At the meeting of Whitworth Town Council on 21 November 2019, the Town Council voted to bestow the title of Honorary Townsman of Whitworth on Mrs Anita Farrow. The occasion was due to be marked with a celebratory dinner on Saturday 28th March 2020 but the Coronavirus Pandemic put a stop to the plans temporarily.
Finally on Saturday 8th May 2021, the Mayor of Whitworth was able to present the award to Anita following government guidance and plans are now on hold for a celebratory dinner when it is safe to be held.
The nomination was made by Councillor Jim Mellor, who explained “Anita has given excellent service to Whitworth, as a member Whitworth Amateur Dramatic Society for over 50 years, during that time she has served in every capacity but is currently the president. Anita has also served the community by leading the Horticultural Society. Anita joined the Horticultural Society in the days when there were regular gardening shows and was the driving force in obtaining funds for the restoration of the memorial gardens and getting the roadside planters built.”
Anita was awarded the Jeff Ogden service to the community award in 2012 and 2019 Women of Whitworth lifetime achievement award. This is a prestigious accolade and the highest award the Town Council are able to give and he cannot think of anyone that is more deserving. To make the award even more special, Anita will be the first female recipient of the award.
The first Honorary Townsman of Whitworth was Herr Oskar Böhm from Kandel, Whitworth’s twin German town, who received the award in 1980; the most recent recipient was Councillor Tom Aldred, who was honored in 2012. The recipients have all been nominated for the award for their services to the Whitworth community, and a Roll of Honour can be found on display in the Council Chambers in the Whitworth Town Council offices at Whitworth Civic Hall (The Riverside).
Whitworth Vale Floral and Horticultural Society was established at a Meeting held at the Half-way House Inn, Facit on 12th July I874. It was established 'with a view to the encouragement of Horticulture and Floriculture. and the attainment by all classes of an improved taste for, and an increased acquaintance with, the principles of Floral and Horticultural Gardening'.
The first records available for Healey Horticultural Society are of a meeting held on 17th November 1917. At that time they held monthly shows in addition to spring and autumn ones. It would appear that they had been in existence before then, as they held their Annual Party at 'The Headquarters on the 2nd Saturday in December 1917 at 5 o'clock, charging 1/3d each'.
Members donated the following supplies : 'W.J. Smith' - 3 rabbits, 5lbs potatoes, 3 red cabbages and 6 sticks of celery; ' J. Wild '- 5lbs of beef; 'E. Darlington' - 4lbs of potatoes; 'T. Mills' - 4lbs breast of mutton; 'J. Higginbotham' - 1/2 lb suet. The 1918 party was held in December at the Oxford Hotel.
Their meetings and shows moved to Healey Conservative Club in February 1920, where they stayed until the two Societies merged in January 1975. There is a minute book recording all the meetings held by the Healey Society from November 1917 to February 1956 with a break from April 1940 to October 1945. The joint records are held from January 1975 up to 2020. There are no early records for the Whitworth Society, but their shows were held at Whitworth Conservative Club. (Anita remembers going there with her Mother). There are also old schedules for each Society - 1951 -1973 for Healey and 1962 - 1965 for Whitworth. Minutes of meetings and accounts have been preserved from 1975.
In the early years, two shows were held each year and it was in 1985 that Anita began her association with the Society, assisting the then treasurer, F.W. Walker. The Committee decided that in 1986 and in future, there would only be one show. At this point, Anita was asked to be Treasurer of the Society.
These shows were staged over three days in September, when the old Civic Hall was buzzing with activity . The growers were the first to arrive with the produce they wished to display prior to judging. There were 77 classes consisting of flowers, vegetables, fruit and plants, each one having 3 prizes of a monetary nature with 41 cups and trophies also available. These were loaned to the winners for a year. R.H.S. prize cards were also awarded to the winning entries. (Just like the ones we see at Chelsea every year). The next group to arrive on Saturday morning were the judges all who were qualified experts in their own fields and were very careful and thorough in their examination of all the entries. Whilst this was taking place none of the growers could be in the hall. As you can imagine, once they were allowed to return, there were lots of discussions - not always friendly! as to whether the right people had been awarded prizes. The lounge, by the side of the main hall, was filled with children's exhibits, several baking, jams and handicraft items - again with appropriate trophies and money awarded to the winning entries.
Members of the public were allowed to visit the for the rest of Saturday until early evening, and again on Sunday afternoon and evening when prizes were distributed and an auction took place when all the exhibits were sold. These sales along with subscriptions financed the shows and allowed the society to make a very generous donation to Cancer Research in 2020.
From 1986, successful shows were held until the old Civic Hall was destroyed by fire. They then held just two shows at Hallfold Church Hall but these were not well attended, either by growers or members of the public. It was decided that it wasn't really sensible to try to continue and they should explore new avenues.
Once the new Civic Hall was opened, Ruth of Seasons did several flower display events for the society and they visited interesting gardens and stately homes in 'summertime.' The society also got involved with taking care of the planters throughout Whitworth and with other sites in the valley. By this time, they had an additional group of helpers - most of whom stayed with the society all the way through the Memorial Garden and Bowling Green bed development and many years of maintenance after this.
It was in autumn 2009 when the Horticultural Society planted the rose beds. David Austin supplied these at a massively discounted price - £316.83 for seventy plants of three different varieties (the price for his roses can be over £20 each). Tamzin Percival, who worked for Rossendale B.C. supported all through the re-development, provided the two yew trees that stand at the top of the rose beds.
The group won a Pride in Rossendale award for their work in the Memorial Garden. They also looked at the bowling green bed with plans to replant that when they could.
After discovering that the new railings at Queens Park, Heywood had been replaced with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Anita arranged to view all the improvements there with the Park Manager
It was at this time that she started to look at more improvements - quite a lot of the old rhododendrons needed clearing, the railings which had been taken away during the Second World War should be replaced and a hard paved area for the band on Remembrance Sunday needed to be provided. With the help of Tamzin Percival and Nick Reddop, both from Rossendale B.C., they were encouraged to look for larger grants. In addition to grants from Whitworth Town Council, Rossendale Borough Council, Lancashire County Council and donations from 'various Mayors' Charity Funds', they were successful in obtaining a grant from Community Spaces (part of Lottery Funds) of £56,150.00 when all the work and opening event had taken place. Local people were also invited to sponsor a tree or bench in memory of a family member.
The refurbished gardens were opened on 20th May 2012 - a wonderful achievement for all concerned.
The Horticultural Society continued to care for all the gardens close to The Riverside and the Memorial Garden until the end of 2019, when they decided that it was just getting too much and as they could not encourage additional help, would have to wind up the Society. This was not an easy decision after such a long history. The society are however, hopeful that the newly formed Whitworth in Bloom group will be willing to take on some of the maintenance with some help from members who still wish to be involved, with the understanding that they are not as mobile as they used to be.
The society's constitution stated that if they ever had to close the Society down any funds should go to a local charity. Anita passed on £3634.89 to the Whitworth Cancer Research committee, who have given it to the Pattison Institute at the Christie Hospital, where it will help to finance research into cancer treatments and hopefully cures.
The majority of trophies and cups have now been returned to the families of the donors where possible. There were no means of tracing those of Sir Harold Sutcliffe and Sir Joel Barnett and since they both served as Whitworth's Members of Parliament when it was part of the Heywood and Royton Constituency, and Whitworth had an Urban District Council, they are part of our history and it was decided that they should be put on display in the Council Chamber. There was one silver cup which we were unable to find any trace of the family of the donor, and so we sold this for £150.00 and this was also donated to the Whitworh Cancer Research committee. The Annie Heyworth Memorial Bowl is often in use by the Riverside and can be seen on the desk in their reception area.
Anita says "It is now time for us to walk away from something we enjoyed doing and which we very firmly believe has been beneficial to Whitworth and its residents. Thank you to everyone who has been part of our gardening group since 2012.
It is intended that a selection of documents, photographs and memorabilia held by me will eventually be displayed at The Riverside, when this is allowed. It is planned for them to then be passed on to the Museum to be preserved as part of the history of Whitworth. This should be of interest to the many Whitworth residents, who have supported our efforts over the years."
K. Anita Farrow (Hon. Treasurer for 34 years)
All are welcome to join the celebration and support Anita by attending the dinner. The dinner will be rescheduled once we are confident we can make plans safely and without the need to postpone. For further information, please contact Melanie Hearn, Clerk of Whitworth Town Council on 01706 852018 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.