Plot holders from 1833-1836
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.”
The earliest date that plots were rented out was March 1833. The original book of tenancy agreements is kept in the London Metropolitan Archives. The allotments were divided into North, West and East: North being the area which is now Dean Gardens; West being the main area of allotments on the other side of Northfield Avenue, now housing estates; and East is the now-named Northfields Allotments.
The plots to the East
The plots were originally 20 poles in size, which is double that of a full plot today. This was the standard size for a plot in the 1800’s. There were 49 plots on the East side, starting with No.1 in the south near Occupation Road and running up to No.49 at the northern end by Mattock Lane. These plots are believed to have run the full width of the allotment with no long path running down the centre. There was a pond in the bottom corner where plot 146 is located and a pond in the top right corner where plot 241 is today. The wide path that runs across the middle of the allotments was initially turned into a plot numbered 25. Within a year or two it was returned to a pathway and called the “Road to Humphries field” which gave access to the fields Mrs Humphries rented to the east of the allotments, where Loveday Road is now.
My plot 198 was originally numbered No.28 East in 1833 and the first plot holder listed was a Mr John Caves (sometimes spelt without the ’s’). He was 70 years old when he took on the plot on 22nd March 1833 and was recorded in 1841 as a labourer, living at Haven Lane just north of Haven Green. John Caves was born in 1762 and married Elizabeth Rayner in St. Mary’s Church in 1795. They both signed the marriage register with a cross showing that they were unable to write their names.
In 1835 John Caves was accused of stealing crops but it was later realised that it was his son William Caves who had plot East 11 who had stolen the cabbages, the details of the minutes recording the issue are as follows:
Ealing Dec 5th 1835
Mr James Hemmings, Mr Thos. Meacock, Mr James Strudwick, Mr CL Allen.
John Cave appeared to show cause why he should not be dispossessed of his allotment for trespassing on Messer and Rook’s allotments & it appearing that he was summonsed by mistake instead of his son William Cave holding lot 11 in the East Side but that it was evident Wm Cave had knowledge of the charge intended to be brought against him of his attendance being required to answer the same the Committee Resolved to hear the evidence presented by Police Sergeant Ed Whitnall as agreed to at the last meeting of the general committee who stated as follows
“Thos. James told me he saw Wm Cave cut four heads of cabbage off the allotment of Charles Messer and attempt to hide them, that Thos. James took them off the ground and carried them to the owner.
Mrs Major also told me she saw Wm Cave take a quantity of cabbage plants off James Rooks ground and plant them in his own.”
Mr Hemmings confirmed the Police Sergeant’s statement he having seen Thomas Jones & Mrs Major & they made the same statement as that delivered by Sergeant Whitnell.
Resolved that William Cave be dispossessed of his allotment and that proper notice be given to him to quit the same within 3 days.
John Caves continued cultivating his allotment until, at the age of 80, he gave it up in 1843. He died three years later aged 84 and was buried at St Mary’s, Ealing, on 30th Aug 1846.
We have edited the 1832 map of Ealing Dean common to show the plot holders names from 1833-1836. You may be able to see the names of the plot holders who had your current plot?