Gardening for All

Topsham District Horticultural and Cottage Garden Society was established for ‘the encouragement of cottage gardens among the working classes’. The Society’s first exhibition took place on 2 August, 1871 in a field near Topsham railway station and there were special prizes for professional market gardeners.

Between 1872 and 1895, the annual show was hosted by local landowners at Broadway House (Topsham), Winslade Park (Clyst St Mary), Wear Park (Countess Wear), Retreat Park (Topsham) and Nutwell Park (Lympstone).

As well as awards for gardeners, there were prizes for the ‘children of cottagers’. In 1881, Polly Willing won ‘best made shirt’ and M. A. Fursdon ‘best pair of knitted stockings’. Mary Rice won a prize for her counterpane, Polly Valentine for her crochet and Blanche Osborne for her mats.

Around the same time, allotments were established in Topsham, and during the First World War they moved to their present positions. Topsham Allotments and Gardens Society (TAGS) was formed in 1967, and today its annual Flower and Vegetable Show is hotly contested.