naturewise courses naturewise logo naturewise forest garden

Cardigan Allotments

 

Short films of cardigan allotments.     Cardigan Allotments Part 1          Cardigan Allotments Part 2

Would you Like a plot? For more information phone: 07717473435 or email sarahwr@phonecoop.coop

Join the naturewise West Wales emailing list

History of cardigan allotments

 The Town Council was delayed for several years in carrying out this project when the then Lord of the Manor of Cardigan, Phillip John Miles Esq. laid claim to the common, which forced the Council to make an application to Parliament for a special Act of Enclosure which was eventually passed in 1857.

During the enforced delay and with the co-operation of the new Lord of the Manor, the Reverend Robert Miles, the Boundaries Commission advised the Council in 1853 to dispose of the Common as follows; one fourth part to be retained by the Reverend Robert Miles, four acres for recreational use by the inhabitants of the town, four acres as allotments to be used by the labouring poor of the town, and the remainder to be used in the improvement of the town reservoir; provision of quarry land where the townspeople could dig clay for use in mixing Culm; and finally an area to be set aside as a public burial ground.

When the Act of Enclosure was passed in 1857 it was worded that the land enclosed for public use was ‘in trust for the people of Cardigan in perpetuity’, and it is this clause which at the present day, some 150 years later, is still being cited as the legal right by which the inhabitants of Cardigan claim their four acres of allotment land.

Cardigan as an ancient borough with a Mayor and Court Leet, had Freemen who enjoyed the privilege of being able to pasture their stock on the Town’s common land, a right which has been passed down from the father to son for many generations. In the past this Common Land had reputedly covered around 2,000 acres but by 1835, the year of the Municipal Reform Act, only 200 acres of the common remained unenclosed. In 183 the new democratically elected Cardigan Borough Council decided to sell what remained of the common and use money raised for town improvements, retaining a small percentage of the land for recreation, burial and allotment use.

 

 

 That the people of Cardigan were aware of the origins of their allotments is emphasized by their continuing use in common parlance the name ‘The Common Gardens’, not meaning ‘common in the communal sense, but meaning ‘the gardens on what was the Cardigan Common’. These first allotment gardens were situated at Parc-y-rifle, on the site of what is now the town rugby pitch, but the overall size of the site was reduced by the new town reservoir infringing on the north eastern boundary during its building in 1863.

This infringement was further compounded when the Council, who had run into financial difficulties caused by the expense of the new reservoir, suggested that the allotments be sold to alleviate their problems, but the ratepayers objected and the allotments were saved. Being the province of the ‘labouring poor’, the allotments suffered invasion by both Culm mixers and the Council itself who used one area of the allotments for dumping town waste, but despite these setbacks the allotments continued to be both popular and well used, with excellent crops being produced and a perpetual waiting list for vacant plots.

During the First World War, the allotments were mainly cultivated by women and older children, many of the men-folk having been called away to serve in the Armed Forces. This being a time of national rationing and food shortage, the allotments played a vital role in food production , and the allottees received much encouragement from the Borough Council who organized the provision and transport of manure from local farms - the cost being divided amongst the plot-holders.

 

It was many years after the war had finished before food supplies were normalized, and it was therefore a great shock when in 1919 the allotment holders were given notice by the Borough Council to relinquish their tenancies as 50 new houses were to be built on the site. Many allotment holders were ex-servicemen and they felt bitter and betrayed that having served their country ‘…to make it a land fit for heroes’, the Council was endeavoring to prevent them from providing food for their families, and a protest meeting was held to uphold their rights.

 

The protestors appointed representatives to notify the Council that there were many alternative sites on which houses could be built, but despite their pleas, plans were drawn up for the new houses on the allotment site under the supervision of Mr. Lewis of The Black Lion Hotel. Providentially for the protestors a Council vacancy arose at about this time, and Mr. Dan Williams, a teacher from Cardigan Grammar School, was nominated by the Common Gardens allotment holders, the Liberal Club, and the Discharged Soldiers and Sailors Association to stand for it, and he was elected unopposed as the champion of the allotment cause.

 

On June 10th 1919, Councilor Dan Williams used his maiden speech to urge the Borough Council to abandon its plans to build over the allotments, but the Mayor, Councilor John Evans, refused to place the motion before the Council, stating that there were not the two thirds present at the meeting for a motion to be passed. A Public Inquiry was held eight days later at the Guildhall by the Local Government Board, and the Council’s decision to build on the allotments was upheld despite strong opposition from within and without the Council Chambers. Opponents of the scheme refused to accept defeat and in September 1919, a Ratepayers Association was formed with many prominent citizens being appointed as committee and officers, and on November 1st 1919 they fought and won the Council Elections on the issue of the future of the Common Gardens. In a following by-election, Mr. Griffith Jenkins and Mr. David Hughes of the Ratepayers Association were elected onto the Council with large majorities.

 

With the changed profile of the new Council it was decided to postpone building on the Common Gardens site and five alternative sites were proposed for house building. In April 1920 a confident Councilor Dan Williams moved that the Common Gardens be officially abandoned as the site for the 50 houses, but his motion was unexpectedly lost by the casting vote of the Mayor.

 

Nothing daunted more protest meeting ensued, but the building project was pushed onwards, the number of projected houses rising in the meantime to 75. There were very bitter feelings both in the town and in the Council Chamber over this issue. It must also be considered that the blight of uncertainty which was cast over the allotment holders by this protracted threat could only have played into the hands of the house building lobby, investing enthusiasm, time and money into a seemingly doomed site must have seemed to many allottees a waste of effort, and while there are no figures available, the pressure to give up using the plots must have been considerable.

 

In June 1920, the Cardigan Ratepayers Association decided to call a public meeting to consider holding another public vote on the building scheme, but while this was under consideration the Borough Council declared their intentions to proceed with building not only the town allotments, but also on the town’s recreation field - their confidence in success being the result of meetings with a government inspector who had been called in to advise under the government Housing Act. Parc-y-rifle the Town’s recreation field, was also held in a perpetual trust for the people of Cardigan and the protest escalated against the Council as a result.

 

In 1920 Major Maclean, the regional housing inspector, was reported as having bullied and threatened the Council to start the building scheme at once, but such was the public feeling against what was perceived as ‘outside intimidation, that in the 1920 Council election, the Ratepayers Association had an outstanding success. The results read: Mr. Dan Williams (Ratepayers Association) 799 votes; Mrs. M. A. Williams (Ratepayer Association) 744 votes; Mr G.H. Mathias (Independent) 718 votes; Mr. J.E. Jones (Ratepayers Association) 708 votes and Mr. A. Squibs (Independent) 382 votes.

 

This was a salutary reminder that the Ratepayer Association had the confidence of the voters. With these results in mind, at a Council meeting in 192l , Councilor Dan Williams and the Ratepayers Association with the backing of the people of Cardigan had defeated the developers - the allotments and recreation field were saved.

 

As a result of the uncertainty of the future of the allotments and in line with the national trend, many of the allotment plots ere left empty for a considerable number of years, and in the 1930’s a tennis court was constructed over a section at the Gwbert Road end of the Gardens. With the growing popularity in 1938 of the (King George V) recreation fields, Councilor Dan Williams in the first year of his Mayoralty undertook the extension of the rugby and soccer pitches and by mutual consent the allotments were moved further up the hill away from the town to Feidrhenffodd. While this move was in process a legal blunder occurred, causing an ongoing battle which has lasted almost 70years; when the deeds were drawn up for the new allotment site it was omitted to make it clear that the Trust to the people of Cardigan was transferred with the land.

 

The Second World War caused delay in the creation of the new sports pitches on the old allotment site until 1945, but wartime food shortages saw the new allotments in production by 1940, with each of the 90 plots being let at an annual rent of two shillings and sixpence. As with many other towns in wartime, Cardigan had several temporary allotments, these were situated at ‘Coneran Gardens’ and St. Mary’s’, and had 35 plots in total let at tow shilling per annum, (it is on record that the collection of these rents was rarely achieved).

 

After 1945 there was a period of calm for the new allotments at Feidrhenffodd, but an event occurred in 1961 which was to put the Borough Council in a very awkward position, on November 22 it leased a small area of an allotment for 21 years to the Electricity Board for use as a sub station. At the time this was not questioned but later, possibly emboldened by the lack of objection, permission was also given to an adjoining garage proprietor, Mr Rhos James of ‘Rhos Garage’ to lease 500 square yards of allotment space for seven years as a car parking space for his buisiness. This was done with permission from the office of the Secretary of State, as is required by law when it is proposed to use part of a statutory allotment for any other purpose, but the breaking of the original award of the land in trust in perpetuity was not mentioned.

 

Further emboldened, the newly formed Ceredigion District Council, who had taken over from the old Borough Council in 1974 sold the leased section of land on the termination of the lease to Rhos Garages - a direct contravention of the original Trust.

 

At this time Ceredigion District Council had placed the responsibility for the allotments into the hands of the Parks and Gardens Superintendent who set the rent for each of the remaining plots at £3 per annum. This situation was totally refuted by the allotment holders, who saw the allotments as being owned in trust free of charge for the use of the people of Cardigan, and many refused to pay the rent, or to relinquish their plots despite being given notice to quit by Ceredigion District Council. At around this time a letter was referred to Ceredigion District Council from Mr. Elwyn Morris of Newtown ( the area surrounding Feidrhenffordd allotments), stating that legal experts had confirmed that two of the original four acres of allotment land were missing - and requested their return. This letter which was originally addressed to the old Borough Council drew the comment from Ceredigon District Council that since local government reorganisation in 1974 they themselves were no longer competent to deal with Mr. Morris’ request. This escalating situation drew letters from Geraint Howells the Cardigan Member of Parliament who wrote to both the Welsh Office in Whitehall, and to Mr. Delwyn Morgan the Director of Administration for Ceredigion District Council, asking for clarification of the situation, but he could only get the assurance that A) the land was leased and sold with the concurrence of The Secretary of State and B) That the allotments were not held in trust. An appeal to the Charity Commission by Elwyn Morris in October 1976 received a reply which is reproduced in the Appendices, but succinct as this letter appears to be, the comments of Mr. Morris written at the bottom of the letter gives a firm indication of the perceived rights of those fighting for the Trust to be recognised. On the 10th January 1978 a letter was received by Cardigan Town Council from eight residents of Newtown who had formed an Action Group on behalf of the allotments, not only setting out the grievances of the ratepayers over the allotment situation, but demanding the names of the officials who had allowed the Trust land to be leased and sold. It also stated that Ceredigion District Council had denied all knowledge of who owned Fields O.S. 6967 and 739, (the allotment site). This denial was later described by the Director of Administration of Ceredigion District Council as ‘…a slight confusion’.

At this juncture amidst an interchange of many communciations, it should be mentioned that all letters mentioned in this work with reference to the Cardigan Allotments post 1960 are at present in the hands of Mr. David Jones of Cardigan who is reluctant to commit them into the hands of the County Archivists because of their ongoing relevance. As an allotment holder of over 40 years and a founder member of the ‘Cardigan Action Group’, Mr. Jones feels that the originals of these letters should be kept in his possession ‘….lest they be lost’. Several of the most relevant letters have been included as photocopies in the Appendices for purpose of clarification and verification. Mr. Jones was himself given notice to quit his allotment plot at Feidrhenffordd by the Director of Administration of Ceredigion District Council for non payment of rent in January 1978.

The ‘Cardigan Action Group’, whose letters were addressed from the house of Mr. Elwyn Morris, appealed in April 1978 to the Right Honourable Merlyn Rees, H.M. Minister for Home Affairs, stating that’ …the Secretary ot State for Wales has no right to annul an Act of Parliament “…at the stroke of a pen….”’ His reply is given in Appendix 13 when Mr. Morris’ comments added as a postscript. A further blow was the reply received from the Ombudsman who described the explanations given by the Director of Administration as ‘…fair and reasonable….’, and he described the stance of the Action Group as being based on ‘ a misconception of the status of land’. Far from being dismayed, the Action group in April 1979 re-aligned themselves as the ‘Feidrhenffordd Trust Allotments’ with J. Adams-Lewis Esq. as Secretary, and as such became joint menmbers of ‘The National Society fo Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd,’, before whom they placed the details of their case, and who in turn re-submitted them to the Secretary of State for Wales. It is significant that it was at this time that Mr. David Jones (allottee) was informed by Ceredigion District Council that ‘…action would be taken against him for trespassing on Council property’, I.e. the allotment he had held for 25 years. In 1980 The Tivyside and General Advertiser published a report of victory for the allottees however, they recorded that Mr. Deurwyn Morgan, the Director of Administration, had recommended to the Council’s Policy Committee that the current £6 a year rent be reduced and that the allotment holders be charged ‘….a nominal sum only’. The article ended with a spokesman for the allotment holders asking for an assurance ‘… in black and white …’ that the land belonged to the people of Cardigan’, and ‘ where were the missing two acres?’ Another question which was frequently asked by the allotment group was the whereabouts of the money raised by Ceredigion District Council when they lease and sold parts of the allotment site in 1961 and 1974, their contention being that that too belonged to the Trust. A communication to Mr. Elwyn Morris of the Cardigan Action Group from Mr. Deurwyn Morgan is in Appendix 14, this gives not only the position of Ceredigion District council in full, but also gives in paragraph eight an overview of the allotments, with a very acerbic final paragraph.

The re-development of the road system to the east of Cardigan Town in 1980 came under a bypass scheme intended to alleviate much of the town’s traffic congestion, but which also demanded that that part of the Feidrhenffodd allotments be used to facilitate the building of the new Aberystwyth section. With regards to this in August 1980 a letter was sent to Mr. J. Adams-Lewis, Chairman of the Feidrhenffodd Allotments Association from the Welsh Office ‘Transport and Highways Group’, informing him that part of the O.S plot 7359 would need to be acquired; that the Ceredigion District Council had confirmed that the freehold was owned by them, and that the land was not held in any form of Trust. The eventual outcome of the bypass intrusion was that the allotment site was fragmented but enlarged. The road development took approximately half an acre from O.S plot 7359, but was replaced in 1987 with two acres on the opposite side of the bypass. This new two acre site had little access, no infrastructure and was barely fenced. Being of no viable use as allotment land, it was used by an ex-allottee for many years to rear sheep.

Whilst this worrying division of the allotment site was being carried out by the Welsh Office, the upper side of the original site was also being infringed upon, Mr. Elwyn Morris of the Action group receiving a letter on the 1st December 1981 from Mr. Deurwyn Morgan with reference to a proposed supermarket abutting this boundary. The plans for the supermarket were passed and the supermarket built, and while not taking land from the allotment site, the building of this large Tesco outlet caused many problems.

The greatest threat to allotment sites, especially in the last two decades of the twentieth century was indubitably that of the supermarket. Out of town building of these large complexes solved both parking an ‘ in town ‘ traffic problems, and it was realised by the supermarket chains that the benefits of ‘out of town’ building were much enhanced the nearer they could build to the urban fringe, this also enhanced the site value as future use for potential residential building use. Combined with generous government grants for each building project, the supermarket chains therefore perceived many allotment sites as being ideal for their future expansions, and their interest alone in a particular allotment site was enough to blight its membership and render it even more vulnerable to dissolution.

The feelings engendered between Cardigan Action Group and the Director of Administration can be gauged by the reference the Director makes at the end of his letter broaching the building of the supermarket, ‘I regret to state that your remarks concerning the land are not acceptable to the Council.

The supermarket being built, a high, sheer brick wall was erected in lieu of the original earth and hedge boundary, a plastic overflow pipe protruded over the allotments and natural light excluded. The allotments were also used without sanction during the building as a dump for rubbish and surplus building materials.

In 1991 the residents of Newtown were made aware of plans by a large development company to re-develop the allotments into residential use. The public response was amazingly pro-active considering that by now the majority of the site was shoulder high in weeds and brambles. In June 1991, requests from sixteen residents were submitted to the Council for allotment plots and one of the two remaining allottees requested a second plot. An article in ‘The Tivyside and General Advertiser’ June 14th 1991 gave a report of a meeting between the potential developers and the local inhabitants, which began, ‘Cardigan residents shouted and cheered on Wednesday afternoon as local historian Donald Davies told developers; ‘This land is not for sale. It belongs to the people of Cardigan forever’ and 30 or 40 residents left the Chairperson of Ceredigion’s Land sub-Committee, Cllr Sandra Williams, in no doubt as to their feelings. Shortly after this meeting, the residents became aware of an unpublished site meeting which was to be held within the week between representatives of Cardigan District Council and the private development company ‘Property Investment Wales’, a company which was headed by Mr. Prys-Edwards(Mr. Prys-Edwards was also chief of the Wales Tourist Board). It was believed by the residents that photographic evidence would be taken to prove that the large majority of the allotments were unused and derelict, and so in the intervening few days before the site meeting, tractors and ploughs were organized to clear and plough the site, the land was harrowed and the plots re-defined, and when the councilors’ and developers arrived on the following Monday for their site meeting they were faced with a model allotment site planted out with 1200 cabbage plants.

Despite the size of the Feidrhenffodd allotments and their convenient position on the fringes of Cardigan, the continual disputes and uncertainty as to their future prevented them from every being fully utilized after 1945. The following table gives the general pattern of use;@

1940

Fully used

World War II ‘Dig for Victory’

1950

9 allottees, 12 plots being used

Many houses being built with gardens

1960

6 allottees, 6 plots being used

Peaceful period

1970

2 allottees, 3 plots being used

Sale of land dispute

1980

2 allottees, 3 plots being used

Bypass and supermarket blight

1990

6 allottees, 6 plots being used

Threat from property development company

2000

6 allottees, 6 plots being used

 

A footnote must leave ‘Cardigan Common Allotments’ in a sorry state of neglect once more, with most of the site covered in a dense undergrowth. More plans for re-development are projected and only two or three plots being tended (2006).

 

 

Coffee morning of the 12th Dec,09 at the Guild hall Cardigan went very well.There was a good turnout. Even the town mayor Mark Cole and mp Mark williams attended, lots of fair trade coffe was drunk and about £250 was raised for the allotments.Great fun was had by everyone.

 

 

Join the naturewise West Wales emailing list

 

 

The History of the “Common Gardens” of Cardigan.

(Cardigan Allotments)

WE NEED A REVOLUTION – IT STARTS WITH FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE EARTH