When my family and I moved to East Grinstead in 1964 because of a Company move, one of the first things we did was to join the Horticultural Society when visiting their Autumn Show. Having been a founder member of two flower clubs in North London, I was disappointed to find no club in East Grinstead. In time I organised a small competition every month at the Horticultural Society meetings and it was suggested that I start a flower arranging club. This is how the East Grinstead Flower Arrangement Group began.
We wanted to be financially separate from the Horticultural Society but we wanted to help with their shows and we had great encouragement from the members. The first few meeting were held at my house with members who were new to flower arranging. From what I had learnt at the two North London Clubs, I was able to demonstrate the principles of basic arrangements. We were fortunate in being offered the pavilion at King George's Sports Field at very little charge. As we were operating on a shoe string it was a long time before we could afford well known demonstrators so a lot of practical work was done.
Mrs. M. Carruthers was our treasurer for many years and Mrs. Mary Warren who owns a shop and nursery at Crawley Down was very helpful in allowing us to have pinholders etc., on sale or return, no oasis in those days, and took a great interest in our progress. About 15 people came along when we started the club and membership gradually grew. It wasn't very jolly crossing the sports ground in the winter but Mr. and Mrs. Bishop kindly used to light the stove so that we got a warm welcome when we were inside the room. We managed a few small shows in the pavilion during club evenings, sometimes interrupted by the stoolball players coming in while the judging was going on. Later we had meetings at Sackville School and then we were fortunate, when St. Swithins Church built their new hall, in being able to hold our meetings there until today.
From that very small beginning, we moved on to Flower Festivals at St. Swithins and Sackville College, Christmas Shows at the Red Cross Hall, donating funds to the hospital, Red Cross·, and local charities. More ambitious were entries in the Ardingly and other area shows with joint entries and members entering separately. It is over twenty years since we received a letter from Mrs. Norman asking if we could help the Blind Society by making small arrangements for the tables at their annual luncheon. I am pleased to say that we are still taking these small arrangements each year and they are much appreciated by the Blind Society Committee and the recipients.
There are many memories of some of the first members, particularly Mrs. Divali who was a natural flower arranger and grew all her own flowers on her allotment. Another elderly lady who lived in Lingfield entered all our shows and travelled to and fro on the bus with all her flowers, containers etc., for years and won many prizes.
We are grateful to all the past chairmen and committees, especially Mrs. Olive Smith for all her hard work and dedication and also her husband who assisted in all kinds of ways to make our shows a success. It is wonderful to see the same tradition is being carried on into the future by members becoming teachers, demonstrating and doing lovely arrangements at the Area Shows. Fortunately we have always had a very hardworking and caring committee and one must also pay tribute to all the husbands and families for their help and encouragement over the years. It is hoped that the Club will continue to enter competitions. It is a wonderful way of getting to know people and making friends. Flower arranging gives so much pleasure to others as well as helping charities and local events. To me twenty-five years seem to have flown and I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing wonderful arrangements and I hope that in some small way I helped to contribute to this – roll on the next twenty-five years!
VERA B. GARTON