Over Allotments & Leisure Gardeners' Association

Over Allotments
Moss Bank,
Est. 1924

Dempster Cup

The Dempster Challenge Cup

The Dempster Challenge Cup is awarded by the Allotments Committee of Winsford Town Council to the best-kept allotment plot at Over Allotments.

The sterling silver cup was made by Ollivant & Botsford, and hallmarked by the Birmingham assay office in 1924.

The cup was first awarded in 1926 by Winsford Urban District Council, two years after Over Allotments were established, and it has been awarded most years since then. It is Winsford Town Council's oldest community award.

The cup was repaired and fitted with a silver plinth collar in 2013, with room for names to be engraved to the 2030s.

The Dempster Challenge Cup is a barometer of the highs and lows of Over Allotments - see History page for more information. For the fascinating story of Miss Edith Dempster, who donated the cup, see below the Roll of Honour table.

Winsford Town Council - Dempster Challenge Cup
Roll of Honour
Year Winner (number of wins) Year Winner (number of wins) Year Winner (number of wins)
1926 Joseph Bratt 1961 Horace Burgess (2) 1996 Dennis Rhodes (2)
1927 Henry Hitchen (1) 1962 Horace Burgess (3) 1997 Roy Ledwards (2)
1928 James Hardman 1963 William Bickerstaffe 1998 not awarded
1929 Henry Hitchen (2) 1964 Thomas Booth 1999 not awarded
1930 Adam Ikin (1) 1965 William Lever (1) 2000 not awarded
1931 John Done (1) 1966 William Lever (2) 2001 not awarded
1932 Peter Stubbs (1) 1967 William Lever (3) 2002 Robert H. N. Carter (2)
1933 Peter Stubbs (2) 1968 William Lever (4) 2003 William Flynn
1934 Peter Stubbs (3) 1969 William Lever (5) 2004 not awarded
1935 John Done (2) 1970 William Lever (6) 2005 Edward Tomney (1)
1936 Adam Ikin (2) 1971 not awarded 2006 not awarded
1937 John Done (3) 1972 not awarded 2007 not awarded
1938 John Done (4) 1973 not awarded 2008 Peter & Sue O'Brien (1)
1939 John Done (5) 1974 not awarded 2009 John Malam
1940 Dennis Phuler (1) 1975 not awarded 2010 Edward Tomney (2)
1941 Dennis Phuler (2) 1976 not awarded 2011 Peter & Sue O'Brien (2)
1942 Dennis Phuler (3) 1977 not awarded 2012 Rachel Manning (1)
1943 Jack Dutton (1) 1978 Robert H. N. Carter (1) 2013 Kenneth & Julie Nelson (1)
1944 Horace Gilbert 1979 not awarded 2014 Peter & Sue O'Brien (3)
1945 Jack Dutton (2) 1980 William Swift (1) 2015 Kenneth & Julie Nelson (2)
1946 Jack Dutton (3) 1981 Albert Palfreyman (1) 2016 Rachel Manning (2)
1947 Leonard Gilbert 1982 Albert Palfreyman (2) 2017 Fran & Graham Johnson (1)
1948 Jack Dutton (4) 1983 William Swift (2) 2018 Fran & Graham Johnson (2)
1949 Jack Dutton (5) 1984 Dennis Rhodes (1) 2019 Jim & Yvonne Kettle
1950 John Done (6) 1985 William Swift (3) 2020
1951 not awarded 1986 William Swift (4) 2021
1952 not awarded 1987 William Swift (5) 2022
1953 not awarded 1988 William Swift (6) 2023
1954 not awarded 1989 Robert Gooley (1) 2024
1955 Harold Ikin (1) 1990 Robert Gooley (2) 2025
1956 Harold Ikin (2) 1991 William Swift (7) 2026
1957 Jack Dutton (6) 1992 not awarded 2027
1958 Herman Galley 1993 William Swift (8) 2028
1959 Thomas F. Bailey 1994 Eric Frankland 2029
1960 Horace Burgess (1) 1995 Roy Ledwards (1) 2030

Miss Edith Dempster

The cup was the gift of Mrs Edith May Pretty, née Dempster (1883-1942). Edith Dempster was the younger daughter of Robert Dempster JP (1852-1925), a wealthy industrialist from Manchester with interests in the gas and chemical industries. The Dempster family lived at Vale Royal Abbey, Whitegate, near Winsford, which Robert Dempster had leased from Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere, in 1907, while the latter was living in Kenya. Edith remained at Vale Royal Abbey until shortly after her father's death in 1925, when she and her elder sister inherited his estate, valued at more than £500,000 (about £16 million today).

In April 1926, Edith married her long-time suitor Frank Pretty, who had proposed to her every year for fourteen years. He was 48, she was 43. The local newspaper, in announcing the wedding, said of Edith that "… for many years [she has] filled the role of 'bountiful fairy' and her interest in all works of a charitable nature has won for her the highest regard" (Northwich Guardian, 9 April 1926). Edith was one of Britain's first women magistrates, she worked with the Red Cross in Britain and France during World War I, and was involved with the Albert Infirmary, Winsford, along with many other local causes.

In 1926, following her marriage, Edith gave up the lease on Vale Royal and purchased a 500-acre estate at Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge, Suffolk, to be closer to her new husband's business in Ipswich. In that same year, she donated the Dempster Challenge Cup to Winsford UDC.

Edith Dempster's links with Winsford ended in 1926. She left behind the gift of a silver cup for the allotmenteers of Winsford to compete for, but her greatest gift was still to come. In 1938-39, she employed Basil Brown, an archaeologist from Ipswich, to excavate a group of large earthen mounds on her Sutton Hoo estate, from which came the world-famous Sutton Hoo ship and a spectacular collection of 7th century Anglo-Saxon objects which she generously gave to the nation and which are to be seen today in the British Museum, London.

First awarding of the Dempster Challenge Cup
The Northwich Guardian of 30th July 1926 reported the first awarding of the Dempster Challenge Cup as follows:

Over Allotments Inspection
On Friday the inspection took place of the allotments on the north side of the Over Recreation Grounds, which were inaugurated three years ago and now number 55, the work of judging the plots being kindly undertaken by Mr H.W.Bromley, of Vale Royal, and Mr E.W.Pope, of Over Hall, who were much impressed with the improvement which has been brought about by the allotment holders, the evident thoroughness with which they tend their plots, and the friendly rivalry existing among the cultivators. After a painstaking examination of the allotments, which were of a high standard generally, the judges decided the prize-winners as follows:

1. Joseph Bratt, Victoria Terrace
2. Henry Kitchen, Well Street
3. Joseph Hodkinson

As the judges pointed out, the first prize-winning plot was an outstanding one and would fare well with any other in the whole of the district, Mr Bratt fully meriting the challenge cup, which was given by Mrs Frank Pretty. In order to encourage the allotment holders to cultivate flowers as well as vegetables and to improve the appearance of the allotments, a competition for sweet peas was arranged this year and attracted a very good entry, the prizes being donated by Mr Chas. Massey, junior, Mr & Mrs James Rutter, Miss Sally Dodd and Miss Hetherington. These exhibits were nicely staged in one of the huts which dots the grounds, and the prize-winning vases were shown by:

1. Jos Ikin senior
2. J. Ikin junior
3. John Parry

The prizes were afterwards distributed by Mr Chas. Massey JP, in the presence of a large gathering of competitors and members of the general public among whom the decisions of the judges met with common agreement. Mr Hetherington, the secretary of the committee and a pioneer in the scheme for allotments, had the secretarial duties in hand and carried these out with satisfaction.

Tracking down the winners' names
The cup and base are inscribed with the names of its many winners. Winsford Town Council has not kept a record of the winners' full names, so an appeal was made in the Winsford Guardian newspaper in May 2010, and readers got in touch to identify the cup's recipients. One reader got in touch to say that her mother had worked with Miss Edith Dempster in the Red Cross during World War I. Another said the cup had gone missing for several years and was eventually found at an address in Northwich! As names were put to initials, it became clear that the cup that was given by a woman had never been awarded to a woman, though that changed in 2012 when, after 86 years of male domination, Rachel Manning became, as the Winsford Guardian headline put it: "First lady of the allotments".

Miss E. Dempster JP Marriage Northwich Guardian, 9th April 1926
Over Allotments Inspection Northwich Guardian, 30th July 1926
Vale Royal: A History of the Abbey and nearby villages in the ancient Forest of Delamere, edited by Frank A. Latham (privately published, 1993)
The Woman Who Gave us Sutton Hoo, East Anglian Daily Times, 21st December 2006
Mystery of Community Award, Winsford Guardian, 5th May 2010
Cup Mystery Solved, Winsford Guardian, 19th May 2010
Rachel is the first lady of the allotments, Winsford Guardian, 1st August 2012
Repair and polish for Winsford Dempster Challenge Cup, Winsford Guardian, 2nd July 2013