Allotments are a valuable resource to individuals and community groups who take immense pride in their up keep and produce. This National Allotment Week gives us the opportunity to have a look at the allotments and gardens at the Poor House and how they were used to benefit the residents.

The Belfast Charitable Society knew how important it was to provide food for their residents. While they bought provisions down at the markets in the town, they also cultivated a large section of ground around the Poor House to provide vegetables for the people of the house. Significant investment was made for around almost 200 years in the garden to ensure the best possible food was grown. Of course it didn’t always go to plan and our Minutes tell of many crops being destroyed with pests and diseases. The growing of the food was important, but it was equally important to teach people how to grow the crops. The Belfast Charitable Society were always looking at ways to empower people to become financially independent. Horticulture was an important element of this as people were taught all the basics of growing their own food and thus making them less dependent on charity.

The garden also provided assistance when there was little else to offer. In 1817 Belfast Charitable Society was very short on financial aid, but did have a great potato harvest. People in Belfast who needed help were offered the option of a few pounds of potatoes rather than monetary assistance.

Staff maintained a kitchen garden throughout the 20th century, but with the redevelopment of Clifton House, the upkeep was difficult. The residents of Clifton Care Home still enjoy gardening today, although it’s not thankfully required to feed them any longer. They enjoy plums from their tree and have a beautiful range of flowers and shrubs in the courtyard.