East Midlands Food

East Midlands Food

Belgrave Allotment Society centenary

 

Early members of the Society

On Saturday 7 August Belgrave Hall Museum in Leicester will be the venue for a celebration of the centenary of the Belgrave Allotment Society. Allotment societies existed from the 19th century, and were positively encouraged by civic or charitable bodies for offering working class families fresh food, healthy exercise and a ‘rational recreation’ that might keep them away from the public house. The St Ann’s allotments in Nottingham are thought to be the oldest and largest detached town gardens in Britain, and still retain their 1830s layout (see http://www.staa-allotments.org.uk/heritage/history.htm).

There was a real flourishing of allotments, however, after the government passed a Smallholdings and Allotments Act in 1908 requiring local authorities to provide ‘a sufficient number of allotments to persons… resident in the borough district or parish and desiring the same’. The Belgrave Society was formed as a result of this, and now has over 500 allotments on five sites around the north of Leicester. In sharp contrast to the 1980s, when at times only 20% of its plots were in use, four of these are fully occupied and have waiting lists.

Gardening programmes on TV, the popularity of organic food and of ‘growing your own’ help to explain the current popularity of allotments here and elsewhere, but allotment societies also played a crucial role during both World Wars when blockades and enemy attacks on merchant shipping forced Britain to become as self-sufficient as possible. 

The Belgrave Hall event, which starts at 11 am and is free, will include displays on growing crops, stalls selling produce, and an exhibition on the history of allotments. A history of Belgrave Allotment Society, written by one of its members, Ron Sanderson, will also be on sale. The Society has its own blog at http://blog.redhillallotments.co.uk/.

 
 

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A research project that looked at various aspects of food in the East Midlands, linking them with museum displays and objects in the region, and making the results available to as many people as possible in different formats.

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