Society celebrates diamond jubilee – but is actually older

President John Franklin, left, and chairman Roger Wilde cut the 60th anniversary cake
President John Franklin, left, and chairman Roger Wilde cut the 60th anniversary cake

Members of Ferring Horticultural Society have celebrated its diamond jubilee with a tea party.

President John Franklin and chairman Roger Wilde cut a cake to mark the occasion at Highdown Vineyard this afternoon.

Mr Wilde revealed the society was actually older than 60, it was just that little was known of its origins.

“It does surprise me. This is the diamond anniversary of the reforming of the society after the war,” he explained.

“There was a society before the war but we know virtually nothing about it.”

The society has a long history but it ceased to function at the outbreak of the Second World War. The outstanding funds were donated to Ferring Village Hall, which then sponsored the revival of the present society.

A public meeting was held on October 30, 1957, with Mr A. Griffin as chairman, supported by Mr E. Byford, Mrs Rogers representing village hall committee, Mr L. Harbutt and Mr. E. de Longchamps.

There were 50 members of the public present and it was decided a steering committee should be formed. Committee members included Phillip Smith, whose daughter Gwenda Ford is still a member today.

The subscription was fixed at five shillings and Ferring vicar the Rev Reeves was asked to act as president.

A constitution was agreed and an outline programme of events drawn up for the first 12 months, which included film shows and lantern slides during the winter months and a flower show for the summer.

Greystoke Manor Hotel put its lounge at the disposal of the committee for the initial meetings but the gatherings were later held in members’ houses.

The first full meeting of the society took place on Wednesday, January 29, 1958, at which point there were 39 members.

The first flower show was held on Saturday, August 23, with several cups donated by benefactors and presented to winners.

Green metal vases were purchased early on, which gave a professional look to the shows, and these are still in use today.

Membership went from strength to strength, with more than 200 people on the list at one point, although there was a notable drop during the 1960s.

Denise Potton, publicity officer, said: “There were many fundraising activities, such as coffee mornings, raffles and sales tables, which helped to fund the meetings and shows, while outings were always an integral part of membership.”

In December 1982, the society celebrated its silver jubilee with a dinner at the Village Hall, attended by 88 members and friends, including several founder members.

Just over five years later, in April 1988, there was a turning point for the society when Miss Adeline Gilligan left a bequest of about £25,000.

A special committee meeting was held on April 14 and a list of 47 suggestions put forward on how to use the money, which were then voted on by members. About 15 suggestions were approved and as a result, the society has remained on a firm financial footing ever since.

Two trophies are now presented in memory of Miss Gilligan, the Gilligan Bowl and the Adeline Gilligan Trophy.

In 1989, Mrs Katy Charles left the society a legacy of £500, which was partly used to purchase a sweet pea cup.

Denise said: “Ferring Horticultural Society remains a thriving and friendly society, dedicated to producing high-quality flowers and produce for everyone to enjoy.

“We hope it will continue for many years to come, providing friendship and enjoyment that so many people derive from their gardens.”

The society holds meetings on the first Thursday of the month, except August, at Ferring Village Hall and three shows a year, for spring, summer and autumn.