What did Northfields allotments use to look like?

Plotholder Paul McConnell has been exploring historical sources to build up an idea of how the allotment once looked

By Anonymous (not verified) on Monday, 1st May 2023

When Northfield Allotments was founded in 1832 it was the first allotments in London. Back then it was known as the Dean Common Allotment in the Parish of Ealing.  The site was more than twice the size it is now, bisected by North Field Lane (now Northfield Avenue.)

While we don't have any photographs of the site from that time, we do have a very useful map. The map (below left) shows Ealing Dean Common just before it was turned over to allotments for the 'industrious' or 'labouring' poor. A dwelling can be seen on the top right of the common which belonged to a Mr Hill. Ponds can be seen at the top right and bottom left of the common. A map from 1865 (below right) shows that both the ponds and the house were still there thirty years later.

The 1832 map shows North Field Lane had drainage ditches running down both sides.  These stood the test of time -  an unsafe "ditch" is mentioned in a letter written around the 1860s.

1832 map (l) 1865 map (r)

Back then, our current allotment site was known as the 'East' side, as it was east of North Field lane. The area directly west of the lane was known as 'West' and the area now occupied by Dean Gardens was the 'North.'

The original larger allotments were most likely enclosed by a low wooden fence. The image below, shows a local example from Perivale in 1894. The image at the top of this article shows part of North Field Lane in 1903, just down the way from the allotments. Note the similar fence on the right, showing obvious signs of age and wear. 

Plots were far bigger in the early days of the allotment and initially cost five shillings a year. They were 20 poles, which is four times the size of the average half-plot today. It's believed around half of allotment land was put down to potatoes, the remainder consisting mainly of wheat and barley.  


It is believed that hedges were planted around the perimeter of the site early on, as the 1833 tenancy agreement required plotholders to keep 'quick-set hedges' weed free. Tenants also had keep the land cultivated and manured and were not allowed to erect any buildings.

The 1839 tithe survey, shows how few houses there were around North Field Lane, so a lot of early plotholders came from Brentford. The vast majority were labourers, although by 1858 a third belonged to other trades. 

1839 tithe survey for the Parish of Ealing

Some extra notes...

The allotments were just south of the Uxbridge Road, which was a popular London to Oxford route for stagecoaches.  Two nearby inns, The Old Hat and The Green Man, offered a place for travellers to take refreshments and change their horses.

The 1839 tithe survey for Ealing reveals the land just west of the allotments was owned by Elizabeth Loveday. The north part known as 'Green Man Field' was being used as arable land by Elizabeth Humphreys.  The south part was farmed by John Meacock of Little Ealing. Later maps show the land was used for a fruit and flower nursery.

Plotholders at the north eastern corner of the site wouldn't have seen a church from their plots until St John's church was built in 1876. Sadly this burned down in 1920, with a new building consecrated in 1923. From then on plotholders could have told the time using the large clock face on the tower - as many continue to do today.

The three-acre 'north' section of the allotments was acquired by the Ealing local board in 1909 for use as a park. (In return six-acres of land was provided for the future Haslemere allotment site.)

The west section was compulsory purchased by Ealing Council in the mid 1970s for house building. Finally, the name of the allotments was changed by Ealing Charities for the Poor (now Housing Pathways Trust) to Northfield allotments in around 1992.