Written by David Taylor, chairman of Didcot and District Archaeological and Historical Society

LET'S Let’s have a brief look at the history of allotments.

Allotments in this country have their origins way back in the time of the Anglo-Saxons who cleared woodland to enable crops to be grown.

Then, throughout history, land was enclosed by landowners which prevented the poor from growing produce to feed themselves.

The movement of the population from the countryside to the cities during the Industrial Revolution meant land was needed near the big urban areas to feed the factory workers.

The 1908 Allotment Act forced local authorities to provide parcels of land for their resident parishioners.

With regard to allotments in Didcot, the first parcel of land for use as allotments was leased near the Vauxhall Road railway bridge from Dennis Napper in the year 1895.

The original allotment holders would have been Great Western Railway employees and across the country you will still see a lot of allotments near railway lines today for this exact reason.

In Didcot, there are other sites further down the modern Lower Broadway, on some five acres of land owned by Lord Wantage.

There were even more sites in years gone by.

The Great Western Railway built the houses in Station Road on allotment land and, in 1915, the Army started construction of the Barracks on allotment land.

Didcot Parish Council approached Lady Wantage in 1916 and leased three acres of land on Whitepiece.

This was a fairly large field at the time and is the origin of the current Broadway allotments.

The Army acquired more land in the 1920s and Didcot Parish Council approached The Queens College, Oxford to lease 10 acres of their land for allotments for the price of £1,500.

Part of this was to become Smallbone recreation ground.

The allotment holders paid 10d per pole of allotment land.

There was a threat to the Broadway allotments in the 1930s when a proposal was made to sell the land and build a Post Office on the site.

The Second World War, however saw a change in the site's fortunes.

In October 1939, the British Ministry of Agriculture launched its famous 'Dig for Victory' campaign, urging people across the country to cultivate their own fruit and vegetables.

Men and women were encouraged to grow their own food to compensate for the harsh rationing and the Broadway allotments were put to good use, helping the war effort.

An air raid shelter was built on the site in February 1940 but was only used by courting couples!

There were further threats to the allotment In the 1990s when the town council wished to fund the extension of the civic hall and again in 2015 when the council wanted to sell the land to pay off the loan taken out in the 1990s.

So, in 2016, after nearly a century of potential threats to these green spaces, Didcot Allotment Society was formed to encourage the use of all the allotments in the town and oppose any future sale of allotment land.

If you are passionate about growing vegetables and are new to Didcot, please contact Didcot Allotment Society on das@didcotallotments.com to ensure these sites are kept for future use.

With thanks to Didcot Allotment Society who helped me compile this short article.

For more information, see the group's website and their own history page at didcotallotments.com/history-of-broadway