Grow your own

Moira McQuaide Hall’s history of Burpham

Due to the Coronavirus lockdown perhaps we will be encouraged to grow our own food in the future?

Apparently the amount of land for allotments has dropped by over 50% since the 1960s. Getting fruit and vegetables from supermarkets has become the focus of panic buying. The Burpham allotments in Bower’s Lane might be an alternative – they are managed by the Guildford Allotments Society, with a local site representative to manage the area and sort out day to day issues.

The 1914 OS maps showed Allotment Gardens behind Burpham Primary School, edged by the river on one side, Burpham Lane on the other, and extending down to the old brick field next to Pimm’s Row. In the 19th century and earlier most houses had a small garden where some vegetables could be grown. According to records in the early 20th century Burpham had several market gardeners, smallholders and nurserymen, presumably many of them used the allotments, including the Kemps, Kilbys and Russells. Residents in Pimm’s Row grew produce in the gardens in front of the cottages. Leonard Vincent, who was a market gardener well into the 1960s, donated some of the land by his house in Bower’s Lane to the Council for allotments.

The 1934 OS map showed Market Gardens still there beside and behind the school. During the war the children were encouraged to grow vegetables, then after the war some of the allotment land was taken to provide a playing field for the school. However, the school lost some of that land when the A3 was built in the 1980s.

In 2007 there was a spate of attacks on allotments around Guildford. A Surrey Live report said: “The devastation at Burpham was unbelievable. It was like a First World War battlefield. They had chopped the greenhouses to bits. It was a mess.” It seemed that the black market value of aluminium was the cause, but the result was improvements to the fencing around the site and a locked gate. One of the Burpham allotment plots was the overall winner in the Guildford in Bloom 2015. There are vegetables, fruit, flowers, sheds, greenhouses, cages and polytunnels – even the occasional table and chairs for those social or rest moments.

Allotments in Burpham

As I look out at my garden I have to wait for months for the fruit to ripen and I don’t have any vegetables – yet! Perhaps allotments will come into a new heyday as a result of the virus. If you don’t have an allotment then perhaps the Gardening Club could help you transform part of your garden? It could be good for all of us.

If you are willing to share your memories and/or photos to tell us more about Burpham then please contact Moira MacQuaide, either by e-mail ( or by phone or text (07963 756543). My two books (‘The History of Burpham Primary School’ and ‘Burpham – A Gateway to Guildford’) are still available from me for £10 (free delivery locally) or on Amazon.

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