Horticultural Society

There have been horticultural groups and shows in Rodmell since the mid 19th century.  Leonard Woolf was Chairman of the first modern version of the Society, which later became “Rodmell Horticultural and Allotment Society” on 13 November 1940.   The first Rodmell “Flower and Vegetable Show” was held on Saturday 24 August 1946. Judith Bradbury has researched some of the Society’s history below.

Now we are Rodmell Horticultural Society (RHS), and we usually hold two shows each year – a Spring Show and a Summer Show – as well as the AGM with a guest speaker, and a Seedling Sale.  We are sometimes able to organise subsidised group visits for “RHS” members to local gardens.  Membership of our horticultural society also provides discounts at Paradise Park in Garden Centre in Newhaven.

We have just held a Spring Show, and will be holding a Summer Show in August. Information about all future events will be published on this website, and schedules for the Summer Show are normally circulated to all homes in Rodmell.

RHS Committee

Chair                                  Jill Goldman
Treasurer                           Madeleine Harvey
Membership Secretary    Lesley Prosser
Show Secretary                Ali Grace
Committee members      Jane Finch, Richard Sellick, Candy Thomas,
Sandra Webb, Caroline Archer, John Harvey and Tom Woodbridge

Joint Organisers of Summer Show Field Events
Candy Thomas, Sandra Webb

Rodmell Horticultural Society is always keen to recruit new committee members and welcomes enquiries. In particular, we are seeking a new treasurer and a new membership secretary. The duties are not too onerous!

We always need more Committee members for our “RHS” – you don’t need to be an expert gardener, just willing to help organise our village shows and other “RHS” events.  If you’d like to help us to keep our shows going every year, please contact any of the Committee members.

Please contact Jill Goldman if you are interested, or if you have any questions. jill.goldman1041@gmail.com

RHS AGM 2022

The RHS AGM took place on 22nd February 2022 in the Village Hall. There was no AGM the previous year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which also led to the cancellation of our Spring shows in 2020 and 2021, and the Summer show in 2020.

However, we did run a scaled down Summer show in August 2021 which was a great success, relying on borrowed marquees rather than a large, hired one. The number of exhibits was lower than in previous years, but there was still a good display. The compact arrangement on the sports field, and the Silver band made for a very friendly atmosphere. It was clear that villagers were pleased to socialise after a dearth of activities during the pandemic.

The 2021 Summer show could not have taken place without a generous grant from the Village Hall funds. Without this grant we would have made a loss of £33, so we are grateful to the Village Hall committee for their generosity.

After many years as chairman and acting chairman, Willie Edmonds stood down and Jill Goldman was elected as the new chair. Willie was thanked for his major contribution to the Society over many years and affirmed he would continue as an active member. The Committee is now:

Next year’s AGM is scheduled for 21st Feb 2023

Special Offers for RHS Members at Paradise Park

Paid up members of Rodmell Horticultural Society (RHS) are entitled to a Loyalty Card at Tate’s Garden Centre, Paradise Park, Newhaven, which earns them £1 for every £10 spent.

If you haven’t picked up your Loyalty Card you can collect one from the Paradise Park Information Centre on production of your Rodmell Horticultural Society (RHS) membership card.

History of the RHS – Judith Bradbury writes:

Whilst researching the ‘Rodmell Remembers’ project I trawled the British Newspaper Archive. In reading the documents thrown up by searches on Rodmell I came across quite a few references to annual Rodmell Flower Shows. It is often stated that our Horticultural Society was founded by Leonard Woolf in World War II to encourage allotment growing. In fact it would appear our origins go back much further than that but that Leonard Woolf was instrumental in resurrecting the organisation. On reflection this seemed obvious to me ….it seemed inconceivable that such a rural village did not have such activities going back to at least Victorian times. The information I have extracted is of course limited to what is available on the archive online. So whilst I can now trace our origins back to an article in 1856, it may well be fairs were held in Rodmell much earlier than that although they may have been of a more agricultural nature.

Here are some extracts that seemed of interest to me:-

The Sussex Advertiser and Surrey Gazette 29th July 1859: ‘Horticultural Show and Fancy Fair’

This show is reported to be Rodmell’s inaugural show and was a plan originated by the Reverend P de Putron with his efforts seconded by the gentry and agriculturists of the neighbourhood. The article explains it came about to inaugurate Rodmell’s parochial school. The fancy fair element was in aid of funds for the school. Tea was served on Mr Saxby’s meadow where a booth had been erected. Amusements included a greasy pole, jumping in sacks, jingling matches* and leaping. Mr Saxby exhibited some novel plants including specimens of netted cantelope (sic), the custard plant and ‘a remarkable specimen of cucumber’. The event concluded with a merry dance and dispersed after everyone joined in the National Anthem.

The Sussex Advertiser and Weald of Kent Chronicle 30th July 1864: Rodmell Floral and Horticultural Show

This is such an interesting article it seemed worth printing most of it out ….

‘On Thursday last the little village of Rodmell presented quite a gay and animated appearance. Flags waved in all directions, all the villagers who were able to do so came out in their holiday attire, and for some time in the afternoon there was a constant rattle of carriages over the hard roads, each with its complement of visitors from Lewes, Brighton, Newhaven and Eastbourne, while many others wended their way thither on foot. The occasion for all this unwanted bustle was one which deserves our best attention and support. Five years ago, as an incentive to the cottagers in Rodmell to take more interest in garden operations than they had hitherto done, several gentlemen of the locality formed themselves into a society, and offered a number of prizes for the best cultivated gardens and the finest show of fruit and vegetables grown therein by the cottagers. The experiment succeeded, a show of fruit and vegetables was produced which the promoters of the undertaking were not ashamed for the public to see and criticise, and, while the public were invited to attend, the day was set apart as one of general holiday in the village. The school children had their treat, while for the rustics, congenial amusements were provided. The fifth show of flowers, fruit and vegetables took place on Thursday and although the entries were not large, there was a slight improvement upon the previous show. In a field near the centre of the village, a long tent had been erected and decorated with considerable taste; on either side were the following mottoes:-

‘God Save The Queen’ the letters formed of moss, enclosed by a framework composed of the young shoots of fir trees;

‘Preserve and Prosper’ in leaves of prickly holly;

‘Pray and Labour’ also in moss

‘Sow and Reap’ in ivy leaves, with an edging of the same.

Along the sides were ranged tables covered with flowers, fruit and vegetables; the majority of the first named being fuchsias and geraniums, and baskets of cut flowers and tastefully arranged wild flowers; the show of fruit was not large, and the principal portion consisted of gooseberries of different descriptions; the vegetables forming the chief portion of the show and the show of potatoes were very good. Mr James Woollard, a nurseryman of Cooksbridge, also exhibited a collection of cut roses and other flowers. The judges were Messrs Woollard, Wheatley and Carr who were assisted by the Secretary Mr J Burne and the Treasurer the Rev P de Putron made their awards early in the day, and the show was opened to the public at 1 o’clock. The Lewes Military and Town Band was in attendance and discoursed sweet music at intervals during the afternoon. The ‘Magic Post Office’* in which a bevy of fair ladies officiated in the delivery and receipt of letters was much patronised, and afforded endless amusement, besides adding a good round sum to the funds. Under the active superintendence of Mr Edward Burne, running matches for adults, boys and girls, were engaged in, the winners being presented with some useful articles as a prize. There was also a jingling match, and jumping and other sports to keep the company alive. About 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the children of the Church Sunday School, to the number of about 100, had tea, picnic fashion, seated in a circle on the grass after which prizes of books, microscopes and useful articles, for regular attendance and good conduct, were distributed amongst them. Visitors had an opportunity of inspecting the Parish Church and in the school room adjoining there was an exhibition of works of art, including some fine photographs, articles of vertu, and dried specimens of plants and herbs, free of charge and well repaid the short walk from the flower show. The cottagers prizes were distributed by the Rev de Putron, at half past six, at the entrance to the tent, and consisted of sets of plates, knives and forks, saucepans, tea trays, candlesticks, teapots, bellows and useful culinary articles. The following is a list of successful competitors’……etc

Sussex Advertiser and Surrey Gazette 25th July 1865

A report of the sixth annual show, which included a cricket match. The Abergavenny Arms ( Landlord Mr Baker ) provided the refreshments.

It is probable at some stage the tradition of the show was allowed to lapse but the activity is resumed in 1905 and seems to run up to the start of the first World War.

Sussex Express, Surrey Standard and Kent Mail 28th October 1905: ‘Rodmell: Proposed Flower Show’

A meeting was held to consider the advisability of forming one big show, to be called the Brookside Flower Show and to take in the villages of Kingston, Iford, Rodmell, Southease, Piddinghoe and Telscombe, in place of the show at present held at Iford. The Marquess of Abergavenny was written to asking him to accept the presidency. Vice Presidents were Messrs Aubrey Hillman, J Stacey Snr, J Stacey Jnr, J C Robinson, A Gorham, E Runtz, J Hobson and F Baker. The Treasurer was H R Bishop and Secretary J Hobson Jnr. It was proposed the rest of the committee be formed from 1 member for each village.

Sussex Express, Surrey Standard and Kent Mail 7th September 1907

‘Brookside Horticultural Show opened by Lady Aubrey-Fletcher at Rodmell’

Entries numbered about 500, nearly 200 more than last year. The Marquess of Abergavenny was the president of the show and vice presidents included Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, The Rev J B Hawkesford, Mr F Baker, Mr C S Beard, Mr T Colgate, Mr W G A Edwards, Mr C Goring, Mr A Gorham, Mr J Hobson, Mr A T Kenward, Mr E Runtz, Mr J Stacey Snr and Mr J Stacey Jnr. Held at Rodmell in Mr J Stacey Jnr’s barn. The judges had to visit 67 gardens, to do which they had to cover 30 miles, and each garden was inspected 3 times. There were several non-competitive exhibits including a magnificent anchor composed of choice flowers. The show was opened by Lady Aubrey-Fletcher – Sir Henry had travelled all the way from Wales in order to be present.

Sussex Express , Surrey Standard and Kent Mail. Sat 12th September 1908: Brookside Flower Show

The 3rd annual exhibition was held in a barn belonging to Mr J Stacey Jnr at Rodmell. The number of entries is reported at 616, an increase of 60/70 on the previous year.

Sussex Express, Surrey Standard and Kent Mail September 10th 1909

The Show was held in a barn at Rodmell lent by Mr J Stacey Jnr – the lofty building was prettily decorated by flags. There was keen competition in the runner beans. A hive of working bees was exhibited.

In 1910 the show was held in Mr J C Robinson’s stock yard at Iford.

Sussex Express, Surrey Standard and Kent Mail, 6th September 1912: Brookside Horticultural and Industrial Show

Mr J C Robinson’s barn at Iford presented an unusually attractive appearance on Wednesday, the occasion being the seventh annual Brookside Horticultural and Industrial Show (Industrial in this context appears to mean home industry, i.e. jams , pickles etc).

There are some minor reports of shows in the 1920s, the report of 16th September 1927 reporting a decline of interest. There are no reports for the 1930s.

On 16th September 1942 it is reported there was good attendance when Rodmell Horticultural Society held its first public meeting at the Village Hall.


Jingling Matches: …this is an old English game in which blindfolded players try to catch one not blindfolded player who keeps jingling a bell.

*Magic Post Office? I haven’t been able to discover what this means.

It is interesting – and heartening – to read of so much continuity between then and now – bands, tents, teas, greasy poles, races, dances etc, are all quite likely to feature in our modern Summer Shows. I was also surprised that a display of fine photographs are an early feature of the shows.

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