Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gardening Article: The History Of English Allotments

For 27 years or so I have been an active gardener and I wouldn’t turn back the clock one single day. I love being outside in the fresh air growing an aesthetic garden for the family to enjoy and tending to my crops on the allotment, whilst having some good old banter with the old boys. However, I realised I don’t know half as much about the history of allotments than I thought I did and so I took it upon myself to find out.

On my journey to discovery I was pleasantly surprised to find out allotments date back 1,000 years to the Saxon times. However, it’s the St Ann’s Allotments in Nottingham that have the richest history and are still used. This set of allotments that reach 75 acres have been used by residents for over 600 years and has now been listed as a grade II listed site.

Reading deeper into the history of allotments, I found they had been seen as a form of wealth; during the reformation in the 1540’s plots of land that has once belonged to the church were given to lords. During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign the poor were not allowed to be seen to have more land than the lords and so the land they used to raise cattle and grow vegetables to feed families was confiscated. However, allotments were provided on the side of cottages.

I was astonished to find that there is a whirlwind history connected to allotments. However, I did find a gap; during the 18th and 19th centuries it seems allotments fell off the radar. I’m presuming this was to do with the Industrial Revolution and the construction of towns and cities. It isn’t until the first and second world wars when we hear about the popularity of allotments once again. Due to rationings and poor food supplies people began to grow their own food again. Allotments were used as a survival tool; people were scared food supplies would run low or their rationing book wouldn’t cover what families needed and so decided to grow fruit and veg from seed.

Throughout history allotments have been used to show off wealth and power and as a survival tool, but now becoming self sufficient has come into vogue. We now actively want to do our part for the environment and so the demand for allotment spaces has been steadily increasing. Over recent years we have become concerned with genetic modifications, chemical pollution, contamination of food and our carbon footprint, which could have all played a part in our interest in growing our own.

Allotments are no longer a survival tool they are an accessory we possess to help us maintain a greener way of life. People across the country see an almost romantic side of growing food, giving each seedling attention and love to provide their loved ones with healthy and organic food. So much so, people are now incorporating the allotment life into their gardens, balconies and even inside their homes.

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About the author: Mr. McGregor is a guest writer for Notcutts and offers tips and advice on everything horticultural, from growing your own fruit and vegetables to maintaining the perfect lawn.

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