Al­lot­ments are us

Black Country Bugle - - YOUR LETTERS - By JOHN WORKMAN

AL­LOT­MENTS have been in ex­is­tence for hun­dreds of years, with ev­i­dence dat­ing back to An­glo-saxon times.

But the al­lot­ments we know of to­day have their roots in the nine­teenth cen­tury, when land was given over to the labour­ing poor for the pro­vi­sion of food grow­ing. This mea­sure was des­per­ately needed as a re­sult of rapid in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion of the coun­try and the com­plete lack of a wel­fare state. The Al­lot­ments Act of 1887 made it pos­si­ble for local au­thor­i­ties to ac­quire land for al­lot­ment use, but be­cause of re­sis­tance at local level the Small­hold­ing and Al­lot­ments Act of 1907 was in­tro­duced to force coun­cils to pro­vide al­lot­ments where there was de­mand.

De­mand

By 1914 there were be­tween 450,000 and 600, 000 al­lot­ments in Eng­land, and fuelled by the First World War and the in­creased need for home­grown pro­duce, by 1917 al­lot­ments to­talled 1.5 mil­lion. As the bat­tle weary sol­diers re­turned home at the end of the hos­til­i­ties the de­mand for al­lot­ments re­mained high, but un­for­tu­nately much of the land that had been req­ui­si­tioned for the grow­ing of food in the war years was re­turned to its orig­i­nal pur­pose, of­ten recre­ational land, and the in­ter­est in al­lot­ments be­gan to de­cline. Mea­sures were taken to pro­tect plot hold­ers and some were of­fered com­pen­sa­tion to va­cate their plots, and ten years af­ter the war had ended there were less that 1 mil­lion al­lot­ments left.

How­ever the out­break of a world war once again changed the sit­u­a­tion. In 1939 there were 819,000 al­lot­ments recorded un­der cul­ti­va­tion, and with the ex­pe­ri­ence of the First World War still fresh in the mem­ory, the na­tional press coined the phrase “Dig for Vic­tory”, a slo­gan soon adopted by the gov­ern­ment. New al­lot­ments were cre­ated wher­ever pos­si­ble, in­clud­ing the Royal parks in Lon­don, and be­cause of the du­ra­tion of the Sec­ond World War al­lot­ments ex­pe­ri­enced a re­nais­sance.

Thanks to John Ash­more who re­sponded to the ar­ti­cle “Work­men of the Black Coun­try” on De­cem­ber 5, we can cel­e­brate those Black Coun­try types who worked the al­lot­ments in our neck of the woods. A pic­ture we showed in the orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle of Dar­las­ton dig­gers tak­ing a rest from the sand pits was in fact the dig­gers at Danger­field Lane al­lot­ments in Dar­las­ton (see im­me­di­ately above). John told us the chim­ney on the left-hand side is the stack at Courts factory who were leather burn­ers.

The pic­ture at the top of the page is also of Danger­field Lane Al­lot­ments Club in Dar­las­ton, prob­a­bly taken at an ear­lier date, a won­der­ful group of fam­ily, friends and neighbours, when keep­ing al­lot­ments was at the height of its pop­u­lar­ity. The pho­to­graph on the left-hand side shows al­lot­ment keep­ers in Wolle­scote show­ing off their prize spuds in what looks like a com­pe­ti­tion with the mayor in at­ten­dance.

Danger­field Lane Al­lot­ment Club, Dar­las­ton, in the early years of the 20th cen­tury

Wolle­scote spud grow­ers show­ing off their prize har­vest

Dig for Vic­tory poster from WW2

Black Coun­try al­lot­ment work­ers

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