for 3 years in succession got to keep it. In 1929, this accolade went to Mr J Shorrock who won a Cup, offered by Mr. J B Gass, partner in Bradshaw Gass and Hope (see below), for the Best allotment or Garden.

The following year, the Isherwood Cup for the most points in Local Vegetables was won outright by Mr. F Simpson, who had been a former chairman of the Society in the 1920's.

Many of the names of the prizewinners are the same as those involved with the Society today and, as with Mr Ramsden's medal, mentioned earlier, another current member, Stephen Simpson, presented the Society with the Isherwood Cup, won by his grandfather and retained by him ever since. This Cup has been refurbished and renamed the Simpson Cup, in his honour. It was first awarded in 2010 for the Best Cookery exhibit.

Nowadays we have a raffle for the chosen charity, but in the 1920's it was the sale of cakes and jams, under the direction of Miss Annie Barlow, that went to support the upkeep of the Bullock Wagon at Medak in India where the Bolton Architects, Bradshaw Gass and Hope, had built a Methodist College.

A poster for 1934 Show proves that the Society continued to be active but it is understood that it ceased to be so at the time of the Second World War although it was never wound up. Information on this period and up to the 1970's is still under investigation.

1973 - A New dawn

In November 1973, the Village Institute Committee held a public meeting to form a Horticultural Society and a Committee was elected. Jim Tebay reported that a Society still existed and that he was one of its 2 members. He was co-opted onto the Committee to provide continuity and the Society's name was confirmed as the Edgworth & District Horticultural Society. A Constitution was agreed. This was confirmed at the 1st AGM and modified at the 2nd AGM.

It was agreed that there would be an Annual Flower Show to be held on the 3rd Saturday in August and that the donors of Cups and Shield be asked if they will agree to them being transferred form the Village Institute Committee to the new Society. (As the Show included several Cups and a Shield, it is assumed that they agreed.) The existence of these Cups and the subsequent discussions on the Show schedule indicate that there had been a Show taking place for some years previously and research is needed into this.

One of the early concerns addressed by the Society was the provision of Allotments and discussions were held from 1974 to 1981 with Blackburn Council on several sites, including the old quarry at Horrocks Fold and at Turton Bottoms, but nothing came of these discussions.

In March 1975, Jim Tebay was elected temporary Chairman of the Committee meeting so that the remaining assets of the old Society (£16.98) could be transferred to the new Society. Later that month, this 1st AGM was held with 21 members present out of a total of 90. Assets were £60.46.

A programme of events was prepared for 1975 which included 8 talks, the Annual Show and the AGM. The talks covered a wide range of subjects, Roses, Dahlias, Alpines, Perennials, Cacti, preparation for Showing and Wine making. Speakers included a member of the Grey Mare Dahlia Society with whom this Society had strong links, as did the Grey Mare Rose Society. This full and varied programme has continued each year and it is interesting to note that early talks were also given by Myerscough College of Agriculture who still provide speakers today.

The Society also started involvement with the local community in 1976 by helping tidy old people's gardens where cases of hardship had been notified. Help was given in planting conifers near the Catholic School (1979) and when, in 1981, the Society entered the Bolton Show and won 3rd prize in the Bolton Challenge Trophy for Best Horticultural exhibit by a Society, it donated the prize of 12 rose bushes, and contributed 12 more from its own funds, and planted them at the Old People's flats in Edgworth.

Meeting Venues

In August 1974 a venue was agreed for the public meetings, this being the Methodist School on Bolton Road, which had ceased to be used as a School when the new one was opened in 1974, although it remained in use as a Sunday School until 1989. Meetings continued here until 1978 when, due to insurance problems, they moved to St. Aldhem's Catholic Church Hall, at Thomasson Fold. This location proved satisfactory until 1992 when a further move was necessitated by the demise and closure of the Catholic Church and concentration of the Catholic faith being centred on St John the Evangelist Church in Bromley Cross.

A move to the Methodist Church followed, in a seeming continuation of the use of evangelical buildings for meetings, but this only lasted until 1999 when the room had become too small for the attendance levels and stair access was an issue. A move to the Barlow Institute provided a much better venue especially for the larger attendances of recent years.

Membership Size and Meeting Attendance

Both membership and attendance have risen in recent years.

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