The Pyrford and Wisley Flower Show celebrated its 70th anniversary this year. We would like to thank Mr Tony Paice for allowing us to publish this summary of the origins of the Flower Show.
It is tempting to assume that the Flower Show springs from the community’s proximity to the Royal Agricultural Garden which was established at Wisley at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. That, however, would ignore the fact that the original Pyrford and Wisley villages were mostly comprised of cottages inhabited by people who were able to enrich their diets from the produce they grew on fertile alluvial soil along the Wey. Rivalry over who could achieve the largest marrow probably goes back hundreds of years; and, by the end of the 19th century several market gardeners in the area took their surpluses up to Covent Garden, one or two of them drinking the proceeds on the return journey.
The RHS certainly gave local enthusiasts a fillip, so it is not by chance that the inaugural meeting of a Pyrford Horticultural Society should have taken place on 18th May 1909. It held annual shows but just before the First World War the enterprise foundered for lack of funds, despite the strong backing it received from Wisley garden’s professionals. Younger members of the community also received horticultural training during evening classes at the old Board School. Halfway through the First World War a quarter of an acre was set aside to provide a model allotment to promote food production.
No formal interest in community gardening existed between the wars but, with the return of “the lads” after 1945, there was a hunger for greater social togetherness and enjoyment. There were ambitious plans to turn the Pyrford War Memorial Hall (opened in 1922) into a modern community centre but post-war austerity and the death in November 1948 of the parish guide over 35 years - the Reverend Cuthbert Hamilton - put paid to the project.
It was Hamilton, however, who chaired the Hall Committee meeting in 1947 which appointed a sub-committee with a commission to organise a flower show. This, in turn, would generate funds for the maintenance and refurbishment of the Hall. Accordingly, on 18th August 1948, the first Wisley with Pyrford Flower Show was held and the annual event has continued to this day. True to its original charter it has continued to raise money for the Hall and for deserving local social organisations.
Sadly, Hamilton did not see the first show; he was in hospital undergoing an operation for bowel cancer. His legacy - as with so many other things he caused to be created in our community - remains to this day.
© 30 November 2008, updated 2012