Calne Flower Shows at Bowood, Wiltshire

Bowood House – © Kristopher Harper 2017

Bowood House sometimes referred to as Bowood Park near Calne in Wiltshire hosted the Calne Flower Show for many years and James Lye , gardener to the Hon. Mrs. Hay of Clyffe Hall, Market Lavington was a regular exhibitor at these shows.

The following Marquess’s of Lansdowne owned/occupied Bowood during the years that James would have exhibited.

• Henry Charles, 4th Marquess of Lansdowne (1816–1866)
• Henry Charles Keith, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne (1845–1927) – Viceroy of India from 1888 to 1894
• Henry William Edmund, 6th Marquess of Lansdowne (1872–1936)

The 6th Marquess was keenly interested in the history of the family and the estate and wrote numerous books and papers on subjects relating to the Bowood archives. To date we haven’t been able to arrange a visit to the archives to see what (if any) information they may hold regarding the shows.

During the years when James was exhibiting at Bowood the big house would have still been standing and been a prominent backdrop to the shows (like Chatsworth House is today at the RHS Chatsworth Show). It was the 8th Marquess who made the difficult decision to demolish the big house in 1955.

Bowood House – © (showing the old house)

One show held at Bowood was reported in the Bristol Mercury and Daily Post on the 27th August 1884.

The ‘Open to All England’ tent was of course the great attraction. The first things on entering the tent that struck the eye was the magnificent fuchsias brought by Mr. Lye, gardener to the Hon. Mrs. Hay of Market Lavington.

• Class – Open to All England – Plants – 6 Fuchsias.
1st Prize: Hon. Mrs. Hay, Market Lavington (Gardener, James Lye).

• Class – Open to All England – Plants – 6 Geraniums, Gold, Silver and Bronze.
1st Prize: Hon. Mrs Hay.

• Class – Open to All England – Plants – 6 Petunias.
1st Prize: Hon. Mrs Hay.

• Class – Open to All England – Plants – Specimen.
1st Prize: Hon. Mrs Hay.

Although James Lye is now known for his Fuchsias. He like any Head Gardener of the time would have overseen the growing and exhibiting of a full range of plants, flowers and produce grown in the gardens of their employer.

The report on this show in 1884 shows the conventional way of listing the prize winners by the employer’s name, during those times you didn’t very often see or know the name of the gardener of the household. We are very fortunate that there are a good number of show reports where this convention has not been maintained and the prize winner has been listed as James Lye or Mr. J. Lye (gardener to Hon. Mrs. Hay).

We will be creating a list of all the shows that James was associated with and list this on our website in due course, as well as searching through various local and national newspapers for reports detailing the classes, prizes and if James was a judge at that show (we know he was judging some shows in 1886).

If anyone has any information about the Calne Flower Shows held at Bowood, such as Show Programmes, Entry or Prize Cards, Show Reports, Photographs or has any Cups or Trophy’s, then please do get in touch.

Fact about Bowood House: it contains the former laboratory where Dr Joseph Priestley, a theologian and tutor to the first marquess’s sons, discovered oxygen in 1774.

#calne #wiltshire #harperdebbage #bowood

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