A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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0 1 This inquiry was made for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to find out how far the campaign to encourage the production of vegetables in gardens and allotments had been successful.

The survey was designed to assess the results of past campaigns and to provide data on which future campaigns could be based.

The main inquiry was, therefore, directed to holders of allotments and to householders with gardens; certain supplementary information relating to all house-holders was, however, obtained through the regional organization of the Wartime Social Survey.

The principal subjects which were covered by the inquiry were the following:-

The commencement of cultivation and the factors responsible. (Sections 2 and 3)
Advice and Publicity.
What sources of advice are available to the allotment holder and gardener and what are the principal difficulties. To what extent the advice of the Ministry of Agriculture has been taken and how far publicity campaigns have been successful. (Section 4)
The results of the campaign: What crops have been grown and to what extent householders have been able to provide themselves with vegetables for the winter. (Section 5)
Post-war gardening: To what extent householders wish to continue gardening or the cultivation of allotments after the war. (Section 6)

Particular attention was paid to differences between the town and the country, and between manual workers and clerical workers. Some tentative regional analyses have also been made.


In this inquiry a considerable amount of work was done in the field to discover the main facts about the problems before the questionnaire inquiry was launched. In the first instance, visits were made to the Park Superintendent or Allotment Secretary in seven towns in England and Wales, where the “Dig for Victory” campaign had been particularly successful. The problems were discussed with these experts and the detailed working of local arrangements was studied, and such institutions as Advice Centres and model allotments were visited. Very many helpful suggestions were received on these occasions.

On the basis of this information a brief list of the most important topics was drawn up and a pilot investigation was made by submitting these topics for discussion to some 80 gardeners and allotment holders chosen at random throughout the country. The results of this pilot investigation provided the basis for the final questionnaire.

This final questionnaire was submitted to nearly 3,000 gardeners and allotment holders in England and Wales of whom some 1,300 were allotment holders 1,300 gardeners and rather less than 500 cultivators of both allotments and gardens. Details of the method of sampling are given in the following section.


The questionnaire was arranged so that separate questions were addressed to gardeners and to allotment holders about such matters as “When the allotment was taken”, or “At what time the space given over to vegetables was increased”? Parallel questions were asked about the motive for increasing cultivation and about what prompted this development. There were also parallel questions about the advantages and disadvantages of gardening.

The rest of the questionnaire dealing with advice, publicity and crops grown was the same for both groups. (See Appendix 1, the Questionnaire).


The reception of this survey was very favourable indeed. The inquiry was conducted at a time of year when most gardeners were harvesting their crop and when the main labour of cultivation had been completed, thus they had time to go into detail and in very many cases allowed our investigator to visit the plot or garden and see the crops for themselves.


The report is presented as a continuous narrative with the relevant statistics printed in.

In general the report shows that as far as the test questions about compost heaps and potato spraying are concerned, the message of the Ministry of Agriculture has been learned very well. These two questions tested the effect of publicity in very different ways, since in the case of the compost heaps the criterion was practice and in the case of potato spraying the criterion was knowledge.

It was found that nearly three-quarters of our sample had compost heaps and about two-thirds understood the importance of potato spraying, or knew that in their district, because of industrial conditions, they should not spray. In this latter connection an interesting point is that although two-thirds understood about potato spraying, rather less were conscious of the Ministry’s publicity.

The report clearly shows that there are important differences between regions, particularly between the north and the south, and between town and country. There are also differences between occupation groups, particularly between manual and clerical workers; and the housewives and retired persons in the sample also have special characteristics.


This inquiry has been made possible by the assistance we had from the following Park Superintendents and Allotment Secretaries, who gave us very much valuable advice and help:-

Mr. F. Baker - Portsmouth
Mr. L. G. Godseff - Liverpool
Mr. W. Nelmes - Cardiff
Mr. E. O. Sadler - Sheffield
Capt. Sandys-Winch - Norwich
Mr. E. W. Studley - Newport, Mon.

We should also like to thank the many Park and Allotment Departments who helped our interviewers in their work and particularly those who assisted us by preparing a random sample list of allotment holders in advance. This saved us much valuable interviewing time.

The allotment holders’ and gardeners themselves, who displayed great interest in our survey, helped us to get good and accurate information.

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