On this day in history : 20th May 1913 – The first Chelsea Flower Show is held in the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital….img_3202

The Royal Horticultural Society held its very first ‘Great Spring Show’ in Chiswick in 1827 and it became an annual event which proved very popular…. However, rival flower shows came along, namely Crystal Palace and Regent’s Park, visitor numbers to Chiswick dropped significantly…..and it did not help matters that Chiswick at the time was not accessible by railway…. The shows stopped in 1857….

Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centres, 2012 – Photo: Karen Roe via flickr

But four years later, in 1861, the RHS was back; this time the Great Spring Show was held at Kensington Gardens – former site of the Great Exhibition of 1851…. The three day show was held in a single marquee and made a profit of £88….

The South West in Bloom, 2014 – Photo: Karen Roe via flickr

The Great Spring Show continued to expand – by the late 1880s it had grown from 48 to 120 exhibitors and a bigger venue was needed – so in 1888 it moved to Temple Gardens between Fleet Street and the Embankment…. However, not everybody was happy by the large amount of visitors attracted to the show….the crowds were an annoyance for those working in the Law profession around Temple….

Vital Earth The Night Sky Garden, designed by Harry Rich & David Rich, 2014 – Photo: Herry Lawford via flickr

In 1912 Sir Harry Veitch secured a site at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea for what was supposed to be a one-off event for the Great Spring Show….but such was its success that it made a £25,000 profit which was divided between three charities…. It was therefore decided that an annual show should be held in the grounds of the hospital….so, on the 13th of May the following year, 1913, the first ‘Chelsea Flower Show’ was held – and was attended by the King’s mother, Queen Alexandra….

Chelsea, 2014 – photo: Karen Roe via flickr

Even though it attracts over 150,000 visitors every year Chelsea is no longer Britain’s biggest flower show – these days that accolade goes to Hampton Court – but Chelsea is part of our culture and remains one of the most famous flower shows in the World….

The DialAFlight Potter’s Garden, 2014 – Photo: Karen Roe via flickr
‘Spice Isle’, Grenada – Suzanne Gaywood Exhibit, 2014 – Photo: Karen Roe via flickr
Part of the Dibleys Streptocarpus display, 2011 – Photo: Nefauna CC BY-SA
Chelsea, 2018 – Photo: Clive G’ via flickr


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