The earliest recorded flower shows appeared during the 1830s, during the Victorian era there was a great interest in shows of every kind, becoming very popular during the Summer months. Charles Darwin had inspired other botanists to travel the world to bring back rare and unusual plants to Britain. Among these was James Banks, he travelled with James Cook on the Endeavour to the Pacific and later became the Director of Kew Gardens.
Botanical gardens and stately homes all wanted the latest plants, botanists identified, catalogued and propagated these plants and released them to growers to sell to the public. During the 19th century, an affluent middle class emerged saw these exotic plants and were inspired to grow them in their own gardens, something gardeners still do today. Britain now grows over an incredible 100,000 different species of plants in its gardens.
With the advent of the railway nurseries could sell their plants nationwide by mail order but always looking for new ways to attract new customers, the idea of the flower show grew ever more popular. These shows became competitive offering prize money and awards with elaborate stands created to fuel the public’s imagination. Villages and towns all over Britain tried to emulate the larger shows and the flower show became part of British life often incorporated into the village fete or fair.
Gardeners were able to grow produce to feed their families in both world wars. After the second world war there was still a need to grow fresh vegetables due to rationing, this lead to Britain having many amateur horticulturalists with a passion for growing vegetables and cut flowers with the golden age of flower shows now regarded as being between the 1950’s and 1980’s. Professional exhibitors could do 60 shows a year such was the enthusiasm at this time, sadly because food and cut flowers are so easily available shops this enthusiasm for growing has dwindled, with a slight resurgence amongst some gardeners who prefer the taste of fresh produce and knowing that the produce has been organically grown in their own gardens, it is perhaps these people that are the mainstay of Britains flower shows today.
The History of The Great British Flower Show
History of the Dean and Shelton Country Show
The annual Dean and Shelton Flower Show has been a major event in the three villages since 1885, records show that no event took place between 1916 – 1919 and 1940 – 1945. During the shows history it has changed considerably with many village flower shows having come and gone but in 2019 the show celebrated its 125th year. The origins of the Dean Show (as it was called at first) were with the Headmaster of the Old Dean School, Mr William Huckle who held a competition involving handwriting, sewing, and craftwork for his pupils held on the Tuesday after the August Bank Holiday, there are no written records of these events but we believe that the show must have been well supported and was grown to include adults that were encouraged to enter eggs, chickens, honey and preserves.
The earliest show schedules were a simple poster detailing the requested exhibits and in 1935 the committee stated the aims of the show for the first time. These were to encourage good cultivation of village gardens and allotments. It was at this time the show became the Dean and Shelton Flower Show. Commencing in 1909 it was necessary to pay a subscription in June to enter a class in the August show.
Some early shows were then held in the vicinity of Dean House Farm, in a barn and on a nearby field. These early shows included livestock and in 1930 fifty pens were hired to show livestock. Later around 1925 the show was moved again to the Old Dean School and adjacent field, then in 1953 the show was moved to Dean Grange Farm for the first time, again using a barn to show the produce a nearby by field (now the site of the Dalton Hall), the old wooden cricket pavilion was used for the award ceremony whilst teas were served in the adjacent garden of Dean Grange Farm House. 1953 saw the introduction of skittles played for the prize of a pig!
The Dean and Shelton Flower Show moved again in 1973 until 1989 this time to the Eileen Wade lower school this was becoming quite an event more like a village fete or fair with an art show held in All Hallows church, races were held for young and old alike, and a cup was awarded for the best kept front garden, evening dances were held to live bands with a bar and supper, sadly these traditions that lasted around a century have now lost favor. One of the last traditions to have died out at the show was the children’s fancy dress competition. Happily a little tradition kept alive by Rosemary Hallworth is the sweetie scramble this is intended for young children.
Attractions at the Centenary show in 1994 during the day were, Kettering Town Band, a Punch and Judy show, the Oakley Hounds, a Cricket match, and the Red Wheel Barrows Display Team, a bouncy castle, a bar, numerous stalls and sideshows, and Ice Cream. For evening entertainment a barn dance was held with a pig roast, and music was provided by Parsons Nose, with a grand firework display finale to end the celebrations.
The date of the show was changed from a Tuesday immediately after the August bank holiday to bank holiday Monday in 1939, and then in 1967 it was changed to the first Saturday in August. When the show was moved across to the Dalton Hall and playing field in 1989 and the date was changed to the last Saturday in August. However in very recent times it was decided to move the show to early September and the show is now held on the first Saturday in September.
In 2008 the first Dean and Shelton Classic Vehicle Display was held made of around local classics then during 2016 it was decided that the Dean Dog Show should be incorporated and in 2017 to reflect the changes made to the show the name of the event was changed to the Dean and Shelton Country Show.