Grow Your Own - digging into the past

No livestock allowed is one of the golden rules of a local allotment (please pass that message on to the rabbits!) At a site in beautiful Yorkshire plot holders grow their own bounty ranging from prize winning pumpkins to dazzling dahlias. The soil they are digging in to though contains another kind of treasure – the land has a fascinating history, which the Allotment Committee have been uncovering. 

Mosaic image of allotments, produce, and historic picturesPlot holders grow their own treasures on historic ground at North Ferriby

Written by… Tim Barnett, Anne Turner Allotment Committee

The Anne Turner Memorial Allotments were given to the villagers of North Ferriby in 1905 as a lasting reminder of Mrs Anne Turner of Ferriby House, the principle landowner and last of the Turner family to live in the village. The Allotments are governed by covenants which prevent any plot holder from having sheds or greenhouses so the site has retained its attractive appearance without any buildings. No livestock is allowed either but the local rabbits seem to be ignoring this regulation!

Portrait painting of a Victorian lady

This fine portrait of Anne Turner has been rediscovered so the community now have an image of their founder

Village gifts

When the Allotments were invited to open for the East Yorkshire National Garden Scheme in 2022 we decided to find out more about our benefactor, Anne Turner. One of the most interesting documents was the Will, which revealed her estate was valued in 1902 at the modern day equivalent of £65million and several of those millions were allocated to charitable causesAnne’s bequest was the last in a history of gifts to the local area from the Turner family, although they had been largely forgotten. These included the rebuilding of the Parish Church to designs by JL Pearson in 1845 and the Ferriby School and Headmasters house built in 1880. A more detailed account of the philanthropy of the Turners will be available at our Heritage Open Day (HOD) in September.

Museum display of a prehistoric boat with model and replica tools

Ancient ground: prehistoric boats were uncovered nearby, now displayed alongside this model & replica tools at Hull Museum / © CC.Notafly

Digging deeper…

The Allotment site is itself historic, not only as an early example of a privately funded allotment, but also in relation to the history of North Ferriby. The land which is now under cultivation was once part of the Medieval Priory until its dissolution along with all the Monasteries in 1536. The Priory site had become a country house by the 17th century and was owned by the Lillingston family from 1699 until the 1790s. An excellent marble monument to Colonel Luke Lillingston can be seen in the parish church.

Ferriby is also the site of the oldest surviving prehistoric boats, discovered close by on the Humber foreshore. The prehistoric settlement presumably lay in the vicinity, digging on the allotment always holds extra interest for those with an archaeological interest. A replica of the boat will also be on display for HOD.

Man stood on grass path bordering allotment plot

Author Tim stands on historic ground at the allotment

Today’s new growth

The allotments are made up of 84 plots and each has an individual character as diverse as the plot holders. Ages range from octogenarians to teenagers and we have ‘no-dig’ plots to double dig plots. Specialists grow competition sweet peas, lilies, dahlias and tulips in addition to the practical crops of beans, potatoes, sweetcorn and other salad crops. We hold an annual competition amongst plot holders which in the past has been potatoes, beans and this year we are having a pumpkin competition. The pumpkins will be coming up for judging in September. We will also be coming up to harvest time and surplus produce is often shared amongst plot holders or given to a local food bank.

We look forward to welcoming visitors at Heritage Open Day to see our hard work and learn about historic Ferriby.

Find out more

  • North Ferriby Allotments (site currently being developed) 
  • National Gardening Week - Run by the Royal Horticultural Society, this year’s theme links to the coronation
  • Unforgettable Gardens - The Gardens Trust continue to celebrate what gardens mean to us, the threats they face, and how you can help save them for future generations 

Discover more stories behind gardens, plants, and green spaces with our earlier posts:

About Tim Barnett

Tim Barnett has recently joined the Anne Turner Allotment Committee after organising a NGS Open Garden event for the allotments in 2022. The research into the foundation of the allotments in 1905 revealed long lost information about Anne Turner and her family. Tim has written an article on Ferriby Hall for the Georgian Society of East Yorkshire which is published in the current journal and has given talks on Hull Merchants who have built mansions in the village in the 18th century, such as Wilberforce, Broadley and Etherington. Tim is currently working on the history of Ferriby Grange which was built on the site of the Medieval Priory.