Winslow Flower Show (1875-1948)

Including Shire Horse Show (1888-1949) and Gymkhana (founded 1944)

Origins of the Flower Show

Buckingham Advertiser, 23 Aug 1930: article by A.J. Clear

I have been asked when Winslow Flower Show really came into being — from an old minute book, I have extracted the following: "At a public meeting at the Assembly Room at the Bell, on Friday, the 5th February 1875 for the purpose of appointing a committee to arrange a show, during the present year, of flowers, fruit, vegetables and poultry by amateurs, cottagers and others residing in Winslow and the neighbourhood — present Messrs. T.P. Willis, Neal, Barton, G. Hawley, Morecraft, Hathaway, J. Grace, Marks, Wilford, Syrett, Mason, Wigley, Matthews, Colgrove, Gurney, etc. — Mr. T.P. Willis having been called to the chair, it was proposed by Mr. Barton, seconded and carried, that a society be formed for the purpose of carrying out the objects of the meeting and that a committee be appointed, with power to add to their number. The following were chosen to form the committee, viz. Messrs. T.P. Willis, M.S. Lowndes, Dr. Newham, Monk, Gurney, Hathaway, Hawley, Barton, Wigley, Morecraft, Grace, Wilford and Mathison. Mr. T.P. Willis was elected chairman and treasurer, and Mr. A.S. Midgley secretary. At the next meeting, Mr. Edward Selby Lowndes was elected chairman and Mr. Meyrick Selby Lowndes vice-chairman.

"Amateurs" meant people who did their gardening for pleasure rather than necessity.

View looking north across fields
This photo taken from the church tower looking north in 1885 shows the Flower Show Field (as it became known) with sheep and cattle grazing. St Albans and St Laurence Roads were built there in the 1950s.

The first show

Buckingham Advertiser, 24 July 1875

This spirited little Town celebrated its first Annual Exhibition as above, on Thursday the 22nd inst., under distinguished patronage, E.W. Selby Lowndes, Esq., being president and the following gentlemen Vice-Presidents viz., Hon. T.F. Fremantle, Egerton Hubbard Esq. M.P., Col. Caulfeild Pratt, H.R. Lambton Esq., and M. Selby Lowndes Esq. A very good list of prizes was forthcoming especially when it is remembered that it is the first year such an exhibition has been attempted.

The Show was held in a field kindly lent for the occasion by T.P. Willis, Esq., and was attended with a success sufficient to warrant the anticipation of its becoming an annual gathering. The Northampton Town Band engaged for the day, arrived early, and previous to the opening of the Show played some marches round various portions of the town. Many of the principal inhabitants displayed flags, banner and streamers which gave the little town a pleasing holiday like appearance, and, better than all, "the sun over-head shone joyously out" and seemed by his bright face to wish joy to the day. Better weather could not well be desired for the inauguration of this interesting and popular style of exhibition, and the fact that it was both interesting and popular was verified we think by the fact, that somehwere near sixteen hundred (1600) persons paid for admission to the field, and that the receipts were somewhere near £80.

Arthur Stead MidgleyAt half-past one the public were admitted to the Shows ... The flowers and fruits were arranged for exhibition in one large tent, the cottagers' production occupying a second, and the Poultry well filling a third ... A model garden of very tasteful design was exhibited by A. Watson, gardener to G.R. Greaves, Esq., of Western House, Winslow ... T.P. Willis, Esq., the Treasurer took a very active part in the day's Programme, and Mr. A.S. Midgley, the Honorary Secretary [photo, right] was literally everywhere, busy in seeing to the arrangements, yet finding time to give every information to the representatives of the Press giving them the least possible trouble ... Most of the places of business were closed during the afternoon thus giving the employees and others an opportunity of attending the Show, and we must certainly not omit to mention, that through the kindness of certain gentlemen, the children of the National Schools, boys and girls, and also the Union Workhouse children, were admitted to the grounds in the afternoon and apparently enjoyed their visit immensely. The Show closed at six o'clock after which the exhibitors quickly removed their productions. In the Evening a Ball took place in a floored tent erected on the Home Close, and was extensively patronised.

There must have been some sort of Flower Show before this because the Buckingham Advertiser of 7 June 1873 referred to "Mr Ellis' meadow (better known as the Flower Show Ground)". Ellis was presumably a mistake for Willis.

Sport added, 1883

After a disappointing show in 1882 due to bad weather and lack of produce, it was decided to include sports (which had been held separately from 1875), as the following advert (Buckingham Advertiser, 21 July 1883) shows:

WINSLOW FLOWER SHOW Thursday, JULY 26 Instant.

In addition to the usual attractions, a Tent for the Sale of Useful and Fancy Articles, and Tea and Coffee, in aid of the CHURCH RESTORATION FUND will be there.

The tent of the BUCKINGHAMSHIRE BEE-KEEPERS' ASSOCIATION will be on the Ground and Practical Illustrations of the management of Bees will be given by an Expert.

In the Afternoon commencing at 2.30 o'clock, a series of ATHLETIC SPORTS AND BICYCLE RACES will take place.

THE DANCE ON THE GREEN will be open at 6.30 o'clock (weather permitting.)

The Bowling Green
The Bowling Green, where the dance was always held after the Flower Show

A CONCERT IN THE IRON ROOM will be given, to commence at 7.30 o'clock. Conductor— Mr. G.D. Day

The FULL BAND of the 3rd NORTHAMPTONSHIRE RIFLE VOLUNTEERS has again been engaged.

In the Evening, PROFESSOR WELLS will give his brilliant DISPLAY OF FIREWORKS in Mr. Colgrove's Field at Ten o'clock.

The Gates will open at 1 and close at 6 p.m. Admission from 1 to 4 o'clock 1s., after 4 o'clock 6d. Tickets to be had near the entrance to the Grounds.

A.S. Midgley, Secretary

The 1897 show

Buckingham Advertiser, 24 July 1897

Winslow Flower Show and Athletic Sports

This annual holiday came off on Thursday and was highly successful ... In response to the Committee's appeal, many of the residents in the town had decorated their houses and business establishments with flags, etc. and several lines of streamers spanned the roads. The show was held, as usual, in the centrally-situate field, belonging to T.P. Willis, Esq. in which the three marquees had been erected to the left of the Sports course, which had been carefully prepared. The Flower Show exhibits filled the two large marquees. There were eighty more entries than last year in the cottagers' classes; whilst those in the amateurs' classes were about the same as last year. Considerable praise is due to the secretary, Mr. A.J. Clear, for the able way in which he discharged the manifold duties of that office.

The interior of the amateurs' tent was most attractive and pleasing. Chief amongst the features was a most lovely group of rare exotics, lent by H.S. Leon, Esq., Bletchley Park, and the centre of the tent was further embellished with the choice stove and greenhouse plants from the conservatories of Mrs. Lambton, Redfield, and T.P. Willis, Esq., those of the former including grand specimens of the eucharis, calpha, agapanthus and palms. At the entrance were the grand stands of roses of Mr. George Prince, of Oxford, Mr. John Mattock of New Headington, and Mr. Parker of Headington. With three such noted growers of the Queen of Flowers it may be taken as guaranteed that the specimens were of the fullest merit, and thanks are due to T.P. Willis, Esq., for his kind liberality in continuing these special prize, the superb stands being the chief attraction of the tent.

New venue

After the demise of T.P. Willis, the Show moved to a new venue in 1910, where the Arboretum and part of the Elmfields estate are now. Here is some of the report for 1911.

Buckingham Advertiser, 29 July 1911


This annual event was held on Thursday, July 27th ... the town was enlivened at mid-day by the Band marching from the station to the Market Square playing the march "Patriotic". The show was again held in the Cricket Ground (kindly lent by Mr. Norman McCorquodale), which is centrally situate and most admirably adapted for such a gathering.

HORTICULTURAL AND FLORAL. The entries in this department numbered about 600, but there was a large falling off from that number in the exhibits, owing no doubt to the drought ... This year a special feature had been introduced in special classes for poultry and eggs, and also prizes for bouquets and sweet peas for the children ... A new feature was the class for decorative roses, in which Mr. Geo. Pass was an easy first with a monstre [sic] branch of climbing rose ... It is a great pleasure in this connection to chronicle the success of Mr. John Guest (Master of the Workhouse) in a number of classes ...

THE SPORTS. These have formed the chief feature of the programme for some years past, and latterly the committee have introduced new and important items in classes for harness and driving and jumping ... the number of spectators round the roped-in course was large, and they appeared to enjoy to the full the competitions in the various events, which were confined to a six-mile radius. The horse classes created special interest.

THE BAND. The Wolverton Detachment Prize Band of the Bucks Battalion Territorial Force had been engaged for the day, and played excellent selections of music at intervals on the show ground, under the conductorship of Bandmaster H.J. Brooks.

REFRESHMENTS. Teas were supplied in a tent beneath the welcome shade of the trees by Mr. F. Benbow, whose catering, as usual, was highly appreciated. Alcoholic refreshments were supplied in the tent by Mr. Hancock, of the Bull Inn. At night a large company assembled on the Bowling Green and enjoyed excellent dances to the music of the Wolverton Prize Band.

1913: Controversy

Apparently Norman McCorquodale withdrew the use of the Cricket Ground. The 1912 Show was in Dene Hill Field (the playing field of the "New Schools") and the adjacent tennis courts, and in 1913 the indoor events were in the school building. A suggestion to hold the show on the same day as the Shire Horse Society show was turned down. According to the Buckingham Advertiser (26 July 1913):

Some doubt was felt early in the year whether Winslow Flower Show should be continued, owing to shortness of funds, but the large attendance and the great success achieved in the several departments on Thursday, certainly justified the committee in their decision to retain the holiday. A new feature was that of holding the Flower Show in the adjoining Council Schools, and special thanks are due to Mr. Pass (head-master) for the excellent arrangements made by him in this respect, whilst at the same time it saved the funds about £16 in tent hire.

There was then heated correspondence in the Advertiser between various pseudonymous writers. "Fortitude" was evidently a member of the Show Committee and the Board of Guardians, and "Aster" wasn't. Here are some extracts:

"Aster" (2 Aug): Are we to bow the knee of humiliation to one or two gods (at least in their own estimation) of the town and ask the favour of the use of three or four acres of land just for five or six hours on one day in 12 months, and failing this to bow the knee to the inevitable and rank with the conquered? It seems utterly absurd. There are others in the town who, if they were only approached, would do as much, and most likely more, than what has been done by our local noblemen before, and the public be permitted what they a year or two ago were refused. The one high day of the year — surely the committee will see that this is not done for absolutely ... There has also been strong comment the last year or two about the master of a certain institution taking so many prizes at the show from gardens which are kept up by the ratepayers, who are taxed heavily for the up-keep and yet have to compete against fruit and vegetables sent to the show from these gardens ...

"Fortitude" (9 Aug) ... "the master of a certain institution" and his assistant, conceiving the injustice of spending the ratepayers' money on seeds for show, purchased the same privately and utilised the intrinsic value therefrom to feed and comfort the officers and inmates, thereby saving, instead of wasting ratepayers' money ...

"Aster" (16 Aug) ... Let me tell "Fortitude" I have always had the show's welfare at heart — long before he knew there was such a place as Winslow.

"Amicus" (23 Aug) ... Meanwhile there is in Winslow at the present time a spirit of envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness; and in my opinion the sooner all parties concerned agree to bury the hatchet and endeavour to live in peace and quietness one with another, the better for all concerned.

The Show went ahead for the 40th time in 1914 with some additions: jumping & driving competitions, a military tournament by the Royal Bucks Hussars and a lawn tennis match. The gate was up, but it was the last Show before the start of the First World War.

Resumption in 1920

Buckingham Advertiser, 17 July 1920

WINSLOW Flower Show, Galloway Races and Dance on the Bowling Green
July 22nd, 1920,
Wolverton Silver Band.
Beekeeping Demonstration.
Dead Poultry & Eggs.
Gates open at One p.m., close at 6. Races commence 2 p.m. Admission to Show, Races, & Sports, 2/-; Motors 5/-, Vehicles 2/6.
Dance commences 7 p.m., admission 1/-.

End of a men's race
This undated photo looks as if it shows the Flower Show sports when they were held on Dene Hill

1924: Return after a year's break

2nd prize in the mile handicap
This certificate was won by Fred Young. The carvers were worth £1

The Show was not held in 1923 because the Bowling Green was not available for the usual dance. It returned in 1924 with the Flower Show in the School and the dance on the Bowling Green.

Buckingham Advertiser, 12 July 1924


During the afternoon there will be ATHLETIC SPORTS including:
Relay Race, Donkey Race, & c.
Jumping Competition (open) for Horses of any height, Ditto 2 miles radius, and Pony Class (open) 14 hands & under.
Polo Pony and Musical Chairs.
The Gates will open at 7 p.m. (weather permitting) for a Dance on the Bowling Green.
Entrance through Vicarage Lane. Dancing to commence at 7.30 p.m. sharp.
Admission 1s. 0d.
The well-known LEIGHTON BOY SCOUTS BAND will play on the Show Ground and for the Dance.
The gates will open at 1 p.m. and close at 6 p.m. Admission to Show and Sports 1s/2d each (including the Tax), Children under 12, 6d. A roped enclosure with seats will be provided.

In 1925 the Show went back to what was now called the Old Flower Show Field. After making a loss for two years, it was decided to suspend the floral & horticultural section in 1926, and the event had to be renamed the Winslow Sports. The full programme resumed in 1927 with the Flower Show in the Oddfellows' Hall and the Sports in the Winslow Hall grounds ("Old Cricket Ground") as in 1910-11. In 1928 the Flower Show returned to the School and the Sports, now "under A.A.A. laws" to Dene Hill Field "by permission of N. McCorquodale Esq." so presumably it means Home Close. The dance moved to the Sports Club in Park Road as the old Bowling Green had become part of the churchyard. In 1929 they were back in "Winslow Hall Field", meaning the old Cricket Ground, and new attractions included a fancy dress parade from the Market Square and motor cycle events. In 1930 they added fire brigade competitions.

1931: The fiftieth show

Winners included:

Geranium: W. Banner
Bouquet: Mrs G. Rowe
Sweet peas: S. Bradbury
Coloured round potatoes: H. Bradbury
Cabbages: E.J. Head
Pod of peas: A.J. Lanfear
Collection of vegetables: H.C. Read
Best allotment: G. Beckett

Plain needlework: Mrs J.W. Ingram
Fancy needlework: Miss G.D. Stock
Plain cake: Mrs E. Campbell
Queen wasps: F. Stonell
Bouquet: Mrs A. Walker
Floral decorations: V.H. Walker
Plate of cherries: Henry Stock
Red currants: Mrs Greaves
Black currants: A.E. Leapingwell
Six turnips: J. Colgrove

Bouquet: Jocelyn Rowe
Knitted socks: Eileen Fruin
Drawing of fowl: Donald Walker
Raffia work: Kenneth Walker
150 yards handicap (boys u-12): B. Adkins
100 yards handicap: R.O. Langley
50 yards handicap (girls u-7): P. Dobbs
Sack race: J.W. Ingram
220 yards handicap: A.T.G. Mead
100 yards handicap (girls u-11): J. Rowe
Half-mile handicap: J.T. Beckett (Wolverton AAC)
250 yards handicap (boys u-16): A. Wilson
Men's obstacle race: W. Saving
50 yards handicap (boys u-7): M. Holdom
V.C. race (motor cycles): R. Gibbard
Umbrella & cigar race (motor cycles): C.W. Curtis

Dagenham Girl Pipers leading a paradeThere was no Show in 1932 in order to raise funds for the following year. That did not materialise, and the sequence of shows going back to 1875 came to an end. The British Legion held a Whitsun Fete in 1932, then a Flower Show in 1933 in the St Laurence Room. In 1934 it was continued by the Legion and the Women's Institute, moved back to Winslow Hall Field, and included a performance by the Dagenham Girl Pipers. In 1935 there was a children's fancy dress parade, bowling for a pig, a gymnastic display and a fire brigades competition.

The photo on the right from the Living Archive shows the Dagenham Girl Pipers at New Bradwell.

1936: 3rd British Legion Flower Show

Buckingham Advertiser, 1 Aug 1936

Winslow Flower Show — Fine weather and a fine display — The return of the Pipers — increased entry

... The fact that the entries, which numbered 350 in the horticultural section, showed a substantial increase, suggests that with adequate public support and financial backing, the Legion's aim [to revive the old Flower Show] may in time be accomplished. This year the innovation was made of extending the radius of entry to include over twenty villages in the Winslow neighbourhood, and the decision resulted not only in a larger exhibition, but also in additional competitive interest and a higher quality ... Especially impressive was the charming display of sweet peas, and in the fruit section the prize-winning currants and gooseberries were notable exhibits ... There was keen competition for a Silver Challenge Cup presented by Mr. Norman McCorquodale, O.B.E., and this was carried off by Mr. E. Head ... The Winslow Branch of the Women's Institute assisted the success of the horticultural show by organizing, in conjunction with it, a handicrafts section, which was in charge of Mrs. F. Bull and Mrs. Saunders ... The state of the ground had been seriously affected by the rain; but an interesting sports programme, for which there was a large entry, was satisfactorily carried through. Chief among the attractions apart from the show was the return visit of the Dagenham Girl Pipers [who] created a picturesque scene in the streets of Winslow by leading a procession to the grounds for the opening ceremony.

Unfortunately the British Legion made a substantial loss and decided to abandon the Show, and it remained in abeyance until 1948.

1948: another revival

Buckingham Advertiser, 31 July 1948

Winslow revives Flower Show — successful sports ground event — children's sports and fete — seventy years ago recalled

--- The show, with children's sports and fete, was promoted jointly by the Winslow School Assocation and Sports Club and was held in the Park Road Sports Ground, which has undergone praiseworthy transformation through voluntary efforts ... The entries for the show, numbering between 400 and 500, so far exceeded expectations that an additional tent had to be provided at the last moment ... Mr. A. Rolfe (Chairman), at the outset of the proceedings, pointed out that the two local organizations had set out to revive the Winslow Flower Show, which a few years ago was a very successful annual event. They had been very fortunate in having such a body of helpers and Mr. Hall, their secretary, had been indefatigable ... Colonel Selby Lowndes said that it was 70 years since he had [first] attended a Winslow Flower Show and that in those days it was one of the biggest shows in the county of Bucks. He recalled that there was a great bicycle race which used to start at Adstock and end at the Bell ...

The event was planned again for 1949 but did not happen due to the demise of the Sports Club.

Winslow Shire Horse Society

Winslow Stud Horse Society was founded in 1886 and held its first annual show and sale of foals on 3 Oct 1888. The shows were in the Flower Show Field. In 1891 it started to be called the Shire Horse Society to reflect its main interest. The Secretary was originally Cornelius Colgrove of Shipton Farm, then A.J. Clear. A luncheon at The Bell followed the show. Like the Flower Show, it moved to Winslow Hall grounds in 1910. The show continued during the First World War:

Buckingham Advertiser, 14 Sep 1918
The 31st annual show of foals, yearling fillies, and 2-year-old fillies was held on Wednesday in a field kindly lent by Mr. N. McCorquodale, and conveniently situate near the centre of the town.

When the Society celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1936 it claimed to be the oldest such society in Great Britain. The 1939 show was cancelled because of the outbreak of the Second World War, but shows resumed immediately after the War.

Buckingham Advertiser, 29 Sep 1945
Winslow Shire Horse Society's show, one of the oldest agricultural horse-shows in the country, was revived on Friday after lapsing for a period on account of wartime conditions. Entries were of a high standard although not numerically equal to the pre-war average. The show was held in the Old Flower Show Field, kindly lent by Miss Matthews and Mr. H. Brazier.

Interest in shire horses declined rapidly as they were replaced by tractors, and the 1950 show was cancelled because of lack of entries. The Society continued to carry out its other role of hiring a stallion each year, but the show became part of Buckingham Show from 1951.

Horse Show and Gymkhana

This completely different event started on 16 Sep 1944. It was initially in aid of the Duke of Gloucester's Red Cross Fund, and the secretary was the vet R.R. Bugg. It became an annual event.

Buckingham Advertiser, 13 Aug 1949

Winslow Horse Show and Gymkhana further proved its well-established popularity among the younger events on Saturday when the old cricket field (kindly lent by Brig. and Mrs. McCorquodale) provided the usual pleasant setting. The Winslow event has a friendly, intimate character and gives plenty of scope for the younger riders. This year the proceeds were for the Winslow Public Recreation Ground and Councillor A. Cox thanked the promoters through the loud speaker ... During the afternoon there was a colourful parade of the Whaddon Chase Foxhounds ... Mr. Bob Turnham very ably provided the music and announcements with his new apparatus. The Folly Inn Caterers, Adstock, had made admirable arrangements for the buffet, luncheons and licensed bar.

It continued until 1953, and was revived in 1955 to raise money for the Church Bells Fund. It was this, rather than the Flower Show, which was the direct ancestor of the present Winslow Show. A horticultural section was added in the 1960s, as well as handicrafts and various agricultural activities, and the Show was run by the Oddfellows.

Horses and horse boxes in Home Close
The Gymkhana in the 1960s; photo by the late Jean Dale

See also:

Copyright 29 September, 2020