North Mymms people in Victorian times
by Peter Kingsford
The story of how the parish council won allotments for its constituents extends over a period of not less than eighteen years, from 1895 to 1913. The power to provide allotments was one of those parts of the Local Government Bill of 1894 to establish parish councils which met opposition in Parliament. However, the newly elected parish council of North Mymms saw that power as an important one and one which it was determined to implement from the start. It knew that, in the last resort, the Act provided for compulsory purchase or lease. At the very first council meeting on 2 January 1895 Ross Dagg, a solicitor living at Boltons, proposed and William Aslett, licensee of the Sibthorp Arms, seconded. "That Posters be printed and distributed about the Parish inviting Parishioners to make application for Allotments". A strong allotments committee was appointed.
The council naturally preferred to ask for the gift of land rather than use the threat of compulsion. Fortunately the first allotment was secured very soon. In October of that year Mrs Burns of North Mymms Place offered to lease a field in Welham Green, "adjacent to Mrs Gray’s property". The council subsequently bought the two-acre field for £4. l3s. It took a little time for the villagers to take advantage of the opportunity to increase their incomes. In 1896 parts of the field were still unlet, but the demand soon grew so that by 1900 there was competition for any allotment which fell vacant. Four years later there were a dozen unsatisfied applicants and any vacant allotment had to be drawn for. The council therefore decided to get a second field. This was easier said then done; negotiations for a meadow at Pooley’s Lane, occupied by John Nash, fell through. For the time being the council had to be content with inspecting the allotments to ensure that they were properly cultivated.
The pressure on the council seems to have relaxed for. a time, for the question of a second allotment field was not raised again until 1908. Mrs Bums was then asked for two acres next to the first field in Welham Green and it appeared that this would be available in the following year. When that time came, however, Mrs Burns was not willing to lease any of the grass land specified, Instead, her agent asked the council whether "Mr Crawford’s field behind Mrs Parson’s house extending down to Siding Lane" would be acceptable. Mrs Burns own view, was, in fact, that as she had already provided one field, other landowners such as Gaussen at Brookmans and Seymour at Potterells should now help.
Throughout 1910 little progress was made. In January Gaussen offered some land at £3 per acre, in April there were complaints to the council that the matter had been dragging on for years. In July the council went back to Mrs Burns only to be told that her view was as before, whereupon it asked the county council to intervene, without any effect. Next, two acres on Parsonage Farm were discussed and rejected as unsuitable.
Finally, in 1912, the council accepted a county council arbitration award of land on Skimpans Farm, owned by Gaussen and occupied by James Crawford, and leased it for thirty five years at £4 a year. Twenty-one eager applicants took possession of the two-acre field. It had been a long struggle.
The main part of the parish had been provided for as the Welham Green allotments were meant also for people at Water End and Hell Bar. At Little Heath, however, the council had another long struggle. In 1901 the residents petitioned the council that they seemed likely to lose their field which had been voluntarily provided by S C Sheppard of Leggatts; however, he renewed their use. Next, the allotment holders felt the effect of the 1902 Education Act; the county council acquired the field to build a school. Consequently another petition arrived and the hunt for five acres began. Mrs Gaussen of Brookmans was asked if she would sell a piece on the Swanley Bar Farm but the price asked was too high. A third petition with fifty signatures in 1908 led the parish council to appeal to the county council:
"After protracted negotiations this Council is quite unable to Rent any Land by voluntary arrangement from the local owners, and they are afraid it will be necessary to acquire land by compulsory means. I am therefore directed to request your Council to kindly give the matter urgent attention as it is a very pressing one."
When this proved unsuccessful the parish council went to the seat of power, the Board of Agriculture & Fisheries:
"Protracted negotiations extending over a period of more than two years to procure land for allotments at Little Heath has proved futile, the consequent appeal to the Hertfordshire County Council to procure land by compulsion has also failed. I am therefore to ask your Board for their assistance in the matter"
This was soon followed by renewed approaches to Gaussen and, as an alternative, by a request to the Marquis of Salisbury for a piece of land on Boltons Farm which was considered more suitable for vegetable growing, but which was purchase. The applicants were assembled to decide if they would accept the site. They did, as did also the parish council, while protesting against the cost of making a right of way. The land was staked out and fenced and the lease, at a rent of £10 per annum, was at last signed in February 1913, after twelve years. The council had to pay dearly for its persistence with a bill for costs from the county council for £57. 16s. 8d. which it considered enormous.
There remained the needs of the Roestock families. They had to wait, too - for fourteen years. The council had been told at the beginning that no land was available in that area. After nine years there were some negotiations but nothing came of them. What happened finally was due to the ingenuity and determination of Councillor Gardiner Wilson, retired railway official of Tollgate Farm. He arranged for the exchange of land between the Brookmans Estate and the parish charity trustees as a prerequisite for its use as allotments. Then, in his words in March 1909:
"Directly that was accomplished I set to work and obtained the sanction of the Charity Trustees to a portion of the six acres being let to the Parish Council for Allotments at Roestock. I found after having a Meeting of the men who signed the Memorial to the Parish Council that about two acres would be sufficient to meet their requirements and this quantity I had fenced off and the round measured up into pieces of 10 pole each. I again called the men together and they ballotted for them and are now preparing for the next season’s crop. There are 14 holders and I may add that nearly all have paid their rent a year in advance i.e. Xmas next."
The council put on record that it "unanimously resolved that a hearty vote of thanks be accorded to Mr Wilson".
Thus, eventually, allotments for the whole parish were secured and the Act of Parliament became a reality.
Peter Kingsford, 1986
Chapter 11 - The primrose path
Index - North Mymms people in Victorian times
Preface - North Mymms people in Victorian times
Photographs - from the book