Allotments in Epsom & Ewell


Clipart image of garden shed and tools

The word allotment dates back to the reign of Elizabeth I, when manorial common lands were enclosed and the commoners were compensated with "allotments" of land attached to tenant cottages. The process accelerated during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when Enclosure Acts allowed landowners to overrule opposition to enclosing open fields and commons. Their importance grew with the increased demand for food during the Napoleonic Wars and the migration of country dwellers to towns to find work in the factories of the Industrial Revolution. For the middle classes that love for a piece of land to call your own still lingered.

Ewell was enclosed in 1802 and the enclosures award maps show two pieces of land near the Hogsmill set aside for the "poor of Ewell". In this case, the land itself was not for use by the villagers - it was the rent money from the land that was used for relief.

The Allotment Act of 1887 meant local authorities had to provide allotments if there was a demand. A number of sites were set aside in Epsom and Ewell, some of which are still in use today, for example behind Pikes Hill, behind Christchurch vicarage and adjacent to Beggars' Hill. There were also sites near the old sewage farm off Hook Road, as well as in Chessington Road and near West Ewell.

The 1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act repealed all former Acts and local authorities had to provide allotments for people to cultivate. Areas beside railway lines, canals and gas holders were used. For example, to the east of the railway behind Stones Road and the waterworks in East Street, Epsom.

By the beginning of the First World War, there were some 500,000 allotments nationwide. During that war, as much land as possible was converted to allotments to grow food to supplement shortages and in 1916 the Defence of the Realm Act enabled local authorities to commandeer land for wartime allotments. In 1917, one of the football pitches in Alexandra Recreation ground and vacant land in the new Rosebery Park were dug up to grow potatoes, and in 1918 these areas were divided up and let as allotments.

At the end of the war, this land was returned to its original use but further allotments were provided in Christchurch Road. The enjoyment from working on allotments had taken hold and they were in big demand. A number of extra sites were provided in Epsom and Ewell including those at Plough Road, Shortcroft Road, Park Avenue West and land beside the Ewell by-pass at the junction with Reigate Road.

During the Second World War, again we had to dig for victory, growing as much food as possible to counteract shortages. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries was able to take possession of unoccupied land without consent, although taking common land had to have Ministerial approval. Building sites, public parks and recreation grounds were taken over and by February 1941 there were more than 1.000 allotment plots in Epsom and Ewell under cultivation.

After the war had finished, food production was still of high importance and it took some five or six years for the temporary allotments to be returned to their rightful owners.

From the late fifties, with the widespread use of industrial farming, food became cheaper and more easily available, the popularity of allotments waned. Thousands fell into disuse and were taken back by local authorities for development. In Epsom, when the sewage farm was closed, the Farm allotments became part of the Longmead development. More recently, the allotment site in Shortcroft Road was sold for building and the tenants offered plots elsewhere.

However, gardening has again become the nation's favourite hobby and, with many people living in flats or houses with little land, and the interest in organically grown food, allotments are more and more in demand, and can even affect local house prices!

Raised Plots
Raised Plots
Copyright image courtesy of Carol Hill 2006.
Kingston Road Allotment Society has managed its site at Beggars' Hill since March 2002. Members have put up a community hut where they can make a hot drink, have a chat or read a gardening magazine. In October 2003, they applied successfully for a grant to build five raised beds and to provide disabled toilet facilities, transport, teaching and specialist equipment for disabled gardeners.

Park Avenue West Allotment Society took over the management of its site in 1994. There are twenty nine plots, some of which are subdivided. According to the Society, whilst the traditional image of allotments as places where men in flat caps and braces grow fruit and vegetables can still be true, for many, it is influenced by their hobbies - such as herbs, dye plants, flowers for drying, together with many types of exotic vegetables.
Willow for weaving, Woad for dying
Willow for weaving, Woad for dying
Copyright image courtesy of Carol Hill 2006.

The Alexandra Road site differs in several respects from others in Epsom and Ewell. The subsoil is chalk, the land is better drained and it slopes away to the south. An impressive vineyard has been established on one plot for many years and an orchard of unusual varieties of apples, together with a mulberry tree subject to its own tree preservation order, thrives on another.

The Vineyard
The Vineyard
Copyright image courtesy of Carol Hill 2006.

The image of the allotment is changing. It is now a green space where people can develop a garden suited to their needs which can be very attractive and the self-management of many sites has fostered a community spirit between tenants.

This article was researched and written by Carol Hill and Eileen Hunter 2006


Related Links (All open in a new Window)
  • Allotments-uk A directory of allotment sites and related information.
  • NSALG The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners.

Extract from Ewell Parish Minutes
Dated 3 August 1916

Allotment committee: Mr AR Glyn Chair, Mr AJ Cope, Mr G Goodship, Mr AD Henderson, Mr. E Miller.
It was reported that Thomas Jarritt an allotment holder at West Ewell had been caught on the night of Saturday last taking vegetables from other allotments and it was resolved on the motion of Mr Miller seconded by Mr Goodship to take possession of the land occupied by him immediately and give him notice that if he enters the allotments the Council will take proceedings for trespass. Arthur Glyn.
Topic researched by Clive Gilbert

Extract from Ewell Parish Minutes
Dated 19 February 1917

Allotment committee: Mr AR Glyn Chair, Mr AJ Cope, Mr G Goodship, Mr AD Henderson, Mr. E Miller.
A letter was received from Mr Rickwood of 1 Woodley Terrace asking for 20 Rod of Ground at West Ewell. It was reported that there was no land to let except a small piece by the well. It was agreed to offer this to him.

The question of more land for allotments was considered & it was agreed to write to Messrs Heaver and ask if they had any land that could let.

The Clerk presented a list of old arrears of rent of the allotments as follows. E Nye 8/4. E Millbank 4/- H Everett 3/- Ayres 3/- Faithfull 6/- Jones 8/- C Neal 2/- Late O Elson 13/4. It was agreed to recommend the Council strike them all off. Arthur R Glyn.
Topic researched by Clive Gilbert

Extract from Ewell Parish Minutes
Dated 15 March 1917

Allotment committee: Mr AR Glyn Chair, Mr AJ Cope, Mr G Goodship, Mr AD Henderson, Mr. E Miller.
It was reported respecting the applicants for land at West Ewell, a piece had been found for Mr Coomer. Mr Rickwood had declined the piece offered him, it had therefore been offered to Mr Holmes and the small portion at the end of allotments offered to Mr Nash. This disposed of all applications in that District.

With regard to the applicants in the Kingston Road after some discussion it was resolved on the motion of the Chairman seconded by Mr Henderson to apply to The Board of Agriculture & Fisheries & The Surrey War Agricultural Committee to appoint the Ewell Parish Council as the Authority under the Cultivation of lands order 1917 - no. for the parish of Ewell to acquire land for allotment purposes.

The committee then adjourned until Monday March 19 at 9.O'clock. Arthur R Glyn.
Topic researched by Clive Gilbert



Extract from Ewell Parish Minutes
Dated 5 April 1917

Allotment committee: Present: Mr AR Glyn Chairman, Mr AJ Cope, Mr F Cooper, Mr FJ Beinder, Mr AD Henderson, Mr WDG Jones, Mr E Miller, Mr CG Read, Mr CS Willis, Mr EJ Weighton.

In the motion of Mr Miller seconded by Mr Beinder, Mr AR Glyn was elected to the Chair. In the motion of the Chairman seconded by Mr Jones. The Clerk to the Parish Council was elected Secretary.

Mr Glyn explained his interview with Mr Ramsey Nares and we must try and get land by agreement before applying to Surrey War Agricultural Committee.

A letter from Mr EM Otine was read offering 1½ acres at the local rate of charge for allotments.

After some discussion Mr Henderson moved that the committee apply to the Surrey war Agricultural Committee for 2 acres at least on the Kingston Road between Park Avenue and Railway and 1 acre at least between the Fulford and Heatherside Roads, West Ewell, which was seconded by Mr Beinder and carried. Arthur R Glyn.
Topic researched by Clive Gilbert



Extract from Ewell Parish Minutes
Dated 19 April 1917

Allotment committee: Present: Mr AR Glyn Chairman, Mr JF Beinder, Mr F Cooper, Mr G Goodship, Mr AD Henderson, Mr G Miller, Mr CE Reid, Mr DWG Jones, Mr CF Wrighton, Mr CS Willis.

A letter was received from Mr NE Cooke, County Executive Officer with the authority for the Parish Council to take possession of 2 acres of land on the Kingston Road and 1 acre at west Ewell.

A further letter was received from Mr GW Lloyd of the Board of agriculture and Fisheries as to the rent to be charged to the plotholders, being a matter for the discretion of the Council. It is desirable however, that so far as possible, the rents should recoup the Council for the expense of providing and adapting the land for cultivation. Mr Henderson reported his interview on the subject with Mr Lloyd and after some discussion on the motion of Mr Willis seconded by Mr Jones it was resolved to charge at the rate of 3s per rod a year. Arthur R Glyn.
Topic researched by Clive Gilbert



Extract from Ewell Parish Minutes
Dated 19 October 1917

Allotment committee: Present: Mr AR Glyn, Chairman, Mr AJ Cope, Mr DWG Jones, Mr E Miller, Mr EC Read, Mr W Vaughan, Mr CS Willis, Mr EF Waighton.

Respecting land at West Street for allotments a letter was received from the County War Agricultural Committee stating that as Sir EF Coates had already been willing to let land for allotments the Ewell War Allotment Committee should proceed with the matter.

A letter was received from Messrs Beadel Wood & Co offering 2 or 3 acres at the back of Gibraltar Cottages if Mr J Skelton is willing to give up the land.

It was agreed that no action could be taken until Mr Skelton had given consent, and if to be War Allotments the War Allotment Committee deal with, if permanent the Council Allotment Committee deal with.

The question of the piece of fence at entrance at entrance of Kingston Road War allotments was brought forward, it not having been fixed. The clerk was instructed to see Mr Goodship as to the fence promised.
Topic researched by Clive Gilbert



Extract from Ewell Parish Minutes
Dated 15 March 1922

Allotment committee: Present: Sir AR Glyn, Chairman, Mr AW Henderson, Mr E Miller, Mr W Vaughan, Mr CS Willis.

A resolution passed at the Annual Parish meeting with reference to allotments was read. It was also stated that a meeting of the West Ewell wartime Allotment holders had been held, and that they were unanimous to keep the present land on, on a yearly tenancy if a longer term can not be obtained.

It was agreed to recommend that the land on Kingston Road should be purchased at a reasonable price if not on a lease, and the land at West Ewell be retained as long as possible, if only on a yearly tenancy if longer unobtainable.

A letter was read from Mr E Roote owner of land adjoining the West Ewell allotment asking the Council to set back the wire fence by the footpath 3 feet so as to give him a cart way to his cottages, which he claims according(?) to his needs(?). It was agreed to leave for future consideration by the council. Arthur R Glyn.
Topic researched by Clive Gilbert


 Art
 Family History
 Health
 Map
 Nature
 People
 Places
 Society
 Sources
 Technology
 Trade
 Transport
 War Memorials

 Contact
 Sitemap
 What's New
 Home

Email:


Donate to The History Centre