On the Pre 1907 page reference was made to the search though local newspapers in 1932 to identify the origin of the Society and its early history. A similar attempt made in 1983 whilst widening the knowledge of the Society’s history made no further progress in identifying its origins.
In 2015 as part of the Archive Project further research took place. The creation of the internet with its access to searchable books and a number of national and local newspapers provided a great step forward compared to previous searches. Until that point the Society had considered itself to have been ‘established in 1836‘, a year determined from a newspaper report in 1877 which declared the show held that year to have been the 42nd; all subsequent shows were numbered sequentially from that starting point.
The first breakthrough came with the identification of a report of the 1913 show in The Garden (see right) by the Rev Joseph Jacob which alleged that the show number rather than indicating shows from the formation of the Society was only a measure of the number of shows after Abraham Holmes became Secretary. This gave confirmation to Irvine Hewitt’s thoughts in 1932 that the Wakefield Florists Society was the precursor of the Society. That society held shows each year for carnations and pinks, tulips, auriculas and dahlias until around 1870 when with the decline of the other flowers it must have decided to change its name to the Wakefield Tulip Society.
The second breakthrough came with the discovery, in the first edition of the Wakefield Express for 1902, of the obituary of George Gill a long time exhibitor, whose father John was recorded in the shows of the 1830s.
In addition to registering interest in the other florists’ flowers, as well as tulips, the age of the Society was again questioned with: “It may be interesting to some to know that this society has been in existence nearly 100 years, although it is dated sixty odd years old in its literature.“
The use of the word ‘nearly’ seemed highly significant. If the unknown writer of the obituary had thought that the Society had started around 1800 then surely ‘for about’ or ‘for over’ would have been used; ‘nearly’ suggested knowledge of an actual known date, certainly after 1802, but probably before 1810.
So began a search backwards in years through the old newspapers in the new Wakefield Library. Unfortunately not on line, and therefore unsearchable electronically, the search of the papers on micro-film was limited to the months of May and June which would encompass the Carnation, Tulip and Auricula show dates. The editors of the Wakefield and Halifax Journal showed a marked reluctance to consider anything horticultural as newsworthy prior to the report of the Wakefield Florist Society carnation show in 1826. But then came the third breakthrough with the discovery that its predecessor, the Wakefield Star, published a show report, this time for Auriculas, in its issue of 10 May 1810.
An auricula show in the centre of Wakefield, along with two familiar names from later years; Mr Ely, probably Benjamin Ely who often judged the tulip shows (for which we have records) and Mr Parker, probably not Isaac (who would only have been 19 in 1810), but perhaps his father. Surely confirmation that this was the Wakefield Florists Society in its very early days and that it was indeed formed around the year 1810.
Shows in 1809 and 1808, this time held at the Grand Stand at Outwood were reported and then the final breakthrough in this round of searches, In the newspaper featured at the head of this page, The Wakefield Star 1 May 1807, another auricula show with even more significant information.
Again familiar names. Stead and Ambler from the 1810 show, Marshall ( perhaps Richard from the Wakefield Florists Society 1830s Auricula shows) and Cooper (from 1831 Tulip show)? But more importantly ‘The new Florists Society held their first annual meeting’ ; No show is reported in the year 1806.
There can be very little doubt therefore that the Wakefield Florists Society, later the Wakefield Tulip Society and now the Wakefield and North of England Tulip Society held its first ever meeting and show (for auriculas and polyanthus) at the Grand Stand, Outwood on Monday 27 April 1807.
As later in the year 1807 the Society held its first Carnation Show, but there is no report of an intermediate Tulip Show, it is likely that there was no tulip exhibition initially. When the first tulip show was held by the Society is therefore yet to be discovered, but the search continues!
Information regarding the Grand Stand at Outwood, Wakefield can be found here.