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A history of the site’s origins and formation 1889 – 1936

Jo Goldsworthy (plot 87) 2007

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The allotment movement in England came in to being in the late eighteenth century, partly in response to the Parliamentary Enclosure Movement of 1750-1850 and partly as a result of the invasion of common land by the rural labouring poor known as the “Diggers” in 1649. The harvest failures of 1794-6 and 1799-1801 led to the first allotment movement, and the Swing Riots of 1830-1 to the second. The vast increase of manufacturing industry led to a move by agricultural workers from the depression-hit countryside to the towns, and there was an increasing demand from these new urban dwellers for land.


1889 - 1890


The question of allotments in Child’s Hill was first raised in 1889 when, according to the minutes of the Hendon Local Board meeting on March 4th 1889, "The Solicitor read a Memorial from several inhabitants of Childs Hill … stating their anxiety to obtain allotments and asking the assistance of the Board in the matter according to the provisions of the Allotments Act 1887".


By 14th October 1889 the Surveyor of the Hendon Local Board was in discussions with Cluttons, representing the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (who looked after Church landholdings), regarding leasing "about twenty acres of land to the Board for the purpose of being appropriated as allotments for the labouring class". By November 14th the Surveyor had calculated that it would be necessary to charge a rent of 1/- per pole per annum to cover the cost of leasing the land and erecting "unclimbable iron fencing" around the allotment site. Would that we had "unclimbable" fencing now!


The land staked out by the Surveyor for the allotments ran alongside a rifle range that had been opened in 1860. The range was bordered, to the east, by market gardens and houses on The Mead (now Granville Road), and to the north by what is now The Vale (then an unnamed track between fields). The allotment site itself extended from the back of the houses on Cricklewood Lane on the south, to the rifle range on the east, to a line approximately half-way up the current site in the north, and to what is now the Hendon Way on the west.

Detail from Ordnance Survey map of the County of Middlesex, c. 1868, sheet XI. 15, showing The Mead (now Granville Road), the Red Lion public house, field lines, footpaths, farm tracks and roads. What is now the Hendon Way was then a farm track (see left of map). The southern end of the rifle range can be seen at the top centre of the map. (Courtesy of Barnet Local Studies) 


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There was some concern about the safety aspects of having an allotment next to a rifle range. The Hendon Board Minutes of 31st March 1890 reported that “your Committee interviewed Major Toller of the 3rd Middlesex Rifle Corps to ascertain whether the boundary of land for the allotments as now staked out by your Surveyor was safe having regard to the Volunteers firing over the eastern partition of the land included in the lease from the Commissioners to your Board and your Committee were assured that such boundaries would be quite safe”. Looking at the map below, it can be seen why plot holders might be worried. Those of us who have dug up spent rifle shells over the years may wonder how safe “quite safe” is.


Plan included in the lease between the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and a local tenant showing the area proposed for the allotment site. The lower part of the rifle range can be seen marked in red. (Courtesy of London Borough of Barnet)  

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By May 1890 negotiations with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to lease Church land had been concluded and the Committee was receiving applications for plots. By the end of June that year allottees were already putting up sheds in which to store tools, but were told that as these were “contrary to the proposed bye laws to the terms contained in the lease from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of England”, they should be removed. Some things never change!


The lease between the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Hendon Local Board was signed on July 31st 1890 at an annual rent of £68 for “seventeen acres or thereabouts” of land to be used “for the purpose of providing allotments for the Labouring population” of Child's Hill.

Plan included in the lease between The Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England and the Hendon Local Board dated July 31st 1890.


It will be noticed that the area leased includes the rifle range shown in the map above, although this did not form part of the allotment site. (Courtesy of London Borough of Barnet)

1890 - 1920


Child’s Hill Allotment folklore suggests that the allotment land was given in perpetuity to the people of Child’s Hill. Sadly this is not the case. What was given as a gift by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners is what is now Child’s Hill Park, situated behind Nant and Granville Roads. The gift was not entirely without strings, however The Hendon and Finchley Times [still extant] of March 13th 1891 reports on a Hendon Board meeting at which there were complaints by Board members about the expensive conditions attached to this gift of a recreation ground that involved building a sewer and a wall. The matter was eventually resolved, and the park, with its pavilion, bowling green and tennis courts, is today much used by local residents.


The rifle range ceased to be used for “Service Arms” (military) in 1900, but continued in use as a “miniature range” until 1912. A photograph taken in 1906 marks the inauguration of Hendon and Cricklewood Rifle Club by Field-Marshal Earl Roberts, V.C. at what is probably the former Child’s Hill rifle range. By 1915 the Ordnance Survey map showed the Allotment site in its original size but with no rifle range alongside – although it is possible that this potentially useful piece of information was omitted for reasons of wartime security.

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Detail from Ordnance Survey map, Middlesex sheet XI 15, edition of 1915.


The Mead has now become Granville Road, there is no rifle range, and what was Child’s Hill Lane is Cricklewood Lane and includes a tramway. There is, however, no Hendon Way or The Vale. (Courtesy of Barnet Local Studies)

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1921 - 1925


The May 30th 1921 Hendon Urban District Council minutes show the Council seeking to lease more allotment land in Child’s Hill but that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were unable to open negotiations as they were waiting for compensation from the Air Ministry who had “taken” land from them during the war. A complaint – familiar to us – about the state of uncultivated plots is also minuted on this date.


During this inter-war period, rapid urban expansion was taking place, and a conflict of interest began to emerge about land to be used for allotments and for more profitable – to the landowner – building development, with allottees being the losers. This appears to be the time when Child's Hill allotment land was requisitioned for building the houses on what is now Cloister Road. The Hendon and Finchley Times of January 27th 1922 reports on the complaints by allottees at Child’s Hill about the way they had been dispossessed of their plots: “Mr. C. Debenham… said a number of men had received no notice from the Council or anyone, and on going to their plots they found the ground being ‘trespassed’ on by builders.” The Council minutes for February 20th 1922 record the Child’s Hill Ratepayers’ Association “urging the Council to provide additional land for the provision of allotments”.


In July 1922 land held by the Council under the Lands Cultivation Orders (a wartime measure that provided allotments) that was part of Mrs Evans’ estate at Child’s Hill was being considered for leasing. Mrs Evans' agent was not willing to lease this, however, as “such land was considered to be ripe for building development”.


By November 1922, complaints from allottees were registered about “trespass and theft”, the allotments being used as a route from The Vale to Longberries, and rumours were circulating amongst plot holders about the allotment lease that was due to expire on Christmas Day, 1924. In October 1923, the Council attempted to extend this lease with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, but the Commissioners’ agent – Cluttons – said that in view of the building development in the area, they could not advise extending the lease. However, in March 1924 the Council opened negotiations with the Commissioners to buy “approximately 15 acres of land at Child's Hill”.


In June 1924, allottees at Child’s Hill were being dispossessed of their plots in order that the proposed “Watford By-Pass Road” (now the Hendon Way) could be built. Finally, close to the lease expiry date, the Council minutes of December 15th 1924 record that “an area of about 14 acres, 0 roods, 28 poles” was to be purchased from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for £6,380, or £450 per acre, and that the Council was “to use the land only for Allotments or for the extension of their Housing Scheme”.


By September 28th 1925, the purchase of the land had been completed, but excluded a strip along the by-pass road as this “would probably be required for building purposes” (as indeed it was; these are the houses along the Hendon Way that back on to the allotment site). It will be seen from the plan below, dated October 15th 1925, that the allotment site included what is now Garth Road and the area as far as The Vale formerly used by the rifle range. This explains why over the years old cartridge cases have been frequently dug up on some parts of the site.

Plan attached to the contract dated October 15th 1925 between the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and Hendon Urban District Council. Note that Garth Road does not yet exist and the Hendon Way is named "Watford Bye Pass". (Courtesy of London Borough of Barnet)

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The minutes for February 1st 1926 record a suggestion “that every Allotment Holder should be a member of an Allotment Association”, and it was – interestingly – recommended “that in future lettings of plots it shall be a condition that the Allottee shall be a member of the appropriate Allotment Association”. In August 1926, under the terms of the Housing Act, 1925, 4.04 acres of the allotment site were appropriated by Hendon Urban District Council for a “future housing extension”. This is the area now occupied by the houses on Garth Road.

Plan dated August 23rd 1926 attached to “Consent to the Appropriation of Land” drawn up under the terms of the 1925 Housing Act. (Courtesy of London Borough of Barnet) (Click on image to enlarge)



The 10.34 acres that remain are what we know as Child’s Hill Allotments. The Ordnance Survey map of 1936 shows the huge extent of building development at that time, a suburban landscape that remains familiar to us today.

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Detail from Ordnance Survey map from, Middlesex sheets XI 11 and XI 15, showing the allotments and Child’s Hill in 1936. (Courtesy of Barnet Local Studies)

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© Child's Hill Allotment Society 2014