Gardening and Flower Shows, like in many villages, has been the fabric of life for many years. Our records indicate that in 1885 the first Frensham & Churt Flower Show took place and apart from the two World Wars, they took place in most years. Up until the First World War, they were held alternately in Frensham (at Pierrepont, home to the Coombe Family) and Churt.
After the 1947 Frensham Flower Show, the committee decided to retire and on 23rd January 1948, an advert was placed in the Farnham Herald to advertise that a public meeting was to be held at the Marindin Hall, Frensham on Monday 2nd February 1948, to set up a new Horticultural Society. Under the name of Frensham Horticultural and Produce Society.
Rowland Hill, the man behind the idea was elected as the societies first Chairman, with Alfie Stevens, elected as its first President. Madame Huitfeldt of Hollowdene House, along with Mr Steven’s wife, Mary, were the volunteer secretaries. The names of our first president and lady secretaries, are forever engraved into the fabric of the societies history, due to the cups, they kindly donated to the society.
The Society arranged for their first show to be held at Hollowdene Recreation, followed by shows in the Autumn and Spring. The society held three shows for many years. The Spring and Autumn shows were held at Easeway, the home of founder member Edward Hunter, until the late 1970’s. Whilst the summer show was the main annual event of the village held at Hollowdene Recreation Ground.
The society flourished for many years during the 1950’s and 1960s. In the summer show of 1954, there were over 600 entries and the society had over 200 members.
Gardening continued to be popular and the societies shows, in particular, the Summer show, which was the main village event of the year and included side shows and entertainment. It bought in entrants as well as visitors from far and wide.
Eventually, due to waning interest, the summer show was dropped from the Fayre during the 1970’s and the society continued with the Spring and Autumn shows. After the death of Edward Hunter, his daughter Eileen Petrovitch, inherited his house, Easeway’ and renamed it in his honour ‘Hunters’, where the shows continued to be held until 1978. They then reverted back to the Marindin Hall, Frensham, where they are still held today.
The Presidents Supper was held for the first time on 7th October 1977, the society held its first Presidents Supper, a tradition that is still held today, but renamed in 2021 as the ‘Members Supper’. The first supper was attended by 80 members and guests and hosted by our President, Edward Town-Jones, a founding member, who was also the Frensham village doctor from 1934 until his retirement in 1979.
The 1990’s got off to a flying start when the Spring Show of 1991, recorded 304 entries, followed by 256 for the Autumn show, the best for over two decades. These entries were not bettered all decade. At the 1991 spring show, Frances Hacker, the Society Chairman, commented that it was down to the fine weather and judge George Goring, said ‘the number of entries and excellent standard meant the show could equal any in the district’.
Our 60th Anniversary was celebrated in 2008, with perhaps less members than in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but the occasion was attended by over 100 members, held at the home of long term members Jane and Jeremy Spurling’s in Dockenfield. Former President and Chairman, Barbara Machin-Cooke, agreed to cut the cake.
In 2005, and after 57 years of tradition, to reflect the rising number of members that lived in Dockenfield, it was decided at that years AGM to change the society name to Frensham & Dockenfield Horticultural Society.
The Autumn show of 2021, attracted over 300 entries, making it the most successful Autumn Show, since 1979. The society is today, still as relevant as it was when it was first formed in 1948, to help bring together gardeners of all types and experience, with membership now around the 100 mark.