COTTAGE GARDENERS' MUTUAL IMPROVEMENT SOCIETY
The Yalding Cottage Gardeners' Mutual Improvement Society was launched in 1876. It held annual shows initially in the Vicarage grounds, with exhibits staged in a marquee, but later in the Vicarage meadow, below Warde's Moat, lent for those occasions by Miss Town of Downs Farm. Typically at the south end of the tent was a collection of foliage plants, flowers, and ferns sent by Mr Crane gardener to Mrs Alexander of Cheveney. Other stands of flowers at this village event 100 years ago, were also sent by Mr Solmans gardener to Mr A J Warde of The Elms, Mr Robert Smith gardener to Lady Frances Fletcher of Kenward, Mr Baldwin gardener to R R Ellis Esq. of Court Lodge, Mr G Johnson gardener to the Rev. David Lamplugh vicar, resident at what is now Warde's Moat, Mr Edward Stanley of the Bull PH, Mrs Beale, and Mr Henry Honess beer retailer and carpenter. Competition was very keen in the competitive classes, with often close running for first and second honours.
In 1889 the judges were, Mr Goddard gardener to Mrs Campbell-Bannerman of Hunton Court, Mr S Cossom gardener to J Bazley White Esq. M.P., Mr James Smith gardener to W W Blest Esq., Mr J Prall of Brenchley, and Mr Gabriel Hards our local baker and postmaster. In that year amongst the fruit classes there were some splendid exhibits, especially of outdoor peaches, grapes, and apricots included in Mr R Smith's collection, which the judges regarded as the best they had seen exhibited at Yalding. The brass band of Yalding and Collier Street was in attendance and discoursed a selection of music during the day. An interesting demonstration was given by Mr Walker of the Potteries, Nettlestead, with a machine making pots. The general prizes were awarded in the various classes of Cottagers, Amateurs and Professionals, which were distributed by the Vicar who congratulated the Society on the excellence of the show.
Meetings were held fortnightly and that for Monday 22nd April 1895 was held at the George Inn, Mr A J Everest presiding. The productions staged were by T Cooper, Jun., a design of flowers consisting of polyanthus and primroses, which was greatly admired by all, which showed the good taste he has for this work, Mr Threadgold also showed a box of cut flowers. consisting of polyanthus, primula, etc.; A J Everest, a pot plant in bloom, deilytra; W Newman and G Tutt, rhubarb.
The business of the Society being concluded, the remaining portion of the evening was devoted to harmony, songs being rendered by Messrs Samson and A Cheeseman, etc., which brought a most pleasant evening to a close.
On Wednesday July 31st 1895 the supporting entertainment was from the band of the 7th Company of the 1st Kent Volunteer Artillery (Snodland), plus other various amusements. Sixty members ensured keen competition in all classes of entry. Non-competition exhibits included fine selections of plants, fruit, and vegetables from the gardens of Cheveney, reflecting considerable credit on Mr Crane, gardener to Mrs Alexander, a varied collection of fruit by Mr R Norton (gardener Mr Threadgold), and a large collection of hot-house plants by Mr R R Ellis.