Network SouthEast sponsored the first three shows in 1990, 1991 and 1992.
HRH The Princess Royal opens the
Hampton Court Flower show in July 1990.
Chris Green looks on.
In his book ‘The Royal Horticultural Society: a History 1804 - 2004’, Dr. Brent Elliott,
Librarian and Chief Archivist of the RHS, writes:
“The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
was the brainchild of the management
consultant Adrian Boyd, who saw an opportunity to connect in a joint venture
that were facing times of uncertainty. The Department of the Environment
had been dismembered in the 1980s, and one of the cuts was Historic Royal Palaces,
which found itself looking for ways of increasing revenue and attracting a larger
audience. Similarly, Network SouthEast was looking for ways of making its rail services
more profitable. Boyd‘s idea was that Network SouthEast should sponsor a flower show
at Hampton Court, and provide the public transport access”
“The first Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, in July 1990, was quite successful;
special trains were laid on from Waterloo Station, and the staff wore carnations. Even
though there was comparatively little trade support for the show, it was impressively
marketed and drew in crowds. Network SouthEast was pleased: “70 per cent of the
estimated 300,000 visitors used rail and that has paid for our sponsorship many times
However, “In November 1992 came the announcement that Network SouthEast was withdrawing
its support for the show. It was paying £750,000 per annum to sponsor the show, and in
the run-up to privatisation was obliged to jettison all its tangential projects.”
As a result a sealed tender bidding process was set up by the Historic Royal Palaces. The Royal Horticultural
Society won the bid and took over responsibility for future flower shows at Hampton Court.
Network SouthEast and the 1990 to 1992 Flower Shows
Hampton Court station was
given a complete makeover as part of the preparations for the first show in July 1990. An
innovative floral theme was devised for the station buildings and platforms but kept within the
strict corporate Network SouthEast station design guidelines!
In operating terms Network SouthEast decided to run a special timetable to and from
Hampton Court for the duration of the shows. To increase service frequency and train
capacity, a high frequency shuttle service was run between Surbiton and Hampton
Court. While this meant a change of trains for most at Surbiton it did mean that
passengers travelling from stations south of Surbiton had an easy cross platform change
to make the connection, rather than having to travel on to Clapham Junction or
Waterloo. Special stops were put into main line services to and from Portsmouth,
Bournemouth, etc to serve Surbiton. More than 50,000 passengers used the Hampton
Court shuttle service each way on the busiest days, a pretty impressive feat for a
terminus with just two platforms!
In the flower show itself renowned garden designer Lucy Huntington created
spectacular Network SouthEast railway gardens for the 1990 and 1991 events.
The 1991 Show introduced the British Rose Festival, with the joint involvement of the
Royal National Rose Society and the British Rose Growers‘ Association.
The Royal Horticultural Society took over the funding and the running of the show from
July 1993 onwards. While sponsorship is still important, the RHS finance most of the
costs through ticket sales. It has become the largest and most successful annual flower
show in the UK. For further information please see -
Unfortunately the numbers of visitors going to the show by rail to Hampton Court has dwindled compared
with the early days of Network SouthEast sponsorship.