Stoke Gabriel Horticultural Society
During the darkest days of the 2nd World War, the Village Home Guard founded the “Stoke Gabriel Home Guard Potato and Vegetable Society” as their contribution to the national “Dig for Victory” campaign. Shows of potatoes and other produce were held right from the start, and the annual show included a special competition for the village Home Guard platoon.
The winners of the Potato Shows of 1940 and 1941 received prizes donated by the “Peoples’ Refreshment House Association”. The first full show appears to have been on 5 September 1942, with the report making front page news of the Totnes Times a week later.
Only one year has been missed since then!
When the Home Guard was disbanded in June 1945, the Society decided not to take “demob” with them, and at a public meeting on 17th June 1945 it was agreed that it should be known as “The Stoke Gabriel Horticultural Society” – and so it has been ever since!
The 1942 show classes were mainly for vegetables – potatoes, beetroots, and kidney beans - with some prizes of garden tools, with Mr A King winning a garden fork for the best dish of shallots!
But the village ladies were invited to show off their culinary skills with cakes, baked apples and dishes of “cooked potatoes in their jackets”, and the school children entered vases of wild flowers – some of those young 1940s prize-winners still live in and around the village!
The flowers and fruit, handicrafts and photography (long since digital of course) classes arrived soon after the war, joined now by displays of floral art which never fail to enchant.
Exhibitors in current shows are likely to stage mange-tout, courgettes and garlic as well as the traditional vegetables of 1941. The Schoolchildren’s competition has moved on a bit from vases of wild flowers too - they create imaginative animals and birds from fruit and vegetables, whilst the older pupils of Stoke Primary School submit computer enhanced projects. (recent topics for these have included: “The Apothecary’s Paradise”, “Water” and “What plants have done for us”).
As well as the Annual Show - always held on the 3rd Saturday in August - the Society also holds a Rose and Sweetpea Show in June every year, and runs a popular plant sale and coffee morning in late spring when members sell hundreds of plants - beans, tomatoes, peppers, geraniums, petunias and many other varieties, - the proceeds going to fund the Annual Show.
We don’t have a formal membership structure - and certainly no annual subscriptions! We welcome anyone who has an interest in gardening and all we ask is for you to come to some of our committee meetings when we plan and organise the events mentioned above, and then help us stage them, maybe help to run one of the stalls at the plant sale, or escort one of the judges on one of the show days - and enter some of the classes!
The spirit of the Society and our Annual Show remains much as it would have felt to its founders 75 years ago, and although the names are different, a number of today’s Committee are descended from the original organizers.
You would be very welcome to come and join us and help keep the tradition going.
Watch the Parish Magazine for dates of Committee meeetings, or contact the Chairman Mrs Lesley Etheridge on 782720 or the Hon Secretary: Katherine Gee on 782916.
We’d be delighted to see you.