Society History and Timeline
The allotments are derived from the construction of the Millwall and West India Docks at the later end of the 19th century (1870) and early 20th century. 1892 - the earliest public record of the allotments. The Millwall Dock Company used a square site approximately 30 acres off East Ferry Road, formally known as Farm Road. They formed banks using industrial ash, clinker and the silt dredged from the Millwall Dock Development which was fed to and dumped in the settling ponds formed by the banks, henceforth the name Mudchute was derived. This was designed by the Chief Engineer, FE Duckham, who later became General Manger until 1905.
1913 - the Society was formed, which was prior to the Allotment Acts of 1922 and 1925.
1913 -1945 - the allotments grew to engulf most of the Mudchute and were fenced off and even policed. The site extended to the edge of the playing field alongside Stebondale Street where a stretch of water separated the bank and playing field which. Ex Secretary Harry White recalls, 'this was the easiest way for locals to enter through the wooden fencing which was always broken. All through our childhood days we would bunk in and fish for newts and tiddlers to our heart's content until we heard the yell "Dock Copper!" and everyone had to scarper.' The ditch dried up after the 1939-45 war when the Port of London Authority owned land.
During the war the allotments helped feed the East End during the ‘Dig For Victory’ campaign.
1945 -1962 - the affairs of the allotments are well recorded and minutes of every Borough meeting are on archive. At their height, there were 365 10 rod plots, access was by ticket only and they again had police patrols.
In 1963 the Port of London Authority (PLA) wished to expand the docks and served notice on the allotments that met with much local resistance, and thanks to the hard work of the then local MP Dr Ian Mikardo, together with Lord Simon, previous disused church gardens were secured in 1965 which now form the lower allotments.
The grounds were originally part of the Wesleyan Chapel and buildings situated in Sitebondale Street. The Chapel stood at the rear of the present allotments 2, 4 6 and part of the car park and adjoining garages. To date, the original gate remains hidden by steel fencing. The Chapel was erected on a site where the shells of three houses had been left unfinished in 1867. The ground was acquired in 1874 and the building, which was designed by Elijah Hoole in 1872 was erected three years later by Harris and Wardrop of Limehouse on their tender of £1,325. A schoolroom was added in 1885 and there was a further addition in 1891. The Chapel seated 320 and local children attended Sunday School. Church parishioners used the grounds at the time to grow flowers, plants etc for the displays in the Chapel.
During Coronation Year in 1937 the gardens were allowed to be opened to local school children for early learning, to vegetables and flowers. In 1939 at the start of the 1939-45 war, army personnel stationed on the Mudchute site to man the anti aircraft gun sites occupied the gardens. Sadly, the church and houses on either side were severely damaged by heavy bombing and were eventually demolished. The gardens remained derelict after the war and were used as a dumping ground.
1975 - the upper and lower allotments were combined under the Isle of Dogs and District Allotment Society which at that time was overseen by London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH).
At its peak the allotments accommodated 365 plots, one for every day of the year! This volume of fresh food and fruit produced to feed families on the Island cannot be underestimated, nor can the benefits they gave over both good and bad times on the Island. One only needs to observe the Second World War aerial shots in the Imperial War Museum of the Island to see the huge contribution and volume of land occupied by the Society.
The Society proudly claims being the second oldest organisation on the Isle of Dogs; its name has changed three times in its 84 years existence. Known originally as Poplar Borough and District, it altered to Tower Hamlets at the formation of the London Boroughs in 1964 and again in 1995 when the name was changed to Mudchute Allotments Society, to keep its own identity and is now known as Isle of Dogs and District Allotment Society.
In 1997 it built its first ever headquarters, with meeting room, toilets, kitchen and office, all obtained with help from London Docklands Development Corporation, Isle of Dogs Foundation Trust, Tower Hamlets Council and several local business organisations. This was opened by Sir Michael Pickard.
Today we support members from a wide and diverse ethnic background. Turkish, Indian, Bangladesh, Vietnamese, Chinese all mix and share this space. Different crops from around the world are grown and the experience of that variety helps educate and integrate all.
We have a plot which is worked under supervision by the pupils of Canary Wharf College, East Ferry Road. This helps educate tomorrow’s plot holders and engages the urban youth of today with nature.
Today we also must recognise that the allotments provide much more than food for an aging population. We have 28% of plots currently being worked by pensioners and we give them a 50% concession on their fees. Exercise, social interaction and variety of life is just as important to many as enjoying the fruits of their labour.
2017 - the Society was granted a ACV (Asset of Community Value) by London Borough of Tower Hamlets (see Gallery Documents to read more.
2019 - the Society was granted registration as an incorporated Cooperative by the FCA under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.
2019 - LBTH agreed to grant a sublease to the Society under the new Head Lease granted to Mudchute Associates. The terms of the lease to be for 99 years (minus 1 day) at peppercorn rent. LBTH also recognised the Society as a Statutory Allotment under the 1925 Allotments Act.
2021 - the society opened The Martyn Daniels’ Community Garden for Local Wellness.
The space will be used by a gardening group for patients of GP practices on the Isle of Dogs. It was the vision of our late chair - Martyn Daniels - that we should offer a space to share the privilege of the allotments with people who have health needs or disabilities, as it is widely known that gardening can have great benefits for our physical and mental health.
It is a great privilege for our allotment society to be able to offer this opportunity to local people.
Many thanks go to those who helped compile this history and especially to the Societies ex Secretary Harry White