War time allotments in front of Kensington Palace © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1127)
During the First World War, people were encouraged to transform their gardens into vegetable patches to support the war effort.
A woman sprays potatoes to protect them from blight in Kensington Gardens in 1917. © Hearsum Collection
Food was scarce, because the men and horses who had previously worked the land were away at war and enemy submarines were sinking supply ships transporting food to Britain. In December 1916, the Prime Minister announced that ‘every available square yard must be made to produce food’ - including people’s private gardens.
To set a good example, park land was given over to agricultural use, potatoes planted in the beds outside Buckingham Palace, and demonstration allotments set up in Regent’s Park and Kensington Gardens, where novice growers could come and learn from experienced gardeners.
We have re-established First World War beds in six parks across London. Over the next two years, volunteers will be tending to heritage varieties of parsnips, cauliflowers, carrots, peas, and many other types of veg and we’ll be following their progress.
You can visit the War Gardens at: