A brief history of the allotments in Eynsham...
Talking to some of the past allotment holders, who took over plots from their fathers, I believe that Field 1 was set up in the early part of the 20th century on land owned by the Oxfordshire County Council. This was probably in response to the Small Holdings and Allotment Act of 1908 which stated that 'local councils shall provide sufficient number of allotments to persons resident in the parish desiring them. There was nothing in the legislation that specified the size of plots and Field 1 plots were originally 20 pole (approximately 600sq. yards), this was said to provide enough vegetables for a family.
There have been several acts affecting allotments over the last 100 years, particularly the 1950 Allotment Act, but most of these are amendments to, and clarifications of, the 1908 Act and it is still the main legislation. In the World War 2 and shortly after there were many areas of allotments in the village. The area behind the Star public house in Witney road which is now the Bartholomew School playing fields was a large area of allotments. This land became the school playing fields when the comprehensive school was built in 1958. At this time there were also other allotment areas, many of them private arrangements in Hanborough Road, Cassington Road and other areas of the village.
From the mid 1950s and all through the l960s the interest in allotments declined and much of the land was built on. By the early 1970s Field 1 in Oxford Road was the main allotment area in the village. There were still some other small private allotments in the village, but these eventually disappeared. In the 1970s there was a revival in interest in allotments and Field 2 was rented from the County Council. When this field was set out in 1974 there were approximately 50 plots, 10 poles in size.
There was still a great deal of pressure for allotments and by 1977 there were over 60 people on the waiting list. The committee decided to rent Bitterill field from the Bartholomew Charity. This is the field the other side of Mead Lane from Field 2. This was set up in the 1977-8 winter and 47 plots were ready for cultivation in the spring of 1978 as Field 3.
Unfortunately in the 1980s, the 'Thatcher and loadsamoney years' allotments fell rapidly out of fashion, supermarkets were selling cheap food and having an allotment was for 'losers'. Soon there were vacancies. In 1988 we gave up Field 3 and retreated to Fields 1 and 2, but we still had vacancies, you could have as many plots as you wanted as long as you paid the rent.
On top of this problem came another crisis. When the new bypass was proposed in 1979-80 it sliced off the Oxford Road entrance to the allotments and the water supply to both fields. No access to the allotments from the new bypass was allowed and the County Council gave us notice to quit. We decided to carry on working the land and fight the council at the Public Inquiry. Eventually the C.C. promised a new access along the line of the old railway with new gates and car parks in exchange for us withdrawing our objections to the bypass. We also managed to get the builders of the bypass to lay in a new water supply. Shortly after this Oxford Magnet Technology decided to buy the old BMC spares depot and build Wharf Road on the route of the old railway line giving us the metalled road we have today.
In 1997 the County Council decided they wanted to sell Fields 1 and 2 and Eynsham Parish Council kindly stepped in to buy them. Recently, with the organic and grow your own movements, allotments are back in fashion. Everyone seems to want an allotment and there are long waiting lists all over the country. Let us hope the interest is maintained and the allotments will be here for another 100 years.
Peter Ayres, December 2009