The society was founded in 1860 and continued as an active society through the remainder of the 19th century. The Rev. Rashdall, vicar of Dawlish 1864-69 records in his diary attending several meetings and at least one produce show. By 1884 the annual summer exhibition had become an important social function as can be seen in these extracts from a notice in the July 31st issue of Westcott’s Local Press.
‘President Rev. J A Bullen, Vice-Presidents P M Hoare Esq., Lt. Col. Savile, ‘
‘By permission of the Commanding Officer, the Band and Pipers of the 74th Highland Lt. Infantry (38 performers) will attend. Ladies and Gentlemen are solicited to send plants, fruit etc. for decorative purposes.’
‘Subscribers of £1 will receive 8 tickets of admission 4 of 10/-, 3 of 7/6, 2 of 5/- and 1 of 2/6.’
In 1882, it was decided that in addition to the summer show, there would also be an autumn exhibition of flowers, fruit and vegetables, the proceeds to given to the funds of the Horticultural and Cottage Garden Society. By 1899 the 15th Chrysanthemum had six classes devoted to Chrysanthemums as well as apples, pears, grapes, tomatoes, potatoes and baskets of flowers.
In 1886 the Dawlish Horticultural and Cottage Garden Society, as it then was, held its 23rd Annual Exhibition on the front lawns of Luscombe Castle. Among the many awards, prizes for collections of vegetables were given to ‘cottagers earning not more than 15 shillings a week’. The Craft section included at least 3 classes for ‘knitted stockings’ as well as one for ‘knitting by infants’.
The Society continued for the next 100 years but by the early 1990s was under imminent threat of being wound up.Although financially stable with a membership of 45-50, no volunteers for the Management Committee could be found. The society was saved at the very last minute when the former town mayor Clr June Collis volunteered her services as Chairman. Her offer encouraged other members to volunteer and the moves to dissolve the society were dropped.