The First Flower Show was held on June 8th, 1946. “Benhall Victory Day Celebrations: Welcome Home to Returned Members of H.M.Forces” began, as the Show does today, with a few quiet moments of remembrance and gratitude.
Those were the days when almost everyone grew their own vegetables and flowers and the Horticulture and Produce Show was a major part of the event. There were 36 classes then, displayed in the School. Gardening is still hugely popular in the village and this year there are 92 Classes, including vegetables,flowers, home cooking, and arts and crafts, all on show in the big Marquee on Showground in School Lane.
in 1946, the Show being in June, you could display your Asparagus and Gooseberries - it was the right time of year. Distinctions were made in some classes for “Exhibitors employing gardener”. Years ago there were village households with a full-time gardener, nowadays some older and busier residents might have help for a few hours a week but that's as far as it goes! Something else we don't see now was Class No.36, “Best-dressed Fowl for the Table” - once an everyday skill representing a very special treat, now vanished in our world of mass production and supermarkets. In 1946, local children, divided into three age groups, were invited to bring varieties of wild flowers and a drawing of a flower, either coloured or in “lead pencil” to the Show. Children's artwork is still a major feature of the Marquee, with a wider range of options.
Alongside the Vegetables and Produce Show, Sports - for everyone - were the other half of the Show in 1946. Children's Sports are still part of the afternoon programme in 2017. There are more rival attractions now than there were in 1946, when there were no bouncy castles, clowns or Punch and Judy to compete with the “Rabbit Hop”, the sack-race, Bowling Hoop and the three-legged race.
Adults too had to amuse themselves and there were races for “Ladies” and “Gents” from 14 upwards. For those getting a bit stiff with advancing years there were walking races, even “Novelty Walking” and the “Slow Cycle”. The adult sports must have provoked much gentle mockery and kindly laughter and surely the “Wheelbarrow Race” for married couples should be brought back without further delay?
In 1946 the afternoon was rounded off with a torch-light procession and a bonfire; finally, there was Dancing in the Hut - “if arrangements permit” as the programme said.
We dont know if the Dancing went on or not, after the Show, but we can be sure it would be popular if it did!
Benhall & Sternfield History Group is lucky to have a copy of the Show Programme for 1946, but there seems to be a gap in the records then until 1975. If anyone can fill this gap, even with one small item such as programme, committee minutes,letter or photograph, please get in touch and help to reconstruct the past history of this important feature of local life.
The Flower Show is traditionally held on the second Saturday in August so August 11th 2018 is the date to put in your diary! For more information, please see the Show page on this website.
The photograph is of Winter Cook, first winner of the Gray Rose Bowl, still awarded annually by the entrant winning the most points in the Show.