100 Year History

Potato digging on the allotments

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This is an account of the 100 year history of Horfield & District Allotments Association (H&DAA).

Allotments in Bristol

Bristol Corporation had started to introduce allotments from 1908 onwards. In April of 1908, adverts were placed in local newspapers requesting land that could be rented out to people who wanted allotments in order to grow their own food. The Corporation’s Smallholding & Allotments Committee soon received requests – in Sept 1908 a petition with 28 signatures was sent in from the Golden Hill area of Bishopston requesting allotment plots.

These early allotments were all run by the Corporation itself. By Nov 1908 further requests had been received and the Corporation had begun negotiations with the agents for the Bishop Monk’s Trustees who owned land in the Bishopston / Horfield neighbourhood. In Feb 1909 they held a ballot of local people in the area for plots: 73 people applied for the 57 plots on a 3¾ acre site near Quabb Farm (where the current Maple Rd and Beloe Road houses now lie) This led in April 1909 to the plots being marked out and given to the lucky plotholders. (NB This early allotment site disappeared during in the early 1920s when houses were built).

Other allotments were let by the Bristol Corporation across Bristol, and the Council looked at many potential plots in the Bishopston and Horfield district. In March 1914, a meeting was held at Ashley Down School, to see if there was enough local interest to justify the Council buying some land off Filton Avenue. However, a vote was taken of the applicants for allotments and it was decided that the land on offer was too far away. Thus despite the Council’s efforts, no further allotments were made available in the district until after WWI had started.

WWI allotment explosion

The outbreak of the 1st World War in 1914 had surprisingly little effect initially on the provision of allotments. The Board of Agriculture (BoA) gradually began to lobby mayors to produce as much food as possible in 1916. It was towards the end of that year that action finally quickened when Lloyd George swept to power at the head of a coalition government. In line with the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) which had been passed in 1914, the Cultivation of Lands Order was passed whereby any unoccupied land could be secured by the BoA. Shortly afterwards, a wave of “allotmentitis” swept the country in early The Birth of H&DAA

The Birth of H&DAA

Friends Meeting House, Gloucester Road, Horfield

Friends Meeting House, Gloucester Road, Horfield.

In December 1916 at the Friends Meeting House, Gloucester Road, Bristol a meeting was called by Mr Arnold Sutcliffe Whittaker. He became the first Secretary of a new Society called the Horfield & District Allotment Association (H&DAA). No minutes are known of this meeting, but among others present at this meeting were Mr James Randall, who was elected the Vice Chairman (he was later to serve on HDAA committee until the 1930s). The first appointed Chairman of H&DAA was Mr. William Kempster.

One of the first actions taken by the committee was to acquire the use of a 13 Acre field known as Buffalo Bill’s Field. This was so called after the American Wild West showman who held a show there in 1891. This field was off Filton Avenue (on a site where the Memorial Ground was later built). The site was large enough for 217 plots – 191 were 10 perch and the remainder of mixed size between 5 and 11 perch. By Spring 1917 all 217 plots had been taken. Each 10 perch plot cost 10 shillings per annum rent. One of the early plotholders was a Mr Percy Biggs. He would later play a very large part in the growth of H&DAA as its Hon Secretary from 1918 to 1939. See Buffalo Bill’s Field Allotment Site Map below for a plan of the site:

Buffalo Bill's Field Allotment Site Map

Buffalo Bill’s Field Allotment Site Map.

For a longer history of the Buffalo Bill’s field follow the website link below:

cliftonrfchistory.co.uk/grounds/horfield/horfield.htm

Who were the H&DAA Committee?

The H&DAA Committee comprised a number of local men who were keen to encourage people to grow their own food on allotments. Many of these men also had plots themselves. On the first committee were:

  • Mr William Kempster, Sefton Park Road – Chairman
  • Mr Arnold Sutcliffe Whittaker, Lockleaze Road – Hon. Secretary
  • Mr James Randall, Wolsley Road – Vice Chairman
  • Mr J. J. Hind, Seymour Road – Hon. Assistant Secretary
  • Mr A.D Graham, Cornwall Road – Treasurer
  • Mr Percy Nonus Biggs, Rozel Road – General Committee Member

…plus 9 other members of the general committee.

Colonel George Gibbs

On the early H&DAA membership cards, issued to all members, was evidence of the patronage from Bristol’s great and good, a portrait of H&DAA’s first President, Colonel George Gibbs (later Lord Wraxall) of Tyntesfield House, who was M.P for Bristol West from 1906 to 1927.

The Vice Presidents were:~

  • Dr. Walter Saise, the Liberal Candidate for Bristol West who lost to George Gibbs in the 1910 General Election. He was a mining engineer known as ‘the father of Indian coal mining’ for his work in the East Indian Railway Collieries.
  • Dr Colston Wintle, a surgeon and physician who lived and worked on 24 Gloucester Road. He was also a Independent local Councillor from 1897 to 1921.
  • Mr. William Henry Curtis, who ran “the Horfield Bakery”, S. Curtis & sons at 149 Gloucester Road. He was also a local councillor and became an Alderman in 1928.

H&DAA Membership Rules and Byelaws

The H&DAA was set up as a Cooperative Society under the Industrial & Provident Societies Act. 1893. By May 1917, it had been registered and affiliated to the Agricultural Organisation Society. Registration for allotment societies was necessary in order for a society to hold a land lease. Landlords and local authorities would be more willing to let land for use as allotments because they could be reasonably assured that the land would be well-cultivated and the rent paid. Each person who joined had a shareholding in the Society and was provided with a rule book which amounted to 58 separate rules over 14 pages in a small red booklet issued to all members.

H&DAA Member's rulebook, H&DAA Byelaws, and H&DAA Share Certificate

(L-R): H&DAA Member’s Rulebook, H&DAA Byelaws, and H&DAA Share Certificate

As well a rulebook, there were also H&DAA byelaws which were the practical rules to follow when cultivating and your allotment plot. These were presented to all plotholder members in a small handy-sized card

Many of the rules and byelaws are similar to those in place today, albeit worded slightly differently. However there are some rules that would surprise modern allotmenteers:

Rules Clause 50: “Insane or lunatic member. If a member… becomes insane and no.. trustee of his property has been appointed, the Society…may…pay the amount of the shares, loans and deposits belonging to such members to any person they should judge proper to receive the same.”

Byelaw No. 5: “Any Member taking a wheelbarrow or other implement provided for the use of Members out of the allotments or failing to return promptly shall be fined sixpence.”

Notice to Members included “Don’t dump household lumber such as bedsteads, old tins, etc. on the plot.”

Early growth of H&DAA land

In February 1917, the H&DAA Hon. Sec., Mr Whittaker, wrote a pleading letter to the Bristol Corporation Committee in charge of Smallholding and Allotments to ask for more land. This letter is striking in its emotive language:

Dear Sirs,
I write to you on a matter vitally affecting the interests of the people of Horfield and District, in particular the interests of the nation in general. Under the recent Order of the Board of Agriculture you have extended powers to compulsorily purchase land for allotments; the Order, I believe, giving you power to acquire land not properly cultivated.

Now sir, I have anything from 50 to 60 unsatisfied applicants for land on my register, a big proportion of these being for the Bishop Road District. In that district there are any number of small fields of about 4 to 6 acres grazing a pony occasionally and little else. These fields to quote an expression re allotments are at the back of men’s doors and satisfy all the requirements regarding allotments. These men are all in urgent need to grow their own food.

On the Bristol Allotments Committee rests the responsibility of providing these men with land. You have a grand opportunity of getting food land not tips for allotments, and I appeal to you to act and act quickly or the season will be gone. It may inflict a temporary hardship on one tenant but it will bring benefit to 50 or 60 (my applications are coming in 7 or 8 a day).

We have made endeavours to acquire Warner’s field in the middle of the Common, but Mr. Warner will not let except at a prohibitive figure.

The people here want allotments but they do not want to walk miles for them and there is no necessity. The land is there; you have the powers; one man loses; 50 gain and the District generally is the better for the change. I have 217 men on their own plots in good land and there is more good land waiting for them, and I am convinced I could fix up the same number in a week’s time in the Bishop Road District if given the opportunity.

Shortly after this, in early 1917, with Bristol Corporation’s assistance under DORA, the Lands Order was used to obtain another 13 acres across 2 fields:

Warner’s (on Horfield Common in front of the Ardagh) and Hennessy’s (an area south of Golden Hill across Bishop Road).

It is believed that most, if not all of this land was held on direct leases between the H&DAA and the landowners.

In total there were over 400 plotholders across these 3 H&DAA sites. The site rent book for 1917/18 shows the names and addresses of all members and plotholders. There are only a handful of women listed as plotholders in these registers. It is unclear whether these women worked the plots themselves were just the registered members as their husbands were caught up in the War in some way. It is known that widows, on request, were allowed to keep plots previously worked by the husbands.

As result of H&DAA requests for land, Bristol Corporation made further surveys of land in the Horfield, Bishopston, and Lockleaze area in October 1917. A visit by a Mr Scroggs from the Food Production Department in April 1918 led to an additional 10 acres of land in the Horfield area being freed up for allotments for rent by H&DAA. The fields acquired were:

a. St Agnes Field (part of the Golden Hill site) – this was 4¼ acres owned by the Shadwell Estate and formerly used by St. Agnes Cricket Club.

b. Long’s Field (part of the Golden Hill site) – this was 3½ acres owned by the Shadwell Estate and formerly used by Mr Long the Gloucester Rd. Greengrocer

c. Dewfalls – this was land owned by Mr Dewfall of Horfield Down End House Farm, off Muller Road, at the end of Dovercourt Road.

d. Land owned by Bishop Monk’s Horfield Trust adjacent to Cairns Road and north up to the Cotham School Sports Ground.

By the end of 1918, H&DAA had 54 acres of land under cultivation as allotments, with 649 plotholders.

Other initiatives

In January 1918 a letter was received from the Headmaster of Bishop Road School stating that 100 boys were anxious to take up small plots. It was decided that 100 perches of land should be reserved and let to the Headmaster for the boys on the same terms as the other tenants. In February 1918 a ballot held at Bishop Road School for the plots showed 62 one perch plots taken at 1 shilling a perch rent. Later on H&DAA presented prizes to those boys obtaining the best results.

Both during and after the War, H&DAA made donations to Bristol Royal Infirmary and Southmead Hospitals of mixed collections of vegetables. Members also gave donations to the Red Cross.

Post WWI Expansion

It wasn’t until the end of the First World War that land was made available to all, primarily as a way of assisting returning service men instead of just the labouring poor (Land Settlement Facilities Act 1919). In 1918, the final year of the war, it is estimated that there were 1.5m plots across Britain, and demand continued into 1919 with around 7,000 new applications per week.

In September 1919, the H&DAA Hon Sec wrote to the Bristol Corporation asking for more allotment land to be made available for the applicants on the Association’s waiting list. H&DAA went so far as to suggest certain fields that the Corporation might consider. These included:

a. Large plot of land behind St. Bonaventure’s Church from Logan Road up to Bishop Road
b. Land between Filton Avenue and Gloucester Road as far as Horfield Barracks
c. Land off Berry Lane North of Buffalo Bill’s field

Although this land was not immediately made available to H&DAA, most of it was later to become land that the Association rented. In 1920 it was reported that H&DAA was the largest Allotment Association in Bristol with 1420 members and 85 Acres of land under its control.

In 1919, the Silver Challenge Shield and Gold Medal, for the best kept and cultivated allotment within 10 miles of Bristol was awarded to Walter Bowden, of Bromley Road, Horfield. Mr Bowden was heartily congratulated y the H&DAA Committee.

1920s pressure on allotments to free up land

Although the Board of Agriculture fought to retain as much land as possible in the short term, it gradually seeped away in the early 1920s. The acquisition of land for allotments became more difficult. As well as development pressures, there was now a requirement for recreation grounds to satisfy the growing interest in sport.

Percy Biggs, H&DAA Secretary spoke at an Allotments Association conference in Taunton in 1920 on the insecurity of tenure and encouraged associations to get their land on 5, 7 or 14 year leases, even if it meant an increase in the rent paid to the landlord.

In Bristol, the H&DAA felt just such pressure on its allotment land. Although much of the land was mainly on 7 year leases, the Association was being pressured to release land that had been granted under DORA.

A letter was received by H&DAA in June 1919 requesting that Buffalo Bill’s Field be given up. The Board of Agriculture wrote:

“The field was purchased for the use of Rugby Football Club, who, now that the war is over, are anxious to gain possession at the earliest possible date…. in view of the improved food situation it would not be reasonable to retain possession of land required for games and recreation.”

Mr Percy Biggs, now H&DAA Hon Sec., wrote back in the strongest terms:

“the date mentioned would not by any means be convenient to surrender possession, our members having made preparation for their winter crops. My Committee is very surprised at the general tone and impression conveyed in the letter.”

A public meeting was held in August 1919 where feelings against the eviction ran strong. One speaker said “The allotment holders helped bring about the defeat of the German submarines, and deserve some consideration.”

In a letter to the Western Daily Press, a reader complained “A football field will not add to the nation’s wealth, but simply rob us of food supply and add to idleness, when every ounce of energy and enterprise is needed for this country’s well-being.

Mr Biggs went on to open up negotiations by suggesting that 2 other fields – Davies Field (on the Golden Hill site) and the Church Field (next to Horfield Church) – might be suitable for the members to consider as an alternative to Buffalo Bill’s field if the Corporation could see fit to obtain them for the Association.

No land was immediately relinquished as H&DAA refused to accept the notices to quit by March 1920. However, by 1921 the Memorial Ground was built for Bristol RFC. However, H&DAA still had a substantial number of plots on the site until Sept 1924, and didn’t give the site up completely until Sept 1926.

As well as the demise of Buffalo Bill’s, most of Hennessy’s Field and Warner’s Field were lost during the 1920s. Thus by end of the decade none of the original 3 sites were in use as allotments.

Pressure from builders wishing to develop houses led, in December 1922, to Bristol Corporation writing to H&DAA giving notice to quit a large area of allotment land in order that Bishop Road be extended from Cornwall Road up to Kellaway Avenue. This was a precursor to development of the land for building. This continued apace in the 1920s, with King’s Drive and surrounding streets being developed for housing. Much of this was done in a more co-operative spirit with local builders such as Filer Brothers being sympathetic to plotholders and giving time for them to arrange alternatives.

Shadwell Estate Sale Map 1921

Shadwell Estate Sale Map, 1921.

However, the pressure wasn’t all one way. H&DAA busied itself in obtaining further land to replace the fields that they had lost. One boost to this was the sale of Shadwell Estate land in 1921. The Shadwell Estate owned much of the land in Bishopston and Horfield, including the fields on the Golden Hill site.

One factor in the decision of Bristol Corporation to purchase this land was the H&DAA initiative to ballot its membership about accepting an increase in rents payable to the Corporation so that their purchase of the land became a more economic proposition. The membership agreed to the rent increase by a large majority.

Thus in 1921 Bristol Corporation bought St Agnes Field, Long’s Field, and Davies Field (named after Davies the Gloucester Road funeral director who grazed his horses on the field). Later in 1927, the Corporation acquired Baptist Field (so named as Horfield Baptist CC used to meet there), by swapping some land with a Mr Jennings who proceeded to build some houses in Longmead Avenue. Thus the Golden Hill site was owned by the Bristol Corporation and leased to H&DAA for use as allotments.

Potato Growing became an important activity as potatoes were a staple food during and after the war. Men would come together to dig up the potatoes for onward distribution. Figure 6 shows a number of men working to dig up potatoes from plots on one of the allotment sites. These men included members of the H&DAA committee who were not afraid to get their hands dirty.

In 1922 the government drafted a new Allotments bill which threatened to reduce the security of tenure for allotment land. Members of the H&DAA committee were prominent in working with the regional Allotments Federation and local Allotments Associations to review the bill. Feedback was sent to the local MPs that:

“this Society…strongly protests against the resulting prospective breach of allotments leases, and the destruction of the security to the present tenancy….It urges maintenance of the sanctity of contracts, and the necessity of fair compensation for any notice given to cover both societies and their sub-tenants losses.”

A subsequent visit was made by a delegation to the Parliament to meet lobby the select committee of MPs.

In 1923 and 1924 H&DAA was awarded the E W Savory Challenge Shield for the Best Cultivated Allotment Estate in the city, comprising 81 acres of land. This was awarded after inspections of all the other allotments in the city.

1923 and 1924 Bristol Allotments Federation Challenge Shield

1923 & 1924 Bristol Allotments Federation Challenge Shield.

During the late 1920s, the estate had diminished owing to the pressure for land for other purposes. In 1926 alone it was reported that some 15 acres of land had been lost for building and sports use. By the end of the 1920s, H&DAA had approximately 59 acres of land left under its control, and this was to diminish further in the next decade.

1930s allotment land changes

In the 1930s land was still being sought by H&DAA both in conjunction with Bristol Corporation and on their own initiative: H&DAA placed adverts in the local newspaper asking for land near Horfield to rent.

The Association had been leasing a large tract of land south of Horfield Barracks which was owned by Horfield Court Estate since 1920. This was known as Farmer Graham’s field. Eventually, in Sept 1936, the Corporation bought the land and continued to lease it to H&DAA. By this time the area available for allotments had diminished and a road (Wessex Avenue) had been built through the remaining land so that the allotments were either side of this road.

In 1931 H&DAA arranged with another landowner, Bishop Monk’s Trust, to develop a former rubbish dump next to Birchall Road into allotment land. The Association spent £100 in converting it into cultivatable land. By 1933 land that previously had been covered with builders’ refuse was now full occupied by plotholders. In the annual report it was suggested that “anyone who remembers its former condition is invited to pay a visit to the field and we guarantee that they will receive the surprise of their lives.”

However, pressures were still being felt on allotment land. In 1935 Bristol Corporation started discussions on exchanging land at the Golden Hill site with the Education Dept. for use by the Bishop Road School. However, this was small beer compared to the larger agenda which later emerged. In 1938 the Education Committee was in discussion with Bristol’s City Valuer to try to acquire all 14 acres of the Golden Hill site for education purposes. The City Valuer reminded the Committee that land was bought to prevent its use for building and that the Golden Hill allotments were now the only remaining allotments in the district.

This provoked a lively debate in the 1938 letters column of the local newspaper where one correspondent (a plotholder) bemoaned the fact that so little land was now available for allotment cultivation, while “huge tracts of land are enclosed for the purposes of recreation… several of which are never fully used. What about the health of grown-ups? Are they to be deprived of their choice of recreation because a few faddists who insist on boys playing games whether they wish to or not?”

The Vice-Chairman of the Education Committee replied with a letter stating:

“Having myself been twice ejected from allotments which were sold as valuable building sites I have every sympathy… I can assure him that he is quite wrong in supposing that the Education Committee proposes to take over the allotments behind the Gaol.”

In January 1939, at H&DAA’s Annual meeting, the Chairman of the Council’s Small Holdings and Allotments Committee assured members that there was no suggestion at the present time that any land should be taken away from allotment holders. He stated “I shall do all I can to supply the needs of those who desire land to cultivate for allotment purposes and to retain the land you already own.”

Charitable activities

In the early 1930s the Government had launched a scheme, called the Unemployed Assistance Scheme, to help the unemployed in the cultivation of allotments. The scheme offered subsidised prices for packets of seeds, seed potatoes, tools and fertiliser. H&DAA was among the associations who helped to operate the scheme. They vetted people to ensure they were bona-fide unemployed, collected money and then purchased and distributed the seeds, etc. to people accepted into the scheme. In 1933 100 unemployed people were helped by H&DAA under the scheme (now run by the Society of Friends) and the following items were distributed:

  • 2 tons of seed potatoes
  • 90 parcels of small seeds
  • 30 cwt lime
  • 70 bags of fertiliser
  • 25 tools

In 1934 H&DAA also made 40 perches of land available at Graham’s Field to be let rent free in 5 perch plots to unemployed people who applied and in all 142 people were helped to buy subsidised items.

Wartime allotment posters.

(L-R): Allotments for Unemployed and Dig for Victory posters.

In 1935 H&DAA launched a Potato Growing Competition. Each plotholder was allowed 12 seed potatoes of one variety (e.g. Red King). The potatoes would be dug up a week before Harvest Thanksgiving and bagged and weighed in the presence of a committeeman. The winner of the competition would receive 10 shillings. All the potatoes grown would be donated to the Harvest Festival where they would then be distributed to the needy. In 1938 alone the potatoes donated weighed 17 cwt. (approx. 865 Kg.)

WII allotment expansion

In 1939 when war was declared, the Government reacted much more quickly to the outbreak of the WWII than they had done in WWI, launching the Dig for Victory campaign in October 1939 with the objective of creating half a million new allotments. Just as in the First World War, the Leisure and Recreation lobbies objected.

The Bristol Corporation advertised in the local press that anyone who applied for allotments would get a plot, but only as a temporary measure, (for the duration of the war and 6 months afterwards). By March 1940, across Bristol as a whole, 1,600 applications for plots had been received. To meet the demand the Council had secured 74 acres of land, which had been laid out to provide 1,100 extra allotment plots. This was to rise to 3,300 plots by November 1940.

The H&DAA committee endeavoured to obtain additional land to lease suitable for allotments. However the only land they managed to acquire was adjacent to Southmead Hospital and leased from the Hospital Board

Dig for Victory adverts were everywhere and were distributed among allotment holders. Also included were small booklets which encouraged the growing of vegetables in rotation throughout the year.

Dig for Victory Crop Planning Chart

Dig for Victory Crop Planning Chart.

A simple illustrated plan was included showing what to sow and when it could be harvested. In 1939, the H&DAA Committee also reported (with some understatement) that “the outbreak of war has somewhat darkened the prospect for the coming year.” and that “seed potatoes will be scarcer and dearer than in former years.”

A Dig for Victory Campaign Show was held in the Colston Hall Bristol in the early 1940s where a panel called the “Bristol City Council Backyard Brains Trust” answered questions relating to all matters of horticulture, poultry and rabbits! This panel included members of the well-known BBC Brains Trust Radio programme. Bill Pain (H&DAA Hon Sec.) went to this show and kept the ticket!

A Dig for Victory Campaign Conference was held in Bristol Museum at which Tom Williams, MP, a representative from the Agriculture Ministry, praised the efforts of Bristol in adding 330 allotments since the war started. He said it was the duty of everyone to increase allotments use and see that there was no real shortage of vegetables in this country. The MP said, “Our appeal is not for Spitfires…but for a spade and fork army. We want at least 500,000 more allotments than we have at the present.”

In its 1940 report to members, the H&DAA Committee urged plotholders to grow more root crops such as carrots, parsnips, swedes and potatoes as these could be easily stored. It also encouraged people to grow fewer flowers on their plots, so that more room could be made on the plot for growing food crops.

“It is essential that every foot of ground should produce food, so dig over that waste patch on your allotment this year and grow something.”

In 1943 the message to cut down the space used for flowers was still being made along with a reminder that any bonfires left burning after the blackout hour was an offence, “and may lead to disagreeable consequences for the plotholders.”

The dangers from enemy bombs were brought home when a stray bomb landed on the Birchall Road allotments during the war. The bomb crater remained for some time after the war and that area is still known by current plotholders there.

Although seed potatoes were now becoming more available, their distribution was still under control. However, the annual Potato Growing Competition continued. From 1943 to 1947 the 1st prize winner was Mr William “Bill” Pain (who was also the H&DAA Hon Sec.), with his largest annual haul being 164lbs. Finally, in the 1948 competition, Bill Pain was pushed into 2nd place by a Mr. F. Humphries who won with a whopping 207 lbs of potatoes!

A reminder of the deprivation of war came when, in 1944, the Association was given seed from the American War Relief Seed Fund. 83 large packets each containing 19 varieties of vegetable seed in packets were received by H&DAA from the American War Relief Society. These packets were then distributed to members, and were encouraged to share their seeds with any neighbours who did not receive any seed.

Historical documents relating to the history of horfield allotments.

(L-R): A Dig for Victory Conference Ticket and Best Plot Award 1943.

In the 1940s the Daily Express launched a £2000 “Dig for Victory” competition for allotment holders and back-gardeners to maximise the food production as food was still in short supply. The H&DAA encouraged its members to enter the competition as it had been holding its own Best Plot competition for many years. In 1943, Mr J C French won the H&DAA Silver Cup for best plot with his two plots in Birchall Field. Mr French was especially commended as the site had been a rubbish tip when he took it over. As a result he was entered into the Daily Express competition and he won the £250 regional award for himself and £25 for the Association!

The Post war years

Shortly after the end of the war, between 1945 and 1947, half a million allotments disappeared across the UK as temporary plots reverted to their original use, and people gradually started to give up their plots. Contributory factors included: improved standards of living leading to reduced levels of interest; the ever-present threat of development; the lack of access to many allotment sites by vehicle; inadequate fencing; and the rise of vandalism.

In Bishopston and Horfield this trend was reversed, with a larger amount of land under H&DAA control, as more land was acquired after the war. In 1948 H&DAA had 31 acres with 506 plotholders. This was up from 380 when the war started. This acreage of H&DAA allotments was not to decline until the mid-1950s.

In 1946 the H&DAA Committee reported that the Bristol Education Committee was again seeking to obtain 2¼ acres of land from the Golden Hill site as a possible site for a school. Yet again the Committee, along with the Civic Allotment s Committee, fought off the attempt. However, they reminded plotholders to keep their plots well cultivated as a good way of showing that allotments were needed.

H&DAA initiatives

H&DAA took a collection for the Million Shilling Fund which requested plotholders to volunteer a shilling which would go into the fund run by the National Allotments Society. A total of £21 and 14 shillings was sent to them (i.e. 434 shillings!)

Certificate of Merit, 1953

Certificate of Merit, 1953.

In 1953, at a time when food rationing was still in force, the Association was awarded the coveted Certificate of Merit by the National Council for Domestic Food Production. This was for the effort made in the production of food and general services during 1952. There were only 15 such awards in the whole country and the Committee deemed this the biggest honour bestowed on the Association since its inception.

Another initiative taken by the Association in the early 1950s was instigated by Bill Pain, the H&DAA Hon Sec. At his behest the Bristol Corporation’s first Horticultural officer, a Mr Hill, was invited to instruct plotholders in the general art of cultivation and in particular that of crop rotation. To that end, a demonstration plot was provided at No. 25 Long’s Field where the plot would be cultivated on methodical lines and used to show plotholders what could be achieved using this technique.

Between the Wars, the Association had entered into private lease arrangement with land owned by the Bishop Monks Horfield Trust behind Birchall Road. In October 1953 Bristol Corporation bought this land, thus ensuring that all H&DAA allotment land was then rented from the Corporation on long lease (7 or 14 years).

In 1954 a major improvement for plotholders was the installation of mains water to the Golden Hill site. This was installed by the Ministry of Agriculture free of charge after an application for a grant was submitted by H&DAA.

Steady decline

During the 1950s and 60s, allotment use across the UK continued to decline. The government appointed Professor Thorpe of Birmingham University to investigate and report on allotments. The Thorpe Report was eventually published in 1969. Its recommendations included: each council should provide a minimum of 15 full size plots (10 poles each) per 1,000 households. The recommendations were never enshrined in law. Some improvements to facilities have materialised, albeit mainly on independent sites with significantly more modest changes being seen on council-run sites.

During the 1960s and 1970s the authorities that run Horfield Prison tried to acquire land on the Golden Hill site for car parking. The H&DAA committee again used their influence on Bristol City Council to repel the advance and save the land for allotments.

For a more detailed history of the prison follow the website links below:

historyofhorfieldcommon.weebly.com/horfield-prison.html

historyofhorfieldcommon.weebly.com/stories-from-horfield-common.html

The 1970s with its three day week and trade union unrest saw another desire for self-sustainability, immortalised in the BBC show The Good Life which ran from 1975 to 1978. However, in the 1970s and 1980s the number of active occupied plots under H&DAA control declined until, by 1985, there were less than 300 plotholders working around 22 acres of land.

For the history of H&DAA and its allotment sites from the 1980s to the present day follow this link

References

  • bkthisandthat.org.uk/brief-history-of-allotments-in-england/
  • BRO: 43310/m1-2 Small holding & Allotments Committee Minute Book 1915-22 P135-136
  • BRO: 40620/1/9 H&DAA Archive (Box 7)
  • BRO: M/BCC/ALL/1/2 Small holding & Allotments Committee Minute Book 1915-22 (P168)
  • BRO: M/BCC/ALL/1/2 Small holding & Allotments Committee Minute Book 1915-22 (P178)
  • BRO: 43310/T1 Terrier BCC Smallholding & Allotments Committee Permanent Allotments A-L – Golden Hill
  • BRO- M/BCC/ALL/1/5 Small holding & Allotments Committee Minute Book 1934-40
  • BRO – 40620/1/14 H&DAA framed certificates and photographs
  • The Bristol Labour Weekly newspaper, Feb 12, 1938 letters column
  • BRO 43310/AW/5 Horfield Flower Show small badge for F. Humphries
  • BRO: 40620/1/4 H&DAA Archive (Box 9) Mr Biggs Correspondence Book (1922-1925)
  • Newspaper cuttings – various from britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk