Founded in 1859

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Chairman – Alan Dallman

Membership Secretary – Myfanwy Probyn

Treasurer – Jo Sheehan

Secretary – Roxane Stirling

Committee Members: Laura Boothman, Anne Dallman, Celia Davies, Sylvia Hurst, Yvonne Locke, Jill Marston, Steven Marston, Patrick Roberts, Pat Simons, Rosie Slosek, Gary Sycamore

Contact Details:

Highgate Horticultural Society




Alan Dallman, Chairman,
27 Wood Vale, N10 3DJ
Tel: 020 8883 9186

Roxane Stirling, Secretary, 26 Ashmount Road, N19 3BJ. Tel: 020 7263 6831

Myfanwy Probyn, Membership Secretary,
48 Brookfield Mansions, Highgate West Hill, N6 6AT. Tel: 07896 940 089

Founded in 1859


The History of the Society

On 15 December, 1859 a circular was issued convening a meeting for the purpose of establishing a Society, to be called the Highgate Horticultural and Floricultural Society. Its first president was the Reverend Dalton, Vicar of St Michael’s Church and the first exhibition was held on 27 June, 1860; there were 71 entries and prizes amounting to £23/7/0d were awarded.  The Society grew rapidly and the show became an annual event

To a large extent, its history reflects that of Highgate itself Highgate was a horticultural trailblazer: our society is one of the oldest local societies in the country, following in the footsteps of the Royal Horticultural Society (founded in 1804), whose President, Prince Albert, had expressed the view that horticulture should have equal status with painting and sculpture.

In the mid 19th century Highgate was essentially a rural community with several large estates served by professional gardeners, clusters of cottages and a thriving group of high-street traders.

The Society’s stated aim was the encouragement of horticulture among the working classes and it later adopted an educational mission, encouraging gardening activities among children including pupils of St Michael’s School which boasted four acres of model farm in 1852. Its patrons were the owners of the large estates in whose grounds annual shows were held.  Foremost among them was Angela Burdett-Coutts, who hosted no fewer than ten shows in the grounds of her Holly Lodge Estate. Prizes were awarded for exhibits in different categories. Cottagers showed their best fruit and vegetables, while the professionals often exhibited exotics raised in the glasshouses and conservatories popular in large Victorian houses. The early shows were a highlight of the social calendar: a holiday atmosphere prevailed with two or three bands playing, sporting events, dancing and refreshments. The largest recorded attendance was a remarkable 20,000 in 1883.

The First World War interrupted the continuity of the shows and not long afterwards most of the estates had vanished and with them the professional gardeners while cottagers were replaced by allotment holders. The last show to be held on an estate was in 1921, at Caen Wood Towers (later Athlone House). During the Second World War, shows continued uninterrupted and gardening took on a greater urgency as those ‘Digging for Victory’ helped boost the nation’s food supplies.

The Society held its Centenary Show on 30 June, 1960 with more than 2,000 people visiting the show which was held in a marquee in the grounds of Highgate School which continued until 1985 when it moved to a village location. In 1965 the society played host to Gardener’s Question Time presented by Franklin Engelmann.  A highlight of the 1970s was a visit by the Queen Mother in 1972 to three members’ gardens.

In 1966 a Spring Show was held and in 1987 an Autumn Show was added bringing the total to three shows a year all now held in the United Reformed Church in Pond Square.

In 2009 the Society celebrated its 150th Anniversary with the slogan “150 years Still Growing Strong!” It was commemorated with a party for members and the unveiling of the renovated garden at the Pond Square Chapel which was a joint venture with the Highgate United Reformed Church who also celebrated their 150th Anniversary.

During the last two decades the shows have grown in size with more exhibitors and greater numbers of exhibits. The membership continues to grow particularly now that people are again taking greater interest in what they eat.

Highgate can be justly proud of its role as a horticultural pioneer. In 150 years history has come full circle.  Highgate gardens are flourishing and demand for allotments is at an all-time high. Many schools encourage gardening among the young, demonstrating that the Horticultural Society’s original mission is still alive and well in the 21st century. Environmental concerns are ever more critical with the general decrease in pesticide use, cultivated areas foster wildlife in the midst of increasing urban development and, with the Heath and Waterlow Park, provide much needed oxygen to the community. Perhaps Highgate residents can still claim, as John Lloyd did in his 1888 History of Highgate, that ‘Living on a hill famed for its bracing air, its inhabitants seem to be endowed with a kind of Highland vigour both bodily and mentally, which is sought for in vain in the vapid plains below’.

Extracts from All Highgate is a Garden, A History of the Highgate Horticultural Society, 1859 to 1989, by Elisabeth Cunnington and Frances Rust, published for the Highgate Horticultural Society by Hornsey Historical Society (1989).  

Our Presentation Cups History:

Spring Show Trophies:

TAYLOR HALSEY CHALLENGE CUP for most points in bulbous horticultural classes
Originally presented by Mr T.B.Taylor in 1911 and won 3 times for roses by Mr Halsey.  He was a master plumber and prominent member of the Society for many years.  His daughter kindly returned it to the HHS at the first Spring Show in April 1966.

MICHAEL BAYLIS CUP for most points in non-bulbous horticultural classes
Presented to the Society by Mrs Mary Baylis and family in memory of her husband Michael, a former committee member and Show Superintendent of the Society.  First awarded at the Spring Show on 19 April, 2008

SERGEANT BOWL for best exhibit in bulbous horticultural classes
Local resident Sir Patrick Sergeant, former financial editor of the Daily Mail opened the spring show in 1986 and Lady (Gilly) Sergeant presented the prizes.  They subsequently donated the bowl.

BROUGH TANKARD for best exhibit in non-bulbous horticultural classes
Presented by David Brough an Honorary Vice President of the Society and a director of the Metal Box Co.  He and his wife Betty Brough, both keen gardeners, lived at Kenwood Gate, Hampstead Lane.  He was Show Superintendent for many years and donated the tankard when they retired to Winchester.

BUSH HALSEY CHALLENGE CUP for most points in decorative classes
Originally presented to the Society by Mr A. W. Bush of Courtenay Avenue during his Presidency 1916-20. Won outright 3 times for roses by Mr Halsey and kindly returned to the Society at the Spring Show in 1966 by his daughter.

HHS MILLENNIUM CUP for most points in 5 years and under classes.
A trophy held by the society (original donor details unknown) re mounted and engraved to commemorate the Millennium in 2000.  First awarded Spring, 2001.

SOCIETY’S CUP for most points 6-10 year olds classes.
History unknown.

MARJORIE OLPHERT SHIELD for most points for 11 - 16 year olds classes
Presented by Mr John Olphert, Chairman of the Society 1986-89 in memory of his wife who died in 1988.

Summer Show Trophies:

JOHN KEYNES CUP for most points in all horticultural class
Presented in the early nineteen sixties by Mrs A.V. Hill, founder of Hill Homes, in memory of her grandfather John Keynes, a professional horticulturist.  (John Maynard Keynes, later Lord Keynes, was her brother).

RHS BRONZE BANKSIAN MEDAL for exhibitor gaining most prize money in horticultural classes (Competitors who win the medal in preceding two years are not eligible)
This medal obtained annually from the Royal Horticultural Society

WHEELER BAKER CUP for most points in floral classes
Presented by Mr C. Wheeler Baker, President of the Society 1954-56, and a member of the City of London Court of Common Council.  His front garden was exclusively heathers, planted by Mr Tommy Twidell a Master at Highgate School.

LADY CROSFIELD FLORAL CUP for best exhibit in floral classes (Cut Flowers)
Originally awarded for best exhibit in gladioli, delphiniums and dahlias but due to a decline in entries for these categories it was re-assigned in the late 1990’s.  Lady Crosfield was a Vice President of the Society and stood as a Liberal party candidate in Islington North in 1929.

Married to Sir Arthur Crosfield Bt who inherited the firm of Joseph Crosfield and Sons, a soap and candle manufacturing company.  He sold the company in 1911 and with the proceeds built Witanhurst at the top of Highgate West Hill in 1913/14.  Said to be the largest house in London aside from Buckingham Palace. Lady Crosfield was famous for pre-Wimbledon tennis parties for the stars prior to Queens Club taking over the event.

ALDERMAN WILFRED ROWLANDS MEMORIAL CUP for four kinds of cut flowers with own foliage.
Alderman W.J. Rowlands was Mayor of Hornsey 1931-33 and President of the Society 1933-47. It was presented by Mrs Rowlands.

CATER CUP for a collection of three kinds of cut flowers.
Presented by the residents of Sheldon Avenue in Highgate whose gardens had been tended by Mr Frank Cater between 1950-70.

LADY TRIBE MEMORIAL CUP for two vases of sweet peas.
Presented by Sir Frank Tribe, an eminent civil servant who rose to Auditor and Comptroller General and was President of the Society 1948-54, in memory of his wife as these were her favourite flower.  They lived in Sheldon Avenue.

RUSSELL JAMES ROSE BOWL for six hybrid tea roses.
Presented by Mrs Russell James, a former Vice President and notable member of the Society in memory of her family.

MODERN GARDENS’ CUP for best exhibit in pot plant classes
Presented by Geoffrey & Anne Lewis in the 1950's.  Geoffrey & Anne ran a florists business originally called Modern Gardens (later Geoffrey & Anne Lewis) during the second half of the 20th century.  Anne won the Corbeille D'Or at Monaco and Geoffrey was one of the founders of Interflora.  Geoffrey became President of the Society in 1976.

GIBBON CUP for best exhibit in fruit classes
Presented by Miss Norah Gibbon, long serving secretary of the Society, in memory of her brother.  This cup went missing and was replaced with the Gibbon Award but it later turned up.  The Gibbon Award was then awarded for most points in fruit classes in Autumn Show.

GOODISON CORONATION CUP for six single specimen vegetables
Originally for 4 kinds of vegetables (now 6). Presented in 1937 commemorating the Coronation of King George VI by Mrs Emily Goodison, widow of Henry Goodison and a Vice President of the Society in 1925.

FRANK SEYMOUR MEMORIAL CUP for Cooks Delight class
Originally for three kinds of vegetables (Now Cooks Delight – Basket/Trug of Mixed Vegetables).  Presented by the Committee in memory of Frank Seymour.  He was a Vice-President of the Society.  He had been a member for 31 years and died in 1941.

JACK PAMPLING MEMORIAL CUP for most points in single vegetable classes
Presented by Mrs Pampling in 1969 in memory of her husband, an outstanding exhibitor of vegetables and sweet peas in the years 1946-67.  He had acquired this cup by winning it on three occasions in the days before all cups became perpetual challenge cups.

GRAY BUCHANAN CUP for best exhibit in single vegetable classes
Presented by the Highgate Allotment Holders Association probably in the 1930's by Mr Gray Buchanan amongst other benefactors. Passed to the Society at the date of amalgamation with the Society.

Summer Show Trophies (continued)

HOSPITAL CUP for most points in decorative classes
Originally this was a cup given by the Archway Hospital Committee for competition amongst local hospitals (eg Hornsey Cottage Hospital and St Luke’s) in the 1960's.  In 1967 the competition was discontinued and some years later the cup was given to the Society.

H.W. SMITH CUP for a basket of summer flowers and foliage
For the best exhibit of Summer flowers and fresh plant material in a wicker or cane basket. Presented in 1979 by Mr H.W. Smith a Vice President and long-time exhibitor of both horticultural and decorative classes and for many years.  He was Wood Superintendent of Queens Wood, Muswell Hill.   Mr Smith acquired this cup by winning on three successive occasions.  His granddaughter Mrs Sallie Bollans was later a member of the Committee.

EDITH IMBER MEMORIAL CUP for most points in domestic and handicraft classes
Presented in memory of his late wife Edith by Mr Athol Imber, a former Vice President of the Society and for many years its Treasurer, until his retirement in 1963, when he was made an Honorary Life Member.

THOMAS A. WESTON CUP for best exhibit in domestic classes
Donated by the Thomas A. Weston Memorial Committee in the USA to honour 'that English Gardener who gained such fame in America'.  It was obtained through the good offices of Mr Geoffrey Lewis on a visit to New York.  Originally awarded for an exhibit of horticultural interest and educational value.  Not awarded for some years until it was re allocated for best exhibit in domestic classes.

LAURA HONEY MEMORIAL SILVER SALVER for best exhibit in handicraft classes
Presented by Mr Derek Honey, a resident of Cholmeley Park, in 1986 in memory of his late mother Laura for best exhibit in handicraft classes.

THE LILY ROWE CUP for most points in 5 years and under children’s classes
Presented by Mrs Roxane Stirling Secretary of the Society from 1992 in memory of her 'magical' Grandmother a tiny feisty lady who had encouraged her to garden, sew and cook from a very early age.  First awarded in 2006.

JO PAGE AWARD for most points in 6-10 years children’s classes
Presented by Mr & Mrs Andrew Page in memory of his mother Jo. First awarded in 2006.  Mrs Gaye Page was a member of the Committee.

WYN LAXTON CUP for most points in 11-16 children’s classes
Presented by Mrs Janice Chambers, former Treasurer of the Society, in memory of her mother Wyn Laxton a former committee member. First awarded in 2007.

H.W. SMITH CUP for children’s mixed flower arrangement
Presented by Mr H.W. Smith for the Society's vase for mixed flowers arranged for effect at the show by the exhibitor alone (under 16) by Mr H.W. Smith a Vice President and long-time exhibitor of both horticultural and decorative classes and for many years Wood Superintendent, Queens Wood, Muswell Hill.  His granddaughter Mrs Sallie Bollans was later a member of the Committee.

Autumn Show Trophies:

HIGHGATE HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY CUP best exhibit in floral classes
Presented in 1991 by David Brough Hon. Vice-President of the Society, on moving away from Highgate.

FAITH COPE MORGAN AWARD for most points in floral classes
Presented in 1974 by her daughter Hilary.  Mrs Cope Morgan was a Vice President and active exhibitor for many years.  Originally awarded in the Summer Show for most points in novice flower classes. These classes became redundant in 1989 and the cup re allocated to the most points in floral classes for the then fledgling Autumn Show.

THE GIBBON AWARD for most points in fruit classes
See Summer Show above.

THE JACK HURST AWARD for best runner beans class
Presented by Mrs Sylvia Hurst, a long serving committee member, in memory of her husband Jack.  The bowl, made of wood, was turned by Mr Jon Bollans a committee member. First presented in 2004.

DAME FRANCES GARDNER CUP for best exhibit in single vegetable classes
Dame Frances Gardner was a prominent member of the Fitzroy Park Association and lived in Fitzroy Lodge.  She was Consultant Cardiologist at the Royal Free Hospital and later Dean of the Royal Free School of Medicine and subsequently President until her death in 1989. The Trustees presented cup in 1989.  Her husband, George Qvist was also a Consultant at the Royal Free Hospital and once played polo with the Sultan of Johore.  Ron Sampson, long time committee member was the first winner.

THE RANKINE CUP for most points in single vegetable classes
For most points in single vegetable classes. Presented by Dr George Rankine, long serving Chairman of the Society from 1965-86 and later President.  Dr George was a great character and is fondly remembered for wearing his straw boater at the shows.

SIMPLICITAS CUP for most points in tomato classes 49-51
A long lost trophy last awarded to a Mr W. Smallbone in 1920.  It was returned to the Society by Mrs Julie Sandercock in 2014 after she discovered the cup among her late father’s possessions at his home in Cornwall. Her father, Reginald Climo, had been very friendly with Mr Smallbone when he had moved to Cornwall from Highgate to live with his nieces and her father had inherited some of his treasured possessions. We think Mr Smallbone lived in Storey Road, N6 but if anyone has any information about the family or indeed about the Boundary Chemical Company who originally presented the cup to the Society (in 1912) it would be lovely to include this in the cup history.

D.J. HAWKINS BOWL for most points in decorative classes 60-63
Presented by Mrs May Hawkins in 1994 in memory of her husband.  This rose bowl had been a silver wedding anniversary gift.

JUBILEE CUP for most points in 5 years and under children’s classes
First awarded 2003 to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

THE CONSTANCE DAINS AWARD for most points in 6-10 years children’s classes
First awarded in Autumn 2002.  Given by Mrs Jean Leverton in memory of her mother Constance Dains.  Mrs Leverton had previously been a Committee member.

BROUGH CUP for most points in under 16's classes
Originally presented by Mr David Brough (see above) for the most points in decorative classes.

ALICE ALLENDER AWARD for best exhibit in domestic classes
Presented by Lois Allender, long standing committee member in memory of her mother Alice.

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