The Lee Flower Show has its origins in a summer picnic for the children, parents and teachers of the various Sunday Schools in the Parish. The first Summer Picnic was held in 1893, with the earliest complete details available being from the ninth anniversary event in 1901.
At this time there were four Sunday Schools included – that of “the Church” ie. St John the Baptist in The Lee, the Baptist in the The Lee (in what is now Chapel Farm), the Methodist in Lee Common and the Methodist in Swanbottom, the latter two of which were not at the time part of the civil parish of The Lee. In total they were attended by 314 children – a very much younger age profile than we see today.
Although the number of children in the village was high, the number of children per mother was not significantly higher than nowadays.
The programme of events started at 1:30 when children, mothers and teachers all assembled at the National School (now Lee Common C of E School) in Oxford St, before a procession to St John the Baptist Church for a choral service. From 2:30 until 7:00 there were sports in the Park, with a break for tea. Prizegiving was at 7:00 by the Rt Hon the Countess of Buckinghamshire and the day ended with the singing of the national anthem and doxology*.
A Flower and Fruit Show was held in the Park between 2:00 and 7:00, with entertainment being provided by the St Leonard’s Brass Band and The Lee Brass Band.
* the doxology is a liturgical formula of praise to God
The 1908 programme shows the participants in each of the races, carefully dividing the races into Before Tea and After Tea. Tea itself was served between 4:30 – 5:00 for children, between 5:00 – 5:45 for mothers and teachers and between 4:30 and 5:30 for house guests. Public visitors were able to buy tea for 6d at any time between 4:00 – 5:45… but the programme doesn’t say whether the array of cakes paralleled that seen today. Following completion of the races, there were donkey rides, swings and various games with the children from Lee Common School dancing around the maypole at 6:15. At 6:25 there was a procession twice round the running track to salute the national flag, before presentation of prizes at 6:30 by the Rt Hon the Countess of Buckinghamshire. The day ended with a rousing rendition of God Save The King.
Whereas the 1908 Sunday Schools’ Fête was hosted by Mr and Mrs Lasenby Liberty, by the thirtieth anniversary in 1922 the hosts were Captain and Mrs Stewart-Liberty. The programme of events started at 1:30 when everyone mustered at the National School before a procession to the Parish Church at 1:45 and a choral service at 2:00. Sports for children started at 2:45 and, after a break for tea at 4:15, continued at 5:30 with sports for teachers, visitors and officials. There was a Punch and Judy Show with performances at 4:45, 5:45 and 7:30 and a Flower Show was held in the Park between 2:00 and 7:00. On this occasion the prizes were presented at 6:30 by Mrs Stewart-Liberty, and the day’s events were rounded off with the National Anthem at 7:15 followed by the doxology. For the first time there was a reference to dancing after the prize-giving, but it is unclear whether this was just for the brief period before the national anthem, or whether it continued into the evening. Inflation had increased prices, and the tea available for members of the public had doubled in price to 1/-.
By 1928 the link with the Sunday Schools had gone, and the Flower Show had started to evolve into a format closer to that of today.
in 1968, Derry Worsfold introduced the idea of an Art Show, which he was still running many years later. The Art Show is now a permanent fixture of the Flower Show, with its own area at the end of the marquee.
For many years the Cricket Club held a dance in the marquee in the evening, with the first dance organised by the Flower Show itself taking place in 1990. This was a fully catered dinner but by the end of the decade this had changed into a Fête Champêtre, a garden party or country feast, with everyone bringing their own food – a format that has continued to the present day.
More memories are being added so please check this page regularly for updates. If you have any Flower Show memorabilia you would like to be included, please contact the website administrators at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
To focus in on a particular area of Flower Show history, please follow the links below to find out more about:
Classes of Entries
Sports and Races
Minutes of Committee Meetings
Fundraising and Accounts
Dignatories (presidents, chairmen and presenters of prizes)
A Year in History – the 1984 Flower Show
1992: The First Hundred Years