The first records of Wallingford Gardening Club go back to 1956, before that there was a Horticultural Society, a ladies section broke away from the HS. For a few years the HS held a very big show in the Bullcroft Park, unfortunately Sir John Hedges found a by-law which stated that the Bullcroft Park could not be closed for a day and a charge be made for entry, so the show could no longer take place.
Gardening Club meetings were held in St Leonard's Church House, harvest suppers were held annually at the Masonic Hall. There were sales tables, raffles and coach trips to gardens were organised. At a later date, meetings were held in the Town Hall and in 1958 the Gardening Club became affiliated to the RHS.
In 1965 meetings were held for a while in St Mary's Church House when the Town Hall became unsafe. Normally speakers gave illustrated talks in the winter months and visits to gardens were organised in summertime. During June or July there was a garden party these were usually held in a members' garden. One month was sometimes de-rota'd to a Plant Sale and there were auctions also.
Bill and Joan Baker were involved with the Club from the beginning and the success of the Club was due mainly to them. Joan was Chairman for many years and Bill was the President, then they became joint Presidents. Bill was a dental surgeon in Wallingford, his great hobby was horticulture, even from a child he was extremely knowledgeable, generous with his plants and knowledge. Bill was awarded The Veitch award for horticulture from the RHS. He had many useful contacts enabling him to book good speakers and was a friend of Roy Lancaster and thought of highly by professionals. Bill often went aboard with Joan collecting rare plants. In 1978, the Club hosted, 'Gardeners Question Time', it was held at Blackstone School, Members had waited for a long time for this to happen and were very delighted when it did. At the AGM in 1970 the Club became known as the Gardening Club and the words "District Horticultural Society" was deleted.
In 1992 the number of Members had declined and it was possible that the Club would close, a special effort was made to recruit members and the Club survived. In 1993 Bill and Joan wished to resign from the Club, they were greatly missed.
In the mid 1990s when Dr Anne Millar was Chairman, she produced a monthly newsletter called "Ground Cover". They contained useful hints and advice about gardening with historical notes.
In 2005 a visit to Highgrove was organised by the Chairman - Janet Prescott, it was the highlight of the year and enjoyed by 25 members, the names were chosen by ballot.
Each year the Club is represented at the Mayor's Inaugural Service at St Mary's Church and afterwards at a Reception, the Chairman or a member is involved and may take a guest.
Now since 2015 the Club meets at Ridgeway Community Centre where we always have a warm welcome, it is more convenient than the Town Hall since there are no outside steps to climb and where there is a lift.
Here's wishing the Gardening Club a long and happy and successful future. Jean Calvin-Thomas.
Here's a lovely photo of
Jean Calvin-Thomas who's been a member of the Club from the beginning!