A Short history of Lawrence Street Allotments
Lawrence Street Allotments started as an offshoot of a site in Burnt Oak. Then in 1927 Hendon Council purchased a 5.9-acre field from a Mr FT Wright for the grand sum of £1.300. This field was to be used for the new allotments, which were officially established in 1928, but it already had an existing footpath running through it. The allotments were therefore created before the building of Lawrence Gardens, Marsh Close and The Redding.
By 1932 an active committee was running the site, with rents being paid direct to the Council. Committee meetings were held at The Rising Sun at a cost of 2 shillings (10p) per meeting. Economic conditions were difficult at this time, so there was a scheme for the unemployed to have plots rent free and for the plot holder to be given free seeds, paid for by a charity.
The Association was able to buy a second hand shed for £25 for trading in seeds and other items, and deliveries of manure from local stables were very welcome. The Association held many social events, whist drives, outings, children’s games, vegetable shows and a site competition, which appears to have often ended in disputes.
Understandably, there are hardly any records of the war years but we do know that a Mr Hugh Rayner was the proud winner of the Victory Cup in 1946 and Sir John Laing was the President of the Association. The allotments were not fenced off as they are now and there were various reports of damage and theft by boys from a local school in Lawrence Street.
In the late 1950’s the site was struggling, with fewer members and the finances in a bad way. With £1 in the red there was every chance the site would fold. A committee of 15 meet every month in the Tea Rooms of the Old Forge. Then a new member Ron Chown offered to be the Secretary on a few conditions, he would reduced the size of the committee and suggested it met when necessary at the site. He held the position for 20 years and it is to him we owe a debt of gratitude for saving the site.
Sadly by the early 1960’s things were looking difficult again, allotments had fallen out of fashion and half the site was unoccupied. The committee had to make some radical plans. It was decided that the area of plots 1-10 along Lawrence Street and 70-72 at the top of the site would be “given back” to the Council so the site would shrink and there were fewer plots to let. The Council agreed to surface a car park and to erect new fencing round the remaining plots. The old trading hut was replace by a new concrete one at a cost of £148, £100 from the Council and the rest from LSA, who also did the work needed for its construction, (it is this hut that is still in use today). The committee organised outings to Spalding bulb fields and there was still a plot competition.
Interest in allotments revived in the 1970’s and by 1976 the site was fully let. It was agreed to offer 11 new plots to the 23 people on the waiting list in what was called the Donkey Field at the top of the site that had been left fallow after the war. The rent was to be £3.50 per year but in fact this area was never really full let.
The Council in 1976 now proposed an alternative Tenancy Agreement for sites to have a lease, which would give them more control over the running of their site, although the Council would still be responsible for repairs. The rent would be cheaper per pole but would be charged for the whole site, not just for the plots that were let. So now it was even more important that all plots were let to cover this new rent charge. Members still had deliveries of straw bales, leaves from the Council’s road sweepers and manure; some of this came from the Elephant House at London Zoo.
Back out of favour again in the 1990’s there were once more too many vacant plots, so it was agreed to move any members from the Donkey Field back down to the main site. This area at the top of the site (now known as The Orchard) then became overgrown with brambles. Then around 2000 a householder sought permission from the Council to extend his garden onto about a third of this field. Drastic measures were needed to protect it and it was decided with permission from the Council to plant a communal orchard, which would be rent-free to the Association.
By 2002 we were fortunate to have Community Service working on the site – in fact they were with us for the next 10 years, on Saturdays in the summer. The Donkey Field site was cleared, the rubbish cleared and by the autumn of 2003 members and their families were ready to plant 32 heritage trees. The aim now is to establish wild flowers to complement the trees. The committee also reintroduced some social events, BBQ’s, a Pimms evening. Plus an annual Plant Sale and Open Day that are well supported by local residents. The site takes part in Barnet Council’s area allotment competition, which we won in 2011. In 2009 the Association was awarded a grant from the National Lottery for funding of our composting loo, which has been much appreciated by all.
In 2013, after long protracted negotiations, Barnet Council granted all their allotment sites a 38 year lease. With this comes self-management which brings new challenges and responsibilities but which we are ready to meet.