In 18th century England allotments were small plots of land let to labourers who cultivated them in their spare time. The allotment system can be traced back to 1790 when the Lord of the Manor at Tewkesbury set aside land for the benefit of the poor.
The House of Commons gave a favourable report on his system. In 1819 and again in 1831 acts were passed for the promotion of the allotment system. In 1887 a subsequent Act gave local authorities compulsory powers for providing allotments and common pasturage.
“Beeton’s Everyday Dictionary of Gardening” (Published in 1911) speaks of the great benefits that result in a small allotment of land for every cottager. “A field should be set aside for these allotments of land and it should be as near as possible to the cottages for which they are required. They should have the convenience of soft water supplied from a pond, running stream or deep well. No cottager except of good moral standard should be accepted as a tenant. It is best that a clergyman of the parish be chairman of the committee”.
HISTORY OF THE SEAFORD AND DISTRICT HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY (FORMERLY THE SEAFORD ALLOTMENT ASSOCIATION) & (THE SEAFORD ALLOTMENT & HORTICULTURAL ASSOCIATION).
“IN THE BEGINNING”.
Records held by the society go back to the start of the last century. The earliest society record held is of the Tenth Annual General meeting that was held on the 9th December 1927. If one reads those early hand written minutes and all those for nearly eighty subsequent years one soon realizes two very important factors. First is that our society is made up of it’s members. It is they who do all the work and organising. The format of our society as we know it today has changed very little since the 1920’s. The committee, annual shows, winter and spring social evening talks, and summer outings. The second thing is the long service and loyalty of the members many of whom have been associated with the society most of their lives.
Before you take a trip like a time traveller through the society records you should first take a few moments to look at the current list of cups and trophies in Appendix One. As you progress through the years you will see where and when they were donated and by whom.
In 1980 our previous President Bill Webber was the first person to research and record the early years of the society. The first chapters of this book have used extracts from his work.
The origins of allotments in Seaford go back to 1899. At this time many local authorities in East Sussex were setting up Horticultural or Allotment associations. On 10th June 1899 Seaford Council decided to set up a sub-committee to promote the provision of allotments in the Seaford area. The chairman was Mr Wolfenden. The sub-committee secretary was asked to write to all local landowners to see if anyone was willing to lease land to the council for allotment use. Mr Hutchins offered to lease two to three acres of land east of the golf links at a rent of £4 per acre. Seaford Council thought a sum of £2 more suitable. On the 8th January 1900 the council signed a seven year lease with Mr Hutchins. It would appear that these first allotments were situated opposite the junction of Southdown Road and Corsica Road. This area of land has now returned to the large grass area now enjoyed by dog walkers and, when it snows, children with their sledges. Soon afterwards the council advertised their first allotments being available to the “labouring men of Seaford”. Two weeks later Mr Hutchins offered more suitable land “along the bank leading to Chyngton” which covered some two and a half acres. Applications were again offered to the “Labouring Men of Seaford” and 30 applications were received. Mr Hutchins was a significant land owner in Seaford and was a member of Seaford Development Ltd. He went onto again offer for sale a further two acres of land on the “Old Cricket field ground” for the sum of £1300. The sale was for the development of a public garden and pleasure grounds near the seafront. It was hoped to include a bandstand that was to be paid for by public subscription.
The council Allotment Committee then became dormant for many years. In 1908 the council appointed a new allotment committee that held it’s first meeting on the 22nd April of that year. The new chairman was Mr Newman. The new committee was to review all their existing leases and seek to extend allotment sites. Following a circular issued by the Board of Trade the committee set about again writing to local landowners. Letters were sent to Mr Hutchins, Mr Ade, The earl of Chichester and the “Seaford West Company”. Only Mr Hutchins gave a favourable reply and offered twenty acres of land near Seaford’s new cemetery in Alfriston Road. The council committee declined this offer saying that the site would be too far away from the homes of the working classes.
The council approached Messrs Holland and Ersham of Nottingham regarding ten and a half acres of land owned by them between Sutton Drove and “The Nursery”. However, no agreement was reached. The council considered using its powers under the 1907 Allotment Act regarding the compulsory purchase of land but decided to take no further action.
On 26th November 1909 the council did sign a new agreement with a three lease with the owner of the land between the Chalk Pit and The Nursery in Alfriston Road. Unfortunately only six applications for plots were received from residents and on the 13th December the council decided to withdraw from the lease. Despite the councils efforts during 1908 and 1909 no allotment leases were signed. No further sub-committee meetings were held for many years.
In 1916 Parliament passed the Defence Of The Realm, Cultivation of Land Act. The purpose of this legislation was to encourage and enpower local councils to provide allotments for the growing of food.
On the 4th January 1917 the Seaford Council decided to re-form the Allotment Sub-Committee. They were to be responsible under the act for the acquisition of the land and dealings with all food supplies. The full council appointed Mr James Hooper as the Sub-Committee Chairman. Mr Hooper had been a local councillor since 1895. He ran James Hooper and Son, Ladies and Gents Tailors, 30 Church Street, Seaford. The other members of the committee were G. Godfrey, A. Pratt and W. Wilkinson.
The first sub-committee meeting was held on the 8th January 1917.
They decided to write to all landowners in Seaford area seeking a voluntary lease of land for allotment use. There were no replies. The committee subsequently decided to use their powers under the above Act. Notices were therefore served on local owners for the acquisition of the following plots of land.
1) Corner of Southdown Road and Sutton Road.
2) West side of Southdown Road and Hartfield Road.
3) West side of Southdown Road and Heathfield Road.
4) The Old Cricket Field North and South side of Marines Crescent Road.
5) Land opposite Pelham Place.
6) Land bounded by Sutton Avenue, Southdown Road and Chyngton Road. (Sutton Estate)
A few days’ later further Acquisition Orders were signed for land adjacent to Chichester Road, Albany Road and Sutton Park Road.
On the 12th February 1917 a further 15 sites were obtained plus a further 3 on the 3rd March 1917.
The last acquisition included an area of land known as Mill Piece. (Boarded by Sutton Road, Sutton Drove, DownsSchool and Sutton Cottages.
By now the council had obtained between 40-50 different plots all over the SeafordTown area.
The allotment sub-committee contains to organize the allocation and rents of plots. Records then show that at a meeting on 26.11.1917 the committee decided to call all Seaford Allotment Holders together for the purposes of forming an “Allotment Holders Association for Seaford”. It was decided to hold a meeting on Tuesday 11th December 1917 in the council room.
(THE BIRTH OF OUR SOCIETY).
At the next council sub-committee meeting on 7th January 1918. “It was reported that the Seaford Allotment Holders Association had sent out circulars to all of its members about purchase of seed potatoes.
It appears to have been a duty of local councils to organize the ordering of seed potatoes (Ware Time Orders) from the ministry of Agriculture.
On the 10th January 1918 the potatoes orders were submitted together with a request for 1 ton of Soda Crystals so that the Allotment holders could spray their crops.
The Council sub-committee received a letter on behalf of the Allotment Association enquiring about the sale of surplus produce.
The committee ruled that there could not be a “surplus of produce.” In fact it is doubtful if plot owners were legally allowed to sell any of their produce. The Allotment contracts were very tightly controlled by the local council.
Stories handed down by Allotment holders over the years say that at this time local ladies formed a group or co-operative.
A Miss Mary Beatrice Snow who lived in a large house at 24 High Street where Talland Parade now stands and two sisters Florence and Mary Hart Buck. These sisters were the daughters of the Revered Hart Buck Vicar of Seaford, it is said that these ladies opened a stall in Broad Street for Allotment Holders to sell their produce. The stall was situated next to the Post Office (Now Forbouys).
Members of Sutton Road Allotments wrote to the Town Council to complain about a track of hard ground worn across their plots by Troops of Soldiers. The Council agreed the area would be re-ploughed.
Following the end of the Great War the Council sub-committee met on the 13th January 1919 and decided that land could now be given up and returned to its owners. They would however make an offer to owners for the purchase of land to be re-let to Allotment tenants. Several landowners took up the offer. Notices to quit were served on the remaining Allotment holders.
By August 1920 only five plots of land were retained.
1) East and West Southdown Road.
2) Heathfield Road.
3) Sutton Road/Sutton Drove.
4) Bramber Road
The Allotment Holders Association wrote to the Council requesting “SECURITY OF TENURE”. The Council “moved to agree” and would seek the support of the Seaford Member of Parliament.
In October 1922 the Council ordered that a path 18” wide must separate all Allotments. The Council also wrote to a Mr Ade regarding his field on the boarder of Sutton Drove and Hindover Road and to MrHutchins about his land near the old IsolationHospital near the Cemetery and Kammond Avenue.
A subsequent agreement was made with Mr Ade. The Sutton Drove plots were set out by the Council and on the 8th February 1923 the Council advertised that tenants could visit and choose their plots on Saturday or Sunday morning.
The rent was to be one shilling per rod per annum.
Following national guidelines the council completed the return of acquisitioned land to the former owners by 31st March 1923.