East Sheen Allotments
A Brief History
Up until the 1920s, allotments in the then London Borough of Barnes were either run privately or managed by a Council Committee. In 1925, following an allotment act of that year, an association was formed with the Council and allotment holders; this association was known as the Barnes Allotment Holders and Gardens Association.
The first meeting of their management committee was held on 8 March 1926 and the minutes of all subsequent meetings up to 1973 have been preserved and can now be found in Richmond Local Reference Library.
In the 1960s, Barnes was absorbed into the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and Twickenham and the Barnes Allotment Holders and Gardens Association only managed allotment sites in East Sheen.
These allotment sites are Hertford, Priory, Palewell Pavilion, Palewell Fields, and The Triangle.
This is our oldest site dating back to the late 1920s and came into being as compensation for allotments lost to housing after the WW1. In the late 1880s, when Mortlake and the “back-lanes” of Barnes were slum areas and market gardens, the labouring classes had a large area of allotment gardens adjacent to Tinder Box Alley in Mortlake. This area had been Market Gardens.
Despite a long fight to keep the allotments by the Allotments Association, after the War, the area was built over to become Ripley Gardens.
A new allotment site was offered by The Council in the Palewell fields, bordering the Beverley Brook opposite The Bank of England sports grounds; it runs alongside the newly built Hertford Avenue, an area marked on old maps as ”liable to flooding”.
Following heavy rains in 1932, the allotments and sports grounds were flooded. The Bank of England requested The Council to widen and straighten out a bend in the Beverley Brook.
Following the work done to the stream, nearly 50 allotments were relocated along the new bankside. The original course of the brook still shows up as the boundary between the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Richmond upon Thames.
All through the 1930s, Hertford Avenue was under threat from a plan by the Council to build a swimming Pool complex “on Palewell Common now used as allotments.” The proposal was eventually turned down because The Council “had purchased the 29 odd acres with the idea some portion would be eventually built over.”
Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, attempts to make Hertford Avenue a Protected Site have failed and there is now a constant threat from expansion of The Richmond Park Academy School opposite the Hertford Avenue Allotments.
The Priory was originally flood meadows used for grazing cattle belonging to The Priory, a large private house and estate. The Priory became the first established psychiatric hospital in 1872.
There were short-term allotments here in WWI, though not WWII. Amusingly, cows were still grazed in the meadows in the 1950s as we found minutes record complaints by allotment holders in Hertford that cows had strayed onto their plots.
In 1958, the owners of The Priory agreed to the sale of the Priory Meadows to The Council for allotments and the closure of the small bridge over the Beverley Brook.
The Council surveyor submitted plans for 81 allotments of 6 rods each with huts, trees were to be removed, water, footpaths, essential fencing and a wicket gate onto the Upper Richmond Road were to be provided. Money to buy the site had been raised by the sale of 6 acres of land at Westfields Allotments in Barnes to Surrey County Council to build a new school.
One continual problem for Priory was flooding. In 1993, The National River Authority eventually agreed to install drainage pipes with flap valves at intervals along the banks of The Beverley Brook. This has largely solved the problem of bad floods (though a couple of very low lying allotments still suffer in very wet weather).
Despite Priory being a protected site, The Council approved a request in 1995 from the adjacent Sheen Junior School to extend the playground area by taking over 8 allotments. The Council replaced the allotments by “restoring” a derelict section of land on The Triangle Site.
Palewell Fields (Palewell Park)
Originally known as the Palewell Park site, this tiny little area of allotments is hidden between East Sheen Avenue and Palewell Park Road. In between the World Wars, it was a private tennis club where “a butler would bring drinks between matches to the players on a silver tray.”
During WWII, the area was used to graze horses and was taken then over by The Council as war-time allotments.
Palewell Fields Allotments survived The War and, for some of the plot holders, is an extension of their garden.
Another tiny site surrounded by a high hawthorn hedge, it was, between the Wars, a pitch-and-putt course next to the tea pavilion, which is still there, as is the children’s playground – this area is known as Palewell Fields, which backs onto Richmond Park.
During both the World Wars, much of the fields and pitch-and-putt course became allotments.
Joyce Dixon, who had plots on our sites for over 50 years, wrote that in 1941 her family worked a plot on the Bank of England Sports Ground and then on Palewell Common in the Dig for Victory campaign. She remembered having to fetch water in a bucket from the Beverley Brook.
After the War, most of the allotments were lost to what is now the football pitches and tennis courts, but the Pavilion Site has survived.
The Triangle Site
Another part of what had been the Palewell Fields (next to a second pitch and putt course), this has always been a difficult site for growing.
The drainage is poor, partly because of natural springs that are probably connected to the Pale-Well just up the road, a pond that has since been filled in.
During The Great Swimming Pool debate over Hertford allotments, an area of The Triangle was suggested as an alternative site for displaced allotment holders, but was deemed unfit for use when it was discovered that it had been a refuse dump for glass and china in the early 1900s.
Allotments were worked during WWII in an area north of the refuse site and survived after The War; a large drain was installed between the course and allotments in the early 1950s with a view to extending the pitch-and-put course. This never happened.
In the late 1990s, a part of The Triangle which had been derelict was brought back into cultivation by The Council for the displaced allotment holders from Priory when Sheen Junior School extended their playground area.
The Council had conveniently forgotten that this was an old dumping ground!
You can find an old OS map (from between 1937 – 1961) of the area here and a comparison with today showing our sites here.
If you have any more history or photos of the allotment sites throughout their history, please contact us so we can share it with the community!