In 1859, with the support of Charles Longley, Bishop of Durham, a group of local miners formally expanded their local vegetable and flower competition into a great national event – the Auckland Flower Show. There was a lot of foresight to expand from an event started as a miners’ competition 8 years earlier. It ran over 3 decades and dwarfed the forerunner of the Chelsea flower show.

The area was proud of its show:

“Auckland has long been celebrated for its flower show which stands unrivalled in the kingdom for its brilliance and magnitude” Teesdale Mercury, September 27, 1871

Professor Stephen Martin of St Chad’s College, Durham and a New Shildon resident is keen to see if there are any more clues in peoples’ attics and shoe boxes.

‘If anyone has any old documents or items to do with Auckland Flower Show do please contact the …..paper….. We would love to have a look at them as we do not want to miss any historical gold dust.’

‘There is hard evidence that, at its peak, the Flower Show had 30,000 visitors to the one-day late summer event. Single prizes were the modern equivalent of thousands of pounds. Judges and competitors came from as far afield as Wiltshire, Manchester and Edinburgh. The railways sponsored Britain’s best bands to travel to perform and that helped them sell tickets at a time when their business was booming.’

As late as 1919 the Teesdale Mercury described the show as ‘mammoth…for many years was the gala day of the North.’

Prof Martin added ‘The music was part of a scene of Auckland-Shildon band culture that was to have international impact in more ways than one.’

‘A group of us from flower, music and history interest groups along with the Councils are keen to research and publish about this and other important local history. The Shildon composers and the Flower Show might be local, but they are of truly international interest. We have just published on Auckland Art in a Chicago-based journal and only last week I was speaking to an American academic on writing about Shildon for a New York-based international Journal. Shildon and Auckland are much more historically significant than we give credit for on an everyday basis.’

To create more awareness of what he sees as a wonderful subject, Prof Martin is doing a public lecture-concert on music and new findings in Jubilee Fields Community Centre, Jubilee Road, Shildon 7-8pm, Wednesday 3 October, 2018. Tickets on the door, open at 6.45pm are £4.00, £2.00 for concessions.

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