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Allotments and Rented Garden Plots, Orchards and Nurseries

Historic features like allotments, areas of small rented garden plots, orchards and nurseries still survive in our towns and cities, and villages. They often contribute to the character of an area and are potentially important Green Infrastructure features.

This section covers:

Allotments

Generally allotments do not meet the Register of Parks and Gardens criteria as they are not designed landscapes. Many local authorities have policies on allotments, and sites with a long history may merit specially careful management. Some will lie in Conservation Areas and be protected through this designation.


The National Allotment Society offers guidance.

A view of Fitzroy Park Allotments, Camden, London, early 1970s
A view of Fitzroy Park Allotments, Camden, London, early 1970s © Historic England Archive

Detached town gardens

From the 17th century onwards, areas of small garden plots were laid out and made available to rent in towns and cities. The technical term is ‘detached town gardens’. It comes from the Victorian garden designer and writer JC Loudon (1783 – 1843).  Guinea gardens and leisure gardens are also included under the term ‘detached town gardens’.  

Detached town gardens are similar to allotments but they were specifically for recreational use at weekends or holidays and not for growing fruit and vegetables. The gardens often included small pavilions rather than tool sheds found on allotments. Confusingly they are sometimes called allotments.

Although once very common, few detached town gardens sites now survive. Many sites have been built over during the last 200 years. It is thought the oldest surviving examples date from 1840s.

There are only four detached town garden sites on the Register of Parks and Gardens as designed landscapes of special historic interest:

Aerial view of the detached town gardens in Nottingham, East Midlands
Aerial view of the detached town gardens in Nottingham © Historic England Archive

Orchards

Many historic orchards have been lost since the Second World War with farm modernisation and urban expansion. Old orchards are undoubtedly historic features but they fall outside the remit of the Historic England’s Register of Parks and Gardens as they are not designed landscapes. Where an orchard is clearly part of a historic park and garden and part of the production area along with the walled garden it may be considered for inclusion in the registered area. More information is given in our Selection Criteria guidance.

The Orchard Network is a partnership of organisations working together for the conservation of orchards across the British Isles. The web site includes information about ways to protect, map, support and get involved with orchards and also links for local initiatives around the country like Orchards East.

A John Gay photograph of fruit harvesting in the 1940s
A John Gay photograph of fruit harvesting in the 1940s © Historic England Archive

Nurseries

Plant nurseries have played an important part in the history of horticulture in Britain introducing and propagating trees and plants from all round the world for planting in parks and gardens. Nurseries were often sited close to towns or cities close to their main customers but these sites were often redeveloped as towns expanded.

As production sites rather than designed landscapes, nurseries fall outside the remit of the Register of Parks and Gardens. However surviving features like walls, and gardener’s houses and sheds, and particularly if associated with a well-know nurseryman or landscape designer, may be eligible for designation as listed buildings.

One registered example is Sir Harold Hilliar Gardens and Arboretum in Hampshire, a nursery planted from the 1950s. Sir Harold Hillier developed his famous plant and tree collection, originally laid out as a garden around his home.  

An 1883 photograph of the gardens at Ascott House, Buckinghamshire, planted by Veitch Nurseries
An 1883 photograph of the gardens at Ascott House, Buckinghamshire, planted by Veitch Nurseries © Source: Historic England Archive
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