Projects

Market Gardening Heritage

Autumn 2018 – Summer 2020

Market gardening shaped the landscape and economy in the Vale of Evesham from the 19th to mid-20th century, but due to much of this heritage and knowledge being lost a project is now underway to record, share and celebrate it before it’s too late. The key focus of this two year National Lottery Heritage Fund project is memories and buildings.

In order to preserve a record for future generations, a survey is being carried out of surviving market garden buildings, three sites restored as heritage sites, local memories recorded and a programme of public events and displays held. At the end of the project, teaching resources for local schools and a reminiscence pack will be created.

At one time, most of the local population were employed in market gardening and a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, herbs and cut flowers were sold at markets up and down the country. 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.

Four photos of market gardening within the Vale

Clockwise from top left: Survey training in Cleeve Prior, market gardening ground, vegetable poster pinned inside a hovel and a surviving market gardening building in Lenchwick.

Since the rise of commercial horticulture and decline of market gardening during the latter half of the 20th century, these small buildings, locally known as ‘hovels’, have been slowly disappearing – it is thought that around 90% have already gone. A survey to record surviving hovels within Evesham and ten surrounding parishes is underway, thanks to the work of volunteers. The photographic and written information gathered will then be added to the publically accessible Historic Environment Record for Worcestershire.

We are keen to hear from anyone who is happy to share memories of market gardening within the Vale – you don’t need to have been a grower yourself, as we would like memories from the whole community and about related trades (such as canning factories, blacksmiths and transport companies). Please get in touch if you would like to be involved or added to the project mailing list, and keep an eye on the list below for upcoming events.

The project is being run by Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service, in partnership with Cleeve Prior Heritage TrustVale Landscape Heritage TrustWorcestershire Farmsteads Project and Cleeve Prior Parish Council, thanks to £68,700 of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (HLF) and £5000 from Historic England.

 

Interested? We’re looking for volunteers!

  • Time capsule – We need help to clean and catalogue the archive left by a grower in his Cleeve Prior hovel, which includes everything from produce labels to waterproofs, tools and food tins. First training session is on 30th Sept in Cleeve Prior.
  • Research – Fancy unearthing local stories of market gardening? Our last archival research workshop is running in Evesham on 24th Sept.
  • Hovels survey – There’s still time to join in with the second season of the survey, which is creating a photographic and written record of surviving hovels in Evesham and ten surrounding parishes. Get in touch for details of the November training session.

 

RESEARCH

A variety of topics are currently being researched by our wonderful volunteers. As interesting stories and insights emerge, we’ll be sharing them on our blog. Take a look at the tales we’ve written about so far:

 

NEXT EVENTS

For further information, please get in touch by email explorethepast@worcestershire.gov.uk or phone 01905 766352.

Open Day – Sat 21st Sept, 11-4

Field Barn, Cleeve Prior, WR11 8JX

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!), join in the bug hunt, take a short guided walk around Cleeve Prior (starting at 12 and 2pm) and discover what specialist tools of the trade growers used and invented. Homemade refreshments 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

 

PAST EVENTS

Badsey Walk – Sat 27th April, 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 – and 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.

Tiddesley Wood Open Day – Sun 5th May, 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

Asparagus Festival – 23rd April to 21st June

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!

Pensham Walk – Thurs 30th May, 1-4pm

3.5 mile circular walk, free (booking required)

Starting from Pershore Bridge, we will explore the medieval settlement of Pensham to 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.

Offenham Market Gardening Walk – Thurs 4th July, 9.30am

8.5 mile circular walk, run by Evesham Walking Festival

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, or bring along photographs and memories to help share, celebrate and preserve this important local heritage.

Pershore Plum Festival – Mon 26th Aug

Come and find us in Abbey Park, within the Plum Fun Zone, to 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.

 

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