Nineteenth Century Allotments in Southam

Tool shed on the Allotments in Southam
Anne Langley

Southam had the second oldest allotments in Warwickshire, set up in 1824 on poor’s land. By the 1890s there was an active Allotment Association with 271 acres of allotments (1.7 acres for each working family in the town!) The surviving allotments in Welsh Road are on glebe land and benefit from a unique tool-shed (see photo above). I assumed it was an old air-raid shelter for workers at the wartime RAF air-field opposite, but have now learned otherwise (see comment below).

Allotments for boys

Dr Henry Lilley Smith set up allotments for boys at Southam in the 1830s. Initially he provided one and a half acres of garden, divided into twelve plots for boys from 8 to 14 years old. The rent was 6d or 1s a month (with no rent payable for the three winter months). The boys had to grow flowers and at least six different kinds of vegetables; some of them also planted fruit trees. Dr Smith encouraged the boys to grow herbs such as mint and sage for sale and also provided a library of books for them to borrow.

Famous visitors to the boys’ allotments

The Labourers Friend Society (a local branch of a national movement) publicized Dr Smith’s initiative and visitors to the allotments included the Speaker of the House of Commons, Byron’s widow and the explorer Sir John Franklin. Later on the boys’ allotments were extended, but sadly the scheme folded after about ten years.


Most of my information comes from Joseph Ashby’s article in the Warwick Advertiser 24th December 1892, and the obituary for Dr Smith, reprinted in the British Medical Journal on 18th July 1936.


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