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Urban allotment gardens in the eighteenth century: the case of Sheffield, UK

Friday, October 21, 2016 6:04
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Central part of Ralph Gosling’s Plan of Sheffield 1736 showing urban gardens. Click on image for larger file.

“In the town of Sheffield in Yorkshire where a great iron manufacture is carried on, there is hardly a journeyman cutler who does not possess a piece of ground which he cultivates as a garden. These people take exercise without doors, but also eat many greens, roots etc. of their own growth, which they would never think of purchasing.” Dr. Buchan who lived in the town 1760-1769.

By N. Flavell
The Agricultural History Review
pas 95-106


Many acres of the horticultural land surrounding Sheffield in the late eighteenth century were utilized as allotment gardens. Provincial town histories, apart from those of Birmingham (where small gardens were often different in character) make little or no mention of anything similar for this period.

This paper makes the case for Sheffield being the first to experience worker’s gardens en masse and demonstrates that there may have been, on cautious calculation, 1500-1800 allotments available for rent in the town in the 1780s.

See the complete paper here.


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