The wartime produce shows of the Hornsey Allotment Associations

Borough of Hornsey Allotments Association

Borough of Hornsey Allotments Association - Credit: Archant

Old trophies and a biscuit tin of paperwork and memorabilia testify to decades of Hornsey Allotment Association produce shows.

During a recent turn-out of the Highgate Allotments Hut, a stash of silver cups came to light.

Elsewhere, some schedules for the Borough of Hornsey Allotment Association Produce Shows also turned up.

The schedules run from 1923 – 1961 and it’s likely these two collections relate to the same event, the flourishing produce show that once happened every September.

Neither collection had been completely forgotten.

Senior members of the Allotment committee knew about the cups, while I knew the schedules were somewhere in my attic. They had belonged to former association secretary Jim Langford.

When I met Jim in the 1980s he was a delightful old man who still loved his allotment. As we sat in his greenhouse he recounted snippets of the history of the site, and later passed his archive to me, stored in a biscuit tin.

Most Read

As well as the schedules the tin contains handwritten copies of minutes and accounts.

There are also two photographs showing a table piled with vegetables, fruit and flowers, attended by four men, one woman, a dog and a notice saying “Collection 1934” which suggests the produce would have been given to local hospitals rather than entered for the show.

The Annual Reports often refer to such gifts from the allotment holders.

In 1926, for instance, “the Royal Northern Hospital again received the thoughtful and generous consideration of our members … the gift of Flowers, Vegetables, Jams and Tea, etc. was of large dimensions and the representatives of the Hospital expressed their thanks in unstinted terms. It was a pleasure to see the nurses, liberated for a few hours from their patient toil, enjoying the hospitality of …”

The upbeat tone of the Association Annual Reports is sustained come drought, blight, economic depression, or war. But between the lines it is easy to see how hard the successive committees worked.

There were concerts and whist drives to raise funds and a dance in 1941 (profit, £13 -17- 8).

In the war years the schedules slimmed down from 12 to 8 pages, while the last line of the Annual Report for 1945 is an unusually laconic, “We wish to welcome back our Members from the Forces”. After the war advertisements first make an appearance in the schedules.

The “Exhibition”, started in 1905, about nine years after the former farmland was given over to allotment gardening. Evidently the form was for better-off locals, the gentry, to be presidential and official, and to sponsor the prize money, while the committee members and judges were drawn from those with the title, “Mr.”.

In the lists of people serving, no women’s names appear until 1956, when two Misses Quartly became Vice-Presidents and Mrs. F. Doree was a judge.

Going by the last few schedules in the sequence, gender equality would not appear to have been advancing at any speed.

Among the young, however, wartime seems to have put paid to the separate exhibition classes in which they had competed – instead of a first prize of six shillings for boys who made a model rock garden, or for girls who submitted a vase of flowers, there was just one class for “children” with a prize of four shillings for flowers.

By 1953, when the model rock garden was back (prize five shillings) it is “for all children under fifteen years”. They are also invited to submit “A Device in Flowers” … now what could that mean?

If any reader has any recollections or memorabilia of this show, which perhaps folded during the 1970s, please get in touch.

Thinking of local shows Hampstead Horticultural Society has decided not to run any this year but to concentrate on their better-supported activities such as outings and lectures.

Highgate Horticultural Society’s Spring Show is on April 2nd, United Reformed Church, South Grove, Highgate Village N6 6BA.

And The National Gardens Scheme (NGS), which is behind many North London garden openings, is campaigning to raise awareness of what it does. Research showed that few people realize the entry fees go to charity rather than to the garden owners.

Our first local garden to open is at 7 The Grove, Highgate Village, N6 6JU April 10, 2.00 – 5.30pm.