Page 12 - ALG Issue 1 2022
P. 12

                                 the young plotters club
Brief History of Allotments
   Do you know that the site, where you help out at your family’s plot, may have been around for more than a hundred years? Do you ever wonder why allotments were created?
Up until the 18th century most villagers had a right to graze animals and forage on communally owned land
but, from the mid-18th century the practice of enclosing areas of land for private use gained pace. The original system had allowed each village to be self-sufficient, but it was now argued that land enclosure was necessary for the growth and development of the economy and efficient production of food.
This loss of land, followed by poor harvests, the aftermath of the war
with France, rural unemployment and reduced wages for labourers, caused much hardship and resulted in social tension. To alleviate this situation, from the early 19th century onwards, there was sustained growth in the creation
of allotments; sites were created by rural landowners and the Church (although church attendance on a Sunday might have been a condition of tenancy). This initiative was encouraged by the Labourer’s Friend Society (LFS). Established in 1815, the LFS supported and promoted the allotment movement and helped labourers to acquire land. There is some debate about the oldest allotment site but there are several
in Wiltshire that were created around 1800.
During the 19th century, town gardens, that had enclosed spaces with summer houses and lawns, were also being created to cater for the increasing
number of affluent middle-class families who lived in industrialised towns and cities such as Nottingham, Birmingham and Sheffield. These
fell out of favour towards the end of
the century, although some still exist today as traditional vegetable growing allotments rather than a leisure garden e.g., Guinea Gardens in Birmingham and St Annes
Allotments in Nottingham.
Urban allotments rented out to the working classes also began to be created during this period and plot numbers grew from 243,000 in 1873, to 445,000 in 1890, and around 600,000 in 1913. Food shortages during WW1 led to the creation of many more plots and by the end
of 1914 there
were 1,500,000
plots growing
2 million tons
of vegetables on land that had been appropriated for food growing. Many of our member sites were created in this period and have recently celebrated their hundred year anniversaries. Allotments supported many families during the depression after the war but much land was reclaimed and put back to its original purpose; around 819,000 plots remained at the start of WW2. This war led to another rise in allotment
growing, back to WW1 levels and the Dig for Victory Campaign encouraged everyone to grow their own food. Allotments were dug in parks and even the lawns outside the Tower of London.
After WW2, there was a general decline in allotment growing. The way people lived changed, more women worked, used convenience food from packets and tins and land was lost to housing developments. Keen plotholders in
this period took on more than one
plot in an attempt to preserve sites; some growers had 4 plots or 1000 m2. Towards the end of the 20th century, government and environmentalists became concerned and projects were initiated to halt the decline of allotments and encourage more people to grow their own food. There are now around 330,000 allotment plots and very long waiting lists of people who want to take on a plot. New allotment sites are being created, although plots are smaller to cater for people with busy lives. Families garden together and there is much appreciation of the benefits to be gained from allotment life!
               12 Allotment and Leisure Gardener
Image credit: All images reproduced with kind permission from the Garden Museum Collection

   10   11   12   13   14