Wednesday 20 January 2010

What is an 'Allotment'??

Well for most of us English people out there it seems like a pretty straightforward question but allotments are primarily a British thing and I was asked in one of my comments section what and allotment actually is.

So 'What is an allotment??'

In the UK, allotments are small parcels of land rented to individuals usually for the purpose of growing food crops. There is no set standard size but the most common plot is 10 rods, an ancient measurement equivalent to 302 square yards or 253 square metres.

Well that answers that question but I thought whilst I was covering this I would delve a little further into the history of allotments and provide a little more information about how and why they first came about!!

Where an allotment is situated is particularly important and it also makes a huge difference as to whether it is 'temporary' or 'statutory' since, under section 8 of the Allotments Act 1925, a local authority must seek permission from the Secretary of State before selling or changing the use of a 'statutory' site. The local authority must satisfy the Secretary of State that adequate provision has been made for allotment holders who are displaced by the sale of the site.

So what the cost??

Rental costs vary. This astounded me as I didn't realise it could cost sooo much for an allotment....but then at the same time I was astounded at how little my plot of land did cost. Some pay as little as £8.00 pa and others £80.00. The cost of a plot on my allotment is just £13 a year. This is just for the land. If you have a greenhouse or poly-tunnel...or if you wish to use a hosepipe then extra costs are added for the extra water that you use.//

Who owns the allotments??

Allotments are under the control of local councils (in our case the Parish Council). Allotments are allocated by Act of Parliament, and Councils have a legal obligation to provide the land. If Councils wish to use the land for other purposes, then they are supposed to provide land of similar quality in a suitable location. In practice pressures on Council finances means that many sites are sold for building development. This has already happened in the village over the hill from us, however our allotments are situated at the very edge of the village boundary and so I pray that this cannot happen to ours!!

When was the first allotment??

The history of allotments can be said to go back over a thousand years to when the Saxons would clear a field from woodland which would be held in common. However from reading up on it I think the true nature of allotments came about around 200 hundred years ago- they derive from the enclosure legislation of the 18th and 19th centuries - and the word 'allotment' originates from land being allotted to an individual under an enclosure award (Enclosures were put into place as the rich folk didn't like the commoners grazing their animals on common land!!).

Then in 1845 a very important Enclosure Acts was passed, this was 'he General Inclosure Act' which required that provision should be made for the landless poor in the form of 'field gardens' limited to a quarter of an acre. At this time, allotments were largely confined to rural areas.

As living changed and people moved around for jobs allotments changed and in the early Nineteenth Century the 'modern notion' of an allotment came into being. A lot of people from the country went to work and live in towns; there was a lot of poverty, and what the Victorians called "degeneracy" amongst the working classes. Allotments provided an alternative to drink and other unworthy pursuits for the poor. The spread of urban allotments was intensified by the growth of high-density housing, often without gardens.

And now??

Following a peak of 1,400,000 in 1943 there was a sharp decline in allotment provision to around 500,00 in the 1970s. By 1996 there were around 297,000 allotments plots available and, although definite figures do not appear available, since then the rate of decline appears to have decreased whilst at the same time there has again been an upsurge of interest in growing food crops. Many reasons can be given for this and everyone has their own theories but a lot of it is due to healthier living, organic growing, knowing what your eating and also the worry of G.M. crops turning up in our supermarkets. Also with the introduction of big supermarkets a large proportion of the smaller greengrocers selling local produce have been forced to close so quality has diminished of fruit and veg.

So what do I have??

I currently have half a plot on my local allotments as I only started out two years ago and was unsure of how well I would get on and also how much time I would need. Last year I found that I could have used more land to grow more stuff...and a wider variety too. I am waiting to see if I can have another half a plot but the situations on our local allotments have changed over the last couple of years and we are rapidly going from neglected plots to a waiting list!!

Keep your finger crossed for me readers!!!

This post was greatly helped by an excellent site which has lots of wonderful information which I read through for this post and goes into the history of allotments in great detail so if you want to know more feel free to go and check it out....but please remember to come back to me!!!!


  1. This is one of your best posts. I guessed the general idea as I've read along, but I never knew the details. We never needed anything like this in this country because there used to be so much open space. But now we're full of so many urban areas. Some cities like Detroit, where I live, are emptying now. Allotments would be an excellent use for the empty land space we now have.

  2. Thanks be honest I enjoyed doing the research and found out a few things even I didn't know...think I will look into doing a few more informative posts if my readers enjoy this!!

  3. An interesting post, Tanya. I think we tend to forget that allotments are a British thing and our readers from other countries aren't quite so aware of what on earth we're on about when we talk about our allotments. I hope you get the extra land you're after.

  4. I loved this post. I knew a bit about allotments but it was fun and interesting to find out a bit more about them. I knew there was a drive to make more available, I heard that the waiting list in one area is now 50 years!! I think they need some more allotment space and fast!

  5. Excellent post. I really didn't know exactly what an allotment was but I kind of guessed. Very informative.

  6. A great read Tanya with some very interesting history there. Allotments are peculiarly British but on the other hand I've seen some beautifully well-kept ones down in the south of France while on holiday.

    Good luck with your application for more land!


  7. They've just begun making allotments available in the city where I work. The only thing I don't understand are the people who get an allotment so they don't have to dig up the grass in their yards!

  8. Thanks so much. I just have a little garden that I start around May and I never seem to grow anything well except peppers. I didn't think anything would grow in snow. I did hear there were a few things I could plant earlier.

  9. Great post!
    I knew what an allotment was, because we have these here as well, but they are very, very difficult to come by as well as ridiculously expensive.

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  11. I too have no idea about allotment when I first came across your blog. However, reading and looking here made me realized what it is about. Now, this is very clear to

    Thanks for stopping my blog. I put the link under comment where I got the new layout. It's free, just leave her a comment in her blog that you grab one.

    Have a great weekend.

  12. Just left you a Favourite Photograph Meme on my blog.

  13. Good day again Ms. Tanya. Please check here for an award.

  14. Someone mentioned allotments in the south of France.

    There are quite a few allotments in France - one of the regular visitors to my blog took some photos of an allotment in Castres southern France and sent them for me to include on my website.

    If anyone is interested they can be viewed here

  15. The address to the above page has changed to


keep it clean...keep it relevant...I look forward to reading your comments!!