By Camilla Löfgren
In 1839 two men called Matthew Montgomerie and John Park Fleming bought 462 acres in Kelvinside. The men owned a law firm and had planned for the area to become Glasgow’s most impressive residential area. However, because of the Defence of the Realm Regulations of 1916, local authorities were given the power to seize land for allotments. This was done across Glasgow to supplement food shortages. Despite protests from the law firm, it was recorded in 1918 that there were 51 plots at Kirklee.
For most of the twentieth century Kirklee allotments were divided in two sections by Kirklee Road; a larger area to the north, with a smaller triangular section south of the road. Records show that the majority of plotholders were men from the West End, but there were also some women. A Miss Nora Miller is recorded as the longest standing female plotholder at Kirklee in the 1920s. She leased Plot 29, but was put off her plot in 1926, along with eight other plotholders for a building project.
Countless plotholders would come to experience this over the course of the twentieth century, as many different projects tried to build on the land. Fortunately, all plans fell through. The University of Glasgow first wanted the land to build student accommodation on, but the Principal later changed his mind and wanted to build tennis courts for the university’s staff. In the 1980s, plotholders were driven off in favour of test bore drilling by Tayports Developments Ltd. In 2004, plotholders had to leave after claims were made that there were unsafe levels of lead in the soil. After further tests were done, this turned out to be untrue.
Although Kirklee south with its sixteen plots was shut down in 1990, Kirklee north remains with 53 plots. So despite its long and difficult past, today Kirklee continues to bring joy to gardeners in the West End of Glasgow, over a hundred years after it first started.
To find out more about Merrylee visit the Glasgow Allotments History website – http://gah.org.uk/Allotments/Kelvinside.aspx