Westwood Works 1903-2003
Allotments have been part of the UK’s leisure scene since the Enclosures Acts of the 17th Century when a public outcry resulted in local authorities being obliged to provide land for local residents to work. The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, the leading society today, has its roots as far back as 1901, when the Agricultural Organisation Society was established with the aim of co-operation amongst agriculturists and the organisation of smallholdings and allotments. Even today, Councils in England and Wales have a statutory obligation to provide Allotments for their residents.
As will be seen in Westwood Pre-1904, the 1901 OS map indicates that some 60 acres of allotments existed in an area to the west of Westwood Bridge, between the Great Northern Railway line and what is now Gresley Way and north from Mayor’s Walk to Rhubarb Bridge. The pre-1904 photograph shows that allotments covered the whole of the ten-acre site purchased for his new factory by F.C. Ihlee of Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins for £3040 on December 22nd 1903. It is interesting to note that some of the land around the factory site not needed for expansion was still being used for this purpose up until the time that the factory was demolished in 2003 and work on HMP Peterborough commenced.
The aerial photographs in Outside Views clearly show the extent of the allotments remaining after the factory was first built, with the first 1923/25 view showing the whole of the west and northern part of the site, from Westfield Road, between the factory and what came to be Westwood Airfield, fully under cultivation. Of interest is the second 1923/25 photograph, which shows another large area of allotments on the opposite side of Westfield Road, behind the Aublet Harry factory. The effects of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaigns of both World Wars must have lingered on with filling the family larder still a major spare time pre-occupation of the local population at that period.
The area available for allotments had hardly diminished by 1950 despite the extensions to the Plate Shop, Works Canteen, car park and Experimental Department built during WW2 and the immediate post-war period. However, the new Apprentice School (1953), Holdings Building (1966), the burgeoning use of cars rather than cycles to get to work (See also Getting to Work) creating the need for a huge increase in car parking spaces and the laying out of the new Sports Field (1963) – all shown in the overhead view from the 1960s and that of 1990 - (See Outside Views) meant that allotments were confined to the extreme northern end of the site by the mid 1960s.
The new Apprentice School arises from a bed of Brussels sprouts.
The final area set aside for Company allotments was just over 6 acres, including access paths and roadways, of the total of more than 40 acres to which the Westwood Works site had now grown. Some 50 to 60 plots were being worked regularly. A typical allotment was 250 square metres and the usual amenities were provided – a water supply and a designated member of the section to look after the general upkeep of the area and attend to any problems. Arrangements were made with the Company that where plots were left uncultivated, these were cleared and ploughed up to prevent the spread of weeds.
The Horticultural Section of the Sports Club undertook the administration of the allotments, with John Rose from the Stores Department being particularly involved for a number of years. Each plot holder (some had two!) was issued with a rent card, a small annual charge being put towards the Horticultural Section’s funds.
An Allotment Rent Card.
The pastime was very popular over the years with some members of the Night Shift visiting their plot before going home in the morning. As with so many other activities at Westwood, the line between ‘work’ and ‘leisure’ was often difficult to discern.
In another practical use of the "undeveloped" area of the Westfield Road site, recognising the difficulty associated with parking caravans close to employees’ homes, the Company provided a ‘safe’ storage area, adjacent to the allotments, for use by members of the Camping and Caravanning Section.
Allotment Site Plan (c. 1988)
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