Sunday, 4 May 2014
The workers garden.
There is no getting away from it, and events like today's annual plant and seedling sale always bring it home to me, in our neck of the woods allotmenteering is an almost exclusively middle class hobby. Alright, I live in an area that started out pretty middle class and has become increasingly so as property prices have spiralled up, but even that can't account for the fact that where as the chattering classes are beating the gates down to get a plot, the local proles seem to be not interested at all. I know that this is a shocking generalisation and no doubt things are different in other parts of the country but we have hardly any working-class plotholders under 70. Why is this? Of course, at one time keeping an allotment was pretty much the preserve of the working class male and gardening itself was a hobby that cut across class lines. Just as military history tends to be victors history and the history of nations the history of their ruling elite, so it is with something as mundane as a spot of gardening. We know all about what Capability Brown designed for the aristos and who planted what at Sissinghurst but comparatively little has been written about the countless number of ordinary folk who laboured in their spare time in order savour the simple pleasure of growing something. A new book, Gardens Of The British Working Class by Margaret Willes, put this omission right. At a cover price of twenty five quid it might be something to order from the library rather than buy.