Tag Archives: reading allotments

Pylons on Allotments

Waterloo Meadows Pylon

Waterloo Meadows Pylon

Yesterday (9 April 2015) a new style of pylon, the T pylon, was launched. Apparently it is the first new design in 90 years and you can see it in Nottinghamshire (1). Waterloo Meadows allotments has a wonderful pylon, that has been there since 1963. As an allotment feature it is not unique. In recently published book, ‘Growing Space – a history of the allotment movement’, Lesley Acton mentions Waterloo Meadows and also London sites Wanstead Park Road, Thornton Road and Leyes Road (2).

If you google ‘Pylons on Allotments’, there are lots of lovely images of pylons on allotments (including from this blog). I also discovered ‘Pylon Allotments’ a new site in West Sussex. Must be worth a visit for pylon and allotment lovers.


(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32225276 – accessed 10.4.15

(2) Acton, Lesley. Growing Space – a history of the allotment movement. p141.

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Digging Around

Medway Allotments, with the uniform sheds provided on some Reading Allotments.

Meadway Allotments, with the uniform sheds provided on some Reading Allotments.

I stumbled on the Library of Birmingham, ‘Digging Around’ project a while back.

According to their website, ‘”Digging Around” offers you a glimpse of the allotment project funded by the Centre for Sustainability and Innovation at Aston University. This was developed in conjunction with staff from Birmingham Libraries and Archives and Dr John Blewitt, using many of the Central Library’s impressive archive collections.’

Some lovely photographs and press cuttings covering Birmingham’s allotment history and Birmingham’s place in British allotment history, including a section on Professor Harry Thorpe, and his influential report.




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Dig for Victory


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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Implementation of the 1908 Act in Reading

THE TRIALS OF AN ALLOTMENT HOLDER Ever increasing interest in the pursuit of gardening i seeing taken in Reading and the neighbourhood, but anxiety to help one another is sometimes so great that unpleasantness often ensues. Berkshire Chronicle 20 March 1909. Copyright: Berkshire Chronicle. Reproduced with permission.

Ever increasing interest in the pursuit of gardening is being taken in Reading and the neighbourhood, but anxiety to help one another is sometimes so great that unpleasantness often ensues.
Berkshire Chronicle 20 March 1909.
Copyright: Berkshire Chronicle. Reproduced with permission.

I have been researching Reading’s allotments in the early twentieth century from the time of the implementation of the 1908 Small-Holdings and Allotments Act. This caused a flurry of reports in the Berkshire Chronicle and an amusing cartoon.

I can’t say that I have ever suffered as this allotment holder did, but I may need to implement the advice in picture 4!

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“Reading Allotments” – NEWS

I have started to work on an expanded edition (or maybe a second volume ?) of “Reading Allotments”.

Initially this will include some new research on the 1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act and World War I in Reading.

“Reading Allotments” concentrated on the allotments of today, or the recent past such as Cow Lane. There were many other sites in Reading that no longer exist which I will be investigating, including large sites such as Manor Farm.

Yesterday was the official start of this new project as I returned to the dizzy heights of Reading Library Local Studies Section to pore over microfilms of the Berkshire Chronicle for this period.

“Reading Allotments” is free to download for iPad from the iTunes store.


Reading Central Library

Reading Central Library

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Royal Agricultural Show – Henley Road Allotments

Royal Agricultural Show 1926

Royal Agricultural Show 1926

I discovered this photo on the English Heritage site “Britain from Above” (1) . It shows the site of the Royal Agricultural Show held in Reading in 1926.  The area that became Henley Road Allotments is in the top left hand corner of the image.

There are other images on the show on the site but usefully this one has the same orientation as the plan in the Show Programme, below.

The Implement Yard The 1926 plans of the show are copyright of Royal Agricutural Society of England and reproduced with their permission.

The Implement Yard
The 1926 plans of the show are copyright of Royal Agricutural Society of England and reproduced with their permission.

Comparing the two, the large tents in the image can be identified as the Flower Show. Next to these is the “Reserved Area”. This currently forms the centre of Reading Cemetery in Caversham.

There is a wider aerofilms shot too from a similar angle.

A  wider view of Royal Agricultural Show Caversham Park 1926

A wider view of Royal Agricultural Show Caversham Park 1926

You can find the original Henley Road Allotments Post here:



(1)  www.britainfromabove.org.uk. The digitised photos are from the years 1919-1953.

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Reading Allotments now available in iTunes


Waterloo Meadows

Waterloo Meadows

You can now download Reading Allotments the book free from iTunes.

Search on “Reading Allotments”.

The dust jacket says:

“Reading Allotments is a photobook and social history of the allotment in Reading, Berkshire, UK.

In chapters devoted to current allotment sites and key historic events, the book documents the history of allotments in the town over the last 100 years. 

The book is illustrated with more than a hundred colour photographs of allotments taken by the author, archive photographs and images.

Reading Allotments will be of interest to allotment holders, social and local historians and those who appreciate the beauty of this iconic feature of the landscape.”


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Circuit Lane

Circuit Lane Gate

It is quite clear that dogs are not allowed here.

The character of this site is determined by the number of structures that the tenants have erected. There are not just sheds, but many small greenhouses.

This site is behind the houses on Circuit Lane, Southcote Lane and Fawley Road. It first appears on maps in 1960. Circuit Lane is an old road sloping gently down past Southcote Manor to the Kennet. Most of the houses round here were not built until the 1950s. Before that there were allotments close by on the Bath Road in 1932 and several small gravel pits are shown in the area on 1932 and 1910 maps (1).

Productive Plots

On the opposite side of the Bath Road to the north of the site is Prospect Park. Prospect Park has been owned by Reading Borough Council since 1902 (2). During the war, a large area was taken over for use as allotments as part of the “Dig for Victory” campaign. Statistics from 1948, show that there were 274 plots, with 245 tenants. The difference of 29, being made up by plots unsuitable because of trees or being used for air raid shelters (3). At this time, Prospect Park Allotment Association ceased and the park returned to normal use (4). The park is the biggest in Reading and home to Reading Borough Council Parks Department.

View across the site

This is one of Southcote’s three allotment sites, five times bigger than Ashampstead Road and two-thirds the size of Lower Southcote.


No. of plots: (5) 51
Full plot equivalent: (5) 32.7
Date allotments established: pre-1960
Date taken on by Council: pre-1960
Previous use: gravel pits / open land
Status: (6) Temporary


(1)    Southcote Local Studies Pack, compiled by Alan Hankin. Reading Library, Local Studies Collection.

(2)    Prospect Park Management Plan. http://www.reading.gov.uk/leisureandvisitors/ParksandOpenSpaces/ProspectPark/prospect-park-management-plans. Accessed 2.11.12.

(3)    Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 19 April 1948. R/AC1/3/98. (BRO)

(4)    Garden Notes. Reading Horticultural Federation. January 1950. Reading Library, Local Studies Collection.

(5)    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.

(6)    Reading Borough Council 2005 Allotment Plan.

PDF version 29 Circuit Lane

© Evelyn Williams 2012

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Meadway Gate

Meadway is well tended and managed, hardly a hair out of place. It is an almost perfect allotment site surrounded by flats and houses.

On this site are some sheds that were built on many of the sites; minutes of post war council meetings are littered with this kind of “modern” improvement although they do not always survive (1). It was also the sort of improvement that the Reading Horticultural Federation lobbied for after World War II and set out in its monthly newsletter “Garden Topics” (2).

Sheds at Meadway Allotments

The cost of a shed was proposed in 1949 as £1 15s 4d (£1.76), reduced after consultation with Reading Horticultural Federation to £1 (3).

In the EDITORIAL of the July 1949 issue of Garden Topics:

“At this juncture it would be well to state how we desire permanent allotments laid out. We want wide roads, properly surfaced, giving access to all parts of the ground. Along these roads ornamental fruit trees should be planted. Water should be readily and easily available for each plot-holder. Huts each built on the same plan, arranged in groups to harmonise with the landscape should be provided to be let at reasonable rentals. There should be plots of five poles and ten poles, so that a holder could have ten poles for vegetables and five for fruit if he so desired.

These amenities would set a standard which would encourage good gardening. They would change allotments into gardens and as such would be enjoyed not only by the gardener but by his wife and family.

Such gardens would be a delight and would redound to the credit of the town.” (4)

Well tended

A new post-war vision of the future of allotments would play out at a local and national level through to the seventies following the production of the Thorpe Report in 1969 (5).

Meadway Allotments first appear on maps in 1961.

Central path at Meadway


No. of plots: (6) 29
Full plot equivalent: (6) 16.5
Date allotments established: pre-1961
Date taken on by Council: pre-1961
Previous use: Openland / farmland
Status: (7) Temporary


(1)    For example there was discussion of providing a standard type of shed in September 1949. Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 19 September 1949. R/AC1/3/103. (BRO). They were to be erected at Lower Southcote. Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 17 October 1949. R/AC1/3/103. (BRO).

(2)    Garden Topics. July 1949. Reading Library, Local Studies Collection.

(3)    21 November 1949, Minutes of Allotments and Small Holdings Committee. R/AC1/3/103. (BRO)

(4)    November 1949, Garden Topics. Reading Horticultural Federation. Reading Library Local Studies Collection.

(5)    Departmental Committee of Inquiry into Allotments. Report dated October 1969, often referred to as the Thorpe Report.

(6)    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.

(7)    Reading Borough Council 2005 Allotment Plan.

© Evelyn Williams 2012

PDF version: 28 Meadway

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Reading Allotment Rules

The sign at Newcastle Road Allotments

I have a tenancy agreement with Reading Borough Council for my allotment. This agreement sets out my responsibilities as a tenant and the council’s responsibilities as my landlord. It also deals with when rents are due, how and when notice is to be given by either party, and grounds for termination of the agreement. The legislation governing the agreement is The Allotment Acts 1908-1950.

Taking the framework of rules used by Robert Ruegg, which forms a chapter in “Breaking New Ground” (1), an analysis of current rules and the Reading 1908 rules (produced in 1910) was carried out (2). In Ruegg’s framework, the rules fell under three headings, Administrative, Practical and Behavioural.

The 110 sets of 19th century rules and agreements analysed by several contributors were largely from the middle decades of the nineteenth century (3). The latest were two sets dated 1873 (Upwood Field Allotments and Saxtead Allotments) (4) another “pre-1879” Brixton Deverill (5); the earliest 1825 (Balsham Allotments) (6). The agreements were from a wide variety of landlords and a wide geographical spread. The analysis included two sets of rules from Berkshire (Windsor and Wargrave) and three from Oxfordshire (Shotover Park and Finmere at two different dates).

The framework of rules holds good over almost two centuries. The basic requirements of the relationship between allotment tenant and allotment landlord are simple and clear.  Conclusions that can be drawn from the data are that the current rules show a strong similarity to those of 1910 (a century ago). This is primarily because the legal framework for the letting of allotments by local authorities at the beginning of the twentieth century, starting with the 1908 Allotments Act, did not include the “behavioural rules” that were incorporated into many of the earlier agreements.  These were from a very diverse private and public, landlord or manager base in a different cultural and economic environment (7). Nevertheless, at a detailed level they give a very interesting picture of earlier allotment history and the timeline to today’s allotments.

Chart 1. Rules Framework, frequency distribution from analysis of 110 sets of rules.

Ruegg, Robert (2010) ‘Allotment Rules’ p157, in Burchardt, J & Cooper, J (Eds) Breaking New Ground: Nineteenth century allotments from local sources, 2010, FACHRS.

The 1908 Act repealed and consolidated previous allotment legislation. The Act restricted the eligibility criteria for local authority allotments to “the labouring population”. This criteria appears in the 1910 rules but the wording was removed by the post World War I Land Settlement (Facilities) Act 1919. The removal of this restriction is a fundamental and modernising change in public allotment provision.

Developments in Reading council rules over time include the inclusion of new rules in the “other” category of the requirement to display the allotment number and a ban on the use of hoses and sprinklers. Some of these rules appear on the signs at allotment gates, but the pattern is not universal.

Restrictions on use of my allotment are minimal except in relation to buildings and livestock. The erection of sheds is allowed on application. It should not be used for anything not connected with the allotment and in particular, “..the Tenant shall not store any motor vehicle thereon.” Keeping of livestock is again on application and restricted. In relation to both these restrictions policy has shifted over time.

In the 1910 rules, application was only required for erecting any building except a “…summer-house, a tool-house or a pigsty.”. In reviewing committee minutes, there was an example of application for permission to park a car in a shed on Goddard’s Farm allotments. This was deliberated on, permission given and a charge of 5s (25p) a week was decided on, only for the application to be withdrawn (8). In the late sixties the committee rejected a request to provide car parking spaces “for the residents of the neighbourhood” at Scours Lane (9). Given Reading’s parking problems it is probably just as well that this is prohibited.

In 1950 the committee restricted pig keeping. Where the land was suitable for cultivation, a pigsty for a maximum of four pigs only would be allowed (10). Two years later, pigs were only allowed on selected allotments of which Bulmershe is the only one remaining (11). In 1965 only one plot per person was allowed for pigs or chickens, on Caversham “C”, Bulmershe or “land unsuitable for any other purpose” (12). The current rules include a limit on the number of chickens that can be kept and in any case the keeping of pigs, chickens and rabbits requires the permission of the Head of Leisure.

There is a requirement and expectation that an allotment is for the personal use of the allotment holder and family and not to be run as a business enterprise. Hence, there are rules on “no underletting” of the plot and the 1910 rules did not allow use as a market garden. Reading rules are silent on the sale of produce. In 1998 a select committee recommended that rules on selling produce be considered on a site by site basis (13). Commercial exploitation does not seem in keeping with the allotment ethos, but an active debate is taking place on this topic (14).

Because of the increase in demand, Reading Borough Council in 2008, limited the number of plots that an individual could hold to two and decided that preference would be given to Reading Borough residents in areas of high demand (15). These criteria are not itemised within current rules. The 1910 rules required the applicant to disclose any other holdings of land and there was an overriding limit of five acres of allotments. There was also a residential qualification of living within the Borough.


(1)    Ruegg, Robert (2010) ‘Allotment Rules’, in Burchardt, J & Cooper, J (Eds) Breaking New Ground: Nineteenth century allotments from local sources, 2010, FACHRS. Detailed data is available on the CD that comes with the book. The rules framework and analysis is a development of that in “The Allotment Movement in England, 1793-1873”, Jeremy Burchardt.

(2)    County Borough of Reading. RULES with respect to Allotments. Reading Borough Library, Local Studies Collection.

(3)    A few are undated or imprecisely dated. Robert Ruegg also cautions the difficulty of absolute precision in dating.

(4)    Upwood Field Allotments, Upwood and Raveley; Saxtead, Suffolk.

(5)    Balsham Allotments, Cambridge.

(6)    Brixton Deverill, Wiltshire.

(7)    Ruegg uses the following categories: public, church, private landlords, peers, allotment societies and charities.

(8)    Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 6 April 1936 and 15 June 1936. R/AC1/3/62. (BRO)

(9)    Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 26 June 1968. R/AC1/3/143. (BRO)

(10)  Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 20 March 1950. R/AC1/3/103. (BRO)

(11)  Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 21 July 1952. R/AC1/3/112. (BRO)

(12)  Allotments and Smallholdings committee minutes 15 November 1965. R/AC1/3/139. (BRO)

(13)  Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee of the House of Commons. Fifth Report 1997/98. The Future of Allotments. This recommendation was based on the matter not being appropriate for national legislation. The report is available at: accessed 13 October 2012. Key points are summarised in Paul Clayden, The Law of Allotments, 5th edition. Sweet & Maxwell.

(14)  For a review of the arguments, see “Selling Allotment Surplus: Is it Legal? Is it Right?” http://www.organiclea.org.uk/resources/publications/, (2007) accessed 13 October 2012.

(15)  Reading Borough Council cabinet minutes 14 April 2008. Committee minutes library: http://committee.reading.gov.uk/TROVEPROGS/TROVEIIS.DLL?/LO=25230588/LI=Committee+Minutes+Library/RW=1366/RH=768/CD=24/HU=http:++www.reading.gov.uk+council+councillors-and-committees+committees+committee-minutes-library+

accessed 11 October 2012.

© Evelyn Williams 2012


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