A Potted History of Northfield Allotments South Shields (pun intended!)
Allotments date back to Anglo Saxon times and possibly earlier. From the Elizabethan era onwards Enclosure Acts prevented the poor from grazing their animals on rich folks land, and it was from this period where the term getting an "allotment" of land first appears. It was mainly during the Victorian era when the labouring poor needed to feed themselves that the allotment system we know today was started. However it was World War One when land was used to feed the population and then to support returning war veterans that the numbers of allotments rapidly increased.
Most land in South Shields until the 19th century was owned by the Church and the University of Durham, a legacy of the Norman Conquest when William the Conqueror stole the land belonging to the Anglo Saxon Geordies of South Shields and gave it to his mates who passed it to the Church. In the 19th Century the railway companies acquired land for the railways and also the many pits they owned. In 1878 the South Shields, Marsden and Whitburn Colliery Railway line ("The Marsden Rattler") entered South Shields. Presumably the Whitburn Coal Company purchased the land surrounding the railway line from the Church before this period or the land may have belonged to Westoe Colliery. The Northfield Allotment site is on land that was owned by The Church Commissioners and the National Coal Board. In 1949/50 the ownership of the site passed from the National Coal Board and Church Commissioners back to the people of Shields (well to the South Shields Corporation anyhow!).
Popular legend has it that Colonel Chipchase donated the land at Northfield after World War I for the benefit of the people of South Shields. On this 1921 map above, there is no obvious sign of any allotments at Northfield, but this does not mean there definitely weren’t any. Allotments are shown on this map opposite Bents Cottages on Mowbray Road; this was the site of was my great grandfather "Pincher" Durkin's allotment prior to 1936.
Looking at this 1932 photo showing the Greyhound Stadium, Rockcliffe, Stanhope and Sylverton Houses, and Northfield allotments just off Horsley Hill Road - these strips of land with huts at the end are clearly allotments and not commercial farmland.
In 1932 the Greyhound stadium has a bowling green and football pitch above it and is almost completely surrounded by allotments!
During World War II Northfield played its part in the war as I believe it was here that a searchlight team was stationed to defend the town and it was called Battery Field. My father operated searchlights on this site during the war. On the 9th April 1941 Hitler tried to stop the lads growing veg by bombing Northfield as this bomb crater shows. He was told "If he didn't stop, there would be war on!" and there was!
The Northfield Allotment Association Committee was in existence prior to 1953. Originally Northfield Allotments and Bents Allotments, on land owned by the NCB in front of Westoe Colliery, were run by the same Committee.
The earliest Committee Meeting minutes I have are from 3rd May 1953 written in pencil; 63 years later they are quite faded!
Committee Meeting Held 3rd May 1953
H Wilkinson in the Chair.
Members Present A Marshall, B Gill
H White, D Marshall, C Birchenell
F Dawson , J Carey
Extracts from Minutes:
Moved that we pay the National for 180 members at 6d per member (31st May 1953)
Moved that we write into the Town Hall in regards to the state of 131 Northfield (31st May 1953)
Moved the Association orders 4 TON 10 Cwt of Lime (4 October 1953)
Moved G Lincoln gets 272 Bents (28 February 1954)
Moved we take orders for Majestic and Arran Banner at 2/9= per stone (28 February 1954)
Lime Notices to be placed on boards inviting orders
Moved that the Secretary once more reports the state of dirty gardens to the Town Hall (8th August 1954)
Moved that we cost the Lime to be the same price of 2/= per Cwt (5th September 1954)
Moved that the Central Pigeon Club have first chance of buying our hut if it has to go (5th December 1954)
Moved we ask £20 for our Association Hut (26th March 1955)
Moved that we accept the £20 for the Hut at the Bents from SS Central Homing Soc (1st May 1955)
Moved that we write into the Town Hall about Rabbits Doing Damage on Northfield Allotments (7/8/55)
Moved that we write to the Police thanking them for the protection given to Northfield Allotments (6th November 1953
Moved that we have a caretaker for the Hut and his fee is 12/- (6th may 1956)
Moved that the Sec writes out for members to pay their Yearly Fee which is 1/6 as soon as possible. (6th August 1956)
Moved that we write into Mr Gibson about receipt for the 1 and 3/4 Ton of Potatoes (4th May 1958)
Moved that we order 3 Tons of Lime (Oct 2 1960)
Moved that we order Fertilizers as soon as we get the all orders in (cash) prices to be:
Growmore 3/6 Stone
Blood & Bone 3/6
Sul of Ammonia 3/-
Bone Meal 5/6
Sulph of Potash 1/6
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