The Formation of Hoole Allotment Colony

On July 16th this year, on its Open Day, Hoole Allotments & Gardeners Association is celebrating the centenary of the allotment colony.

 

A section of the street plan of Hoole, taken from Hoole Urban District Council Handbook, 1947, shows the Allotment Gardens. There is an access road from Hoole Lane and access from the junction of Panton Road and Canadian Avenue.

The first ‘four acres plus two roods or thereabouts’ of this land, called Allotments No.1, was leased by the Council from Mr. S. Smith in February 1906. Plot rents were 17 shillings per year, which is about £90 at today’s values.

In the Council, waiting lists, tenancy agreements, rent arrears, weed control, notices to quit, and compensation became part of the business of meetings. By 1909, the Surveyor was responsible for allotments, and managing waiting and lettings lists.

Hoole Council had an interest in the land, which had been part of Hoole House Estate, and which had been used for the Royal Agricultural Show in 1893. To achieve its plans, the Council negotiated directly with the owners and leaseholders of the land which is now Hoole Allotments. Canadian Avenue was completed from Hoole Lane to Hoole Road. Hoole Public Park was extended, renamed Alexandra Park, and completed in 1913. The agent for land which remained in the Vivian Estate held twenty and a half acres, off Hoole Lane, which he would not break up into smaller parcels. Mrs. Kennedy owned the land bordering Hoole Lane, to its south, which she would not lease or sell.

Four additional acres of land were leased from C.P. Smith, heir to S. Smith on the same terms as the land for No.1. Allotment, and were called No.2. Allotment.

In January 1913, an approach road, four feet wide was laid from the junction at ‘the top of Bater Avenue’ with Canadian Avenue to give access for the users of the land: cricketers, tennis players, smallholders, and allotment holders. There was disappointment all round because the entrance was supposed to be 10 feet wide. Seasonal arable farming and grazing continued on the land around.

A photograph, possibly taken from a Post Card, of ‘The Cricket Field Entrance’ from the Junction of Panton Road and Canadian Avenue, with the entrance to Alexandra Park clearly visible. The top of Panton Road was still called Bater Avenue in 1913, after the builder.

Then, on the eve of the First World War, William Williams, builder, agreed to grant a lease on three more acres of land adjoining that of C. P. Smith, for the same rate, to be ‘pegged out’ as No.3. Allotment.

After the completion of Alexandra Park, Hoole’s Annual Horticultural Show was held there, organised by the Parks and Allotments Committee of the Council.

However, in 1916, Lloyd George was swept to power as head of a coalition government. The country was in the midst of an emerging food crisis, caused by the impact of the German blockades on supplies. Emergency measures had to be introduced to combat severe food shortages and price rises.

In 1916 a Cultivation of Lands Act was passed, so, from January 1917, Hoole Council was preparing to acquire more land for the cultivation of food and use as allotments.

Conscription had been introduced in 1916. The smooth running of local government was affected by the absence of the enlisted men, and the extra demands of the war effort and food crisis. Hoole Council was permitted to raise the salaries and pay of its workforce.

The situation in Hoole in 1917 was exacerbated by the fact that the allotment land already being used to grow potatoes was withdrawn from use in November by an inspector from the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, due to infection by Potato Wart Disease.

Local Authorities became responsible for implementing Food Control Orders. Employees undertook additional duties to help the local population provide and grow their own food, to control rations, and create emergency stocks of essential supplies, like coal. Sugar distribution and waste paper collection fell to Hoole Council.

In March 1917, the ban on Sunday working on land and allotments under Clause 9 of Allotment Tenancy Agreements had been lifted. A Sub-Committee of five members of the Council, in addition to the Parks and Allotments Committee, was appointed to manage the additional work resulting from Food Control Orders.

In September 1917, soft fruit growers were asked to apply for surplus sugar for making jams and preserves held at the Beehive Hotel. The Council closely monitored each application for bogus requests and ordered the return of any unused sugar: one ‘grower’ was reported to the Council because he did not have any fruit bushes.

From 1917, Alexandra Park and its Park Keeper (using its greenhouse) distributed the plants, prepared for growing on, to local residents. Cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts were made available at 100 plants per shilling (1s).

When two girls were caught picking flowers from the beds in the Park and some boys were caught using bad language and breaking a pane of glass in the greenhouse by throwing stones, their parents were summoned to appear before the Council. Local head teachers were issued with copies of the Council by-laws and were ordered to hold assemblies on the subject in the schools in Hoole District. Any damage was to be paid for by parents.

During the crisis of 1917, the Council gained greater powers to acquire more land, in the same area as existing allotments, under the Cultivation of Lands Order. It compiled a list of those requiring allotments, then the Smallholders’ Society was asked to release all available and suitable land to the Council for use as allotments. The Cheshire Smallholders’ Society Ltd was operating on the land owned by Mrs Kennedy, and some of the land owned by C.P. Smith.

From 1917, due to the urgent need to respond to the food crisis and war conditions, the amount of land used as allotments expanded. The land acquired to form Hoole Allotments as we know it today was retained for allotments and compulsorily purchased from the landowners after the war.

At the end of the war, in 1919, the Land Settlement Facilities Act was passed. The renting of allotments was to be open to all, without the requirement for training, and returning service men joined the existing waiting lists for allotments. In Hoole there was also a reawakening of interest in living standards and providing homes for the returning service men and their families.

Sources: ZTRH Hoole Urban District Council Minutes. Cheshire Archives.

Land Registry Title CH438199

[Article researched and written by Linda Webb, April 2017, Hoole History & Heritage Society]