Tag Archives: Huntley & Palmers

The 3B’s and Allotments

Reading had three industries for which it was famous: the 3B’s of Beer, Bulbs and Biscuits. H&G Simonds (later Courage) Brewery (beer), Suttons Seeds (bulbs) and Huntley & Palmers (biscuits) were major employers and major influences on town life in the nineteenth and twentieth century. The last to leave Reading was the Courage Brewery that closed at the beginning of 2010.

The story of Reading’s allotments would not be complete without a consideration of the part these particular enterprises played in local allotment history (1).

H&G Simonds

Originally in the centre of Reading at Bridge Street, the brewery moved out to a site on the M4 in 1980 (2). Courage Park in Coley Park, was once the brewery sports ground.

Courage Park Bench – perfect!

In 1947, The Hop Leaf Gazette, Simonds in house magazine, carried an item “Allotments for Employees”. It was proposed to let out a piece of land on the sports ground for allotments (3). By December they were able to report, “It was indeed a happy suggestion to hand over about two acres of the Sports Ground to be converted to allotments. This portion of the Sports Ground had laid unused for a considerable time, but it is now turned to a very useful purpose.” Some of the 19, 10 pole plots were already being worked on (4). Maps of the area show the allotments in 1960, but by 1972 they had been built on.

Welcome to Courage Park

Suttons Seeds

Suttons had an influence on Reading allotments in more ways than one. It was a supplier of seeds and plants, garden equipment and growing advice as well as providing allotments for employees.

Suttons had premises in the centre of Reading which grew to cover six acres stretching from The Forbury to Abbey Square with a shop on Market Place. In 1962 everything except the shop moved to the trial grounds at Earley. In 1976 the company moved to Torquay, where it continues. Sentimental and nostalgic Reading allotment holders can still buy Suttons seeds and plants.

Cintra Park today

Land at Cintra for the Suttons Recreation Club was made available by Leonard Goodhart Sutton in 1906. In 1917 land in Northumberland Avenue, was also made available to staff for allotments. Cintra was the venue for the 8th Reading Horticultural Show in 1948 and for several years thereafter.

Cintra Park Avenue of Trees

In 1957, according to L.G.Sutton’s will the land was given to Reading Borough Council  and became Cintra Park (5).

Cintra Park Sign

Huntley & Palmers

Huntley & Palmers biscuit production at the factory in the centre of Reading ceased in 1976; Huntley & Palmers Horticultural Association however continues.

Advertising for Huntley & Palmers Horticultural Association Trading Shed

Frederick Yates, a manager at Huntley & Palmers was a member of the Horticultural Association and chairman for many years retiring in 1989. Huntley and Palmers Social Club were founder members of the Federation of Horticultural and Allotment Associations of Reading when it was formed in 1940 (6). The organisation was part of the Dig for Victory Campaign of World War II, staging the Victory Garden Show (later Reading Show) from 1941. Frederick Yates was chairman of the Reading Show committee from 1943 until 1968 (7).

Culver Lane allotments are the last vestige of Huntley and Palmer’s allotments that once covered a larger area, they are now managed by Earley Town Council. The Huntley & Palmers Horticultural Association has a trading shed on the site where I met the current Chairman and Treasurer (8).

Huntley and Palmers also had allotments on Northumberland Avenue. The Northumberland Avenue allotments were still in existence in 1954, but it was soon expected to be required for housing. The September 1954 issue of Garden Topics, under the heading “RUMOURS” reproduces a letter from the Town Clerk to Huntley & Palmers, saying that land owned by them and used as allotments is not likely to be required before 1960. The piece concludes, “Now we have this assurance we hope that it will be possible to let many of the vacant plots on this site.”(9).

Horticultural Show poster from the 1950s (D/EX1615/8/1). By permission of the Berkshire Record Office (11).

Garden Topics reported in December 1960, that the Huntley & Palmers Horticultural Annual Show that year had been, “…undoubtedly the most successful show to date…”. Show entries were 50% higher than the previous year and 33% above the previous record (10).



(1)    This chapter does little more than scratch the surface of what could be a very fertile area for research into the business and industrial history of Reading.

(2)    H & G Simonds Ltd. The Story of the Bridge Street Brewery, 1785-1980. This is an updated version of “The Road to Worton Grange”, by T.A.B. Corley. It was written by Tony Corley and Raymond Simonds to commemorate the H&G Simonds Kennet Riverside Information Board on 26 February 2009. http://www.simondsfamily.me.uk. accessed 13 October 2012.

(3)    The Hop Leaf Gazette, September 1947.

(4)    The Hop Leaf Gazette, December 1947.

(5)    The main source for the history of Suttons is Suttons Seeds, A History 1806 – 2006, Earley Local History Group. So far it has not been possible to ascertain exactly where the allotments were, but they may have been contiguous with the Recreation Ground.

(6)    The history of the Federation of Horticultural and Allotment Associations of Reading now the Berkshire Horticulture Federation. Notes by Bert Cowland. BRO library.

(7)    Administrative History covering records of Reading Show D/EX1613. (BRO). This includes a memoir written by Frederick Yates daughter.

(8)    I am very grateful to Mr John Snow and Mr Tony Mattingley for sharing their memories with me.

(9)    Garden Topics, September 1954. Reading Library.

(10)  Garden Topics, December 1960. Reading Library.

(11)  D/EX1614/8/1 (BRO). With thanks to the Berkshire Record Office.

© Evelyn Williams 2012

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Allotment Gardens for the Unemployed

 The time when land at Goddard’s Farm was purchased for allotments was one of depression in the economy and considerable unemployment.

Throughout the 1920’s unemployment in Great Britain was above a million reaching almost 2 million in 1930.


1930      1.917

1931      2.630

1932      2.745

1933      2.521

1934      2.159

1935      2.036

1936      1.755

1937      1.484

1938      1.791

1939      1.514

1940      0.963

Thereafter numbers continued to decline and did not exceed 1 million again until 1976 (1).

In Reading according to the 1931 Census, 2,540 men were unemployed and 707 women (2). Huntley & Palmers reduced their workforce in the 1920’s from a post-war peak of 5,000 in September 1919 to 3,500 two years later with a reduced working week (3).

A brief note therefore here of the impact this had on allotment provision in Reading and that this period that sometimes vanishes in the phrase, “between the wars” is worthy of further research. The Allotment Gardens for the Unemployed scheme was started in 1926 in South Wales by the Society of Friends (4).

Reading's 1933 Labour Exchange

The Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act 1931 received Royal Assent on 31 July 1931 but before that, Local Authorities were expected to be aware of the need to provide allotments to those who were unemployed or not in full-time employment. The act was described as “An Act to promote the better utilisation of agricultural land in Great Britain and the settlement of unemployed persons thereon, to amend the law relating to small holdings and allotments, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid.” (5).

The Allotments and Small-holdings committee set up a voluntary committee to carry out the scheme. Reading Allotment Society and Caversham Allotment Holders Association were invited to suggest members who would be willing to sit on the committee (6). At the 17 February 1931 committee meeting the Town Clerk reported that there had been 34 applications for plots and 20 applications for seeds and fertilisers (7). In England and Wales as a whole, it was reported that the cost for the 1931 season as a whole had been £26,000 and 64,000 men had been assisted. The Cabinet Agricultural Policy Committee reported that there would be no funding for the scheme for the following year, but that the Society of Friends had so far raised £15,000 to enable the scheme to continue (8). Interestingly the Agricultural Policy Committee pointed out that the measure was an unemployment, NOT an agricultural measure. Earlier in the year, there had been a request for the Manager of the Employment Exchange in Reading to take up a seat on the Reading Allotments and Small-holdings committee. This request was rejected on the grounds that the limit of co-opted members under the Allotments Act 1922 had already been reached (9).

17 November 1932, a meeting of unemployed men had been held in Abbey Hall. As a result of this meeting the Mayor requested on behalf of the organisers of the meeting – Reading Allotment Society, Toc H and Society of Friends who were working with the Allotment Gardens for the Unemployed Central Committee if there was any corporation land that could be let (10). It was thought that an unused portion of Hill Top allotments (in Tilehurst) could be offered, although this evaporated early in 1933 when the landowner gave the Corporation notice to quit (11). Later in the same month, the committee was informed that almost all the requirement could be met on existing sites.

A new Labour Exchange on South Street was opened on 17 July 1933, having previously been situated on London Street. Immediately recognisable to some as a Labour Exchange, the building now houses the South Street Arts Centre (12).

The Employers Entrance now the main entrance to South Street Art's Centre

Pressure from the Allotment Gardens for the Unemployed Central Committee continued into 1935. In 1936 the Committee was concerned about security of tenure and worked with the Friends Allotment Committee and National Allotments Society Limited (13). Security of tenure is a theme that recurs as an allotment holders’ concern on a regular basis.

Unemployment was still a national problem in 1936. 620 unemployed Welsh miners stopped in Reading on their way to London on 2 November, sleeping at the Cattle Market (14).


(1)    The Longman Handbook of Modern British History 1714-1995, Chris Cook & John Stevenson. Data comes from various sources.

(2)    A Vision of Britain Through Time accessed 7 February 2012.


(3)    Huntley & Palmers Collection accessed 7 February 2012.


(4)    Allotment Gardens: A Reflection of History, Heritage, Community and Self, Lesley Acton, UCL Institute of Archaeology, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/pia.379. Accessed 6 February 2012.

(5)    Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act 1931

(6)    Allotments and Small-holdings Committee, Minutes 17 February 1931 – R/AC1/3/47 (BRO)

(7)    Allotments and Small-holdings Committee, Minutes 17 February 1931 – R/AC1/3/47 (BRO)

(8)    Cabinet Committee on Agricultural Policy 10 December 1931 – CAB/24/227 (National Archives)

(9)    Allotments and Small-holdings Committee, 16 March 1931 – R/AC1/3/47 (BRO)

(10)  Reported in Allotments and Small-holdings Committee Minutes, 12 December 1932 – R/AC1/3/53.

(11)  Allotments and Small-holdings Committee Minutes, 7 February 1933 – R/AC1/3/53 (BRO).

(12)  The South Street Labour Exchange, Reading’s working people and their stories. Project Coordinators: Sabina Netherclift and Cassie Friend.

The twenty-page community history, “The Labour Exchange Project” produced in 2011, is a work of art.

(13)  Allotments and Small-holdings Committee Minutes, 14 September 1936 – R/AC1/3/62 (BRO).

(14)  Berkshire Chronicle report, referred to in (12) above.

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7 Allotment Gardens for the Unemployed

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