History

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.

 

https://www.gofundme.com/ealingdean

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.

OUR COMMUNITY

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).

OUR WILDLIFE

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.

NO CHOICE?

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.

OUR CONCERN

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.”


EARLY APPEARANCE - In 1832 Northfields would have looked very different from today. There were very few houses around North field lane (as it was know) A lot of early plot holders came from Brentford. In 1800 the surrounding fields were all arable land which would have been used for growing crops, there were Meadow fields where Walpole park is now situated.

We have created two history videos for the allotments and surrounding area.

The first video is the "History of Northfield Allotments" or to give the allotments their earlier name Ealing Dean Common Allotments

Here are a series of Maps of Ealing Dean from 1741 to 1865. The earlier maps show Ealing Dean Common and after 1832 they show the Parish Allotments which are were know as Ealing Dean Common allotments, then later Ealing Dean Allotments and more commonly these days Northfileds Allotments.

Just as the EDAS committee is tackling management and maintenance problems on the allotments today, the committee set up in 1833 had to grapple with the issues of its day, gradually finding its way as it learned from experience. Fortunately, our committee does not have to deal with rent collection, the most pressing concern for our predecessors. But there is a clear parallel in getting to grip with letting the vacant plots. And do you have one of the "gravelly pieces"?

Ealing Dean Allotments Committee minutes 9 July 1835

In 1858, fifty allotment tenants signed a petition requesting that they be allowed to work on Sunday morning, before 8 a.m. The Bishop of London, when agreeing to allow the allotments on Ealing Dean Common, made it a condition that no-one should work on the Lord's day. This left the plotholders little time to tend their plots after their work in the week.

Ealing Dean Allotments Sunday Working Petition Text

There is no photographic evidence from the 1830's when the allotment was first created. The 1832 map of Ealing Dean Common shows what is believed to be a series of drainage ditches between the road and the common (which would become the allotments). It is likely that a wooden fence created the boundary around the allotments although we have found no written evidence to support this at this time. There is a mention of the "ditch" in a letter written around 1860's. This letter refers to the ditch as unsafe.

How did the Ealing Dean Common look in 1832?

Here are a few images that show glimpses of the allotments.

The first image (top left) shows hanger Hill Farm Diary that was occupied by Mr & Mrs C. Millard a Dairy Farmer. His wife worked in the diary which her husband Chas. millard was listed in the census as working "Out". To the right of the picture is the top of the allotments. A white gate can be seen at the top of what is now known as Radbourne Walk.

A picture of Hanger Hill Farm Dairy, c1904, at the corner of Mattock Lane and Dean Villas

Have you ever wondered what Ealing looked like a hundred years ago. Well there are plenty of photos around that show you what is was like but i came across a video the other day of Ealing Broadway in 1901, a video, well a film more than video. It is not a long film but the quality is good and it really so much more than a still photo. The awnings in the front of the shop blowing in the breeze, the horse and cart, children running in front the tram.

Prior to 1832, the land where the current allotments are situated, was known as Ealing Dean Common. The Common was also known as ‘Jackass Common’ as pony races were held there in June.  See this poster for a racing event in 1818. This Common included the current allotment site and an area of land west of Northfield Avenue that was also allotments until the 1980s. The Common stretched up to the Uxbridge Road and included the area which is now Dean Gardens public park.

Relative new trees and low edges border border Northfield Avenue from the allotements on both sides of the road

1832 is an important date in the history of the site. This is when Charles James Blomfield, the Bishop of London, ensured the enclosure of the land for use as allotments. The original paperwork is in the London Metropolitan Archive. It is a little difficult to read - hence the question marks below. But, we think this is the best transcription available....

Portrait of C J Blomfield