Cabbages or Cricket:  the Fight for Greenwich Park’s World War 1 Allotments


The site of the allotments in World War One


The allotments were sited on the south side of the Queen’s House and were cultivated from 1918 to 1921.

Many people will know about the allotments in the park during World War II, but less is known about what happened in World War I.

Two years after the war started in 1914, the country began to experience food shortages. Parks and open spaces across the country were quickly commandeered to provide allotments for people without gardens to grow their own vegetables. Not everyone was in favour of this – parks were much needed for recreation, especially in the crowded inner cities.

In Greenwich, the Council first tried to obtain space for allotments in Greenwich Park early in 1917, finally getting an agreement for 139 plots for local families in March 1918.

Digging was soon underway by the tenants, who paid rent of 7s 6d a year each for their plot. They also invested their own money for fencing and a water supply. Despite all their hard work, the tenants were told that they would have to give them up by the end of 1919. However, food shortages continued after the war, so they campaigned to keep them

Local MP Sir Kingsley Wood joined forces with the allottees and took their case to Sir Alfred Mond, who was in charge of the Royal Parks. He listened to the arguments and stated, ‘I am faced by a very eloquent Deputation pointing out that the planting of cabbages is much more amusing than playing cricket and that the hoeing of potatoes is as good as football’. The tenants were eventually allowed to keep their allotments until February 1921.

All signs of them disappeared as the park returned to its former use until history was to repeat itself in 1939 when the park was once more turned into allotments.