George Bowles - middle

Untangling our Long, Local History – Can You Help?

Cheam & Cuddington Horticultual Society has a long and prestigious history and has always maintained close ties with the local community.  We are in the process of putting together as much information as possible about our history. Members old and new, and their families, often find awards, trophies, photos, memories and memorabilia from the Society.  We would certainly appreciate it if you or your family could help us.

We are just getting started, but below is some information and also a bit lifted from May’s newsletter (follow the link under “A Slice of Society History" or look on the back page of this month's newsletter). This contribution was written by Richard Bailey, who is editor of our newsletter, a member of our committee as well as the Royal Horticultural Society's Fruit, Vegetable and Herb Committee. Richard has also been a judge at the Chelsea Flower Show. However, although Richard starts his account in the mid-1970s, we have information and photos from well before that.

At one time, there was a large house in Cheam Park, owned by Ald Sir Sidney Marshall, DL (Deputy Lieutenant) JP (Justice of the Peace see Marshall Cup in the schedule). The house has since been demolished, but the land it was on, now Cheam Park, was left to the Council on the condition that Cheam & Cuddington Horticultural Society would always be allowed to hold their shows there. 

At that time, there were four shows a year, in June, July, September and either the last weekend in October or the first weekend in November.  The Society now holds two shows per year - the Summer Show in July and the Autumn Show in September. (See Marshall Cup in the schedule).

Throughout its history, The Cheam & Cuddington Horticultural Society has been affiliated with various other societies and clubs that shared its interests and values and its membership has been up and down.

In the late 70s and early 80s it was extremely popular with approximately 250 members.  At that time, it was affiliated with the Cheam Flower Arranging Society. Membership with one society conferred automatic membership to the other society.  However, eventually the two societies went their separate ways and Cheam & Cuddington Horticultural Society lost 60 members overnight. Today’s membership is much healthier and hovers at around 200 members.

A Slice of Society History

After nearly forty years on the Society's committee there is no-one now on the committee who was a committee member when I was first elected.  (And not so many active members date from that same time.)  I thought, therefore, it might be of interest to members to read a little about just some of the folks on the committee when I joined it in 1975 – many of whose names appear on our cups. I will start at the top of the list in the 1975 schedule.

Chairman: Mr J. H.B. Gibson:

A retired bank manager, Jack lived in Queen’s Acre and had an allotment on the site now ocupied by St Dunstan’s School. He grew and exhibited a wide range of plants. I remember when at one show he brought a sweet pepper plant, this was in the late 1970s, and no-one recognised it – that would not happen now, would it?

Vice Chairman: Mr A. Scrutton:

A retired schoolteacher. He lived in north Cheam and I best remember him for telling me that he always found the best way to interest his pupils was to talk about motor bikes – he thought I might find the idea useful. A kind thought but I did not try it out as a university lecturer in botany.

Treasurer: Miss M. Greenlees:

Very much a Society supporter who later became President. Maggie had been a dedicated Guider who after her active work with the Guides became a stalwart of the Trefoil Guild.

Committee members:

Mr G. Bowles:

I think that George Bowles was the last jobbing gardener, that is a gardener who worked for several employers, in the Society. He had,therefore, no competition for the Parkins Challenge cup given by Mr Parkins from the estate agents of that name to be awarded to the “jobbing gardener gaining most points during the year” and now awarded in his memory for most points for vegetables at the autumn show. George grew everything – I particularly remember pots of fuchsia and chrysanthemums, especially a vast pot of a charm chrysanth (often more than 3 feet across) at every November show. His name is, I am sure, on all the Society’s cups.

Mr F. Burgess:

Frank Burgess was an engineer who had been chief engineer for the former Borough of Sutton and Cheam, He was a superb and versatile craftsman and would put wonderful work into classes such as “A home made Christmas Gift” as well as good exhibits in horticultural classes. Frank became President of the Society and masterminded our Centenary Exhibition at Whitehall in 1993.

Mr E.J. Garbett:

Although best known, in my opinion, for his dahlias and chrysanthemums, Ted exhibited everything! An electrical engineer who had been a “Bevan Boy” in the Second World War (a man required to serve in the coal mines rather than the armed services) Ted spent most of his working life as a shift engineer in power stations.

Mr C.W. Hawkins:

A dahlia expert who bred many cultivars that became popular. There were, of course, other committee members – I have just made my selection.

Richard Bailey

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