Ashley (meaning Ash tree wood in Old English) Vale has been occupied since Roman times, and in the middle ages was owned by St James monastery. The area played a vital role in Bristol’s maritime history, in that the Quay Pipe, a conduit supplying freshwater to all shipping in the docks, was fed by a spring on Ashley Hill. The area then became residential and parkland, the site of many genteel and grand houses, such as Ashley Court. In the late 19th century, most of the surrounding land was given over to building, but the valley slopes remained as grass and woodland.
The history of the allotments starts around the time of the first world war. Until then, the only allotments were located behind what is now the self build housing site, and the east facing slopes of the valley remained as parkland. These were turned over to the growing of vegetables, shortly before rationing was introduced in 1918. In the years between the wars, the valley bottom became an industrial area (possibly a gas works), and Boiling Wells Brook was culverted. The “Elysian Fields” (or “Tip Fields”) were restored by 1955, according to the Ordnance Survey map. The reclamation of this land goes a long way to explaining the soil conditions in the bottom of the valley, which are very different from the sticky clays on the surrounding slopes.
The earliest documented evidence of the AVAA is in the “Rules of the Ashley Vale Allotment Association Ltd” when they were registered with the Agricultural Organisation Society, in 1917.
The committee minutes book from 1961 to 1979 still survives – here are the minutes from the meeting of Monday 20th February 1961 at 7.30 pm AVAA minutes book 1961_79.pdf minutes book 1961_79.pdf