October 22, 1918 – Harborough’s allotment plot holders are among the best in the country


Gardeners in Market Harborough are among the most prolific in the entire country for doing their bit to beat the German blockade of putting food on the nation’s tables.

According to a story in the October 22, 1918, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser the town has one of the best ratios of allotments across England and Wales.

A report by the Food Production Department this week says the average number of plots being cultivated is one to four-and-a-half people – in Market Harborough the ratio is more than FOUR TIMES better.

The story, which is headlined ‘Market Harborough at the top of the list’, says there are 29 urban districts which have ‘one allotment to each household’ and the town is one of them.xallotments

And nearby Kettering is also pulling its weight as the town is in the country’s top ten districts for having the largest aggregate acreage of allotments.

Life elsewhere in Market Harborough also seems to be getting on with business as usual. There are a plethora of vacancies, particularly for women:

  • Girls and young women aged 14 to 25, with good wages and bonus at G Looms in Cross Street
  • General helper wanted for a small Leicester family in a comfortable home – no washing, considerable privileges and £35 a year
  • Several respectable girls aged 14 to 25 wanted at W Symington and Co – excellent wages and constant work

There is other evidence of true Brit spirit in the classified ads including the chance to take pianoforte lessons with either Miss Doris Elliott in Northampton Road or Miss M Robertson at Police Station House.

Even more surprisingly there is an indication that checking your stars is no modern-day phenomenon. Mr M Macdonald of Glasgow urges readers to contact him so he can provide ‘a reliable life horoscope’ that itemises your character, describes your ideal marriage partner, and indicates how planetary influences can affect  events and changes in business – all for the price of one shilling.

There are a few brief mentions of the war. Tucked away next to a report of ‘a successful social’ in the Congregational Church Jubilee Hall is news of Captain H Carter of Caxton Street, who has been killed in action leaving behind a wife and child, and Private George Cort of St Mary’s Road who is a German prisoner of war.


The Press Bureau-supplied War Supplement once again provides its usual mix of photographs and propaganda including a gentle picture of soldiers ‘releasing balloons with messages to bring hope to French and Belgian civilians in the grip of the Germans.

And there is a breathtaking piece of propaganda in a story headlined ‘Compliment from a dying German’. The article says a mortally wounded officer was found by some French soldiers and he insisted of speaking to their commander.

The story says: “They brought the first officer they could find and the German said to him, ‘Monsieur, you have fought magnificently. I am a soldier and I must pay you that tribute. Unhappily, you will be in my country by Christmas but as a soldier I congratulate you.”

He then shook the Frenchman’s hand and died.

The patriotic overtones did not stop there though. The story concludes: “The German soldier’s compliment was well deserved. Only the perfection of method, the closest interaction of all units and the uttermost devotion among officers and men have enabled the French to break the belt of field works which the enemy calculated he would be able to hold against them indefinitely.”

  • This column is published every Monday by John Dilley on the Newspapers and the Great War website and will continue until the 100th anniversary of the final armistice in November 2018.
  • My fellow researcher and De Montfort University lecturer David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.
  • Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.




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