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Last Update: 31st October 2020

The history of Glebe Allotments.

In October 2007, initial contact was made to the Glebe Land Manager enquiring about resurrecting the old unused allotments on Cuddesdon Road. These allotments had been unused for 40 years.

Over a period of 2 years, Horspath Allotment Association (HAA) was created, a chairman was appointed, Peter Ewart, and honorary president, Heather Palmer negotiated the lease for the Allotments and recruited enough people to take on plots.

In July 2009, the area for the HAA is marked out with posts. In September 2009 the site was sprayed, in October 2009 the site was ploughed. In December 2009 a site plan was drawn up and the allocation of plots commenced. The committee appointed a secretary Peter Frankum. In March 2010 the site was harrowed and the front hedge cut by a working party made up of the new members and their families.

In April 2010, The HAA joins the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, membership number S3616A. On Easter Sunday, plot holders move on to their allocated plots.

In November 2010 the first HAA Annual General Meeting takes place.

In 2013, an irrigation system was installed by Nigel Webb and Tim Rowse. Their efforts ensured water throughout the site by way of stand pipes along the main tracks.

In November 2013, Peter Ewart stood down from the position of Chair, and Fiona Smith was elected onto the position. Nigel Webb was elected as Vice-Chair. For a full list of committee members, see below. A 20 year lease was secured, and rents became payable.

We have 27 working plots, and more plots under negotiation. The site now has a social area, secure storage and secure gates.

The Horspath Village website has further historical information about the allotments at: Horspath Village Allotments

Committee Members (July 2019)

Chair - Fiona Smith
Vice Chair - Nigel Webb
Treasurer - Rob Judges
Committee member - Steve Turnbull
Committee member - Tim Rowse
Committee member - Cath Riley
Committee member - Chris Pym
Committee member - Melissa Swan
Committee Member - Chris Goss
Secretary - Vacant

(A pdf version of the following article can be downloaded from the "Documents" page.)

Early Horspath allotments and the beginning of the Horspath Allotment Association

Origins of the Village Allotments at Enclosure.

The key piece of Parliamentary legislation that enabled the establishment of our village parish allotments, was the General Enclosure Act of 1845. It contained a clause empowering the Commissioners to "allot land for the Labouring Poor" and made special mention of "recreation grounds". Thus at Horsepath Enclosure in 1847, the ancient Anglo-Saxon open-field strip farming method was abolished by Act of Parliament. Those Horsepath peasants dispossessed of their ancient individual strips, mainly to the south of the village and around the site of Old Horsepath, were then granted small plots within the newly established Parish Allotments.

NB: Those lands to the North of the village had been enclosed in stages back in earlier times (as far back as Tudor times in some cases). And these early enclosures - mostly quasi-legal land grabs by powerful landowners - led to frequent armed rebellions by those so dispossessed. See below for just one example:
Oxfordshire Rising of 1596

Other local disturbances primarily caused by enclosures:- The Captain Swing riots of Otmoor)

After the 1847 Enclosure, some of the Horspath lands so released were sold off to the larger village farms. All the farm-houses themselves were still within the village itself at that time and often farmed many remote open field strips scattered across the parish in a highly uneconomic way. Often these farmers had access to some of the best of the new lands. Hence Hill Farm & several others were built on land close to the new fields. The dispossessed peasants' new Parish allotments were not so lucky and often got the poorer land! But the biggest new landowners; Brasenose, Magdalen, and Corpus Christi colleges are still major land-owners in the village to this day.

As contentious as it was, with the poorer classes deprived of their own means of subsistence and thus becoming essentially merely a paid work-force of the bigger farmers (albeit with their rented and far smaller parish "allotments"), this greatly improved productive use of village land allowing a far larger population to be fed over time.
Concentrating agricultural land into larger units with fewer (capital-rich) owners allowed significant technical developments: clay-pipe drainage, scientific crop rotation and the introduction of artificial manures (shiploads of bird-droppings - guano - from South America).

NB:Chemically produced nitrogen is still one of the mainstay fertilisers used by Denis and George Walker today, along with hundreds of tons of organic cattle manure from their cattle barns.

Within a few years of Enclosure it is estimated by some historians that crop yields in general increased three-fold... Progress!

For much more information on this truly revolutionary change in Horspath village's affairs see: British History - Horspath Parish

Old Allotments

Map evidence for earlier allotment sites within the parish. About 1880.

Allotment Gardens

1925. Some allotments at least lie to the West of the church. Presumably due to house-building on the land below Butts down to the bridge, and perhaps due to the increased demand for allotments during the First World War.

Old Allotments 1925

Again in 1925, the field opposite The Row on the Wheatley side has what appears to be ? 50-70 plots. Presumably these were granted after the Gidley Way plots had been built on. (Possibly Glebe land?). This field is still owned by Horspath Parish Council.

At some stage before WW2 the village Glebe plots were moved to fields south of the village along the Cuddesdon Road, but details of that transfer are currently lacking. (We need access to the Vestry Records of the parish church to research this.)

NB: the fields we are using today have considerable antiquity! Mary discovered the site of a Mesolithic campsite with worked flint tools flakes, just south of the bee garden. (approx 5000BC) Most probably it has been alongside a small stream that was the prehistoric outflow of our present spring.
The fields were certainly in use during later Roman times as shown by the discovery just inside the present gate of two denarii of Constantine the Great (ruled AD 306 - AD 337); and a scattering of late 4th century Oxfordshire greyware - [coarse domestic pottery, about AD 350, from the Roman kilns near Open Brasenose] - on the Glebe plots further up the hill. These sherds would have come from a Roman Villa's kitchen midden (Wheatley?) spread out on the fields as manure.

Plus the recent discovery by Ivan Wright of an ancient trackway leading (probably) from Old Headington, down the Ridings, linked in Roman times to the main Roman road through this area, across the top of our allotment site - a road we still use - and probably onward towards the Roman Villa area and beyond.

In Medieval times this track also linked the (present) Horspath to the now lost village of Old Horsepath. There are indications that this track may well have been in use during the Bronze Age. For further background to this fascinating story, see the Horspath Archaeology & History Groups' website under "Documents": HAG Website)

USAAF Photo 1945

By the end of the war there appear to have been upward of about 100 plots in use. [from USAAF photo 1945]

The Glebe Allotments and the foundation of the HAA

By 1986 only two of these Glebe plots (for explanation of Glebe see:- Glebe Land) had remained in use and the rest were a tangle of brambles & knee-high weeds. The road hedge had also expanded to over 30ft on the land side.

With courteous help from Andrew Robson of Sidley's (the Land Agent for the Diocese), myself and Mary & one other local gardener (Tony Graham) then took on two of the derelict plots and began clearing them for use by hand. The gradual renting and clearance of all the other derelict plots was a slow process as we both had jobs that took us overseas on a regular basis; so it was another 15 years before the allotments were back in good shape. One major problem was the poor drainage and therefore acidic soil, which needed much added work before crop planting could be considered. However, by 2001 nearly all the formerly derelict plots had been drained, improved and were producing crops.

All this time the allotment site itself had been under threat from "developers". We had been warned that our tenancy could not be guaranteed beyond 2003. But once all the land was productive we had a measure of security under 1950 Allotments Act, which greatly deterred the "change of land use" formula necessary for "developers" to gain access. A close call.

In September 2007 however, a start was made within the Horspath Parish Council to begin a new village allotment organisation to recover an even greater area of former allotment land that had in the meantime become agricultural fields.

The full details of this splendid campaign by Heather Palmer and others are on the village website:- Horspath Village Website

Work then began on laying out the new plots under Peter Ewart's stewardship. He became the first Chairman of the new "Horspath Allotment Association" which then continued to prosper under Fiona Smith's mandate after Peter had laid down the baton after some three years of pioneering responsibility.

Fiona continues to this day as Chair and under her management she has sought to improve the HAA's viability by working closely with the Parish Council to obtain several serious grants for modern gardening machinery (all available to rent for tenants) and greatly added site security.

Original Farmland

The original farmland before ploughing. Microlight photo. Chris. Summer 2004

Farmland after ploughing

Photo taken in the Bleak Midwinter of 2009 after the old farmland had been ploughed up.

Farmland after ploughing, 2010

The following year things were looking better!

Nige and Peter (plots 7 & 8)

Nige and Peter (plots 7 & 8)