As part of its heritage programme, Grow for Good has researched the stories of local people and their connection to allotment gardening, tracing the overall history of allotments in Surbiton, Tolworth and Chessington, today part of the southwest London borough of Kingston upon Thames, as well as across Britain more broadly. Through understanding this history we can better appreciate the nature of food supply, celebrate local growing within our communities, and appreciate the vibrant spirit of allotment gardeners within and beyond our local area.
What we define as allotments today have played an important role in British life for over 130 years. Over this period of time the role of the allotment has transformed from a being a source of life for starving Victorians to becoming a symbol of local community and environmental sustainability. However, one can trace the division of land for the purposes of private cultivation over 800 years to the Middle Ages, with the ‘open field system’ and ‘enclosures’ defining the serf-lord dynamic from 1200 onwards.
Today it is estimated that around 300,000 people across the country currently cultivate allotment plots for leisure and as a source of food. Whatever the reason for having an allotment, the desire to make a small piece of land productive has always invoked a sense of independence for plot owners, negating the reliance on others for sustenance.
The research gathered on this website is a culmination of 12 months' research by a team of volunteers, heritage experts, animators, makers, storytellers and of course, the local community. We would like to thank each and every person who contributed their ideas, skills and stories.