Site Histories: Scarcroft

Scarcoft Allotments has a well documented past that clearly illustrates the history of previous land use and development of the allotment site. Originally the land was an open part of Micklegate Stray, technically it still is part of the Stray, yet now owned by City of York Council and no longer the Freemen of Micklegate Ward. 

The land in the foreground is Micklegate Stray and now 
the site of Scarcroft allotments. The white cottage was 
demolished prior to the development of Scarcroft Hill 
in the late 1890’s.
Date: 1880’s  City of York Libraries and Archives

A dominant feature of Scarcroft  Allotments are the footpaths that traverse and sub-divide the land. The earliest example is shown on the 1852 O.S. Map whilst later O.S. Maps reveal how this network of footpaths has evolved.

O.S. Map 1852 
5 feet to 1 Mile
Micklegate Stray, footpaths and 
newly enclosed parcels of land
O.S. Map 1909
25 Inch to 1 Mile

A droveway/footpath also passes through Scarcroft allotments running along the western edge of the site. It begins at Nunnery Lane to the north, proceeds along Scarcroft Lane, through the allotment site and Knavesmire, ending at Hob Moor to the south west of Scarcroft. It was used by Freemen of the city to drive their cattle and other animals to pasture.

Droveway at northern end of Scarcroft

Stone setts on Albemarle Road pavement marking 
southern entrance to droveway through Scarcroft

The perimeter of the allotment site is bounded along the south and eastern sides by a substantial brick wall originally built as part of the Nunthorpe Hall Estate in 1853. Over on the western side another boundary brick wall marks the rear of the late nineteenth century properties along Wentworth Road. The remaining stretches along Scarcroft Road to the north, and Telford Terrace and Albemarle Road to the south, were bounded by iron railings. Today these railings and associated entrance ways can be seen to survive along the Telford Terrace and Albemarle Road perimeter, however along Scarcroft Road they were salvaged as part of the war effort in 1942 and there now remains just two traces. 

Wooden slats mark original entrance way from Nunthorpe
Hall estate through boundary wall onto Micklegate Stray
Scarcroft Road, looking east. Railings in foreground 
on right, mark the boundary of Micklegate Stray prior 
to becoming Scarcroft allotments.
Date:  c.1910  City of York Libraries and Archives

One of two millstone grit pillars that 
marked the entrance way onto the 
Stray from Scarcroft Road
One of the two iron railing remnants
evident along Scarcroft Road

Perimeter railings along Albemarle Road

Scarcroft, Hospital Fields and Hob Moor Allotment sites all came into existence at the same time and are examples of the World War I initiative to make productive use of vacant land to support the war effort. Vacant land in this case being part of Micklegate Stray with the first tenancies commencing on 1st February 1917.

Copy of Headline as printed in Yorkshire Gazette 23.12.1916  p. 7

The above Yorkshire Gazette article goes on to say, 
“We do not hesitate to say that the man who, knowing how to grow potatoes does not at once ask for land and get to work, will be as blameworthy as would the corporal who, seeing a chance to capture an army of the enemy, put off the effort until it was too late.” 

Scarcroft met the demand for 319 plots, each one 300 superficial yards in size, having at least two thirds planted with potatoes and rental charged at 10 shillings per annum. The important role that allotment gardening held is further illustrated when considering the maximum penalty for trespass or crop damage was £100 fine or a term of imprisonment.

The allotments were retained during the inter war years and went on to contribute significantly to the Dig for Victory campaign of World War II. Years after the war in July 1946, redundant Anderson air raid shelters were offered to tenants for use as tool sheds. These simple corrugated iron shelters were popular with tenants and cost £5 a piece to install. Today just one example survives as a tool shed on Scarcroft, with a second being used as a compost bin.

The only surviving Anderson shelter on Scarcroft 
still used as a tool shed

The plan and layout of Scarcroft allotments closely resembles that of its origins in 1917. Perhaps the most notable changes are the creation of a site shop and parking space at the main entrance way off Scarcroft Road, and a  ‘green’ situated at the convergence of footpaths, on the site of a former seed shed. Another change is the presence of hedgerows and trees around the site, seen mainly as a result of the more recent past when allotment gardening was in decline. 

Plan of Scarcroft Allotment site 
Date:  May 1952;  Scale: 1/500
Compiled by Chas J Minter, City Engineer and Architect, Guildhall, York

Aerial photograph looking north showing Scarcroft Allotments bottom 
left, Nunthorpe Grammar School (now Millthorpe School) in foreground
Date: 1956  City of York Libraries and Archives

Aerial photograph of Scarcroft Allotments today