FARNBOROUGH ALLOTMENT


  

In 2005 I wrote for Farnborough Parish Magazine about the “50 years of the Farnborough & District Allotment & Gardens Society” and I felt that 13 years on I would try to bring this record up to date.

When I wrote the first of the reports there were three founder members still alive, now there is only Harry Bevin. Harry retired from the Committee last year after some 60 years on the Committee serving in many of the offices’ positions. He was Chairman for many years and also set up the social side of our interests in 1996.

   

Farnborough Hill Allotment Site has been in existence for a number of years, we believe it goes back to the late 1800s.. In the 1930s Lady Alice Lubbock transferred three parcels of land which had been used by the people of Farnborough and surrounds for a number of years as allotment and public land to Orpington Urban District Council. In 1955 this land was an allotment site being managed by a few of the plot holders for the Orpington Urban District and Kent.

In 1955 The Farnborough & District Allotment & Gardens Society was founded. This was the idea of a man named Arthur Gant who worked for the Post Office. Perhaps it was from his office as a trade union official that he got the notion that a number of members buying in bulk could be a better and cheaper option. In September 1955 he gathered a few allotment holders and gardeners together and had an initial meeting in his house in Maxwell Gardens. The founders, at that meeting, agreed to arrange the first AGM in April the following year. At the first AGM the officers and committee were formally elected; Mr Tom Webstell as Chairman, Arthur Gant as Trading Secretary, George Daniels as Treasurer and Ruth Holdup as Secretary. Derek and Doreen Hudson were also on the original committee.

The committee applied for a licence to trade. Interestingly under the Trading Act they were given a licence to trade on a Sunday morning, but were only able to sell to members of the Society which still applies. We could open more often but this needs volunteers to man the place. The Society acquired a hut to trade in, an ex post office tin hut which was free. Since then we have acquired much bigger trading and storage huts and now have flushing toilets on our site. The Society’s name was and still is “Farnborough & District Allotment & Gardens Society” and the Society acts for agents of the LBB to manage the site as well as run the Society for all the members.

Then, as now, all plot holders have to be members of the Society. We have more garden members than plot holders. We now have two meetings per year which are held in the Village Hall. The AGM is on the second Monday in April and our Autumn Meeting is on the second Monday in October at which we have a speaker. At the first autumn meeting Mr Charles Golding (no relation to Dave Golding our present Trading Secretary) gave us a talk on how to get the best returns for an allotment. 

The Committee used to meet once every month in the homes of its members, a very comfortable arrangement because tea and biscuits were provided, or in the case of Ruth Holdup, a beverage somewhat stronger (Ruth’s husband was a director of a brewery) but now they usually take place at the site or another convenient venue. Incidentally the Holdup Cup was donated by Ruth and is still up for competition each year, as is the Arthur Gant Shield which was donated by the Committee at the time of Mr Gant’s death to recognise his part in our formation.
You might be interested to know why the Harry Nunn Novice Trophy is so named. This gentleman, in the early days of the Society, was such a help to anyone needing advice, especially newcomers. The trophy is his old drinking tankard which was kept at the Change of Horses, which the family gave to the Committee after his death. We’re sure there are many members and their families who remember him at the public house!  

In the first years of the Society we used to run a front garden competition which meant judges visiting all the houses of those members who entered. This was still in existence in 1965 at the Society’s tenth anniversary. Initially it was well supported but as this support dropped the competition was discontinued.

We also had an annual fruit and vegetable competition which was held in the Village Hall but again this was dropped because of a lack of interest. A few years ago we did try to resurrect this but dropped it again a couple of years later again because of lack of support.

We have tried for some time now to get our allotment holders interested in entering the Bromley Allotments & Leisure Gardens Federation (BALGF) competition, which was run by Bromley Council up to about 10 years ago and where every September/October BALGF now have a reception for those who enter. This gives members a chance to meet other allotment holders in the Borough, incidentally, Bromley have 52 sites in all. We also have our own Allotment Competition which is judged by an outside judge. We have three trophies: The Arthur Gant Shield, The Holdup Cup and The Harry Nunn Novice Trophy. These trophies are presented each year at the autumn meeting.

Initially our membership grew as did the trading. The site at this stage was open, with no fences and no vandalism. The Society was run, as it is now, by its hard working volunteers, officers and committee. Andrew Alexander was an officer and founder member of BALGF (at that time known as AAA) and the National Federation, where he was a lifetime member and area representative. George Vickery was once Secretary and President, Roy Pearson was a Treasurer, Sid Langford a Chairman, June Townsend an assistant secretary and countless other committee members should be remembered with thanks and gratitude because without them our Society would not be as strong as it is today!

 

In a combined handbook and price list for the Society going back to 1966 it is interesting to see that we have been affiliated to the National Allotments and Gardens Council, the Kent County Allotments and Gardens Council as well as the Royal Horticultural Society together with BALGF. The Kent County Allotments and Gardens Council folded a few years ago, mainly because of the lack of volunteers to form a committee and also because of the size of the county. We also have on file a letter from Bromley dated 1972 that expresses thanks to the Society for managing the site saying this would continue for years to come.

Since its inception there have been many changes. In the 1960s Orpington Urban District Council became part of the London Borough of Bromley. Bromley then passed on the management of its allotments to committees. Although we are self governing we are answerable to BALGF with whom we have membership, one of the conditions of our lease with Bromley Council. Initially we liaised with two of their employees but as things have changed we are now answerable to IDVERDI. 

The handbook of 1966 showed a membership of 500 and a map of the site that shows all the plots which were in a wild area. These are plots 12/20, 44/51, 71/78 and 102/109. These plots were outside of our boundary for a number of years so there must have been a drop in plot holders but the gardening members must have stayed roughly the same. Most of these plots have now been re-installed within our boundary fence by the Council who did all the work and laid the plots out and fenced the area off for us. This was about 10 years ago when we had approximately 40 people on the waiting list. The Society’s share of the cost of the fencing of the site ran into many thousands of pounds.

The toilets were completely financed by the Society, as are any costs for the security of the site. We still have the land outside our boundary which has been given over to the wild life. We encourage people to join as garden members who are able to use all our facilities including our BBQ’s. For a subscription of £2 pa you can buy many items for use in your garden. Our membership currently runs at approximately 450. Anyone taking on a plot must be a member under the terms of their tenancy agreement. We have a few vacant plots and a waiting list of people who would like a plot in the future.


We also have one charity event each year and that is usually in August when plot holders and garden members donate vegetables, fruit, preserves and various other goods for sale – the proceeds going to the charity which our Society supports.  

A few years ago now the committee decided to recognise the voluntary help given to the Society by its members by occasionally inviting these invaluable helpers to a buffet meal to show our appreciation; the road stewards, those on the Trading Hut rota and the helpers who unload our bulk order and work on the site. They all help to keep costs down.  Without our volunteers, whatever they do, the society could not exist.
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If anyone has any further information about the site or those associated with it please do let us know at the address below,  as we would love to share it. I hope I have not put any information in that is incorrect; I have tried where possible to check all my facts. After over 20 years on the committee, Jenny Golding and I have stepped down. These positions are in very good hands and hopefully will remain so for years to come.
 
Sheila Simner, September 2018

Contact the Society at
farnboroughags@gmail.com


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