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Allotment System

allotments, land, society, labourers, agricultural, counties and davies

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ALLOTMENT SYSTEM, the prac tice of dividing land in small portions for cultivation by agricultural labourers and other cottagers at their leisure, and after they have performed their ordinary day's work. There are some instances of this plan having been resorted to about the close of last century, but it is only since 1830 that its adoption has become com mon. In 1830 the agricultural districts in the south of England were almost in a state of insurrection. The labourers went about in bands, destroying thrash ing-machines, and demanding higher wages ; and at night the country was lighted up by incendiary fires. Under the impulse of fear the farmers increased the wages of the labourers, but on the suppression of the disturbances they ge nerally returned to the old rates. The season of alarm did not, however, pass away without some attempts being made to improve the condition of the agricul tural labourer, and the extension of the allotment system was the most general mode by which an attempt was made to accomplish this object. A society, called the Labourers' Friend Society, was esta blished in London, to promote the allot ment system, and to circulate information respecting it. Allotments (garden-allot ments, or field-gardens, as they are some times termed) are now common in all the agricultural counties in England ; but they are nowhere universal. In East Somerset they are to be found in about fifty parishes ; and the quantity of land devoted to allotments is said to be equal to the demand. In several of the northern and midland counties the allotment sys tem is promoted, and in some degree superintended, by a society called the " Northern and Midland Counties Arti sans' Labourers' Friend Society." The number of acres under allotment, accord ing to the report of this Society, in June, 1844, was 1082. Allotments are also found in the neighbourhood of several large towns, and the proprietors of fac tones have in many instances granted allotments to their workmen ; but 'a both these cases the land is cultivated rather as a recreation than with a view of add ing to the means of subsistence. At Not tingham land belonging to the corpora tion is divided into about four hundred gardens, which let at the rate of 1:14. a

yard. or 251. per acre : the greater num ber of these gardens have been culti vated for about thirty years. Where the tenant is an agricultural labourer, the main object is to increase his re sources, and thus enable him to maintain himself without assistance from the poor's rate. There seems to be good authority for stating that the allotment system has been successful in this object ; and that it has not only diminished the incentives to crime, but has encouraged habits of so briety and industry, and led to a general elevation of character. Of 3000 heads of families holding allotments of land in West Kent, not one was committed for any offence during the years 1841 and 1842. In the parish of Hadlow, Kent, there were 35 commitments in 1835, and on the allotment system being introduced in 1836 the commitments were reduced in 1837 to one, and from 1837 to 1843 there had been only one. About 15 of those who were committed in 1835 be came holders of allotments, and up to June, 1843, no cause of complaint had arisen against any of them. (Evidence of Mr. Martin : Report on Allotments of Land.) Of 443 tenants of allotments under Mrs. Davies Gilbert, in Sussex, there was only one person convicted in the course of thirteen years. (Communi cation from Mrs. Davies Gilbert, April, 1844.) Similar testimony might be col lected from various parts of the country where the allotment system prevails. The punctuality with which the rents are paid by the tenants proves how highly the la bourers value their patches of land : they scarcely ever fail to bring the money at the appointed time. Among Mrs. Davies Gilbert's numerous tenantry only three have failed to pay their rent in the course of fourteen years ; but in each case the size of the allotment (five acres) must be considered as taking it out of what may fairly be considered the allot ment system. Captain Scobell, who was one of the earliest, and is now one of the most extensive, promoters of the system, estimates the loss from non-payment of rent as one-fourth, and certainly not more than one-half, per cent.

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