History of the Society 1860-1996

A History of the Kimbles and Ellesborough 1860-1996 by Mervyn Rees

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The Gardening Societies of the Kimbles and Ellesborough 1860-1996

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The Gardening Societies of The Kimbles and Ellesborough


1860 to 1996

by Mervyn P. Rees

Honorary Life Vice President

£ 1.00



When I was asked by Pat Southgate to write a brief history on the Kimble & Ellesborough Horticultural Societies, little did I know that the Societies dated back to the middle of the nineteenth century! During my research, I was able to piece together a brief knowledge of the first Association which went by the name of "Kimble & Ellesborough Velvet Lawn Cottage Gardens Association". There is a brief mention of this Association in the book of "Chequers" by Mrs. Norma Major when the then incumbent, namely Lady Frankland Russell supported local institutions such as the Velvet Lawn Cottage Garden Association. However the good Lady Frankland Russell died in 1871. We know that there was a Society, which ceased to function in the mid-sixties. Why? We don't know for certain. I have therefore listed some of the interesting facts of the two earlier Associations from the "Balance sheet, show schedules, & minute book" available. We hope later on this year to put on an exhibition in the Stewart Hall during a monthly meeting showing items that have come into our possession for the members to see.

M. P. Rees. March 1997.


The Velvet Lawn Cottage Garden Association was formed sometime in the mid-nineteenth century, and was for all Cottagers in the Parishes of Ellesborough, Great & Little Kimbles. A Cottager was a person who paid £10 rent or under per year for his or her cottage. We have on record the Balance Sheet for 1892, when the Lady Patroness was Mrs. F. R. Astley and the President Mr. B. F. Astley (who both lived at Chequers and were related to Lady Frankland Russell, mentioned in the introduction). The acting Secretary/Treasurer was Mr. H. V. Gibson-Craig, who lived in Ladymead (now a private school) and there was a committee of 11 persons. The Balance sheet shows that the cost of putting on the show in 1892 was covered by the donations and subscriptions of the membership. We also have the show schedule for the 1897 show, held on Velvet Lawn on Thursday 19th August 1897, from which it is interesting to note that the vegetable, fruit and flower classes have not changed much in format from that of today, 100 years later. I wonder how many children of today would be able to enter the children's classes for the best coloured cotton shirt, best made shirt or nightdress, or even the best made nightdress by girls under 12 years of age. After the show in the evening a dance was held on Velvet Lawn, music being provided by a local string orchestra (local pop group). The gentlemen were required to put on their best suits and to wear "white gloves". The Velvet Lawn Association changed its name in 1926 to that of Kimble Horticultural Association.

Kimble Horticultural Association under the chairmanship of Dr. L. F. Burra (who lived in Glebe House, Little Kimble) received the balance of the funds from Velvet Lawn of £20 9s 4d. We have in our possession the first minute book, dated 1st March 1926, which showed that a Mr. Staley Rose, a farmer from Kimblewick, was the Vice Chairman and that the committee consisted of 14 ladies & gentleman. The first show was held on Thursday 12th August 1926 in the village hall. We are very fortunate to have been given recently the schedule for this show. As well as the usual classes for fruit, flowers and vegetables, there were classes for the best kept allotments & cottage gardens. There was a class for the lace makers of the villages, both for adults & children under 15 years of age. The Cottagers who paid less than £30 annually as rent for their cottages could only show in the Cottagers section, those who paid over £30 could only show in the Open classes. The annual subscription was 2/6d. The Honorary Members were those who paid not less than 5/- and was eligible for election of Vice president, who paid 10/- or more. The society put on the annual show in August each year arranged by the committee (no show secretary!) together with side shows and a dance in the evening to finish off the day. From the minute book the Association closed down in 1931 due to business being discussed out of the committee room and also to outside interference. The trophies were put in the trust of Mr. Ken Y. Green & Mr. M. Birlyn.

The Association was re-opened in March 1934 under the chairmanship of Mr. L. E. A. Jaques. Nothing is known about this Society until 1952, when they had their 20th show on the meadow adjoining the Stewart Hall, which was Kimble Cricket Club ground. We have on record the show schedule and details of the sports for the children. There was even an event for the adults, a veterans 100 yard dash & a three-legged race over 50 yards. The show consisted of 100 classes for Cottagers, Members and the open event. At the time of the show there were 63 Vice Presidents, 12 Honorary Members, and a committee of 13, including the Chairman. Unfortunately the Association closed down in the mid-sixties and there are no minute books available.

Kimble Horticultural Society was formed in 1975, by three gentlemen who felt that the villages of Great & Little Kimble with Marsh warranted a new Society especially for the gardening fraternity. The three wise men were Jeffrey Cheetham, Henry Peplow & Jim Stacey. The first committee meeting was held in the office at Mr. Cheetham's Saab garage on Monday 8th September 1975, at which the rules of the Society were formulated, and Mr. Henry Mitton & Mr. Mervyn Rees were invited to serve on the committee. The committee then consisted of Mr. Cheetham (Chairman), Mr. Stacey (Treasurer), Mr. Peplow (Secretary) &. Messrs Mitton & Rees (joint Show Secretaries) The first public meeting was held in early October, when the Stewart Hall was filled with budding gardeners. They were all informed about the Society and its aims for the future (Henry had toured round the villages urging the residents to attend the meeting). During the tea interval 82 residents were enrolled.

The first evening meeting took place in November, when the speaker was Mr. Bernard Flay ably assisted by Mr. Baker. Mr.Flay spoke on vegetable growing and showing. He brought along some of his leeks and onions. The December meeting was in the form of a Wine & Cheese social with music provided for dancing. In 1976 the Society continued to grow, the membership creeping up to 200, with meetings on the first Tuesday of each month in the village hall. In September the first show was held in the Hall, when Members exhibited 44 entries. The various side shows which sold produce, freshly cooked doughnuts and secondhand books also helped to raise funds for the Society to pay for the show.

1977 was the Queen's Silver Jubilee year, when the Society played a prominent role by decorating St. Nicholas church with flowers. The most striking feature was the Queen's Coronation Crown placed on the font in the church made out of flowers by Mrs. Norma Wheeler and lady members.

The Society also entered a float for the village procession, together with the Crown on a special trailer, which finished up in the field behind Kimble Free Church with a fete and in the evening and a Barn dance in one of Mr. John Robart's barns. Mr Cheetham organised a Horse Show and Gymkhana in the fields alongside his garage (where Askett Nurseries are now situated) the profit of which went to the Society's funds. The same year saw a new committee member being co-opted. He was Mr. Richard Bull, who was at the Annual General Meeting in 1978 to take over as Chairman, thus leaving Mr.Cheetham more time to organise his horse shows. The Society also bought a 10' x 8' shed where it stored the trading stock. The same year saw the retirement of the Treasurer, Mr. Jim Stacey, the post going to Mrs. Phyllis Nobbs. Her husband Basil joined the committee. Messrs. Peplow & Rees carried on in their jobs. As in previous years we continued to have excellent speakers and outings to Wisley were also arranged. The membership stood at 232.

1979 was to see the retirement of Henry Peplow, who was the main stay of the Society, having worked very hard to make it the most successful Society in the villages. The new secretary was Mrs. Judi Hannaford, who had been a strong supporter of the shows with her beautiful miniatures in the floral art classes. The annual show was held on the same day as the horse show in a large marquee backing on to the garden of a newcomer to Cadsden, Mr. J. Ratlidge. The show proved to be a huge success held for the first time on a Sunday with a lovely sunny day. The Society again saw a large increase in its funds. The next year saw further changes in the committee when Mr. & Mrs. Nobbs both retired and moved away to Norfolk. Mrs. Jaque Brown became Treasurer and Mrs. Ella Gibbs joined the committee. At the AGM in 1980 it was agreed that the chair of the Society's first President go to Mr. Jeffrey Cheetham. This year also saw the first Spring Show, held on a small scale during the usual Tuesday evening meeting, when members exhibited their spring flowers. The Judge, who was Mr. Jan Bos from Blooms Bulbs, afterwards spoke to the members about their exhibits. This proved to be a very successful evening and was well attended. It was also the forerunner of our present spring shows. The annual show in September was back on a Sunday at the Stewart Hall. We tried to make it a village fete, again with side shows & the Ellesborough Silver Band in attendance. 1981 saw another new event when the Society held a Jumble and plant sale on a Saturday morning, which also proved to be successful, and became an annual event. The annual show was a great success and the Society continued to grow under the chairmanship of Richard Bull.

The Society entered into 1982, when at the AGM Mrs. Judi Hannaford retired after three years as Secretary, having given sterling service, she made the difficult task of taking over from Henry Peplow look easy. The new Secretary was to be Mrs. Eunice Eames. The spring show was not very well supported due to the bad weather leading up to the show. For the annual show a new trophy was given to the Society by Lloyds Bank, namely the Floral Art Trophy.

The annual show, which was to be the last show for Mervyn Rees as show secretary, was yet again another very successful event, and for the first time in seven years was self supporting. We continued to have excellent speakers, and to have several return visits from speakers in previous years. Lower Icknield Nurseries opened one evening for the benefit of members.

The AGM in 1983 saw the retirement of Richard Bull as chairman, who retired after five years, due to a move up north with Lloyds Bank. The chair was taken over by Mr. Mervyn Rees, and the new show secretary was to be Mrs.Doreen Ellis. The plant sale brought in a profit of £150, and it was decided in future to concentrate on plants & produce. This year also saw Mr. Ken Green & Mr. Justice Durrant becoming Vice Presidents. We did ask Henry Peplow, however he declined due to failing health. During this year there arrived in the village a new couple from Tring area, who were to make a big impression on the Society for the next twelve years. Their names were Mr. & Mrs. Roy Coughtrey.

1984 also saw a very successful year with speakers, shows under the guidance of Doreen Ellis and the plant sale. In September Mrs. Jaqui Brown retired as Treasurer, the vacancy being taken over by Mr. Roy Coughtrey.

We entered into 1985 with the Society showing a very healthy bank balance. At the AGM we had a new Secretary in Mrs. Sandra Wilson, and a membership secretary in Mrs. Jean Blacklaws, who set about the organisation of agents to deliver the Newsletter and at the beginning of the year collect members' subs. For the first time in the Society we had an artist, who was quickly co-opted on to the committee, as she started producing pretty posters for the shows. Her name was Mrs. Thelma Coughtrey. 1985 was to see the first summer show when Mr. Bishop of Stokenchurch, being the area secretary of the National Sweet Pea Society, put on a magnificent display on the stage in the village hall of hundreds of sweet peas. The hall was filled with lovely perfume all afternoon. Doreen Ellis put together three excellent shows, and at the Autumn show received considerable help and advice from Roy Coughtrey, and her show sub committee.

We went into 1986 with the Society showing an operating profit for last year of £133. At the AGM Roy Coughtrey resigned as Treasurer and took on as Show Secretary, whilst Doreen Ellis took over as Membership Secretary.

A new name appeared on the list of Officers as Treasurer - Mr. Joe Ratlidge - in 1987. The reports of last year showed three excellent shows, ten very good speakers, a profitable plant sale, and outings. The AGM also saw the retirement of Sandra Wilson as Secretary and as we did not have a successor, Thelma Coughtrey "Ghosted" as secretary, as she didn't feel it right to have two members from one family on the committee. We were soon to overcome the objection. Under the guidance again of Roy Coughtrey the Society produced its first yearbook, paid for largely by the advertisers. We also had an excellent outing to Exbury Gardens, the home of one of the Rothschild family. We were very lucky to see the rhododendrons and Azaleas, as later in the year they were to receive severe damage from the Hurricane storm. Roy Coughtrey made a lot of changes to the shows both in the schedule and on the table.

We moved into 1988 and at the AGM saw the retirement of Mr. Mervyn Rees as chairman and after twelve years active service to the Society. Roy Coughtrey was to double up as Chairman and show secretary. Mrs Nora Weir took over as Secretary. A new rule was also brought in that no officer could serve in office longer than three years. The general committee was increased to five ladies. Another change was in the name. As so many of the members came from Ellesborough area the Society became known as The Kimble & Ellesborough Horticultural Society. The chair of President became vacant upon the resignation of Mr. J. Cheetham. The members elected Mr. Mervyn Rees as the new President in recognition of his work over the past twelve years. We lost one of our Vice presidents, when the death was announced of Kenneth Green. Mr. Green had a long association with the previous Society dating back to 1931, and was a very generous supporter of our Society with many donations to the funds, and also covering for the show tables. He was sadly missed by all. The Society named a trophy after him to be known as "The Ken Green Memorial Trophy" and the first recipients were to be Messrs Roy Coughtrey and Joe Ratlidge.

1989 saw the retirement of Doreen Ellis after six yeans of active duty on the committee and she was duly elected a Vice President. Joe Ratlidge retired as Treasurer and became Show Secretary, whilst the new Treasurer was to be Mrs. Irene Baxter, and Miss Pat Southgate became membership secretary. This year was to see our own plant only sale, held in the Butlers Cross Hall and realised a profit of £400. Again a year of successful shows, speakers and outings.

The Society in 1990 became affiliated to the Royal National Dahlia and the Royal National Chrysanthemum Societies. In February Henry Peplow died after a long battle against cancer. The plant sale profit in May saw an increase of £150 on last year's figure. Again another successful year for the Society.

1991 was to prove another excellent year for the Society, which started at the AGM. The Society decided that they weren't going to be out done by the "Iron Lady" and elected their own first Lady, Mrs.Thelma Coughtrey, to the seat of Chairman. Roy Coughtrey became President, Brian Butler went to the Treasury, and Michael MacLaurin became Secretary. Mervyn Rees was elected the first Honorary Vice President for life, which he was pleased to accept. The Society played host to the Bucks Association of Horticultural Societies Spring show at the Stewart Hall. The new membership secretary was Miss Pat Southgate & at the 30th April there were 179 members. The three shows attracted 878 exhibits.

The Society opened 1992 with the AGM with no changes in the officers or the committee. The weather throughout the winter had been mild again. However some late frosts affected the quality of the plants available for the plant sale, but despite this we still made a profit of £683 being a new record. The Society were saddened by the death of Lady Berkeley, who had a been a staunch supporter of the previous Association and our Society and who attended every show as a spectator. The year closed after three excellent shows, when the total number of exhibits was 907, which was a great credit to the retiring show secretary Joe Ratlidge.

1993 was opened as usual at the AGM with the retirement of our non gardening (only trims the edges of the lawn) chairman Thelma Coughtrey. The new chairman was to be Joe Ratlidge and the Vce Chairman Pat Southgate who carried on as membership secretary and outings organiser. Mrs. Mary Redding took over as show secretary. During the month of June eight members opened their gardens to Society members, the evening ended up with a Ploughman's supper in the Stewart Hall. This event proved to be a great success and will be repeated in future years. In May the outing went to the Savill Gardens in Windsor Great Park where the Rhododendrons & Azaleas were at their best. The plant sale made the same profit as last year. September saw the departure to lands new of Thelma & Roy Coughtrey having moved home to the North Pole (not quite - but Norfolk). No doubt Roy will take all the trophies of his new town society. Once again three excellent shows were recorded with 911 exhibits. A very good year for Mary Redding in her first year as show secretary, with Mrs Edith Butler as her assistant.

The success of the open gardens and supper evening meant we were able to make a donation of £56 to the Bucks Association for Gardening for the Disabled. A very worthy cause.

1994 was opened as usual with the AGM when Mrs. Doreen Ellis was elected our first Lady President. Thelma & Roy Coughtrey were made Honorary Members. Brian Butler retired as Treasurer on May 1st with Michael George taking over. The outing this year was to Hatfield house where the Garden Festival was being held. The profit from the plant sale was another record of £832 the membership stood at 235 from 157 households. Three more excellent shows had a total number of exhibits of 773, being slightly down on last year, due to the weather.

The 1995 AGM saw only one change in the committee with Roger Green replacing Michael Macllaurin as Secretary. The plant sale this year produced a profit of £605 a slight drop against last year's total due to an increase in expenses. We received an invitation from the Royal Horticultural Society to exhibit a hanging basket and window box at the Chelsea Flower Show next year. The chairman said that a special Chelsea show committee would be formed to plan the exhibits in time for May '96. There has been a slight drop in the membership, due to people leaving the district. There were excellent outings to Wisley and the Hampton Court Flower Show along with good weather. The three shows produced a total of 633 entries from 87 exhibitors.

1996 started off on a quiet note with our first members' meeting in February, followed in March with the AGM, when Miss Pat Southgate was elected to the office of Chairman. Joe Ratlidge took over as show secretary. The entry for Chelsea was duly planted by Diane Haworth, Primrose Cundell & Joe Ratlidge. We did not win any medal this year but will try again next year. This year members' gardens were open in Spring, Summer & Autumn, finishing in the Stewart Hall with a tea party. This proved to be most enjoyable and will be repeated in 1998. In early June we suffered a most horrendous thunder storm with hail stones as big as golf balls. This storm did a lot of damage to greenhouses and to our entry for the National Sweet Pea Society Show which we had to cancel. The three shows produced 563 exhibits, which was much lower than usual due to the storm. An average of 45-50 members attended the monthly meetings to hear an excellent range of speakers on Geraniums, Lilies, Roses, Pot Plants & Growing Fruit, just to mention a few.

This ends the history of the Society over the past twenty-one years, and I hope it makes interesting reading.



I am most grateful to the following for their help in making up this brief history of the gardening societies over the past 100 years:

Our Chairman, Miss Pat Southgate, for reading the original draft and her comments.

Mr.& Mrs. R. Barnard for the Velvet Lawn photo copies.

Mr. C. Bray for the Ellesborough P. C. history.

Mrs. J. Hurd for the Ellesborough P. C. articles.

Mr. Bill Adams & Mrs. Beth Green for the gift of show schedules &

prize cards for the archives.



Appendix 1

PAST PRESIDENTS                                   PAST CHAIRMEN

J. Cheetham           1980 -1988                  J. Cheetham                    1975 -1978

M. P. Rees              1988-1991                   R. Bull                              1978-1983

R. Coughtrey           1991 -1994                 M. P. Rees                        1983 -1988

Mrs. D. Ellis             1994 -                         R. Coughtrey                    1988 -1991

                                                                   Mrs. T. Coughtrey             1991 -1993

                                                                   J. Ratlidge                1993-1996

                                                                   Miss P. Southgate     1996-

PAST SECRETARIES                                PAST TREASURERS

H. Peplow                   1975 -1979              J. Stacey                    1975 -1978

Mrs. J. Hannaford       1979- 1982              Mrs. P. Nobbs             1978 -1980

Mrs. E. Eames            1982 - 1985             Mrs. J. Brown             1980 -1984 (July)

Mrs. S.Wilson              1985- 1987              R. Coughtrey              1984-1987

Mrs. N. Weir                1988 - 1991             J. Ratlidge                   1987 -1989

M. MacLaurin              1991 -1995              Mrs. I. Baxter               1989 -1991

R. Green                     1995 - 1997             B. Butler                      1991 -1994 (May)

M.George                   1994-


M. P. Rees                 1975-1982

Mrs. D. Ellis                1982-1986

R. Coughtrey             1986- 1989

J. Ratlidge                  1989-1992

Mrs. M. Redding         1992-1996

J. Ratlidge                  1996









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Please see separate appendices - coming shortly







































































Your Committee again have the greatest of pleasure in presenting their Report of the year's work.

In the first place may we say that we were able to carry out the increases suggested in the last Annual Report. We feel that these increases in the Classes upon the Schedule were fully justified by the Exhibits shown.

The first item that comes under review is the membership. We are sorry that we are unable to report an increase in the Adult section, The membership here being 30, the same as in 1934. In the Juvenile section we are able to report an increase of 10, the figure now being 42. May we point out that the figure given for the Adult section does not include the President, Vice-Presidents or Honorary Members, so that actually our membership is 60.

Following on we come to the review of the Show and its statistics. Your Committee feel that you will agree that the day was a great success, the weather again being kind to us, and thereby doing its share towards this. An inreased attendancee, which we should think was 75 to 100 more than in 1934, also done much to help. Then again we must mention a further increase that made its quota in the day's success namely, the entries, which were as follows: Cottagers Classes 199 against 154 in 1934, Open Section 100 as against 41, Table Decorations 12 as against 7. In the Handicraft, Egg and Juvenile Sections there was a decrease of 6 entries, the figure for 1935 being 88. The total increase in entries for 1935 was 103. Your Committee propose to endeavour in 1936 to ascertain what proportion of the entries made are actually exhibited, as we feel that these figures will be of interest.

The Silver Challenge Cup for General Efficiency in the Cottagers Classes was won by Mr. C. Adams with 68 points, Mr. A. Evans the winner in 1934 being 2nd with 51 points. Mr. C. Adams also won the Silver Challenge Cup for the Cottager's Collection of Vegetables. Mr. A. C. Read of Quainton won the Silver Medal for the best dish of Potatoes in the Show. We would like to express our heartiest congratulation to Mr. Read for the really excellent quality of the potatoes exhibited by him. Mr. Alexander won the Special Prize of £1 offered for General Efficiency in the Open Classes.

Your Committee wish to place upon record their gratitude to all those who helped as Stewards in the Tents and at the Sideshows, and also to the Ladies who help to cater for the visitors to the Show. These friends who numbered in all about 50 carried out their duties with such efficiency and willingness that they considerably lightened the task of the Committee. To all these we are in debt, and the only way we can repay is to request them to again help us in 1936.

Again our thanks are due to the President, Vice-Presidents and Honorary Members who have again given us so willingly the financial help that we need to carry on the Association. Your Committee will be pleased to receive offers of persons who would be willing to become Vice-Presidents, or to promise the prize money in any of the Classes.

We must not forget the Ladies and Gentlemen who have given both time and labour freely in the arduous task of Judging the Exhibits, and also the Auditors. The appreciation of all the members is we feel extended to them for the skilful way in which they have carried out the work.

It is with great regret that one of the most important items does not show an increase, namely the Balance Sheet. As you will see from the figures given Herewith the Association had a loss on the year's working of 18/1. May we point out that this is largely caused by by increase in the prize money paid of £5 12s Od, and the cost of the Tents of £3 5s Od, and also expenditure in additional sideshows which did not bring in any additional revenue.

During the year your Committee organised a Concert, two Whist Drives and a Dance, the last item of which only does not show an addition to our revenue. Your Committee would recommend that such items of mutual interest and help are again organised during the coming year.