Shows and Pageants were introduced into Shrewsbury in the early eighteen hundreds by the Town burgesses in order to increase trade and income to the Town and its businesses.
Country people living in the villages surrounding the town had no real need to come into the Town regularly because each village had its own range of local tradesmen who could produce almost everything which they needed. Many people never left their village in their lifetime and even into the mid twentieth century people would rarely venture into the Town.
Annual Fairs were organised, such as the Gooseberry and Carnation fairs to attract country people into the Town to sell their surplus produce but these fairs often degenerated into excess drinking and occasions of debauchery and quickly got out of hand.
The burgesses, craft guilds and freemen of the Town quickly began to organise the events and the Shropshire Horticultural Society held its first Show in 1857, just outside the Town near the Showground at Coton Hill.
Members of the old Society, who were mainly local business people finally regularised things by holding the first Show of the current Society in 1875. This was in spite of the Home Secretary banning such shows in 1878 and so a special dispensation was given to enable the Show to be held together with the Agricultural Society Show in the Quarry Park in the centre of the Town.
The Band of the Coldstream Guards played at that first event and in the many years up to the present time. Military Band performances have always been a central feature of the Show.
The flowers were exhibited in a “New Tent” 220ft long and 36ft high which was considered to be enormous in those day. This was made especially for the Show.
The takings for the two day Show were £791-12s giving a profit of £409 for the Show.
The present Shropshire Horticultural Society was formally established in October of 1875, just after the first Show. High quality exhibits of Flowers and Horticulture have always been the main focus of the Show as depicted in its name but from the beginning the Show has provided family entertainment.
In the early days it was daring High Wire Acts and Balloon ascents which, before the days of powered flight must have seemed amazing.
No Shows were held during the first or second world wars and in January 1946 Percy Thrower, who later became the first Radio and later Television gardening personality was appointed Parks Superintendent by the Borough Council. Percy’s father had been gardener at Windsor Castle and Head Gardener on King George’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk. Percy was then the youngest Parks Superintendent in the country and set about creating the present Quarry Park and Dingle layout from the rough areas which had been cultivated during the war. Percy became the Society’s Honorary Horticultural advisor and was a great driving force in the further development of the Show for many years.
The Society is a Registered Charity which has a policy of providing grants in support of a wide range of organisations and activities in Shropshire and has provided many millions of pounds to the community since its inception in 1875.
Major donations to the town of Shrewsbury (up to 1988) include:
Recent Support to the Community
In addition to its support of local horticultural shows, schools and annual bursaries the Society has made the following significant donations in the recent past: