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Diss horticultural society celebrates 175 years

Diss and District Horticultural Society is celebrating 175 years of growing – making it one of the oldest societies in the country.

Around 60 members enjoyed an evening garden party recently at Heath Farm, Winfarthing, the home of Ken and Olive Jolly, who are the society’s longest serving members.

The club had planned to hold their celebrations at another private garden, but the venue had to cancel at the last minute and Mrs and Mrs Jolly stepped in to save the day.

Society members celebrated 175 years with a garden party. Pictures by Angela Jolly
Society members celebrated 175 years with a garden party. Pictures by Angela Jolly

“It was a wonderful party and we were delighted to be able to host it at our garden,” said Olive, 72.

“My husband, Ken, a farmer, has been a member of the society for 50 years and, having always had a passion for flowers and gardening myself, I joined 30 years ago, after we married.

“The society hired a caterer and it was a lovely spread.”

The first record of the society is in the Norwich Mercury on May 7, 1831. It grew out of the success of The Norfolk and Norwich Horticultural Society, after some of its members, the local gentry and dignitaries of Diss and district decided to start a society, too.

These early meetings read like a who’s who of the nobility but ‘Cottagers’ also had a show table present. Cottagers were eligible to enter the show, only if their rent did not exceed £7 per annum or they worked as a gardener to any other person.

On 12 July, 1881, the society held its 37th annual show in the grounds of Hall Hills.

Ken and Olive Jolly cut the cake
Ken and Olive Jolly cut the cake

Meetings and shows have continued ever since, except during the Second World War. Anyone interested in joining the society should contact secretary Graham Pettitt on 01379 643952.

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