Plot 229 Well and Pump
London's oldest surviving allotment is facing the threat of being built on thanks to plans by its landlord to construct a new housing development on part of the allotment site.
We desperately need to raise funds to pay for legal and specialist advice to help save our much loved allotments.
If you can spare just a few pound we would be very grateful for your help and support.
In early September 2016 the charity, Pathways, contacted plotholders at Northfield Allotments in Ealing to announce its proposal to build on 10% of the allotments. The development would include a five to six story block of social housing and four houses for sale to help fund the development.
Northfield Allotments are the oldest allotments in London. They were given by the Bishop of London to the people of Ealing in 1832, and are held as a permanent endowment. The charity Pathways is our landlord and the site is managed by a committee of seven plotholders. There are 141 plots.
The plotholders are a diverse range of ages and nationalities. Twenty nine of our plotholders live in flats – this is their only garden. We have around 50 children who have a safe place to play and learn about fruit and veg and get a chance to see tadpoles, stag beetles, bats and hedgehogs.
There are more than 25 pensioners who have a place to grow their own food and there is always company, someone to talk to. You are never alone when you have an allotment. People are friendly here and we share seedlings and produce.
We have counted 27 different nationalities – the only qualification to getting a plot is a love of gardening and the patience to wait on our waiting list (currently 72 people).
The hedgerow around the site is around 900m long and has been designated, by Ealing Borough council, a SINC - Site of Interest for Nature Conservation. It is an important and safe habitat for our hedgehogs, many nesting birds and insects. The allotments are a habitat for stag beetles, which are endangered and protected. With perfect timing the many visitors to our Halloween open day saw our bats flying around the site catching night flying insects.
On the 25th September at a special general meeting, the plotholders unanimously voted to oppose Pathways’ plans to concrete over the allotments.
We understand that social housing is important – but so are green open spaces. It shouldn’t have to be a choice of one or the other. We believe Pathways’ trustees have not fully considered alternatives to their proposal to ‘temporarily’ move 18 residents into what will be a permanent development on the allotments.
We believe a permanent endowment should be permanent.
The original allotments were much larger than they are today: 60% of the allotments were lost in the 1970s due to compulsory purchase by the council and building by Pathways. Our concern is that if planning permission is granted this time around it will be easier to lose more allotment land in the future as the pressure for housing so close to a Crossrail station increases.
When we lose green space we never get it back.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Please write to your local councillors to let them know what you think of the proposal.
- Write to the Ealing Gazette and Ealing and Northfield forums.
- Sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date with what is going on.
- We need specialist help, especially once the plans are submitted to Ealing Council. This will cost money. So, please help by donating whatever you can to our fighting fund.
Please help us protect the allotments for another 184 years.
Many thanks for all your help and support.
The Ealing Dean Allotment Society.
I’m going to leave the final word to Fran, one of our plotholders (who will lose her plot if the development goes ahead)…
“My allotment means a lot to me - we live in a third floor social housing flat with no access to a garden of our own. In 18 months my daughter and I have transformed the plot from weeds and brambles to our own little patch of heaven and my daughter has learned so much she never would have been able to before, from where our food comes from to the lifecycle of the frog - and she now wants to be a gardener when she grows up.”
Mr R. W. Weal was the tenant of plot 229 from 1946 until 1993 when his son Dennis Weal took over the plot. In the decades after WW2 a number of plot holders built their own wells as there was no mains water on the allotment until around 1995. Mr R Weal dug his well which is constructed of metal water tanks placed on top of each other with the bottom cut out. He also installed a K4 Semi-Rotary pump to extract the water. His son Dennis told Christina Fox that they constructed a shed around the pump to stop people using it as the handle was broken by people using it. If you would like to see the shed it is now rebuilt in original design on plot 198. Dennis Weal took over his father plot in 1994, it has been remarked by long standing plot holders that it was one of the "best kept plots" in its heyday.
Restoration of the Pump
When first opened the shed its was full of rubbish, plastic bags, bottles, hose pipe etc. In one corner we found the old pump. The pump is a British made K4 semi rotary pump, K4 refers to the size K1 being the smallest. The image right is the pump in the shed, the top pipe work has two heads, One head has a car tyre inner tube tied with electrical cable, this is where the well water would come out. The other head has a screw cap where water was poured down to prime the pump. The wooden handle is missing but was found found in the shed. The photo far right is of the well top, some rotten wood can be seen with a plastic pipe coming out from the well. It is believed that this was not the original pipe that fed water to the pump but a later addition in the 1980's or 1990's. There is a larger metal pipe still visible in the bottom of the well which is believed to be part of the earlier pipe work.
The next phase was to get the pump working again, One original seal fange was missing and various "bits and pieces" had been used to fit the pipe work together. The images right shows the pump which at this point was still jammed and able to turn. Once the front bolts were removed the inernal working parts were visible. The moving parts are brass and have a series of small levers that force the water in and out. This is important area to remove any corrosion to make the pump work as well as possible. The images far right shows the internal sections of the pump.
The well is constructed with old water tanks put one on top of the other. A new well top was constructed of wood and fitted on top. An old water tank was later then used on top as a dip tank to hold the pump water. The image right shows the internal well with what is believed to be an earlier water feed pipe in the bottom. The image right shows the new well top stiing on the top of the well wall tanks the wood is double thick decking board with a cross braces.
Getting the pump to work
"The pump don’t work . . . ’cause the vandals took the handles" well they broke the handle! but if it doesn't work it is most likely because it needs priming. This type of pump need priming with water to work. To prime the pump you simply remove the top section of plastic pipe by gently rocking it while pulling upwards, the pipe work is not glued but just pushed together, when the top is off pour water from the glass R.Whites lemonade bottom left by the dip tank until water flows out of the top, then refill the glass bottle with more water. Now start pumping the water with the handle back and forth. After a few moments you should start to feel the handle become stiffer and this is a sign you are drawing up water from the well, if you don't feel this continue to pour more water down the top while you move the handle back and forth. A some point water will flow out of the top, then you can stop and re connect the top plastic pipe and pump to fill the dip tank.
This pump is most likely from the 1950's or even slightly earlier, it is a little worn and need a bit of care and attention to work correctly. It has a curious habit of liking the handle to be at 10 o'clock (to the left) i assume the valves have a lighter seal on that side, so i recommend always leaving the handle in the 10 o'clock position.
Below is the well as completed in 2014, with the handle in the 10 o'clock position.