Wells and Pumps Introduction
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.”
There are at present (March 2015), 12 known sites of wells on the Northfields Allotments. The current wells appear to have been created after WW2 with my belief that most of these wells were built in the 1950s -1960s. The main reason for this belief is the construction materials and current condition: The well on plot 198 is concrete and this concrete is is still in good condition. I have learnt that this well was constructed in 1957 by the plot holder. The well on plot 229 was built by a plot holder who started his tenancy in 1946. Other wells have a internal construction of metal barrels and these barrels are still intact in most cases. It is possible that there were wells before these current wells or some were adapted from earlier wells but we have no fact of this at this moment.
Water sources in early years of the allotment
The information we have about water sources in the early years of the allotments are that:
- There were two ponds on the allotment. One at the top of the current site and one at the bottom of the current site. The 1832 map of Ealing Dean Common shows a pond in the top right of the current allotment in what is now plot 241. The 1841 tithe maps again shows the two ponds, the second pond being at the bottom left of the current allotment in what is now plot146. The 1865 Ordanance survey map again shows these two ponds, The water that fed the bottom pond appears to come from the large pond where St. John's Church is now situated. In 1902 Charles Jones in his book Ealing: From Village to Corporate town states regarding St. John's Church "About the year 1866, some three years after the formation of the Local Board, the drainage of the village, . . . The work ws entered into heartily so that in 1876 the Church of St. John was complete. The drainage of this land from a pond may have reduced the waterflow leaving the allotment ponds to dry up over time. In the 1895 maps there is no ponds on the allotments and even a glass house in the top right area where the pond was in 1832. Right is the 1865 ordanance survet map showing the pond in the bottom left of the current allotments
- There was a water course mention in the Tenancy agreement in 1844. the agreement states "and will keep the Quickset Hedges at all times well weeded and cleaned, and mended when necessary, and the Water courses clear, . . ." The statement regarding the water courses was an addition to the earlier 1834 tenancy agreement showing a definate decision to include this feature in the agreement.
- There were known ditches running down both side of what is now Northfield Avenue which were fed via the large pond where St. John's Church now stands. The 1832 map of Ealing Dean common show the ditches that ran down North field Lane and cut across Mattock lane. The ditch appears from the map to come inside the attoment at the top of the current site. Right shows a portion of the 1832 map.