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Potted history of UK's oldest flower show

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 10, 2013

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1831 First show took place in the Assembly Rooms on the Parade, Taunton. Subsequent shows were held in other venues including the new Market Hall and the Winchester Arms on Castle Green, before moving to Vivary Park in 1851 where it has continued to flourish.

1854 On June 21 and 22, a two-day show was held, combined with a Poultry Exhibition for which the Bristol and Exeter and South Devon Railway companies conveyed all birds free of charge and issued return tickets on both days at single fares from Bridgwater, Highbridge, Langport, Martock, Tiverton, Wellington, Weston-super-Mare and Yeovil. On the Thursday evening there were balloon ascents and a brilliant firework display, paid for by public subscription, and the band continued playing there until ten o'clock to a large crowd. Unfortunately, during the first day two ladies had their pockets picked.

1866 A triumphal arch of flowers designed by Edward Jeboult was created over the entrance leading to the park from the High Street consisting of a monogram of the society, the town's arms and the motto "Tulia's jewels for joy and gladness" and "Flowers are the stars of the earth".

1879 It was felt that owing to a cottager entering grapes, peaches and nectarines in the Cottagers classes, it would be advisable to have some accredited persons to check the various cottagers' gardens two or three days before the show to see what was actually growing in their gardens.

1889 The town council ordered that the street electric lights be left on all night to illuminate the town, and the crush of people invading the town made it necessary to double the constables by bringing in reserve and country officers.

1907 A total of five gold medals and eight silver medals were awarded for the first time in place of Certificates of Merits which had previously been given to the non-competitive exhibitors. A second tent was devoted to non-competitive exhibitors.

1938 Mrs Withers was the oldest exhibitor, aged 77, and this was her 40th year of exhibiting.

1966 A Children's Corner was added with a model engineering display, radio-controlled boats, pony rides, train rides and Coco the Clown.

1979 Disaster occurred when the competitors marquee was devastated by a fire – but luckily there were no exhibits inside. Contractors were able to erect a smaller marquee and 36 hours later the show went ahead.

1999 The takings were a record £30,000.

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