History of the society


History of the Allotments, Compiled and Written by Mervyn Short, March 8th 2000

Thoughts From The Records At The Turn Of The Millennium

These notes and reflections have been written by Mervyn Short, the President, in the first months of the new Millennium as he comes up to retirement in the hope that they may be helpful to any who have an interest in the history of this successful village society and its preservation into the future.

Never a keen allotment gardener or a member of the society in the normal way, I have been privileged to hold the office of "President ” at this important time in social history by virtue of association and interest going back to its earliest days.

I was born in Lightpill, right beside the allotments, a year after their foundation in 1915, the son of Arthur Edward Short, who become Secretary for forty-four [44] years until his death in 1967.

'Dick’ as he known, along with Fred Wake – magistrate, Alderman of the County Council, and among his activities virtually an uncrowned ’Mayor of Lightpill’ – devoted themselves to the allotment project started as a `Dig For Victory’ project of the 1914 – 1918 war.

The war over, and victory achieved, there was great enthusiasm for the maintenance of the site, owned by the Apperly family of Rodborough, and so the necessary funds were raised by the villagers, the land purchased and became the property of the local shareholders, which it has remained to this day.

Its success over the years has been remarkable. Management by the Society’s own committee with Fred Wake [President] and Dick Short, the main officers; gardening plots very much in demand, digging for victory in a second world war and, though none of the early stalwarts now remain, the gardeners and the ground are still around, even surviving the tempting offers of property developers whose houses have closed on the allotments over the years.

A modest share in this, mainly as a spectator on the sidelines, has given me an enthusiasm for supporting in any way I can the wishes and principles of the members who, over the years have made this Society unique in its independence and success.

The Allotments were established in 1915, the brainchild of Fred Wake. Two and half acres of pasture land were rented from Sir Alfred Apperly of Rodborough Court and the Lightpill Allotments Association was formed.

My interest in the allotment increased following my father’s death in 1967 when I received a letter from The Society returning his shares and which I returned to Mr. John Parnell; who had been appointed to succeed him, explaining my motive for doing so – solely that of securing the continuity of the allotments and the elimination-of any-risk-that might arise of exploitation of this now valuable land for personal gain. Perhaps, by setting up a trust [See my filed letter Secretary dated 17th May 1968].

How real this threat could be had become apparent from stories of `gardeners fortunes’ from the sale of similar allotments for housing development in other parts of the country, which underlined the risk. Even so, so confident were our allotment holders of the security of their plots, despite developers building - and making offers – on the other side of our fences, that no action was taken.

Several years passed without any sort of development until 26th July 1986 when a filed letter refers to change of Rules covering any possibility of a winding up of the Society with the disposal of the land and assets to the benefit of the local community, a matter which had been the subject of consideration with Mr. Stanley Pritchey [of Keith Scott, Solicitors of Gloucester].

This came around the time of a difficult period for the Society, not least the deaths of two efficient Secretaries, namely Mr. John Parnell and Mr. Clarence Brightwell who succeeded him, and when Keith Scott’s offices closed there came more inevitable delay.

Mr. Wake was President, Lindsay King the first Secretary, and the 2.1/2 acres were purchased for £300, the money being raised by the issue of £1.00 shares and the Association became the Lightpill Co-operative Allotments Society and A. E. [Dick] Short became Secretary.

Under the leadership of Mr. Wake, who remained President until his death in March 1959, and the Secretary’s guidance, the Society was administered by a committee and has remained uniquely successful over the years.

Mr. Fred Wake was succeeded as President by Mr. A. E. Benton, who had been Chairman, followed by Mr. A. G. Elkin, head gardener of Stroud Urban District Council. When he retired in 1982 I was invited to take over, largely in recognition of my father’s work.

John Parnell followed Dick Short as Secretary in 1967, and other Secretaries have been Clarence Brightwell, Bill Lewis, Fred Bailey [1955-6], Jim Horsfall [1966] and Malcolm Hooper [1996].

Throughout the years the Society has remained an entirely independent self-supporting organisation, providing a valuable facility for Lightpill and its immediate area on a non-profit making low cost basis. Consequently, in the early 1970’s a move by Stroud UDC to make up the private Ash Road with property owners making proportionate contributions to the cost, the members faced a considerable financial burden. This was eventually overcome by selling off a plot in the south west corner of the allotments.

Later a strip of land on the southern boundary was also sold to developers of adjoining land to the advantage of both sides.

Advances made for the acquisition of the whole allotments for development were resisted and decision taken in 1985 to preclude such a sale in the future by amending the rules so that in the event of the dissolution of the Society the proceeds of any sale of the land should be used solely for the benefit of the people of Lightpill and district. Reference to New Rule Book dated 1993 Rule 56.

There had been a rule change in 1969 limiting the shareholding, of nominal value only, to plot holders only, and in 1993 there was a further amendment [and re-printing of the rule book] covering the 1985 decision aimed at preventing any exploitation of the, by now, valuable land owned by the Society. Reference to New Rule Book dated 1993, Rules 8, 12 through 15.

The Society is registered with the Registry of Friendly Societies, with whom rules are registered, and auditor’s report is submitted annually.

Dudbridges, Landsdown, have been our honorary auditors.

Acting solicitor for rule change [1993] Robert Wicks, of Lapage Norris & Saleby, 1 Rowcroft, Stroud

Return to Top

Copyright © Lightpill Allotment Society 2022 All Rights Reserved