Quirky historical exhibition in Surbiton and Tolworth gets Lottery funding

An exhibition showing a century’s worth of the history of allotments in Tolworth and Surbiton has been given £69,700 of Lottery funding.

The ground-breaking project will cover from 1900 to 2000, and research will now begin to dig up information about the importance of allotments to the area, and consider how changes over time reflect shifts in social and economic circumstances. The researchers will chart the role of, use of and demand for local allotments during the century, and then tell their story back to the community.

Demand for allotments first soared when the First World War gave people an impetus to grow their own food. During the Second World War, the government launched its Dig for Victory campaign, and the number of allotments grew from about 740,000 in 1939 to 1.4 million in 1942.

After the war, many allotments were taken back by local authorities and built on as pressure for urban development grew. The end of food rationing in 1954, and the growth of supermarkets and restaurants, changed the way people consumed food, and demand for allotments dropped.

In the 1960s and 70s, perceptions of allotments and gardening shifted again as it became a recreational and leisure interest and less driven by economic motives, portrayed in 1970s sitcom the Good Life, set in Surbiton.

The Community Brain took over the abandoned Tolworth Allotments Society site in June, with the aim of creating a community farming project.

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