The Society was formed in 1952 and was called the Avery Hill Gardens society – only in 2005 was the word Eltham added in a bid to attract more local residents to join.
The first committee elected was some ten of the first residents of the nearly completed Avery Hill estate who volunteered to start a gardening and / or social club at the request of the local council. Of these residents only two had any real gardening expertise.
The first was Charlie Dwyer who was a professional gardener and became the first chairman . The second was Syd Smith who was a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic amateur who specialised in growing chrysanths and dahlias and used to show at national level. He became the first show secretary.
Other positions such as secretary , treasurer ,and trading secretary etc. were filled by other members of the committee volunteering on a `I'll have a go ' basis. All committee meetings were convened in one or other of the committee member's homes and that applies right up to the present day.
Membership was recruited simply by the same committee members canvassing door to door , at first limited to the estate but subsequently spreading to Eltham Heights as the Society became more well known.
The first trading was carried out on the back porch of the first trading secretary's house in Restons Crescent . In time a large wooden hut was purchased and erected on a vacant plot in Anstridge Road and was thus the Society's first `shop'. This was eventually replaced by two concrete garages and in time moved to the current premises at Pippenhall, all in liaison with the local council.
The first shows were staged in the following year , one in July and one in September and for many years were held in Alderwood School. Over the years the venues for the shows have changed – Methodist Church Hall ,Avery Hill College , and most recently at St. Mary's R.C. Primary School in Glenure Road.
Over the years the committees have organised different events to stimulate interest and initially it seemed to work. Outings , talks , film shows etc. The shows also were changed to cater for different requests , now of course there is only one annual show and that is fairly static. At it's peak the Society boasted some 580 members but sadly in recent years it's membership has declined to around 120 and subsequently the events had to be cancelled leaving just the one coach outing in the summer.
The reasons for this decline are many and various and not within the scope of this article to explore. It is certain that readers will have their own ideas on that.
If you find the above of interest and you feel that you would like to learn more about your local group feel free to drop in at the shop at Pippenhall on any Sunday morning to find out more. You may also feel that you have something to offer – advice , suggestions , help?
The allotment shop at Pippenhall is now closed for the winter break reopening in early February 2024.
One of our members has experimented with growing potatoes in bags over the last two years. Read about his experience and advice to other container growers here
One of the tenants at Pippenhall has recently started a Pippenhall allotment blog. Have a look for yourself and register if you would like to contribute to this community. Click here to visit the blog
Eltham and Avery Hill Gardens Society
London SE9 2PE
(please do not use this address for correspondence)