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The Allotments Association At Rushden

Digging potatoes c1911
Working on an allotment - photo by S. Powell c1911

Rushden Argus, 06 Dec 1889, transcribed by Kay Collins

Under the auspices of the Rushden Liberal Association, a well-attended meeting was held in the commercial room of the Coffee Tavern on Wednesday evening to consider and discuss the above subject. It will be remembered that a few weeks ago it was decided to invite Mr. Wm. Gibbins, the secretary of the Wellingborough Permanent Allotment Association, to introduce the subject, but owing to that gentleman having met with an accident, Mr. G. W. Maycock kindly acted as his substitute, and several members of the afore-mentioned association, viz., Messrs. H. Smith, W. Busby, C. P. Moore, Jacob Maycock, F. Coles, and T. Armstrong; also attended as a deputation.

Mr. Geo. Denton (president of the Liberal Association) took the chair, and in a few remarks introduced the subject. Allotments had been most successful at Wellingborough, and he did not see why they should not succeed at Rushden. (Cheers.)

Mr. Maycock was received with cheers, and after explaining the cause of Mr. Gibbins' absence, said that they felt the subject of allotments was or the utmost importance, vital to the interests of the country, and no statesmen, be he peer or commoner, could get on without dealing with this question. He advised that allotments should be taken from the landlord, and not from any middleman. In answer to thoe question "Why do we want allotments?" Mr. Maycock said they were wanted for physical development, for remunerative recreation, and profitable pleasure, so that their spare time might be utilised for the comfort of their homes and families, instead of being idly spent, as to the working man it meant that if he had not a strong will he would spend more in his enforced idleness than he would earn in full work. It was all very well for gentlemen of means to tell working men to lay up for a rainy day, but it often happened that working men had no good times, and when out of work they gradually came down in the scale of respectability through no fault of their own. Allotment would remedy this state of things, and would increase a man’s means, and also the wealth of the nation. He would also raise himself and become the owner of implements, and have the advantage of growing his own corn and potatoes and always have fresh vegetables, which was something. And if work fell short he would have something to do; he could work upon his land which would remunerate him, as the more he tilled it the more it would produce. He would also find it necessary to buy a pig to eat up the offal and provide manure, and thus would raise his own meat in addition to his vegetables. All this meant comfort and stability to the home and respect for the householder. They wanted allotments for "remunerative recreation and profitable pleasure", and he meant by this that a change of employment was beneficial to health, and at the same time it increased the income of that home in kind and coin, and established a system of thrift, which, although almost imperceptible, was nevertheless solid and secure. Besides, it was a great pleasure to have a piece of land to which they could take their wives and children, and feel they had something of their own growing in the ground, instead of being afraid to look over the hedge. Give the people a fair chance, at fair rents, and under honourable conditions, and they would find that many whom they thought unfit for the trust would not be far behind at the finish of the race. In regard to the question of physical development, there was no better exercise for the people engaged in indoor labour than the cultivation of land, as the turning over of the soil promoted good circulation good digestion, cleared the lungs, and gave the body the full benefit of the fresh air. (Cheers)

The Chairman thought the meeting would like to learn how the Wellingborough Association originated, and Mr. W. Busby then gave an interesting account of the formation and rise of the society. They first tried to get some of the charity land, but this farm of 182 acres being to let, they took it, paying a year's rent in advance. Land had been let at Wellingborough at the rate of £8 per acre, which was too much. They had now 200 members in their society, and they took the farm at 35s. per acre. He had found allotments very beneficial, as he had a large family of five sons, who all had two sisters each—(roars of laughter)—and instead of losing on allotments he gained by it. Other information was given by the different members of the deputation, and the discussion was taken part in by Mr. G. H. Skinner, who asked who would pay the rent if there were no guarantors, and Mr. Maycock replied that the secretary did that. Mr. Skinner also asked numerous other questions as to drainage, compensation, and tenure, Mr. Maycock informing him that under their lease they could force the owner to give compensation for unexhausted improvements.

The Chairman said he was not quite clear as to how the buildings were disposed of, as he would not advocate the establishment of an association if they could not do as they liked with the land

Mr. Maycock replied that the farm buildings were let to a member of the Association, who also had the grass land, and fruit trees were planted at the tenant’s risk.

In reply to the Rev. W. J. Tomkins as to how defaulters were treated, he said they were fined up to a certain time, and then expelled. If they had a plot to let it was balloted for, and it was generally found that the best gardener and best payer would come into possession of it. (Laughter)

In reply to a query by the Chairman, Mr. John Sargent said there were about 70 acres of allotments in Rushden, fifty of which were let at an average rental of £3 per acre.

Mr. Wm. Clarke said he had been told that allotments did not pay; could they (the deputation) give him a decided answer?

Mr. T. Armstrong said he had four or five acres, which paid him well, and he should like four or five acres more; and Mr. H. Smith informed the meeting that his efforts had been attended with great success. He had now 300 currant trees, 50 gooseberry bushes, and 350 yard of raspberry canes, besides three poles of strawberry plants.

In reply to further questions as to whether there was any demand now for allotments Mr. Maycock said there was, and the Associating would like another farm on the same terms as their present one.

Mr. Wright said he believed Mr. Skinner had a farm to let, and Mr. Skinner said he would let it at 30s. an acre. He had always been in favour of allotments. After some further discussions, the meeting terminated with thanks to the deputation and chairman.

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