Market Gardening Heritage
Autumn 2018 – Summer 2021
At one time, most of the population around Evesham and Pershore were employed in market gardening. A wide variety of vegetables, fruit, herbs and cut flowers grown in the Vale of Evesham were sold at markets up and down the country.
This is a story to remember with pride, a story worth saving for the future. Delve in through the project’s resources below.
Market gardening shaped the landscape and economy in the Vale of Evesham from the 19th to mid-20th century. Despite this, much of the area’s market gardening heritage and knowledge has been lost. In 2018, a project began to record, share and celebrate the Vale’s heritage before it’s too late. The key focus of this National Lottery Heritage Fund project was memories and buildings.
In order to preserve a record for future generations, a survey has been carried out of surviving market garden buildings, three ‘hovels’ restored as heritage sites, local memories recorded and a programme of public events and displays held. Early in 2021, the project’s digital resource pack for local schools was launched, followed by an online exhibition, reminiscence pack and final open day.
This project was run by Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service, in partnership with Cleeve Prior Heritage Trust, Vale Landscape Heritage Trust, Worcestershire Farmsteads Project and Cleeve Prior Parish Council. It was made possible thanks to £68,700 of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) and £5000 from Historic England.
Step back in time
Explore the story of market gardening and communities involved at three restored ‘hovels’ (market garden sites). Onsite panels are accompanied by an app with local memories, extra photos and children’s games to allow all ages to explore the former market gardens. For the adventure-seeking, there is a four-part geocache series leading to a fifth puzzle cache. Head to geocaching.com and search for ‘Market Garden Trail’ to get started.
Mr Wheeler’s time capsule (Field Barn, Cleeve Prior, WR11 8JX) – Peek inside Edgar Wheeler’s hovel to be transported back to market gardening’s heyday, discover the incredible variety of crops grown and hear what life was like beyond work. What3Words location: ///flattens.turkeys.schooling
Wooden hovel (North Littleton Community Orchard) – Discover wartime tales, unsung stories of helping hand and how these buildings were hubs for more than just growing. What3Word location: ///savings.enhanced.motivates
Little hovel (North Littleton Community Orchard) – Find out how crops travelled the nation, discover related trades (including the sweetest of all!) and changes over time. What3Words location: ///begin.victor.beginning
Getting there: WR11 8JX is the postcode for Cleeve Prior Heritage Trust and the North Littleton site is just 1 mile to the south on the B4510, close to the crossroad. Parking is available at Field Barn in Cleeve Prior and along the verge of the B4510, by North Littleton Community Orchard.
Good to know: Hovels are publicly accessible at any time. Please be aware that there may be uneven ground in the orchards. Access to the inside of Mr Wheeler’s time capsule hovel can be arranged with prior notice – please phone Ian Robinson on 01789 773805.
Market Gardening Heritage app
Filled with extra stories, children’s games, and a location map with walking and driving routes, this app is a companion to the three restored hovels. Phone signal can be limited on site, so we recommend downloading the app beforehand.
Around the restored hovels in Cleeve Prior and North Littleton is a geocache trail. This family-friendly series contains four traditional caches that lead to a fifth puzzle cache. Head to geocaching.com and search for ‘Market Garden Trail’ to get started. Good luck and enjoy!
New to geocaching?
Geocaching is essentially a digital treasure hunt. Over 3 million ‘geocaches’ have been hidden worldwide and the co-ordinates posted online for anyone to find using their smartphone or handheld GPS. Caches can be any size and shape, but are usually sandwich size containers. They hold a log book to sign and small items to swap or challenges to help with (such as travel bugs). Once found, caches are returned to their hiding place and the discovery logged on the geocaching website.
As all gardeners know, a shed is essential for storing equipment, produce and providing shelter. Market gardening was no exception: rows of timber, corrugated iron and occasionally brick built structures once lined the ends of their grounds. Generally built to market gardeners own design and requirements, each was unique in both design and function. Alongside doubling up as temporary accommodation for hired hands, some were also used for keeping racing pigeons or brewing homemade alcohol. One even served as a monthly barber’s shop!
Since the latter half of the 20th century, commercial horticulture has been on the rise and market gardening in decline. As a result, these small buildings (locally known as ‘hovels’) have been slowly disappearing. By the start of this project, over 80% had already gone. A survey to record surviving hovels within 24 Vale parishes was undertaken as part of the project, thanks to the work of dedicated volunteers. The photographic and written information gathered, along with summaries for each parish, are held in the publicly accessible Historic Environment Record for Worcestershire.
Read the Hovels Survey Summary (PDF) for an overview of the survey results and introduction to these unique buildings.
If you’re looking for parish summaries too, then take a look at the Hovels Survey Summary & Parish Overview (PDF).
This digital school pack covers market gardening in the Vale of Evesham. It has been designed for cross-curricular use – from exploring local and national history to design, food production and landscape change over time. Whilst it is primarily aimed at Key Stages 2-3, the digital resource pool can be used to create activities for any age group and subject.
Grown in the Vale – tales of life on the land, helping hands and the nationwide reach of a key Worcestershire industry. Filled with local memories, photos and stories of market gardening in Vale of Evesham, this exhibition explores over 100 years of history.
Take a trip down memory lane with photos and oral history clips of market gardening in the Vale of Evesham.
What exactly is a hovel? Discover these unique local buildings and find out what the survey is all about.
A variety of topics have been researched by our wonderful volunteers. As interesting stories and insights emerge, we’ve been sharing them on our blog. Take a look at the tales explored:
- Letters written in 1933 by schoolchildren in Pershore & Badsey
- An army marches on its stomach
- Transporting produce far and wide
- David Towers – a Pershore plum grower with a surprising background
- Pig club, irrigation and helping hands in Cleeve Prior
- Local memories
- Paying the price – the early days of market gardening
- Unsung stories from women in the Vale
- Asparagus & the Vale of Evesham
A time capsule hovel that belonged to local grower Edgar Wheeler has been restored by the project. In our search to find out more about him, we were generously assisted by the Cotswold & Vale Magazine and their readers. Their articles, telling the story of this search and the man behind the mystery, are reproduced below by kind permission (copyright retained by Cotswold & Vale Magazine).
Go behind the scenes of the project for hidden tales and incredible feats of an industry that fed the nation and shaped the Vale of Evesham for over 100 years.
Featuring childhood adventures, scrumpy and the curious case of a pop-up barber’s, it’s well worth a listen!
Grown in the Vale: tales & art of market gardening
2nd – 22nd September 2021 at Number 8, Pershore
Delve into hidden tales, historic photos and prize-winning artwork of the area’s market gardening days. From Aberdeen to Penzance, the Vale of Evesham supplied the nation with fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers for over 100 years. Market gardening became a way of life for local communities and shaped the landscape. This exhibition brings together the Market Gardening Heritage project and winners of Pershore Plum Festival’s inaugural art competition.
Open Day – 12-4, Sat 21st Aug 2021
Explore the unsung stories, incredible feats and lasting legacy of market gardening in the Vale at three historic buildings, restored by the project. Hovel sites will be open 12-4pm, with short talks on the half-hour. See our Eventbrite page for full details – booking recommended, but not essential.
Virtual School Launch – resource pack & art competition
Tues 2nd Feb 2021, 4.30 – 5.15pm
Pershore Plum Festival and the Market Gardening Heritage project are excited to launch a new art competition and digital resource pack!
Join us for an overview of the digital resources, including curriculum links, adaptability and why market gardening is integral to the Vale of Evesham. This will be followed by details of how to get involved with the Plum Festival’s inaugural art competition and Q&A session. Open to all teaching staff in Wychavon, Worcestershire.
The digital resource pack contains photographs, oral history clips and letters written by children in 1933, alongside summaries of market gardening and its nationwide reach. Whilst primarily aimed at KS2-3, these resources can be drawn upon to create lessons or use as creative inspiration for any year group.
To register, visit our Eventbrite page.
Open Day – Sat 21st Sept 2019, 11-4
One day, a market gardener walked out of his ‘ovel (shed) in Cleeve Prior and didn’t return, leaving behind a rare time capsule. Come along to discover more about this story and see the hovel itself, which is one of three being restored.
Bring your own apples for pressing (and bottles, preferably freezable!) or join in the bug hunt. There will also be a short guided walk around Cleeve Prior (starting at 12 and 2pm) and chance to discover what specialist tools of the trade growers used and invented. Homemade refreshments will be available throughout the day.
- 11-1 Apple pressing
- 12-1 Guided history and nature walk
- 2-3 Guided history and nature walk
- 11-4 Bug hunts, refreshments and horticultural tools of the trade
Pershore Plum Festival – Mon 26th Aug 2019
Come and find us in Abbey Park, within the Plum Fun Zone. Discover what the project’s all about, the key role plums played in the Vale’s history of market gardening and have a go at our kids’ building challenge! More info can be found in the Plum Festival programme.
Market gardening memories – drop in events
Evesham Town Hall, Sat 6th July 11-2
Pershore Town Hall, Sat 10th Aug 11-2
Drop in to find out more about the industry that shaped the Vale’s landscape and history throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This is also an opportunity to bring along photographs and memories to help share, celebrate and preserve this important local heritage.
Offenham Market Gardening Walk – Thurs 4th July 2019, 9.30am
8.5 mile circular walk, run by Evesham Walking Festival
Pensham Walk – Thurs 30th May 2019, 1-4pm
3.5 mile circular walk, free (booking required)
Starting from Pershore Bridge, we will explore the medieval settlement of Pensham. Discover how the lives of villagers and their relationship with the land changed over time, from 17th century tobacco growing to the rise of market gardening and future of horticulture at the neighbouring Pershore College.
Asparagus Festival – 23rd April to 21st June 2019
Look out for us at various events throughout the festival, including the Asparagus Auction (26th May) and Family Fun Day (27th May) at the Fleece Inn, Bretforton. Drop by to find out more!
Tiddesley Wood Open Day – Sun 5th May 2019, 10-5
Did you know that Pershore’s famous yellow egg plums were first found in Tiddesley Wood (or so the story goes)? Find us alongside the food and craft stalls to discover more about the area’s history and what the Market Gardening Heritage project is all about. Find out more about the Open Day at www.worcswildlifetrust.co.uk
Badsey Walk – Sat 27th April 2019, 1-4pm
3.4 mile circular walk, free (booking required)
Join us on this circular walk through Badsey and Wickhamford to explore the historic heart of market gardening within the Vale. Along the way, we’ll see several ‘ovels – unique structures built by market gardeners. We’ll also take a look at the area through the eyes of children in the 1930s, before going back in time to the villages’ medieval origins and local prehistoric settlements.