Grassy paths, hedgerows and old maps

Walking around our allotments today you will notice some wide grassy paths and occasional stretches of tall hedgerow. You might wonder why they are there in that particular pattern, and how long they have existed.

We don’t yet know exactly when the site was first used for allotments, but we do know that these wide paths and some lines of hedge date back at least as far as 1888-1889, the date of the first Ordnance Survey maps found so far for the area. This large scale map – 25” to the mile (1:2,500) – shows paths, internal boundary lines, individual trees, and some buildings. The area we know as ‘F’ for example, which you can walk all the way round today on a wide grassy path, was just the same in 1888.

If you go to and type in coordinates 433110 and 265406 you will find a list of Ordnance Survey (OS) maps for our area in the online archive of historic maps. This includes 1:2,500 maps for the dates 1888-9, 1905, 1925, 1939 and 1952-71.
Comparing these maps it is clear that although some details may have changed over time, the basic pattern of wide paths and hedgerows has remained much the same.

There are some things that have changed however, and these raise interesting questions!
• The words Allotment Gardens appear for the first time on the 1905 map. This map was surveyed in 1885 and revised in 1904. So, does that tell us anything about when the allotments might have started?

• Our present northern boundary on ‘D’ running east from the reservoir gate to the river appears for the first time on the 1925 map. Before that the maps show one continuous area including what is now the eastern half of the reservoir. What was that area used for? Who owned it? When exactly was it divided up and why? The reservoir was not built until 1959-61.

If you have any ideas, corrections or additions to offer, do please get in touch!
Lesley Campbell.