Allotments; then and now…

Prof Harry Thorpe

Prof Harry Thorpe. Courtesy of Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham [UA10/10]

As we enter the New Year, thoughts turn to healthier diets, fruit and veg, more exercise, meeting like-minded people – and allotments might just fit the bill nicely?

A recent visit to the Special Collections at the University of Birmingham brought it all back to me. A vacation job in the 1970s had provided much needed cash when, as a student, I was employed to interview residents of Selly Oak on their understanding of allotments and their potential interest in ‘Leisure Gardens’. Leisure gardens were very much a continental trend whereby allotments had ceased to be considered as merely food gardens and had become garden-based opportunities for families to enjoy a range of leisure activities.  The project was run by Prof Harry Thorpe, Geography, on behalf of the Birmingham City Council (BCC) who were finding that the interest in allotments was waning. Whilst many Selly Oak residents were keen on the idea of leisure gardens and this was reported by Prof Thorpe, BCC sadly did not pursue Prof Thorpe’s recommendations. 

The opportunity to see a number of photographs from this research, and many other archives, emerged from a project being run by colleagues at the University of Birmingham – Helen Fisher, Archivist at the Cadbury Research Library, Special Collections, and Malcolm Dick, Director of the Centre for West Midlands History.

Their project ‘Approaches to the History of the University of Birmingham’ includes a focus on the ‘university student experience’ and a group of current postgraduates are carrying out research into many aspects of student life at the University of Birmingham.  They are using existing archives and collecting new material, of all types – film and photography, social media and oral history, to add to the contemporary archive of the student experience. If you are an alumni of the university you may be interested to view existing material and to contribute your ‘own student memories’.  

Further details can be obtained from: Helen Fisher, Archivist
Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections
University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT
Tel: +44(0)121 414 5839

Alison Smith


One response to “Allotments; then and now…

  1. Enjoyed this blog entry very much and it put me in mind of Martineau Community Garden, not far from the University and a leisure garden and allotment in one!

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