Having been going back into village history recently, I came across what to some people will be difficult for them to comprehend, especially if they were not born in this country, or are very young in school, where these measurements are no longer taught.
The land measurement called the "Rod, Pole or Perch." is 5½ yards square. So a typical allotment plot of 10 Poles is 5½ yards wide by 55 yards in length. Also you will hear or read of a chain measure as well. Of which, I will discuss in a later blog.
The history of allotments can be said to go back over a thousand years to when the Saxons would clear a field from woodland, which would be held in common. Following the Norman Conquest, land ownership became more concentrated in the hands of the manorial lords, monasteries and church. The reformation in the 1540s confiscated much of the church lands but they were transferred via the crown to the lords.
In the late 1500s under Elizabeth I common lands used by the poor for growing food and keeping animals began to be enclosed dispossessing the poor. In compensation allotments of land were attached to tenant cottages. This is the first mention of allotments.
In the UK, allotments are small parcels of land rented to individuals usually for the purpose of growing food crops. There is no set standard size but the most common plot size is 10 poles, an ancient measurement equivalent to 302 square yards.
Allotments and Cottage Gardens Compensation for Crops Act 1887 obliged local authorities to provide allotments if there was a demand for them. The local authorities resisted complying with the act and revision was required to strengthen the act.
Once again Britain was blockaded and food shortages the norm. The pressure was greater than that of the First World War and even public parks were pressed into use for food production. The famous 'Dig for Victory' campaign exhorted and educated the public to produce their own food and save shipping needed for war materials. Food rationing kept the demand for allotments and homegrown foods high until the end of the war although rationing continued until 1954.
Allotment and home food production is highly productive in terms of land use and during the war allotments were estimated to contribute some 1.3 million tons from 1.4 million plots. Agricultural production generally is more efficient in terms of labour but not in terms of land usage.
The result of demands for more and more building land saw the re-establishment of the Allotments Advisory Body, which in 1949 recommended a scale of provision of 4 acres per 1,000 head of population. This resulted in the Allotment Act of 1950.