A mystery photo purportedly taken on the Chesham Allotments – Cameron Rd.. Do you have any information about who, when, where? (Courtesy of Dave Page)

While much has been written about the origin of the modern allotment generally, the same cannot be said of the history of the Chesham Allotments. Extensive research of local history records, newspapers, and libraries has resulted only in short fragments of writing, a few photos, a couple of maps, and two oral histories.

The beginning of Cameron Road allotments

Perhaps the most revealing discovery has been a 1994 work by local historians Arnold Baines (former Mayor) and Clive Birch entitled A Chesham Century: The Story of a Town and its Council 1894 – 1994.[CITATION Arn94 \l 2057 ] In this work they relate the beginning of Cameron Road allotments.

1902 – 1908 The town had long had allotments in Bellingdon Rd. beset by poultry, and the Duke of Bedford’s Trust allotments were available for Waterside, but the demand was unsatisfied. Then in June 1909 Taylor’s Farm came on to the market. The Council met the night before the auction and asked the chairman (George Wallington) and two other members to bid for the whole farm, if possible, and if not, for specific lots. They were successful, but were at personal risk if the Council could not secure a loan. The Local Government Board was not satisfied; in particular, they saw no need for the depot which the surveyor wished to locate in the farmyard, off what is now Cameron Road. The board said sanction could not be given. The vendor threatened a writ against the successful bidders if the sales was not completed. They were in some danger as the Council was divided 8 or 9 against 7 or 8 on the merits of the purchase. The majority agreed that the land should be conveyed to five named Councillors until the Council was in a position to take it over, and those Councillors who were willing executed a bond in favour of their colleagues.

Printed circulars were distributed to houses north of the Town Hall, and 200 ratepayers and others crowded into a meeting at the Townsend Road School. There was clearly a strong demand by the working classes for the proposed allotments, at rents varying from 3d to 9d a pole according to location.

On 25 February 1910 three Councillors with the Surveyor confronted officials at the local government board, although a telegram stated that the Board would rather have representations in writing. However, one officer conceded that the case looked different from that previously presented. The deputation proceeded to the House of Commons and enlisted the help of Lionel de Rothschild. On Monday the plutocrat MP for Mid-Bucks went to see the first working man to attain Cabinet rank, the Rt. Hon John Burns, President of the Local Government Board. Burns called for a special report from his office. When the Council met on Wednesday, the Chairman sent a prepaid reply wire to the Board. The reply telegram came of Friday; the purchase was sanctioned, and the allotments were secured in time for cultivation to begin by Easter. Their administration was entrusted to the Highways Committee, a proposal to have a special Allotments Committee was declared “not carried” on a tied vote, and the present arrangement with tenant representation was not secured until 1953.

To the Surveyor’s disappointment the farmhouse and yard were sold off to Jesse Mead as a builder’s yard and the land adjoining Khartoum (now Eskdale) Avenue was also sold as surplus to requirements; it could have been let, and remains an orchard1 but at least the Council has 150 satisfied allotment holders, who soon formed a vigorous Association, which still invites the Town Mayor to present the trophies at its autumn show.

 

1 Under extreme housing pressure, in 2011 the Taylors Farm nut orchard was sold to developers who erected 8 townhouses for occupation in 2012.

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