Early evening yesterday we accompanied a client to the annual Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea flower show (CFS) at the Royal Hospital (RH) Chelsea. This is a great event at a great venue, even for the non-horticulturists among us.
The RHS was founded in 1804 as the Horticultural Society of London. The CFS was originally called the Great Spring Show (GSS) and was held in 1862 at the RHS garden in Kensington. Before this date the RHS had held flower shows from 1833 in their garden in Chiswick. The GSS was held at Kensington for 26 years but in 1888 the RHS decided to move the show to central London. The site chosen was the Temple Gardens, situated between the Embankment and Fleet Street, which had a recorded history dating back to 1307 and which were said to date from the time of the Knights Templar. Using 2 marquees requisitioned from the old Kensington shows the 1888 show was a success with exhibits from both amateurs and commercial firms. By 1897, 5 marquees were being used with many of the best known plant merchants being attracted to the event.
In 1912, the Temple Show was cancelled to make way for the Royal International Horticultural Exhibition. Sir Harry Veitch, the great nurseryman, secured the grounds of the RH Chelsea for this one-off event. It proved such a good site for an exhibition that the GSS was moved there in 1913, where it has taken place almost every year since. The first shows at the RH were 3 day events held within a single marquee.
Despite WW1, the show was held 1914–1916, but was cancelled in 1917 and 1918. The show was discontinued in 1939 due to WW2. The RHS instead focused on their ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign, showing how to grow food at home. Following the end of WW2 in 1945, it was decided to bring the show back as quickly as possible, successfully returning in 1947.
The CFS celebrated its 100th birthday in May 2013, where a temporary ‘ban on gnomes’ was lifted ?.