The Doverhouse Estate was built by the London County Council after WW1, on the land of two large mansions, Dover Park and Putney Park House. It comprised 94 acres and contained over one thousand homes. Three allotment sites, in what was once upon a time a royal deer park and was, by the twenties, still an area of great natural beauty, were incorporated in the estate from the outset. Lying behind Dover House Road, each allotment site was surrounded by houses. Sites 1 and 3 were approximately 3 acres each and Site 2 was smaller at 2 acres. Sites 1 and 3 each had 70 plots and Site 2 had 40.
The Roehampton Garden Society was founded at the outset in 1922. It incorporated the Roehampton Horticultural Society, founded in 1873, making the Garden Society the oldest horticultural society in London.
Until the outbreak ofWW2 in 1939, the Estate was immaculately maintained by the Council and by the residents. But by 1972, as a result of the war and public indifference, the Estate and its amenities had deteriorated. The Greater London Council, which had taken over responsibility for the Estate in the 1960s, proposed to take over all three allotment sites for extra housing. The net gain was to be 185 extra houses. Site 1 was to be developed in 1972, Site 3 in 1973 and Site 2, the smallest site, at some time in the future.
In March 1972, the Putney Society, together with the Roehampton Garden Society and the Wandsworth Historical Society published a Joint Report recommending, among much else, that:
- All three allotment sites should be retained
- Proper arrangements should be made for the security of the sites
- Proper arrangements should be made for letting and managing the sites
Except for the fact that it was too late to save Site 1, the Report was successful in saving Sites 2 and 3, whose numbering is retained to this day.
In 1972, at the time of the Report, the allotments were available only to GLC householders, which included not only those on the Doverhouse Estate, but also those on the Alton, Ashburton, Eastwood and Ranelagh Estates (6,557 persons). The fact that not all the allotments were tenanted was attributed to the GLC which, by failing to maintain site security and by allowing plots to remain uncultivated (instead of resuming possession and re-letting them), had pursued a deliberate policy designed to provide evidence of lack of demand. This led to the assumption that efforts to preserve the allotments were bound to fail.
In 1975, after considerable negotiation, and based on the fact that the Society was bound to have a far greater interest in the allotments than the GLC, the Roehampton Garden Society was granted a 14-year lease to manage Site 2. Virtually all the plots were now let. In 1978, the GLC agreed also to lease Site 3 to the Society for a period of 11 years.
When the allotments became the responsibility of the Society, tenancies were available, as now, to “local people”. The present arrangement is that we have a seven year lease from Wandsworth Borough Council until 2011.
Many of the original plots have now been halved. Instead of 110 plots on the two sites, there are about 180. The average area of each plot is 4 rods (100 sq m) though very few are of that size. The areas range from 1 rod to 9 rods. Not all the plots are rectangles!