Victorian flower show recreated at Stonehenge with more than 5,000 dahlias 

Dahlia flower farmer Andie McDowell arranges blooms in a spectacular display at Stonehenge Credit: PA

More than 5,000 dahlias have gone on display at Stonehenge in homage to Victorian flower shows that used to be held at the historic monument.

The Stonehenge Dahlia shows used to be held between 1842 and 1845 and attracted crowds of up to 10,000 people.

At the time, the flowers were highly fashionable so people flocked to see them, as well as enjoy a game of cricket and live music. 

Dahlia shows were held for four years until the event moved elsewhere. Now 180 years on and it’s back from Friday 29 September until Sunday 1 October.  

The British-grown dahlias, from Oxford, arrived on Tuesday 26 September and have been arranged into sculptures and a flower meadow. 

Dahlia flower farmer Andie McDowell is one of the people involved Credit: PA

There is also a traditional flower show at the site’s visitor centre, featuring dahlias grown by local members of the National Dahlia Society. 

One of the dahlias will be crowned the Hero of Stonehenge, in homage to a winning flower of the same title in 1842 which is now out of cultivation.

Louise Crawley, landscape historian at English Heritage, said the flower shows highlight how Stonehenge played a big part in people’s lives at the time. 

She said: “Stonehenge has a much longer afterlife. It is still the background to people’s lives all the way through.

“At that time, Stonehenge wasn’t a tourist attraction. You wouldn’t get hordes and hordes of people coming to visit.

“It was one of the main carriage routes and a local landmark but no more than that. As the dahlia shows turn up, more and more people turn up.

“You could argue that is part of the beginning of tourism at Stonehenge.”

Historians used local newspaper cuttings from the 19th century to find out more about the shows. 

In September 1842, the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette described that year’s show at Stonehenge.

It reported: “Such a scene of gaiety was never before witnessed on Salisbury Plain … Parties of gentlemen and elegantly dressed ladies were scattered about in all directions.”

Arthur Parkinson, a gardening writer, said: “I am so excited that English Heritage has decided to tell the story of the Stonehenge dahlia shows of the 1840s, and cannot wait to see which locally grown flower will be crowned the new Hero of Stonehenge.”