New President for the North of England Horticultural Society
We are delighted to welcome Lucinda Compton as the new President of the North of England Horticultural Society (NEHS).
Lucinda is curator of the award-winning gardens at Newby Hall, near Ripon, a role she took over from her late father-in-law and former NEHS President, Robin Compton. The gardens hold the national collection of Cornus and new developments include the regeneration of Newby’s famous herbaceous border.
Married to Richard Compton, owner of the Newby Hall Estate and President of the Historic Houses Association, Lucinda has three children. She is a professional furniture restorer, a skill that has proved particularly valuable in her dual role as curator of the stately home itself.
About the North of England Horticultural Society
The North of England Horticultural Society is a leading gardening charity supporting horticulture in the North of England.
Part of the Society’s work is to organise the Harrogate Spring and Autumn Flower Shows at the Great Yorkshire Showground. The Harrogate Flower Shows are regarded as two of the most prestigious, national flower shows in the gardening calendar and attract the very top nursery exhibitors from across the UK. All profits from the shows are returned to the charity and used to promote and support horticulture in the north.
Patron: HRH The Prince of Wales
President: Lucinda Compton
Chairman: Christopher Smith
Vice-Chairman: Caroline Bayliss
Show Director: Martin Fish
Show Manager/ Company Secretary: Jane Kitchen
PR/Marketing Officer: Camilla Harrison
Floral Art Organiser: Fiona Fisk
Event Organiser: Lisa Kennedy
Event Assistant: Jill Fish
Accounts Officer: Dee McIntyre
How It All Began...
In 1910 there were many months of discussion in the letters in the Yorkshire Post about the possibility of forming a horticultural society in the North of England. The idea was so enthusiastically supported that on 6 January 1911, the North of England Horticultural Society (NEHS) was inaugurated in the Lord Mayor's Rooms in Leeds.
The purpose of this new Society was to organise horticulture in the North of England and to arrange first class shows where northern exhibits could be judged by standards suitable for the northern areas of the country. The general opinion in those days was that the Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) shows, at Vincent Square, London, were too far away for very many would-be exhibitors in the north and travelling to London and back was time consuming and expensive. It was also felt that growers in the north were handicapped when in competition with growers in the warmer climes of the south.
Much encouragement and advice was given by the RHS in the initial stages and it is satisfying to note that after ninety years this situation still holds good today.
Originally it was envisaged that the NEHS would be run on similar lines to the RHS and floral, fruit and vegetable, orchid and scientific committees were set up. The NEHS held monthly meetings with a show and lecture, these being held in Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle and Harrogate. When held in Leeds Town Hall an organ recital was included in the price of admission, which was one shilling, reduced after 5pm to sixpence!
The NEHS flourished in the pre-war years before 1914 but with the onset of the First World War, its activities were suspended and it was not until 1921 that it was revived. Then, with the backing of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade, a successful show was held in the Old Winter Gardens in Harrogate (the present day site of the Lounge Hall). From that time all meetings and shows were held only in Harrogate and the NEHS became associated with the town. The hope was expressed in 1925 that the shows would bring into Harrogate "those people who might otherwise not patronize the Queen of Spas." This hope has been well and truly fulfilled by the many thousands of people from all over the country who flock to the town nowadays during show week.
From 1927 onwards, the NEHS concentrated its efforts on staging Spring and Autumn Shows each year and these shows were visited on very many occasions by the Princess Royal, who took a keen interest in the work of the Society and became its patron in 1950.
The first time the NEHS staged a show in the Valley Gardens was in 1934 when, in collaboration with Harrogate Corporation a larger than usual Autumn show was staged for the Jubilee of the Incorporation of the Borough. And so began a long-term close association with the Council of the Borough of Harrogate.
Sir William Ingilby of Ripley Castle, famed for its many appearances on television and film, became Chairman in the Thirties, to be followed by his son, Sir Joslan Ingilby, and the NEHS will always be grateful for the interest he and his family have shown in its activities.
During the Second World War the NEHS's activities were virtually suspended, although they did compile and publish a "Dig for Victory" pamphlet and many thousands of copies of this were distributed gratuitously throughout the war years.
The early post war years were a time of austerity and restrictions, so it was not until April 1947 that the first post-war Spring Flower Show was staged in the Sun Pavilion in the Valley Gardens. Until the 1950s, the shows were comparatively small in scale but from then on it was decided to expand.
A Flower Academy, which was first held in the Old Swan Hotel in 1953, was introduced into the Spring Show in the Valley Gardens in 1956 and became the forerunner of the magnificent Flower Arrangement & Floristry Marquee we know today. Gradually the Harrogate Spring Flower Show, as it became known throughout the country, increased in size and variety of exhibits. More and more of the Valley Gardens, with the Sun Pavilion and Colonnades were used, with the generous sanction of the Borough of Harrogate. Soon the high reputation of the standards set became well know not only in the North, but all over the British Isles and overseas, and visitors began travelling considerable distances to the event.
The Alpine Garden Society's Northern Branch show was incorporated in 1948 together with that of the Daffodil Society and glorious exhibits by local authorities such as Halifax, Leeds and Liverpool were staged. The year of 1971 saw the Fourth International Rock Garden Conference in Harrogate, which brought more than four hundred international delegates, representing almost every corner of the world, to the town. It was arranged that they should stage their show under the auspices of the NEHS and this proved to be the most successful international show that had been held by the Alpine Garden Society. Eventually this led to a further extension of the Spring Flower Show to cope with the enthusiasm of growers and exhibitors of alpine plants. The RHS staged a delightful rock garden pool in 1971 so continuing the links between the two Societies.
In 1976, the NEHS organised an entirely new concept in flower shows. The National Dahlia Society and the National Chrysanthemum Society, along with seven other Societies and the North East Area of NAFAS, were brought together to hold their shows within one show under the title, the Great Autumn Flower Show. This particular show, now taking in 13 individual amateur society shows, has steadily increased in popularity with both the general public and the exhibitors themselves.
The need to expand the Autumn Show led to this event being relocated from the Exhibition Halls to the Great Yorkshire Showground in 1995 and at this time increased from a two-day to a three-day Show. The Autumn Show has now tripled in size, the attendance has increased by a further 75% to 35,000 and it is now recognised as the premier Autumn Show in the country. Following the successful move of the Autumn Show and the need to expand the Spring Show, the decision was taken in 1997 to move the Spring Show from its picturesque but restricted Valley Gardens location to the Great Yorkshire Showground.
This has also been a successful move, both Shows expanding to also include Arts & Crafts and Fine Country Foods but again maintaining a predominantly horticultural content. A Landscape & Garden Design section with a Student Garden Design competition, and a Plant Societies' Marquee featuring the Daffodil and Tulip Shows have also been introduced to broaden the Spring Show's appeal. So far little mention has been made of the development of the flower arranging section of the Show, but flower arrangements and the Harrogate Spring Show have become synonymous. The Society has used its resources to help to promote this art form from its earliest days and now has one of the largest marquees devoted to flower arrangements and floristry of any flower show in the country.
The NEHS today goes from strength to strength. From its initial ventures with small provincial shows, it has blossomed into organising the largest national early Spring Flower Show in Britain, with an attendance of around 60,000 visitors, and the premier Autumn Show in the country with 35,000+ visitors. Each year the NEHS strives to make the Show more versatile and interesting, providing increasingly spectacular exhibits and improving facilities for both visitors and exhibitors alike. However it does not wish to rest on past successes but is always seeking to promote all forms of horticulture for the benefit of everyone. From the window box gardener to the owner of acres, from small growers to the nationally renowned horticultural nurseries, the Harrogate Flower Shows serve as a shop window on the gardening world of the future.