Auricula and Primula Society (North), National
From the early years of the 17th Century there have been shows for florist flowers including Auriculas. The early shows were held in public houses and often there would be a florist feast and a fair amount of alcohol would be consumed. It was good to tell that these early florists lacked the feminine influence that keeps us a respectable society today.
The National Auricula Society was founded in 1872-73. With the support of the Manchester Botanical Council the first revived exhibition of the National Auricula Society was held on Tuesday the 29th of April 1873.The prizes at the first show were of cash and appear to have been extremely generous. Class A for six dissimilar show varieties, one at least in each of the classes Green, Grey, White Edged and Self had a first prize of 60s (£3.00) In the single plant classes the premium prize was 10s (50p) and first prize was 8s (40p), even those prizes would be more than most people could earn in a week. The fact that only subscribers of over 10s could enter the multi pot classes tells us that the early members must have been comparatively wealthy. In fact they were often manufacturers and professional gentlemen, ladies were still absent.
In 1890 it was resolved that supports i.e. staking would be allowed in all classes but packing in the truss was not to be allowed. 1903 saw the first printed Annual Report of the society. In 1912 three cups were purchased, one each for Show Auriculas, Alpine Auriculas and Gold Laced Polyanthus, together with three medals and a die the total cost was £18-8-3d.
During the First World War the society continued as normal and had a Victory Show in 1919. There was a class for a box of Primula species or hybrids arranged for effect introduced in 1922. The box had to be 36” x 18”. Around that time it was decided to award silver spoons for Premier Plants. Between the two world wars the society went through a difficult period due to the deaths of several prominent members and a general lack of interest in florist flowers. In 1932 the members were advised that the society had only £12 in the bank. Various ideas were discussed to try to generate interest and in 1935 classes for Alpine plants were introduced. In the 1930 there were classes for 24 Show Auriculas and 24 Alpine Auriculas. The 1940 show was the last to be held until the end of the Second World War, the 1941 show had to be cancelled due to the Coal Exchange where it was to held being destroyed by enemy action. Small shows were held in the Mitre Hotel in Manchester during the war. The present day committee still has its meetings there.
The post war period saw the beginning of a revival which continues to the present time. Primulas were being shown in increasing numbers but sadly Gold Laced Polyanthus continued to decline. The word Primula was added to the society title in 1948 and we became The National Auricula and Primula Society (Northern Section). In 1954 the rules were altered to make a standard subscription of 10s for all members, not many societies can claim to have held the same subscription for eighty one years. In 1960 the society again began to present Medals for Premier plants. 1973 saw the society put on its first display at Harrogate Spring Flower Show, this has now become a tradition and has resulted in the recruitment of many new members. 1976 saw the society’s first Primula Show which was held in Bradford. More recently local groups of members have been formed to meet throughout the year. The North East Group has a well established Auricula show, which is held at Newbottle Tyne and Wear.
It is pleasing to report that Gold Laced Polyanthus seem to be making a come back In recent years with a number of members growing and showing them now, new strains are being produced and seed is in demand once again. It is good to see them grace the show benches at our shows once more.
Any photographs not credited were taken by T Mitchell