Home > About > History of Capel St Mary Allotments Association

History of Capel St Mary Allotments Association

By Charles Heath, Chairman (2017)

Quote from Colin Hurcombe, Parish Council Chairman 1986 to 1990*

“Perhaps the most lasting and pleasurable moment for me as chairman was the annual tour of the village allotment area. One would arrive on a very pleasant summer evening to be met by members of the Allotments Committee, who with intense pride, would proudly boast of their work and conduct the tour of what could only be described as their immaculate allotments created with hard work, loving care and total commitment.” 

* Source – The Book of Capel – Centenary of Capel St Mary Parish Council - 1894-1994


In March 1976 Capel St Mary Parish Council purchased 5.8 acres of land along Pound Lane. The land was purchased from Tollemache & Cobbold Breweries Limited. However, prior to the purchase, planning permission was granted by Babergh District Council to the Parish Council to change the use of agricultural land to allotment gardens in August 1975.

The 5.8 acre plot was purchased for £3,500 with a mortgage and the rent fixed initially at £20 per 10 rod plot and was the amount calculated to enable repayment of the mortgage over a 20? year period.  Repayment was set at £969.84 per year payable in two instalments of £484.92 in April and November each year. As can be seen in the summaries below this was subsequently found to be illegal.

Interestingly, right opposite the allotments on the other side of Pound Lane is the former Kings Head public house owned by Tollemache & Cobbold Breweries which was built in 1878 and converted in 1969 to a private residence named Ashpound Cottage.

Initial expenditure by the Parish Council was as follows:





Legal charges




Car Park




Equipment Hut


Water supply


Water meter




Ipswich Plant Hire


Rotovator and Spares






The recorded rents received in the first three year are:

1977             £205.00

1978             £701.25      

1979             £77.50

From the amounts received it would suggest that only 10 plots at £20 per plot were let in 1977 and 35 plots at £20 per plot in 1978. The amount collected in 1979 is low because of the refunds given due to the rents being reduced from £20 to £10 per plot. In 1980 plot rental was further reduced to £5 per 10 rod plot.

The initial plot holders formed Capel St Mary Allotments Association in February 1977 with the view to assisting and to liaise with the Parish Council in all matters to do with allotments.

A major part of the research  was to produce a list of members who have served on the committee - this is list is now available  click here to open the file.


Capel Allotments


Major milestones in the history of the Capel St Mary Allotments Association:

1976 to 1979

  • March 1976 Parish Council purchases 5.8 acres of land.
  • 2nd February 1977 – First recorded Committee meeting
  • Annual subscription agreed at 25p
  • Rent for a full plot was £20. (cost of rental considered too high)
  • Local scouts were offered £5 to pull up weeds from the whole site! (surely not, slave labour!)
  • August 1977 - First best kept allotment competition – prize bottle of whisky.
  • Joined the National Society of Allotments and Leisure Gardens (NSALG) (20p per member)
  • Rent reduced to £10
  • September 1978 – First Flower and Produce Show held at the village primary school.
  • Stores hut opens.
  • 1978 – Water installed on site
  • 1979 – Allotment Management Committee formed.
  • Rotovator purchased.
  • 1979 – Annual subscription raised to 70p
  • Mr Roger Pearce appointed President in March 1979

1980 to 1983

  • Rent reduced to £5 in 1980
  • January 1981 - A £270 loan from the Management Committee agreed for the purchase of Hut stock.
  • 1981 – Annual subscription raised to 80p
  • A request was made for a toilet on site (1981). (A toilet was installed in 2000)
  • September 1981 – Affiliated to the RHS
  • Joined the NSALG seed scheme.
  • First formal work-in established
  • 1982 show held at village hall
  • March 1983 – new constitution approved. Establishment of an  Executive Committee.
  • Association membership reaches 93 members in 1983 compared with 40 in 1982. (In 2017 membership is 350).
  • March 1983. All plots now let. Waiting list established.
  • Concern about unworked plots.
  • Changes at the NSALG had made the Association question the value of being a member.

1984 to 1986

  • 1984 Flower and Produce show held at ByPass Nurseries and extended to a 2 day event.
  • 63 members attend the 1985 AGM at the ByPass Nurseries.
  • 1985 the post of Site Manager created.
  • Membership reaches 136
  • The 1986 show held in marquee at the Bypass Nurseries site.
  • Major Fenwick appointed President
  • Gordon Mott appointed Site Manager
  • 1986 Hut sales including seed scheme reach £3,055

1987 to 1990

  • In 1988 a trip to RHS Wisley was enjoyed by 50 members
  • 1989 Show held in village hall (571 entries by 74 people)
  • Celia Waters appointed Show Secretary
  • Additional sales hut erected
  • Abe Hall stands down as General Secretary after 6 years
  • With a contribution from the Association the car park is to be re-surfaced
  • In 1990 members enjoyed a visit to Kings of Kelvedon seed merchants

1991 to 1993

  • 1991 annual show filmed by a TV company (nothing came of it, suspect it ended up on the cutting room floor!)
  • 1992 show attracted 596 entries.
  • Allotment site featured on Delia Smith’s TV programme
  • Mick Webb appointed General Secretary
  • Many plots remain vacant. A proposal to grow Christmas tress was considered. (An upturn in interest of plots curtailed any plans to grow trees)

1994 to 1997

  • 1994 and 1995 shows held at ByPass Nursuries
  • Photography section introduced at the show
  • 1996 show back at the village hall.
  • New ride on mower supplied by Parish Council for use in maintaining site.
  • Attendance at 1997 show down due to funeral of Diana Princess of Wales held on the same day.
  • A new members pack introduced to give new members information about the Association.

1998 to 1999

  • A photocopier purchased.
  • Graham Whybrow starts a series of articles for Capel Capers
  • A flyer was produced to promote the allotment plots
  • The show schedule now included metric measurements as well as imperial
  • New rotovator, cultivator and wheeled strimmer purchased
  • Keith Bright creates a web site for the Association
  • 1999 Revised constitution and rule book to be presented at next AGM
  • Show featured in local press and journalist from the Kitchen Garden magazine writes a feature about the show (a 6 page article appears in 2001)
  • Association exhibits at Chelsea Flower show

We are now at the start of a new millennium 2000 to 2004

  • In 2000 excessive rain floods car park and many plots
  • Our Millennium project came to fruition – an on site toilet.
  • Parish Council chairman Gerald White formally opens the toilet with guest Colin Nickerson from the NSALG.
  • Members of the Association together with PC chairman interviewed on the allotment site for Radio Suffolk.
  • Our exhibit at the 2000 Hampton Court Flower show wins Bronze Medal
  • Mr Haynes from Kings Seeds gives talk at AGM
  • Dennis Ross retires as site manager and Keith Bright takes over role
  • Generator purchased to provide electricity to sales hut.
  • Geoff Cox appointed treasurer in place of Eric Catchpole.
  • 2002 show was our Silver Jubilee year
  • Two new cups for the show. The Eric King Memorial Cup and the Andrew Tokely Cup.
  • Lesley Dolpdin of Radoi Suffolk reports on progress of Andrew Tokely’s leeks from planting to winning first prize
  • New Honda rotovator purchased
  • Bunkers built around site to hold surplus mushroom compost
  • Poly tunnel built giving 24 plots available to rent

2005 to 2008

  • 2005 show held in marquee on the playing field giving the show a real “country feel”
  • A feature about Capel allotments appeared in the Lets Talk magazine.
  • South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo visits Capel allotment site
  • Trip to Bressingham
  • Steve Baker invited to become President in 2006
  • Colin Rose stands down as site manager and Clive Newby takes over.
  • Work starts on the wild life area
  • Show attracts 697 entries in 2008

2009 to 2011

  • Allotment site open for St. Elizabeth Hospice open gardens.
  • New show cup in memory of Colin Hurcombe
  • Membership reaches 380
  • 1400 bulbs planted in wild life area
  • A second poly tunnel erected
  • Scarecrow competition held
  • Karen Kenny (NSALG) and Derrick Holder (SSALG) attend the AGM

2012 to 2013

  • 2012 show is filmed and a DVD produced by Darius Laws and Nick Woolgar with the Premier shown at Ipswich film theatre.
  • President of the International Office of Allotment Gardeners visits Capel Allotments.
  • Cover of new poly tunnel ripped by hurricane force winds.
  • After 25 years service Mick Webb stands down from Committee and Philippa Brandon takes role of General secretary.
  • Subscriptions raised to £5
  • Electricity supply connected to site thanks to the expertise of Dennis Smith
  • Plot rental agreements and local rules reviewed and incorporated into the Parish Council Allotments Management Committee standing orders.

2014 to 2015

  • Dennis Smith takes over from Clive Newby as Site Manager.
  • New brick BBQ built ready for the 2014 BBQ
  • The Association together with the SSALG wins Silver Gilt Award at the 2015 Suffolk Show.
  • Charles Heath retires as show secretary after 23 years and Wendy Russell takes over.


  • 2016 plot rentals increased to £26 for a full plot.
  • The Association together with the SSALG wins Gold medal at the 2016 Suffolk Show.
  • Special display board and bunting was displayed at entrance of allotment site in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday
  • Hut sales with seed scheme reach a record of £15,929
  • Hut stocks a range of 230 items
  • Martyn Dowsett joins committee as IT Manager.
  • Sales hut extended to accommodate rolls of fleece and netting


  • Association reaches its 40th anniversary.
  • Presentation to 4 plot holders who have had their plots since 1977 Ian Fraser, Charles Heath, Colin Osborne, Malcolm Fenn
  • Display of 600 photos to celebrate our 40 years shown at the BBQ, Fun Day and at the AGM
  • New computerised ordering system adopted for the Kings seed scheme
  • Ian Fraser retires from the committee after 37 years and Phil Hickley takes over the running of the seed scheme
  • The Association together with the SSALG wins Gold medal and Best in Show at the 2017 Suffolk Show.
  • New computer system used to run the 40th Flower and Produce Show.

2018 to 2019

  • The year of the long hot summer
  • 10 week period without rain
  • Take part in the village scarecrow trail
  • Annual Show buoyant with pictures in NAS magazine
  • Several promotion events including leaflets to new houses
  • Pond dipping by youngsters in the wildlife area.
  • Committee approves idea for a meeting room on site.
  • Planning permission applied for and granted
  • Old horse box purchased and renovated
  • Website refreshed
  • Facebook page launched
  • Heavy attack of potato blight
  • Wettest BBQ on record
  • Horse box converted to a bar and named “Scarecrow Tavern”
  • Theft of machinery from site
  • New replacement equipment purchased
  • Presentation to Show judge Dennis Page
  • New banners to promote Show
  • Application for grant from NAS Trust submitted.
  • This history of Capel Allotments sent to Suffolk Records Office

March 2020 to March 2021

  • A pandemic (COVID) changed all our lives.
  • The Site remained open as a place of refuge during the enforced lockdowns.
  • There were record orders for seeds and potatoes and sales at the Hut.
  • The 43rd Show was cancelled.
  • We received a “Covid” government grant of £10,000 which financed the building of meeting room (Plotters’ Retreat).
  • The poly tunnel suffered storm damage and was extended and repaired.
  • A new system for the collection of plot rental and subscriptions was introduced.
  • Committee meetings were held using “WhatsApp”

March 2021 to March 2022

  • Many “COVID” restrictions remain in place for 2021.
  • The very sad news of Graham Whybrow’s death in May 2021
  • We were all deeply shocked by the sudden passing of Graham who joined the committee in 1981 and became Stores Manager in 1986. He will be greatly missed. A tree was planted in the wild life area in memory of Graham.
  • Plot rentals increased to £30.00 with £18.50 for a half plot and £12.00 poly tunnel plot with a £7.00 rebate for attending a work-in.
  • The meeting room named the Plotters’ Retreat was formally opened by our President Steve Baker.
  • Martin Leech was appointed Site Manager whilst Dennis after 7 years takes over as Stores Manager.
  • Philippa retires as General Secretary and Tara Smith takes over the role and Robert Birnie joins the committee.
  • Our ‘mower man’ retires from the committee after 14 years.


 This summary is an abstract from the full history of the Capel St Mary Allotments Association. To view the full document please click here.

Before Our Time But...

This was a little before our time - but can you remember this! Allotments during WWll

Do you have a question?

If you have any query click here  to  email the Association. If you have any information about the early days of the Association or photographs we would be pleased to hear from you with a  view to adding your information  to our project.