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News release - Issued by Visit York, a part of Make It York

York to celebrate 250 years of oldest florists’ society in world

In celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Ancient Society of York Florists, the oldest florists’ society still in existence in the world, a new festival, Bloom!, is being planned for historic York in 2018. The new four-day festival, from 5-8 July, celebrating horticul-ture and flowers in York, will mark this milestone with events and installations right across the city. The Ancient Society of York Florists is the oldest existing horticultural society, predating any other, with records dating back to 1768, when the society was founded. It is the only society retaining the word 'florists' in its title, which refers back to the time when only florists' flowers were accepted as exhibits - a florist being a person who grew flowers for their beauty and not a seller of cut flowers as it is today.

To highlight the legacy of this unique society, York is digging out its history books and calling on all green-fingered people, creative individuals and businesses in its midst, to help create a festival which will pay homage to York’s horticultural heritage. The festi-val is a partnership project between Make It York and York BID, the BID having provided initial funding for a festival curator.

Lotte Inch, Festival Curator, said: “Bloom! will be a city-wide festival for absolutely everyone. It will be for adults, for children, for hipsters, academics, foodies, style seek-ers and history buffs. For those who love gardening or those who can’t keep a cactus alive as well as for those who wish that they could!”

Steve Brown, Managing Director, Make It York, said: “We’re delighted to be
coordinating this new event with partners across the city. York will become a riot of colour with a series of large-scale, show-stopping installations, smaller floral displays, window dressing competitions, beer garden make-overs and hidden garden open days. We’re keen to hear from anyone interested in helping us to showcase York’s horticultural credentials next year.”

Parks such as York Museum Gardens and West Bank, hotels including Hotel Du Vin, The Principal York and Middlethorpe Hall Hotel and Spa, amongst others, have already signed up to take part. Numerous allotments societies and gardening groups such as Edible York will also be hosting activities and marquees will be put up for workshops, talks and demonstrations from industry professionals.

Other planned events already include story-telling sessions, afternoon tea with a floral twist, garden-themed film screenings and children’s gardening workshops. The festival will also see several projects remaining in situ far beyond the four days.

John Galvin, Secretary of the Ancient Society of York Florists, said: “Bloom! will
recognise and showcase the rich heritage of horticulture in York. Our annual July show will be held for the first time in Parliament Street, showcasing plants and flowers grown by Yorkshire enthusiasts. This will be a brilliant opportunity to tell people about our history, which no other society in the world can match.”

Andrew Lowson, Director, York BID, said: “Bloom! is exciting and it is right and proper we celebrate York as having the oldest horticultural society in the world! We’re committed to helping to enhance floral displays and we plan on using Bloom! to kick-start an initiative that will leave a legacy in the city.”

Mr Brown added: “As an experienced curator and events organiser, Lotte, will be
engaging with residents and businesses in and around York. There’s such a wealth of skills, creative minds, specialist knowledge, gardening teams and horticultural business-es here and we want to involve as many as possible. It will be a festival our city can be proud of.”

Other organisations already supporting the festival include: Askham Bryan College, Castle Howard, English Heritage, York Minster, York’s hotels, restaurants and bars, Shambles Market, York Minster, city of York council, York Museum’s Trust, York Civic Trust, universities and colleges, The Fifth Quarter (Bootham and Gillygate Traders Asso-ciation), Indie York, the Harrogate Flower Festival, the North of England Horticultural Society, York City Centre Churches, the Great Yorkshire Fringe and the York Mediale.

The festival is live on the Aviva Community Fundraising hub and you can help the project get to the final round by voting at The fund offers grants from £1,000 to £25,000 for projects voted for by their local community.

Now is your chance to get involved and anyone who is interested can contact, Lotte Inch, Festival Curator by emailing:


Notes to Editor

York Ancient Society of Florists

Archives from the York Ancient Society of Florists are available for inspection at the Borthwick Institute, University of York. All of the records and minutes are available. The signatories from the very first meeting are available to view.

More than 200 people signed the founding rules of the Ancient Society of York Florists in 1768, including such notable York citizens as the Quaker philanthropist William Tuke, Charles Yarburgh of Heslington Hall, and John and George Telford who ran the celebrated nursery on Tanners Row, York. The first annual show and florists’ feast was held on 20 April 1768 at the Sand Hill Inn on Colliergate (where Barnitt’s lighting department now stands). These annual shows continued to be held at the Sand Hill Inn until 1777. From this date, until 1856, meetings and shows were held at Mr Baynes’ Coffee House on Petergate (now Bella Italia) and at other hotels within the city.

This period witnessed much change, first and foremost, seeing the Society acquire the moniker ‘Ancient’ in 1804. This period also saw an increase in the number of shows held each year and the permitted entries at these saw the introduction of vegetables and fruit into shows. From 1825, an annual subscription of 5 shillings was introduced for members of the society. Over the following decade, the Society continue to expand and the location of its annual shows changed from the Guildhall, to the Yorkshire Museum Gardens and to the De Grey Rooms. After 1983, the principal venue for the Society’s ac-tivities became Kingsway Junior School and later, Askham Bryan College. Today the An-cient Society of York Florists hosts four shows annually in Wiggington recreational hall. 2018 will be the first year on record in which this long-running organization will host its summer show within the heart of the city, in Parliament Square, York.

There are 120 members of the society today. The society has four shows every year: Spring Show in April (daffodiils, tulips, auriculars), the Summer Show (July) (fushias, geraniums, cut flowers, pot plants), baking photography and handicrafts, the Autumn Show (September) (chrysanthemums dahlias, pot plants, cut flowers, gladioli, vegetables and fruit, floral art in every show, the Late Chrsythemum show (Ocotber/November), vegebatbles, pot plants. Shows are held at Wiggington Recreational Hall.

John has a 26 foot greenhouse where he grows cacti and succulents.
A Florists’ Feast will be organized at Bedern Hall York in May 2018 to celebrate the Anniversary. Florists’ feasts were held from the late 1600’s to facilitate a show and carried on up to the formation of the society.

Did you know?

  • York has the oldest florists’ society in the world
  • York once housed the world famous James Backhouse plant nurseries (1815-1955)
  • The herbaceous lupine, Lupinus polyphyllus, arrived in Britain from North
  • America in the 1820s, brought over by David Douglas. Almost a century lat-er, George Russell, a horticulturist from York, started to breed the
  • (later famous) Russell hybrids (Lupinus X russellii hort)
  • Growing in a courtyard garden in the Physics Department at the University of York, is a grafted cutting from an ancient apple tree which still survives in
  • Newton's garden at Woolsthorpe Manor, his birthplace in Lincolnshire. This is the tree from which it is reputed that Newton saw an apple fall in the late sum-mer of 1666 and which caused him to speculate upon the nature of gravitation. The tree was given to us the University of York by Kew Gardens in 1976.
  • York’s Museum Gardens is home to more than 4,500 plants and trees
  • York has over 39 allotment gardens with more than 1250 separate plots
  • York is surrounded by some of the UK’s finest stately homes and gardens, such as Castle Howard, Beningbrough Hall and Burnby Hall and Gardens
  • The Manor House is situated two miles south of York in the beautifully preserved village of Heslington. It is the home of George Smith, the internationally famous flower arrangement artist/horticulturalist and Brian Withill. Built in the mid-eighteenth century, it was converted from an old farmstead in 1947 by the fifth Baron Deramore and his wife Nina, who lived there until 1968. The Manor House garden is open the Month of June by prior appointment through the
  • National Gardens Scheme and privately to garden tours and specialist
  • horticultual groups
  • Sand Hutton, near York, is the base of the Government’s Plant Health Agency
  • York’s Askham Bryan College has one of the best horticulture departments in Britain
  • Goddard’s - This hidden little gem was once the gardens of Noel Goddard Terry, who was part of the famous York chocolate making family. The gardens are de-signed by George Dillistone, and offer beautiful yew-hedged garden rooms, a bowling green, wilderness gardens and plants for every season. The tranquil gardens are a haven for wildlife and are home to one of the few British colonies of midwife toads.
  • Frederick Rowntree designed Rowntree Park as a memorial to the workers of the Rowntree factory who fought in the First World War. It occupies 30 acres on the south bank of the River Ouse, designed around a large lake, with grassland, trees and colourful flowerbeds. The park also offers children’s play areas and sporting facilities such as bowling, tennis courts and a basketball court.
  • With the city walls forming one border, the River Ouse and the Abbey ruins forming two others, York Museum Gardens occupies an idyllic location. The land was originally granted to the Benedictine monks in 1088 on which to build the Abbey of St Mary, and its Early English and Romanesque ruins still dominate the garden.
  • Treemendous York is aiming to plant 50,000 trees in the greater York area
  • York Minster Rose is is a lovely floribunda rose bred to raise money for York
  • Minster. It has beautiful creamy/white blooms tinged with amber.

For further information please contact:

Kay Hyde – Head of PR and Communications – Visit York
Direct Line: 01904 554451
Mobile: 07506 048852

Katie Parsons – Senior Communications Executive – Visit York
Direct Line: 01904 554436

Lotte Inch
Lotte Inch Gallery, Bootham
Tel: 01904 848660

About Make It York
Make It York’s purpose is to develop and promote the city and its surroundings – nation-ally and internationally - as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business. The company’s remit covers leisure and business tourism, city centre man-agement, festivals and events, business support and inward investment.

Visit York is a part of Make It York and is the leisure tourism brand
Under the brand Visit York, Make It York’s aim is to market York as a must-see world-class destination to the leisure visitor and ensure investment to develop the quality of tourism in York.


Key tourism facts:
6.9 million visitors annually, £564 million total visitor spend, supporting 19,000 jobs

About York BID

The York Business Improvement District is:

  • A business led partnership which aims to deliver improvements to the centre of York;
  • Voted in by businesses (in York’s case 76% majority)
  • Not local authority led; schemes and programmes are in addition to services provided by City of York Council
  • Funded by a modest levy which goes into a fund to be spent on improving the centre of York
  • Now one of 200 operational BIDs across the UK including Leeds and Sheffield