The Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society, established 1836, has a wealth of historical material, which was scattered in various locations. In addition to this tangible material there was an inestimable wealth of stories and information that had never been written down. This led to the idea for an archive project to ensure the items and memories were brought together and preserved as a collection.

In September 2011 the Heritage Lottery Fund agreed to finance a project called “Tulips, Old Flames and Feathers!” The HLF funding was to provide the means to set up and preserve the society’s historical material as a collection to be kept at the Borthwick Institute in York. Setting up the archive presented us with the opportunity to compile a history of the society as old minute books, correspondence, photographs and show reports were read and catalogued. Alongside this, recordings would be made of the memories of people with long-standing family connections with the society, some over several generations. The project was aimed at sharing this rich history with others through talks and displays and through an Internet website that will be a valuable resource for years to come.

The growing popularity of investigating ancestry and local history and the resurgence of an interest in gardening made the timing of the project ideal. By direct contact with local people and with an online resource, we could make our heritage available as widely as possible. The contact was important so the public could see living flowers and exchange stories and information as they participated in our events. The online resource would provide a reference available to all and at any time. Both aspects of the project complement each other, as well as being a huge asset to the society they provide a service to others.

Looking through the minute books has revealed some fascinating insights into what life was like in the early 20th century and many of the facts that appear on the timeline on this site have been gleaned from the archive, Transcripts and recordings of people reading sections of the minute books will give voice to members of the society who are long gone. By looking at the old photographs and being able to listen to stories of shows and the challenges of growing English Florists’ tulips we hope to learn about the lives of the florists and enjoy a new link to the past.