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successful associations are those which have either as president or trustee a broad-minded farmer or other resident in the parish who takes a real interest in the working of the association, and in whose fairness all the other members have absolute confidence.
When land is let to an association for allotments, one of the conditions is that the association pays the rates. The area of land taken by such associations of course varies in different villages. In one village with a population of 1,400 an association has taken 48 acres at a rent of £2 an acre. These 48 acres are set out in rood allotments. This association has taken two fields, which have been set out by the estate in roods; the allotment holder pays for and occupies the net quantity of land, the rent being a little higher than that paid by the association, in order to repay sums paid for the rates and land taken up by roads, ditches, &c.
In another case, in a village in Huntingdonshire, where the only industry is that of agriculture, a field of 21 acres was let seven years ago to an association, and, as requested, set out in acre allotments. The field was the one selected by the association, was not far from the village, and the rent was at the rate of 278. an acre, the association paying the rates. Although the idea was taken up with the greatest enthusiasm, I am sorry to say that several of the original members are no longer connected with the association, and the land is in fewer hands than when the scheme was started. Instead of being the means of keeping the young men in the country, I am afraid, in this particular instance, it has had the opposite effect, and a village which was well known in the neighbourhood for its successful efforts in the cricket field can now only with difficulty raise an eleven. The reason given for the exodus of the more promising young men is that when their farm work was over at five o'clock in the afternoon, the work on the acre allotments which they were daily requested to undertake by their parents became so irksome that rather than endure it they left the village and obtained employment on the railway or in the police force.
In villages which are purely agricultural, my experience is that when the cottages have decent gardens the demaud for allotments is not increasing. In confirmation of this statement, there are two small villages in my own neighbourhood with a population in each case of a little over 200, where there are rood allotments almost in the centre of each village. The land is in every way suitable. The rent for the net land is 78. a rood in one case and 108. a rood in the other, the landlord paying all outgoings. There are about 35 cottages in each village, and although the total area of land devoted to allotments is in one instance 4.5 acres and in the other 84 acres, there are allotments to be let in each village.
The facts are very different in a large shoemaking village, where a field of 23 acres has been let as allotments for the last 40 years at a rent of 50s. an acre, the landlord paying all outgoings, and only the net land being charged for. Here the sizes of the allotments vary from 10 poles to 1 rood. There are 144 tenants. The rents due at Lady Day and at Michaelmas are paid in advance in January and July. A small discount is allowed to all who pay within the prescribed hours on the rent day. There are generally at least six or eight applicants anxious to take allotments which may be given up. The result is that the rents are paid without the slightest trouble and the loss is practically nil.
I have had several applications from Parish Councils to take land for allotments, but only in one case has the
application resulted in land being let, owing to the fact that when inquiries came to be made and the Parish Councils had settled down to their work, it was discovered that the demand was not so great as was supposed, and where it did exist it could be satisfied in other ways. In those instances where a Parish Council has taken land for allotments on a 14 years' lease, the parish is one where a considerable quantity of new cottages are being built with little or no gardens attached, and where the allotments will be required, not only for agricultural labourers, but also for shoemakers and artizans who are living in the new cottages. It is of course impossible to discriminate in the matter of rent; in this case the tenant has to pay the same price for a rood whether he be an agricultural labourer or a shoemaker.
In the memoranda with regard to the working of the Allotments Act in Cardiganshire, which were read by Mr. Willis Bund, allusion was made to some glebe land being used for such a purpose. May I venture to give my experience of some of the difficulties which may be met with before glebe land can be adapted for small holdings and allotments.
In a large parish in Buckinghamshire, with a population of about 1,800, there has been for some years a demand for land for small holdings. There were at least 50 acres of allotments in the parish, so that the demand for them was fairly well satisfied.
When the Parish Council was elected at the end of 1894, almost its first work was to try and solve the land problem by acquiring land with a view to letting to the several applicants. There were 130 acres of grass land coming into the market at Lady Day, 1895, and arrangements were made to let these 130 acres to the Parish Council. When, however, the Parish Council looked into the question of fencing, water supply, &c., the expenses proved to be so heavy, that the idea of taking the land had to be abandoned.
The Parish Council then looked with covetous eyes upon the glebe farm, which was close to the village, was well roaded, and was divided into a number of small enclosures, arable and pasture.
After considerable negotiations, the tenant, with the consent of the vicar of the parish, agreed to give up the glebe farm at Michaelmas, 1895, on another farm near being offered to him, and, subject to the Bishop's consent being obtained, the Parish Council agreed to take the glebe farm, containing 208 acres, at a rent of £290 per annum. At the end of July the Bishop, through his secretary, declined to give his consent, on the ground that a Parish Council had no power under the 1894 Act to incur such a liability as was involved in taking a farm at a rent of £290 a year.
Michaelmas was quickly approaching, and, as a way out of the difficulty, a gentleman in the neighbourhood, approved by the Bishop, came forward and agreed to take a lease of the farm and sublet to the Parish Council.
Everything was apparently settled, another farm was then definitely let to the tenant of the glebe farm, and arrangements were made for the Parish Council to take possession at Michaelmas, 1895. On September 25th the Bishop's secretary told the vicar of the parish that the approved tenant, by 5 and 6 Vict., cap. 27, would practically have no power to sub-let to the Parish Council for the object they had in view.
The dilemma was somewhat an awkward one. Michaelmas had arrived. All arrangements had been made for vacant possession of the glebe farm. The vicar could not lease to the Parish Council. The Parish Council would not take land without a lease or some equally good security.
The patron of the living then came forward and associated himself with the gentleman who had agreed to take the farm on lease. The two agreed to take the farm as yearly tenants without consulting the Bishop, which under the altered circumstances was now not necessary ; the Parish Council thought the security a sufficiently good one and entered on the farm, some kind friends in the neighbourhood helping with fencing material, &c.
The farm was now let by the Parish Council in holdings, varying in size from 1 acre up to about 25 acres, to some 44 tenants, who entered into possession. Agreements were prepared between the sub-landlords and the Parish Council. The chairman of the Parish Council, who had devoted much of his time to the scheme, was taken ill and could not attend to business ; the agreements were consequently not signed, and owing to his continued ill-health he was obliged to resign his office of chairman when the new Parish Council was elected in 1896. The new Council was not willing to take over the responsibility of so large an undertaking as a farm of 208 acres, and as the successful working of the scheme depended altogether upon the goodwill and enthusiasm of those responsible for it, it was thought advisable to relieve the Parish Council of their liability, and for the two sub-landlords to let to a small committee in whom both they and the tenants of the land had confidence. The agreements have now all been completed, and we are living in hope that the experiment may prove a success, and be advantageous not only to the individuals but also to the neighbourhood.
T. A. DICKSON, Fellow.