show-ground-band-pg-13Froggatt Horticultural Society – The Formative Years 1935-1939

It all started as a result of a casual conversation between four residents of the village in January 1935 – Mr E. J. Hattersley, who at that time lived on the Froggatt Edge Road, Mr John Morton, a local businessman, Mr Ernest Fletcher who farmed at Bridge Foot and Mr Albert Carnell, a jobbing gardener, who wondered if there was sufficient interest to form a Horticultural Society.  The Society was formally launched on 30th January 1935 at a public meeting held at the Chequers Inn attended by some 30 people.

Whilst it is impossible to list everybody who was involved with the Society over the years it may be of interest to record the first elected officers:-

President:                     Mr E. B. Cooke

Vice President:              Mr F. Pursell

Chairman:                     Mr John Grant

Vice-Chairman:              Mr Albert Carnall

Secretary:                     Mr E. J. Hattersley

Treasurer:                      Mr John Norton

Auditors:                       Messrs G. W. Lloyd and H. Horsfield

There was a Committee of fourteen one of whom was Mr Fred Wragg, the only surviving official and an enthusiastic exhibitor over the years.

At this meeting the boundaries were defined and annual membership fees set (gentlemen two shillings and sixpence, ladies and youths under 18 one shilling.)  The objectives of the Society were also defined and it does no harm to reiterate them here – “The Society is to provide friendly and healthy competition in horticulture, with lectures and social functions from time to time for the district, to provide a good social and educational atmosphere amongst its members.”  There closely followed a series of Committee meetings – all of which were well attended – at which rules were established and these have remained essentially unchanged over the years.

Simultaneously the ladies of the Committee started fund raising activities, mainly whist drives and dances in the Chequers Inn Pavilion which was on the opposite side of the raod from the Inn.  The schedule for the first show contained 69 classes, mainly flowers and vegetables with a few domestic and handicraft sections, and some special childrens’ classes.  (In 1993 there were 175classes.)

The initial fund of prize money for the 1935 show was set at £25 which was funded by members and patrons who automatically became members.  In the first year there were 143 members.  The usual cash prize money in each class was 1st – three shillings, 2nd – two shillings and 3ed – one shilling, but this was augmented by specially donated prizes (garden forks, spades, hose piping, twelve rose trees, ten shillings worth of groceries and much valued load of farmyard manure.)

Exhibits for the first show were staged between 8am and 10.30am and were not allowed to be lifted until 9pm.  The schedule for the show included a Cottage Garden Class 9restricted to persons not employing professional help) and gave rise to the first trophy presented by Mr George Lawrence – a successful businessman from Hathersage who is still widely remembered for his generosity in providing that village with a swimming pool, bowling green and tennis courts as well as refurbishing the Methodist Church/  The first show was held on Saturday 31 August 1935 in the Chequers Inn Pavilion and subsequent shows have continued to be held on a Saturday in late August.  The Show was opened by the President’s wife Mrs Cooke and the Grindleford Brass Band Played for a fee of two pounds five shillings.  On 23rd August it was reported that entries were slow to come in but on show day 270 entries were eventually staged.  A further two trophies were presented at the first show – the Moorlands Trophy (by Mr E. B. Cooke) for the highest number of points in the show, and the Nicholson Trophy for the best exhibit.  To publicise the show a banner was made to go across the road from the Chequers Inn to the Pavilion and was purchased for the sum of five shillings – both the AA and the RAC were notified of the event.

The records indicate that the first show was generally acknowledged as being highly successful and, of even more significance, it was a financial success without contributions being made from fund raising events.  It is obvious that a great deal of hard work was put into the first show, yet there was time for socialising and during the year two whist drives and three dances were held in addition to the first Annual Dinner at the Sir William Hotel in Grindleford which was attended by 70 people.  After the Dinner a concert was given by the Foxhill Quartet organised by the Assistant Secretary Mr Eric Outram.  The record state – “the talent was first class” and one gentleman from Grindleford said “we have not had such a high class concert for many years.”  A programme of winter lectures was also started with the co-operation of the Derbyshire County Council Education Department.  It is a pity that this useful aspect of the Society has lapsed over the years.

The minutes of the AGM held on 28th February 1936 indicate that the success achieved by the Society in its first year was due to the efforts and enthusiasm of the entire community – not just the village inhabitants but the local gentry, clergy, businessmen and local councillors.  Meetings and events had been extremely friendly and well supported.  There was no shortage of volunteers so the work load was fairly shared – there is a surely a lesson to be drawn from this.

Buoyed up by the success of the first show the Committee tackled the second year with enthusiasm, but because the Chequers Inn pavilion was in an acute state of disrepair a new venue had to be found.  It was decided to hold the show in Mr John Morton’s field at Froggatt Toll Bar (in later years Brigadier Levesley, President of the Show – 1972-74, built “Coppice Close” on this site.)  This was to be the first tented show and marked the start of a long association with Messrs Mudford of Sheffield, although the tent hire cost (313.9s.6d) was a major concern.  Electricity was also require on the site and was provided by the Nottingham and Derby Electrical Co for £1.  Building up a list of qualified judges for the various sections of any show is an organisational aspect rarely appreciated by the public, but with the co-operation of the local gentry in the Hope Valley area an impressive rota was obtained especially in the flower and vegetable sections with the Head Gardeners from Chatsworth House, Hassop Hall, Thornbridge Hall, Ashford Hall and Churchdale Hall.  Totley Hall and Stoke Hall were also featured in the schedules over the early years.  Similarly a notable local personality was invited to open the show but regrettably this aspect lapsed in the late ‘70s.

From the very start of the Society a much appreciated feature of the show day has been the attendance of a brass band playing all afternoon and as most local towns and villages had a band the organisers were almost spoilt for choice.  Over the years bands from Grindleford, Hathersage, Castleton, Tideswell, Matlock and Bakewell have all played on show day.  In the early years there was even a licenced bar.  The first, in 1936 was provided by Mrs Launders of the Moon Inn, Stoney Middleton when a licence fee of 2s 6d was charged.  Fund raising activities continued to be held at regular intervals throughout the year, and in 1936 the records mention the use of the “Guest House” to hold a whist drive – this impressive building, situated on Froggatt Edge road and owned by the  Holiday Fellowship organisation, was burnt down at a later date and sadly never rebuilt.

Total entries for the 1936 show were 449 spread over 83 classes and the popularity of the Society was such that membership rose to 166, drawing members from Curbar, Calver, Grindleford, Great Longstone, Baslow, Eyam. Stoney Middleton and Sheffield – as well as Froggatt.

The Froggatt Show has always had a reputation for its friendliness and long may this continue to apply.  In the 1936 Show Classes 1-7 were for members living in Froggatt, as defined by the rules, but some three weeks after the show it was pointed out that the winner of Class 5 for the best piece of needlework (which carried a first place price of 10 shillings worth of groceries) did not live in Froggatt and so the ‘winner’ was retrospectively disqualified, the lesson to all would-be exhibitors being – read your schedule!  Fortunately prizes in the early years were distributed at a separate event in October.

As a direct result of the formation of the Society, “Floral Services” were held annually in Curbar Church for a number of years at the instigation of the Vicar, Rev A. W. Lister, and at the 1936 service one of the readings given by the Secretary was Kipling’s poem “The Glory of the Garden.”  Another feature of the village life extracted from 1936, but which has now lapsed, was the staging of a “Fur & Feather” whist drive in December.  A victim of our affluent society?  Home spun entertainment was very much a part of village life at that time and the services of the local Foxhill Quartet were in great demand.  The 1936 activities closed with a dinner at the Sir William Hotel but the attendance was down by 12 to 58 due to “the wave of flu rampant at that time” – have things changed all that much in 50 years?

The years 1937 and 1938 gave time for consolidation – schedules were reviewed each year but the total number of classes remained unchanged at 83.  Some interesting statistics from these two years are quite illuminating:-

1937                 1938

Paid up membership                             138                   151

Total entries                                          368                   472

Balance in hand 31st December              1s 10d              £7 8s 11d

Expenses were reduced by closing the show at 8pm, but unlike so many organisations, the overall tenor of comments at this time was ‘provided the objectives of the Society were maintained, the financial position was of secondary importance’.  In both years emphasis was placed on the social activities which were well supported.  This demonstrated the value of the Society to village life overall, as well as contributing to its finances.  In his review of 1938 the Secretary said that the Society was regarded as a fully established institution in the district and hoped it would soon be regarded as second to none amongst societies in North Derbyshire.  With the show continuing to be a tented event at Froggatt Bar consideration was being given to the introduction of side shows to encourage more people to attend and stay longer.  One interesting “incentive prize” appeared in 1938 – a load of manure to be awarded to the competitor making the largest number of entries but gaining the least number of points!  1938 was also the first year of competition for the Fisher Trophy – a handsome silver tray.

The 1939 show was held again on Mr Morton’s field on the 26th August.  The Tyzack trophy was presented for the first time to the winner of ‘A container of Sweet Peas.’  It is interesting to note that in these formative years special prizes, diplomas and medals had been given every year by gardening magazines such as “Amateur Gardening” and “The Smallholder”.

However, the shadow of impending war led the Committee to decide to suspend the Society’s operation indefinitely, with the exception of social events, the proceeds of which were devoted to philanthropic purposes.

The Society entered this period of hibernation with the hope that the hard work and effort carried out so effectively in the early years of its formation would prove not to have been wasted.

From “Froggatt and Froggatt Horticultural Society 1935 – 1994”, compiled by John E. Agg and Tom Gorst 1994