THE SOCIETIES HISTORY
In 1911 several prominent local residents; Messrs. Carr, Blane, Edwards, Green, Richardson and others held an inaugural meeting of the Romford Smallholders and Allotments Society Ltd. at the Lamb Inn in Romford Market Place.
An area of land 10.5 acres in size was selected and Sir John Bethel, the local Liberal Member of Parliament, was approached about its purchase. Sir John Bethel was able to acquire the site on payment of £100 (£10,272 in 2014 Money) to Mr. Gay for the manorial rights. Sir John Bethel lent the society the necessary money, free of interest and he became the society's first President. He also presented a Shield and Cup, to be competed for annually.
All those wishing to become members were asked to purchase a five shilling (£26 in 2014 Money) share in the society; this sum was quite a large one in those days and they were given time to gather the money together.
Four people agreed to act as Trustees: Messrs. Brown, Edwards, Green and Harris. The first secretary of the society was Mr. Millard. The rent for an allotment then was 6d. (£2.57 in 2014 Money) per rod.
The Limited Company went into liquidation in 1935 and the society in its present form replaced it.
Lack of support resulted in the annual show being discontinued in 1937 but it was reintroduced in 1939 and went from strength to strength. The shows, which were held mainly in the King's Head public house in the centre of Romford Market Place, were well known for their musical accompaniment - a small ensemble conducted by Mr. Stan Ward played throughout the show. It became the biggest one day flower, vegetable and domestic shows in the local area.
Trading commenced in 1939 with the purchase of a hut and scales and the initial sales of bone meal, hoof and horn, peas and beans. Lime went on sale the following autumn when 10 tons was sold!
For some time the society managed three sites: Pretoria Road, Eastern Avenue and Victoria Hospital. The Victoria Hospital site was eventually released back to the hospital who wanted it for development, members who were working there were offered plots at Pretoria Road . The society then released the Oak Street end of the Pretoria Road site back to the Crown.
The society's annual show flourished until the late 1990's when eventually it declined from over 1000 items shown by up to 100 exhibitors, down to just 300 - 400 exhibits. The show was then held on alternate years before stopping in 2002. The decline in the annual show coincided with the much reduced membership of the society, a decline which is fortunately now in reverse as allotment gardening has begun to rise in popularity again. *
Volunteers from the management committee worked during winter months clearing overgrown plots of brambles, rubbish & derelict sheds to improve the site and make space for new plot holders.Equipment was hired to establish new parking areas and new members were able and willing to clear plots themselves. With this plan in place and the work begining the society elected Daniel Smart as Allotment Secretary to let the plots to make sure that the cleared areas were kept clear once let. As more people joined the Society and membership began to grow we cleared more & more space till eventually in 2011 the site had no overgrown areas. Due to the reduction in membership the site became very overgrown, around 50% at its worst. The society at this time was struggling to survive, with hardly any rent coming in and next to no sales through the store. Jane Alborough was appointed as Treasurer to oversee the difficult financial situation that the society found itself in. Jane very quickly found that the society was paying out more than what they had coming in. She very quickly put a strict financial plan in place to keep money coming in and to control expenses. She & other committee members found other Allotment societies to sell stock to in large quantities, the larger amount of stock we were ordering ensured that our costs were kept low. Over time the society gained financial control and huge efforts were made in the mid 2000's when the society took further action and implented a regeneration project to tackle the overgrowth section by section.
2005 with the site around 50% overgrown
2012 with the site almost fully let to local residents
With the Society's website developed, publicity in the local press and a growing interest in allotment gardening in the local community resulted in increased membership and more income for the Society.
An annual open day became established once more which also led to more interest in the site. The open day invites people onto the allotment site to have a look around, purchase fruit, veg, cakes, jams & have some fun with entertainment changing every year.
The Council had been able to give support over the years and in 2012 the standpipes on site were all replaced at no cost to the society although Havering Council & Essex & Suffolk Water had decided that hoses could no longer be used when connected to mains water due to the risk of contamination. After hearing this The Committee decicded to use its own financial resources to instal a pumped water system, to break away from the mains water to stop any risk of contamination, so that hoses can still be used on site.
With the help of volunteers and generous donations from local companies and also grant money, the Society, in the first quarter of 2012, built a new toilet block on the site which has a seperate mens & womens/disabled toilet, is fully accessible for disabled users & also has hot water. This completed phase 1 of our plan to introduce plots for people with disabilities.
Phase 2 started this year (2014) to build a set of raised beds close to the toilet block at our entrance in Pretoria Rd.
The present day size of the site is just under 13 acres (5 hectares).
BEFORE TOILET BLOCK WAS BUILT
TOILET BLOCK AFTER
* Information for the first 50 years of the Society was supplied by Mrs. Hilda Jeffrey, Claude Hollis and Bob Wilding and taken from the Show Schedule for the Golden Jubilee Show. Modern day Information (2000 - Present), has been supplied Bob Roper & Daniel Smart