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Allotments established in the Parks in WW1 disappeared again not long after the First World War. Barbara, a WW1 research volunteer, found out that they didn't go without a fuss:

Although allotment-holding was presented as part of the war effort, not everyone was in favour of commandeering public land for allotments. Parks were much needed for recreation, especially in the crowded inner cities.

In Greenwich, it took the council over a year to persuade His Majesty's Office of Works (the civil service department which ran the Parks) to allow 7.5 acres of parkland to be turned into 139 plots for local families.

In March 1918, only 8 months before Armistice Day, the tenants, who paid rent of 7s 6d a year each for their plot, started digging. In addition to their physical labour, they jointly invested £135 of their own money for fencing and a water supply, believing they would have their plots for 2 years after the end of the war. (By 1918, people's expectations that the war would soon be over were receding.)

In November 1918, when the war ended, tenants were furious when they were told they'd have to give their plots up by the end of 1919. In addition to the money and effort they'd spent, food shortages continued, so a campaign began to keep the allotments and allotment-holders were grudgingly granted an extension until 29 February 1920 to harvest their winter crops.

The lobbying didn’t stop there. The ‘allottees’ took their case to Sir Alfred Mond. Sir Alfred, who was in charge of the Royal Parks, remarked:

I am faced by a very eloquent Deputation pointing out that the planting of cabbages is much more amusing than playing cricket and that the hoeing of potatoes is as good as football.

In July 1919, Sir Alfred finally agreed to an extension until the end of February 1921, after which all sign of the allotments disappeared... until history repeated itself in 1939 with the coming of the Second World War and the re-establishment of Greenwich Park's allotments.

Read more about the development of allotments in the Parks or visit one of our heritage allotment beds to find out more about WW1 growing in situ.

Illustration for an article from The Sphere in March 1918, demonstrating how to prepare ground for an allotment.

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