Memories of Charing

Read the report below that brings some of the history of our society to life.

This article first appeared in The Annual in 1991. It was written by Margaret Ruglys who was a very long-standing member of the Gardeners' Society committee  and was Vice Chairwoman from at least 1981 until 1995. Margaret died in 1999.

Reading the following report of the Gardeners' Society which appeared in the Parish Magazine of September 1922 brings back wonderful childhood memories of the Twenties:

The Charing Gardeners' Society held its Annual Exhibition and Sports in the beautiful grounds of The Moat, on Wednesday August 2nd. The show of flowers, fruit and vegetables in the Tent was a delight to the eye, and the examples of table dressing were specially attractive. Exhibition stalls from Purlands Nurseries (Charing), Messrs. Clark & Co. Ltd (Dover), Bunyards Ltd (Maidstone) and R. Ivens (Harrietsham) were another feature of the show in the Tent and all did good business.

Meanwhile the Sports were going strong in the field, and a smart Pipe Band from the Gordon Boys Orphanage played martial music. The prizes were distributed by Mrs St. John Graham, by whose kindness the Grounds had been lent to the Society. Mr Rudge won the championship for most points, but Mr Mitchell succeeded in appropriating most value for his prizes. A visit to the tent marked "Committee Only" in the course of the afternoon yielded indubitable evidence of the strenuous nature of the Committee's labours. Warm congratulations to the organisers of a most successful Exhibition!

Philip Rudge, the Headmaster, was deeply involved with the Gardeners, being a keen gardener himself, so there was great encouragement for the pupils to enter the various children's classes. The boys aged 11 to 14 who all had vegetable plots in the school garden had their own competitive classes so that they learnt not only how to grow vegetables but also how to show them.

On the previous evening and the morning of the day preparations were made in the large marquee which was erected at the North of the Moat paddock where the top row of houses now stand. When the Show opened there was a choice of entrance either by the drive opposite Gate Cottage or via the churchyard to the gate just outside, which gave access to a brick paved pergola with wonderful herbaceous borders on either side. On all the other days in the year this was just a beautiful view through the bars of the gate, and it was a thrill to walk there. But there was an urgency to reach the marquee and its never-to-be forgotten smell and to dash to see if one's table decoration of harebells from the Downs had beaten the pretty one of wild scabious. After a thorough look round there were the Childrens' Sports and then perhaps a cooling drink of ginger beer from a large stone jar, or some sweets from the stall under the two lime trees run by "Sixie" and Emma Iggulden. Emma had the reputation of cutting a dolly mixture in half in order to get the exact weight. A walk around the rose garden with its central sundial was another part of this traditional afternoon, as was the sight of the Tennis Tournament on the lawn. Then it was teatime and the tea tent was another marquee near the large one. Here the Feakins family of the Chestnut House Tea Rooms (most recently Ziggy's) served delicious cakes and scones.

In the early evening there were adult sports and fun such as tilting-the- bucket when the brothers Clark of the Printing Works were to the fore. After that it was time to collect one’s exhibits, take a last sniff of the wonderful smell, perhaps buy some prize blooms from one of the trade stands and reluctantly head for home. The bright young sparks of the village and their elders finished the day dancing on the lawn which sloped down to the water's edge and no doubt provided a romantic setting.

What a splendid day it was!

A few further details can be found in the Society's archive box as Margaret described the show verbally to one of our members some years ago....

The Gardeners' summer fete..(it seems there was only 1 show a year)...was held in the Moat House grounds. The show itself was in a marquee about where Mrs Doughty's house is now. As well as the show there were sports events and competitions such as tossing a bale of hay with a pitchfork and clay pipe smoking - after the latter the teenage participants had to withdraw to be sick in the bushes!! The gardens were open and tennis tournaments were held on the two courts in the grounds. The tea tent was manned by Mesdames Feakins. The tent was under the lime trees where the entrance to the Sports Field is now. Sweets and ginger beer, which was sold from a big stone jar with a tap, was supplied by the general store man. His store was the present newsagents (now a furniture gallery). There were also needlework and wild flower displays. In the show there were separate classes for  Professional Gardeners and Cottagers - defined by Margaret as "the big house gardeners" and the "poor people".  There were also classes for Amateurs and Schoolboys. In the schedule of the Society's 10th show the schoolboys classes had a first prize of 1 shilling, second of 8 pence and third of 4 pence, although first prize for the Collection of 3 vegetables was worth 3 shillings. Notable classes were Best Kept Flower Garden, Best Kept Vegetable Garden and Two Pot Plants grown in School Window.  One of the Society's oldest trophies is "The Cottagers Cup". 

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