The National Trust growing spaces


The National Trust has launched a project which will create 1000 allotments for gardeners, on 40 existing National Trust properties.   The National Trust has carried out serveral allotement case-studies, one of which is a Hughenden Manor in Buckinghamshire, where the walled garden has been restored as a full working kitchen garden.

Batty Langley [1696-1751 ], architect and garden designer, observed in his book New Principles of Gardening, published in 1728, that ‘The End and Design of a good Garden is to be both Profitable and Delightful…’  .  A little after Langley’s time, in the 1760s  small parcels of land were available for rent  at a farthing per square meter [average agricultural wages ranged from from 6d to 1 shilling a day, and a farthing worth a quater of a penny]. Urban and rural areas alike relied heavily in the ancient common rights to access and make use of ‘common land’ , dating back to the Statute of Merton in 1235, which helped supplement meagre wages and home grown produce.   However the general Enclosure Acts of 1836, 1840 and 1845 robbed the people of access to the common land on which they grazed their stock, collect fuel etc.   A writer in the North Star and Leeds General Advertiser in November 1839 observed that …

Session after session has poured upon the country “Common field enclosure bills”  – ” Waste enclosure bills” … they only wish to destroy the poor man’s waste..[used for grazing and gathering wood and fuel] .Scarcely any evidence was heard upon the subject; hardly any compensation offered; the most reckless and unthinking depredations were committed….It has been asserted that this Bill will confer a benefit on the poor, whose lands are to be enclosed.  Now, on the contrary, it will add to the property of the rich without protecting the rights  of the poor…

Taken from: The Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser (Leeds, England), Saturday, November 9, 1839; Issue 104

Years later, in 1887, the Allotments and Cottage Gardens Compensation for Crops Act, and later the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 were passed,..

 ‘outlining that If the council of any borough, urban district, or parish are of opinion that there is a demand for allotments . . . in the borough, urban district, or parish, . the council shall provide a sufficient number of allotments, and shall let such allotments to persons . .  resident in the borough, district, or parish, and desiring to take the same..’

The twentieth century world wars and economic depressions resulted in periodic food shortages, promting both national and public interest to grow their own food.  Since then the interest in ‘grow your own’ has increased, reflected in televison programmes on gardening such as BBC comedy series of the 1970s The Good Life , and the BBC’s Gardener’s World.  There is now approximately 297,000 allotment plots in England and their popularity has risen greatly.

Loughborough University Library subscribes to a number of online agriculture, horticulture and garden history journals such as Garden History  Agriculture, ecosystems & environment,  Agriculture and Human Values,  Floriculture CropsHorticulture Week and  Scientia HorticulturaeGarden History Newsletter, all available via MetaLib and accessible off campus using Athens username and password or by logging in to the Remote Working Portal


If you would like to learn more about the recent development of allotments in the UK, please visit the web sites below.

National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd (NSALG)

Landshare website

Batty Langley’s New Principles of Gardening

Poetry, Enclosure, and the Vernacular Landscape, 1700-1830  By Rachel Crawford

Allotments and Cottage Gardens Compensation for Crops Act 1887

Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908

Allotments Act 1950

Trends in Provision and Types of Allotment Site 1943 – 1996

Allotments 4 All

BBC Leicester Radio’s own allotment


One Response to The National Trust growing spaces

  1. Geoff (Jaef) says:

    I believe that common land (in the non-statutory sense) goes back at least 5000 years in the British Isles. It was probably ‘alloidal’ until sometime after the Norman Conquest. The Commons Act 1235 (Statute of Merton) enabled or confirmed the practice of Lords of the Manor to enclose land but leave sufficient for their resident tenants to continue their rights of common. Later enclosure legislation, say something like 4000 Inclosure Acts up to the mid-19th Century resulted in vast losses of rights of common. In some instances provision was made for @fuel allotments’. I have heard that some local authorities are or have eliminated some rights of common (particularly estovers).

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