Tag Archives: Mockbeggar

Dig for Victory

DSCN2564

Mockbeggar Allotments, brought into use during the Second World War

Reading Museum have just published an online catalogue of over 2,000 objects and images. This includes a topic – ‘Dig For Victory’: Reading Produce Shows and Allotments – with 42 related photographs from the Berkshire Chronicle. Lots of lovely images of allotments and horticultural and garden shows up to the 1950s. If you have read my book ‘Reading Allotments’, you will know that in Chapter 17 I refer to the “Dig for Victory” exhibitions at Reading Museum and Art Gallery in 1940; so it was lovely to see that one of the images in the collection is the model of an allotment that was included in one of those exhibitions.

Previous blog post: World War II here.

note: I was involved in the online catalogue project as a Reading Museum intern.

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Mockbeggar

Mockbeggar Gate

Mockbeggar allotments on leafy Whiteknights Road were previously the kitchen garden of Mockbeggar House. They were offered as allotments soon after the start of the Second World War. The rent requested for the then 147 pole plot was £5 per annum and plots were to be let at £1 per pole.  The Town Clerk promised to give up possession on the 29 September following the end of the War (1). That date (and several others) have come and gone long ago.

The first meeting of the Allotments and Small Holdings Committee after the declaration of war was 2 October 1939 (2). At this meeting, the Town Clerk submitted communications from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries dated 18 and 19 September. These included a copy of the Cultivation of Lands (Allotments) Order 1939. This empowered the council to take possession of land for cultivation. It was also suggested that a Horticulture Committee be set up to encourage food production in allotments and private gardens. They duly resolved to set up a Horticulture sub-committee. In the same meeting, the committee considered and accepted the offer of services to the Corporation of Mr A.J.Cobb FRHS who had been senior lecturer in Horticulture at Reading University. He became the first Horticulture Adviser, but only briefly. Early in 1940 he resigned to Head the Horticultural Department at Seal-Hayne Agricultural College (3). The Horticultural sub-committee continued in existence until 1952 (4).

View of the site

Mockbeggar remains a small compact garden site on gently sloping land. There is only a small gate and no vehicular access. Maps of the area from 1957 show a vast allotment site behind Mockbeggar on what became school playing fields. The surrounding area has been redeveloped recently and the allotments are bordered by a new care home and flats, and has lost some of the “secret garden” feel that it would have had. However it might still be possible to walk past without realising that there were allotments behind the fence.

On the other side of Whiteknights Road is Whiteknights Lake created in the mid-eighteenth century. The lake is situated on the University of Reading Campus, acquired in 1947 (5). There is an earth bank to the dam that is within the allotments and maintained by Reading Borough Council . The potential impact on the safety of the dam by the development of a residential care home next to the allotments in 2008 caused press comment as it appeared to have caused cracks in the road (6).

Gate to the Community Garden

A short distance from the allotments is a community garden on the former paddock of Mockbeggar House. This has been run as a Therapeutic Wildlife Garden by the Ridgeline Trust since 2004 (7).

Mockbeggar Vineyards

One of the tenants had given over the whole plot to vine growing.

I met a kindly occupier who gave me some gherkin seeds for my plot at Waterloo Meadows and they did very well.

Thriving crops

FACT PANEL

 

No. of plots: (9) 21
Full plot equivalent: (9) 10.9
Date allotments established: 1940
Date taken on by Council: 1940
Previous use: Kitchen Garden
Status: (10) Temporary

References:

(1)    Minutes of the Small Holdings and Allotments Committee 19 February 1940 – R/AC1/3/74 (BRO)

(2)    Minutes of the Small Holdings and Allotments Committee 2 October 1939 – R/AC1/3/71 (BRO)

(3)    Minutes of the Small Holdings and Allotments Committee 19 February 1940 – R/AC1/3/74 (BRO)

(4)    Allotments and Small Holdings Committee Minutes – 20 May 1952 – R/AC1/3/12 (BRO)

(5)    Reading University

http://www.reading.ac.uk/about/about-estates.aspx

– accessed 2 March 2012.

(6)    Reading Post, 25 March 2008. http://www.getreading.co.uk/news/s/2024423_development_could_cause_dam_to_break

– accessed 2 March 2012.

(7)    November 2008 Report to the Green City and Open Spaces Forum, 19 November 2008. Allotment Provision and Plan Update. Director of Environment Culture and Sport.

(8)    Ridgeline Trust

http://www.ridgelinetrust.org.uk/progress.html

– accessed  2 March 2012.

(9)    November 2008 Report to the Green City and Open Spaces Forum, 19 November 2008. Allotment Provision and Plan Update. Director of Environment Culture and Sport.

(10)  Reading Borough Council 2005 Allotment Plan.

© Evelyn Williams 2012

PDF version here:

9 Mockbeggar

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