There have been allotment gardens on the Moor Green site since at least the interwar period. During the war many families would have been sustained by the produce grown on at Moor Green in the “Dig for victory” campaign.
Moor Green Matters
Allotment gardening provides all the physical and emotional satisfaction of gardening and something more. By joining with others who are also growing for themselves, family or friends we benefit from being part of something larger, a community working together towards a common purpose in a spirit of self-reliant independence.
Whilst growing fruit and vegetables is central to what we do, we recognise how fortunate we are to be able to pursue our interest in such beautiful surroundings with panoramic views over the city centre and are keenly aware of our duty to act as responsible custodians of this common good.
Inner City Bliss
Lying two miles south of the centre of Birmingham the 30 acre site is one of our most significant inner city open spaces providing a unique mix of habitats from mown grass and vegetable plots to streams and stands of mature trees.
The site is part of a wildlife corridor following the course of the river Rea, linking the Edwardian civic formalism of Cannon Hill Park to the open heath-land of the Waseley Hills in an unbroken ten mile swath of green that cuts through south Birmingham’s urban and industrial sprawl.
The allotments occupy land that was once part of the Moor Green estate and remnants of the farm’s field boundary hedges remain on site contributing to the biodiversity value of the land.
The History of Moor Green Allotments
There have been allotment gardens on the Moor Green site since at least the interwar period, probably developed privately in response to demand for plots from those on low incomes and especially the unemployed. In 1932, Moor Green Allotments was nominated by The Birmingham Allotments for the Unemployed Committee (part of BCC Allotment Committee) in a scheme to help 1000 unemployed men obtain and cultivate allotments. It was a place where “unemployed men could learn about pig breeding, poultry rearing and land cultivation”. It was Paradise Farm! .
The Prince of Wales visited in 1934 when in Birmingham to lay the foundation stone for the Birmingham University Medical School. In June 1936 the tenancy of Moor Green Farm buildings was accepted and the decision was made to form a club which replaced ‘the Hut’ or ‘HQ’ as the meeting place. In July 1937 the Club became a licensed club ‘in a modest way’ with Rev Whitfield the chairman insisting that ‘Our good reputation must be maintained.’ The Club was limited to male members and Ansells Ales only were served.
At the start of the war in 1940 the clubhouse had a lucky escape when a Mr S Evans dealt with an incendiary bomb which had pierced the roof of the club room before the building caught fire. During the war, Moor Green played its full part in the “Dig for Victory “Campaign. Many enlisted in the ‘Allotment Army’ and maximum cultivation was the key message . The Association ‘had to make the best arrangements under the difficult circumstances.’ The Secretary appealed for the Association to let more plots ‘in view of the need for greater food production in the National Crisis.’ In 1941 an adjacent meadow was pegged out, ploughed and laid out in plots.
After the war, the popularity of plots at Moor Green and across the country declined steeply as cheap food became more available and off the ration. By the 60’s the future of allotments generally was in doubt. The Thorpe Report began in 1965 and was published in 1969, totalling nearly 500 pages and making 54 major recommendations about allotment improvement. One feature of the report was results from a national questionnaire, which showed that for most plot holders recreational motivation was now greater than economic need to ‘grow your own’. This made sense at a time when rationing had ended, unemployment fell and the nation prospered. Many of Professor Thorpe’s recommendations were to accommodate this change of emphasis, and encourage a high standard of maintenance, with good amenities including toilets, pavilions and fully landscaped grounds. Birmingham was the largest autonomous allotments authority in Britain with 9,000 plots, making the city an ideal testing ground for Thorpe’s ideas (he also conveniently worked at the University of Birmingham). As well as gathering city wide data a number of model sites were created, to show the advantages of leisure gardening, one of which was Moor Green. In fact Moor Green was suggested as the first leisure garden site in 1969, but the redevelopment plan was initially rejected.
The new site was finally opened by HRH Princess Alice on Wednesday 8th September 1976, during the International Leisure Gardens Congress. A tree was planted in front of the clubhouse building during this ceremony. Since the 70’s the site has had its ups and downs but has maintained its popularity throughout. In particular, though in 1977 Thorpe found that demand for leisure gardens was much lower in areas of Birmingham occupied by a ‘substantial proportion of New Commonwealth immigrants, where interest in gardening is at present very small’, the rest of the century at Moor Green has proved him emphatically wrong. For many of our plotholders an allotment is a chance to grow favourite crops which aren’t always available at the right price in supermarkets or create a haven inspired by the places which they left behind. In 2016 it was estimated that more than 35% of plotholders were of minority ethnic origin – and that percentage will have increased in the intervening years. And the site continues to go from strength to strength in terms of popularity (we have a long waiting list), use of the clubhouse and support from the local community for our regular events. This despite the odd setback such as losing the clubhouse roof during Storm Arwen in 2021. This is now replaced, and the clubhouse is back in full use