1923 – Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Spring Show (Chelsea)

1923 – Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Spring Show (Chelsea)

In 1923 the firm sent a remarkably similar product set to the show as the previous year. They used a previously exhibited 20ft. by 16ft. patent construction span-roof greenhouse, a door at each end, with both roof and front ventilators. This may have been the house displayed at the 1921 Royal Agricultural Society Show held in Derby. The special show price was £70 10s. with glass and painted with 2 coats although exclusive of fittings and fixing. The price including fixing and painted with four coats was £107 2s. 6d. Whilst it was not sold at the show it was purchased in 11th June by Mrs. Melville, Stratton House[1], Cirencester. In 1935 Messenger’s dismantled the house and re-fixed it for Mrs. Melville when she moved to The Manor House, Crawley[2]. At the show the greenhouse was fitted out with a 3ft. wide iron and tile stage to one side; 3 ft. wide slatted wooden stage to the other; 10ft. long wood lath blinds to one side of the roof below the ventilator; blinds to front lights. The show price for wood stages (to both sides) was £14 2s. 6d. unfixed and £17 7s. 6d fixed; that iron and tile stages to both sides was £26 2s. 6d unfixed and £29 2s. 6d fixed; the price for the wood lath blinds was £7 12s. 6d unfixed and £9 10s. fixed.

They also displayed a No 228 8ft. by 7ft. plant protector with lifting ridge (£11-5s.); a No. 228 12ft. by 7ft. plant protector with lifting ridge (£15 7s. 6d.); a No. 226 12 ft. by 6 ft. plant protector with lifting ridge (£15 7s. 6d.). A F2 8ft. by 6ft. frame (£6 10s.); a F12 3ft. by 4ft. violet frame (£2 7s. 6d.)); 3 garden seats of various patterns (No. 1 – £4 12s. 6d.; No. 5 and 6 – £5 7s. 6d.) No. 36, 46 and 56 Quorn boilers (£24, £33 7s. 6d. and £57 7s. 6d. respectively); No. 1 Loughborough boiler with radiator for garage (£13 12s. 6d. unfixed); No. 2 and 3 Loughborough boilers (£7 2s. 6d and £11 7s. 6d respectively for boilers only unfixed); No. 310a coke crusher, with stand (£3); orchid stage; cucumber frame.

At the time the RHS placed a number of restrictions on horticultural exhibitors. They exhibited under the guise of “Sundries”, defined as “distinctly horticultural in character and may only be displayed in the open air”[3] Exhibitors were permitted to erect their own stands; however subject to prior approval by the Council and on-site supervision by the Meeting Superintendent. No stand was allowed to have a private sitting room or office compartment and no show sign exceeding 2ft. 6ins by 1ft. 6ins. could be exhibited on each 15ft. on stand frontage. No awards were made to Sundries exhibitors as “the Council being of the opinion that they are valueless without practical tests in a garden[4].


1923 – Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Spring Show (Chelsea)

One of the problems exhibitors faced in setting up the stands was that at the time the RHS didn’t have exclusive access to the site until the Friday before the show, which was held from 29th to 31st May, inclusive. The gardens were open to the public until Whit Monday; therefore there was the obvious risk not only of theft but also injury to members of the public, if they started erecting their stand prior to the gardens closing. Along with other exhibitors such as Gray’s of Chelsea, one of their rivals started erecting on Whit Tuesday after the gardens were closed but before RHS had exclusive access.

The firm had the same quantity and type of product catalogues at the show as in the previous year with the exception of only 75 horticultural catalogues and price lists instead of 100.


1923 – Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Spring Show (Chelsea)

The firm regularly advertised in the show guide, normally trying to have their full page advertisement on page 10 or 11. Whether Messenger’s paid a premium for this or whether they had significant influence or just that the RHS were very obliging is unknown.

They were allocated space H, which was a 40ft. by 30ft. located on the west side of the Elm Tree Avenue, for which they were charged £35. The plot which faced the formal gardens, backed onto the main exhibition tent, being immediately adjacent to the entrance into the exhibition tent, thus it appeared to be a prime location for catching visitors entering and exiting the tent. Interesting one of the covering letter from the RHS Secretary Mr. William Rickatson Dykes, stated that access to the plots on Elm Tree Avenue would not be allowed until after Friday, 25th May. However, a team of three, Mr. C Whitman, Mr. G. Bradshaw and Mr. E. Whitman began erecting on Tuesday, 22nd spending 12 hours on site. They worked between 10 and 12 hours every day through to the 30th when Mr. E. Whitman returned to Loughborough. The other two worked dismantling the site until 5th June, when Mr. C. Whitman went to work on another of the firm’s jobs for James Mckelvie of Duckyls Park, East Grinstead, who was having a new conservatory and span-roof forcing house and also having his existing houses painted, leaving Mr. G. Bradshaw to finish off on 6th June. Between 22nd May and 6th June the three had totalled 402 hours between them.

The firm managed to sell a number of their exhibits including the span-roof greenhouse, although most of the exhibits were packed up and sent by London and North Western Railway directly back to their factory sidings in Loughborough. Those items that had been sold were packed up, using the packing cases sent down from Loughborough via their lorry and sent from the showground by the most convenient method, which usually meant by train. The F228 12ft. by 7ft. plant protector was bought by Mrs. O’Hea of Avonside, Barford, Warwick and was sent by Great Western Railway; the F228 8ft. by 7ft. plant protector was sold to Mrs. Ogilvie, The Tea House, Leiston, Suffolk and dispatched using London and North Eastern Railway; a 4ft. by 3ft. violet frame was purchased by Miss Sykes, of Park Crescent, Finchley, North London and sent by Mr. Patterson, a carter; a No. 1 pattern garden seat was sold to Mrs. Scott, of Horeham Grange, Horeham Road Station, Sussex and was dispatched by London Brighton and South Coast Railway; .a No. 5 pattern garden seat was purchased by Mrs. Mackenzie Fairfax and delivered to Hawkhurst Station, Kent by South East Central Railway.

Show enquiries were dealt with in several ways, those that simply requested catalogues or lists were mailed them without any obvious follow-up. Those that required estimates were handled in the normal manner, with those outside of the London office’s jurisdiction being handled by directly by Loughborough. The same was true for any other follow-up that may have been required.



  1. Now a hotel.
  2. Leicestershire Record Office ref: DE2121/51.
  3. Royal Horticultural Society General Regulations for Great Spring Meeting, 1923, regulation 40.
  4. Ibid, regulation 43.