As Lavant Horticultural Society celebrates 50 years, new research reveals it could be at least 100 years old
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Sue Jackson has spent many happy hours going through the archives at West Sussex Record Office and said the Chichester Observer newspapers of the past had been particularly helpful.
Now she is hoping others may have records dating back decades that will help her get to the truth about the origins of the society.
Sue said: "Research into the history of Lavant Horticultural Society, as found in the Chichester Observer at the Record Office, has found an entry in 1920. It seems likely that the society is at least 100 years old."
The annual meeting was held on Wednesday, November 8, and a celebration of 50 years of this thriving local society followed. Sue said, however, that the Observer had reported a number of meetings and annual shows well before 1973.
The earliest found so far is 1920, when it was reported: "Lavant Horticultural Society held their Annual Flower Show on the lawn of the Royal Oak in aid of the Royal West Sussex Hospital."
Among those mentioned as being on the committee were J. Bleach, A. Ide, S. Woodman and A. Elcock, who was the landlord and grandfather of a current member, Deecie Tester.
In June 1924 a report of a meeting at the War Memorial Hall stated: "A chairman and treasurer were appointed to a Society which is to be known as the Lavant District Horticultural and Industrial Society. The Show will be held in September of each year."
Sue said the use of the word 'industrial' was intriguing. She added: "Interestingly, a separate Ladies Committee was formed to deal with the Industrial Section. This was for classes for baking, jams and sewing, etc."
The Observer reported four months later: "The Committee of the newly formed Horticultural Society met to hear reports of the successful Show on 18th September."
In 1925, it was reported that the Lavant and District Horticultural Society had held its first annual meeting, which 60 members attended out of a membership of 100.
A story that never gets old is the weather and it seems the shows in 1927 and 1928 were both affected.
In September 1927, the Observer reported: "Rain spoilt the out-of-doors side of the Lavant and District Horticultural Society’s 4th Annual Show…(including) Stalls and side-shows and the music of the Chichester City Band." However, it was said the show was one of the best managed in the district that year.
In September 1928, the Observer reported: "The large marquee used for housing the exhibits at the Lavant and District Horticultural and Industrial Society’s Show was blown down by the wind early in the morning. The Show, which was the 5th, was pronounced a success as entries for the 100 or so classes were excellent."
The seventh annual show took place in the War Memorial Hall and meadow adjoining, it was reported in September 1930. Sue's research continues, to fill the gap from 1930 to 1973, and she would be grateful to any readers who have information for this period. See lavanthortsoc.org.uk for contact information.
Sue said: "All the early reports list entry winners in Cottager and Open classes. The Cottager classes feature many village names familiar to older residents, Gumbleton, Foster and Bleach.
"At the fifth Show in 1928, the Open class seems to have been a lively contest between Major Day, Major Carlisle and Colonel Hankey, whose names appear regularly as winners in the vegetable section."
Sue said she was amused to find in one case, a woman won first prize for ironing a shirt!