Our History

The timeline on this page shows the long history of Joel Street Allotments. We can trace our history back a long way and in 2008 celebrated our 100 year anniversary. With the help of our members and community, let’s keep looking forward and reach our 150th!

  • Map of the Ruislip Parish prior to the Inclosure Act from 1814. Links to Francis Frith map page.

    Pre-1814 – Ruislip’s Common Land

    Before the 12th century, land in the UK was managed very differently to how it is today. Generally, there was ‘Common’ land and ‘Waste’ land. Common land was owned by the Lord of the Manor and could be rented by tenants or groups. Waste land was land that had no farming or grazing value, for example a strip on rocky cliff edges. This changed between the 12th and 18th century when various Inclosure Acts were passed, resulting in ‘Common’ land being parcelled up and awarded to various groups or individuals.

    To get an idea of the lasting impact the Inclosure Acts had on the British landscape, check out these maps on the Brompton Regis Community Website, showing the impact over time: https://bromptonregis.com/2018/03/04/1804-inclosure-act/

  • 1814 – Creation of Ruislip Cottagers Allotments Charity

    In 1814, the Charity was established under an Award following an Act of Parliament (dated 1804) that enclosed lands in the Parish of Ruislip. Sixty acres (in three areas) were allotted for the use of cottagers whose rents did not exceed £5.00 per year. Administration was carried out by a representative committee, and then later by Trustees. By 1880, 95 cottagers had a license to pasture cattle on the land.

    Of these three areas, one was ‘Eastcote Allotment’ and formed 18 acres east of Joel Street. It’s lined in red on the survey map.

    Ordinance Survey Map of Northwood Hills, Greater London, from the survey period beginning 1894. The most recognisable landmark for the area is Joel Street Farm.
    Ordinance Survey Map, Northwood Hills, Greater London 1894
  • 1908 – Creation of The Ruislip-Northwood Smallholding and Allotments Society

    In 1908, the first of a number of Allotments Acts was passed to make local authorities throughout the country set aside land for allotments. A group of local soldiers returning after WW1, set up The Ruislip-Northwood Smallholding and Allotments Society Limited, formally registered in July 1910.  They entered into negotiations with the Ruislip-Northwood Urban District Council to lease eight acres of the Eastcote Poor’s Field from the Ruislip Cottagers’ Allotments Charity.  The original lease was for fourteen years and dates from Lady Day (March 25th) 1912. As the allotments were filled, more land was rented, until the Society occupied the entire site.

  • From 1910 to 1950 – The Glory Years

    The period from its formation up to the 1950s must be considered the “glory years” of the site.  During two World Wars, the intervening Depression, and post-war Rationing, the need for ordinary people to grow as much of their own food as possible was paramount.  The Governments of the day supported allotments with legislation giving support and legal backing. They also provided practical support in the form of information booklets and advice on best practice.  The food produced on allotments was a vital part of the nation’s economy.  Throughout this period, the Joel Street site was fully occupied and fully cultivated.  Unfortunately, the written records of the Society no longer go back this far, but several of our older members have fond memories of the allotments their fathers tended.

    Historical Image of Joel Street Allotments, taken in 1945
  • 1960s to 1990s – The Decline

    From the late 1950s, Britain was becoming more prosperous and the rise of the consumer society meant that people had less interest in growing their own food. By 1964 the site was so under-used and untidy that the Trustees considered selling it for housing.

    Then in the 1970s there was a brief resurgence in interest in allotments, and in 1973 the Ruislip & District Natural History Society registered the site as common land. 

    But in the economic boom years of the 1980s, interest again declined.  In 1981, there were 45 poles vacant and there was concern about the untidy state of many of the plots.  At the 1982 AGM the Secretary reported that enthusiasm for allotments was waning and there were several plots vacant.  By the end of 1983 there were 216 poles vacant.  By 1987, 592 poles were vacant and there were approaches from builders who wished to purchase the entire site for housing development.

    This decline continued through the 1990s, with two large areas – amounting to nearly 130 poles – being taken out of allotment use and rented as paddocks. These areas are now known as Small Holdings 1 and 2.

    1999 – Due to significant decline in interest in Allotments, two areas were rented out as paddocks

  • 1995 – The Ruislip Combined Charity

    The Ruislip Combined Charity was formed in 1995 by the joining of two long established charities: the Ruislip Non-ecclesiastical Charities and The Ruislip Cottagers’ Allotment  Charity.  The charity helps anyone who lives within the historical parish of Ruislip – that is Ruislip, Northwood, Eastcote, Ruislip Manor and South Ruislip – using the money from investments and from the rental of two plots of land in Joel Street, Northwood Hills (that’s us!) and Fore Street, Eastcote.

    You can learn more about them here: https://ruislipcombinedcharity.co.uk/  

  • Early 2000s – Recovery

    2003

    2006

    2015

    2019

    At the start of the millennium, the Society’s membership count was down to only 27 members and things were looking bleak. Thankfully there was the beginning of a renewed interest in the origins and quality of food and membership and the Society began to recover. As larger plots became vacant, they were broken into smaller, more manageable sizes suitable for beginners. The starter plot initiative was begun, where smaller plots, the majority in a good starting shape, were made available for a year for those that wanted to have a go.

    As membership increased, a number of upgrades were added to the site facilities. Some of this was made possible with the help of grants (such as the Lottery Community Grant in 2010 that allowed the installation of disabled-friendly composting toilet) and some shrewd negotiation (significant water works were completed for a period in Northwood Hills, and in return for hosting the machinery overnight, we had assistance with fitting a new gate). Other upgrades included an improvement on the previously mentioned car park, better fencing, repair to site lockers, and an improved machine shed.

  • 2020 to 2022 – The Covid Years

    During the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK government allowed allotments to remain open – even during some of the strictest lockdowns. The reasoning was that with allotments open, people could continue to grow food, look after any animals, and to exercise. This also meant that the allotments were able to be a source of relief and escape for many people across the country. There were of course restrictions (social distancing was strictly enforced) but having a green space our members could escape to was a lifeline for many – especially those who were otherwise confined to their flats.