Dig for Victory

The gardens at Upton reflect the wartime theme with rows of hearty vegetables planted in the 1 acre kitchen garden. As well as seeing the dig for victory planting in ‘every available plot’. Read the Ministry of Agriculture wartime advice on green and orange boards as you explore the gardens.

Growing your own in Wartime

In 1938 Britain had imported some 55million tons of food and for the next six years this now had to be grown at home.  On the frontline of this campaign were the nation’s vegetable gardens and allotments.

Beans became a regular part of the everyday diet, carrots replaced sweets and onions briefly became worth their ‘weight in gold’.

Wartime propaganda persuaded people to get digging for victory.  The government introduced characters like Potatos Pete and Dr Carrot to help explain the health benefits and gave advice on recipes and growing tips.

Dr Carrot and Potato Pete were there to help you grow your own and eat well during watime rationing
Two drawings of vegetable characters from wartime posters

What happened at Upton

Fortunately for Upton there was plenty of productive farm land available to turn over for food production so the main garden would have been left as it is today when the family left for London. The sunken garden was used at the start of the war for food production and the main kitchen garden would have been used too, some to send to local places (hospitals and the like) and some to cater for the 22 Bank Staff who moved to Upton from London. 

The one acre kitchen garden is right in the heart of Upton's gardens
View of kitchen garden with rows of vegetables growing and trees behind

Catch a chat or take a tour and see for yourself

Look out for Victory Garden Chats on your next visit and find out more about our wartime planting from a short talk by one of our volunteers guides.

Or take the tour yourself and see the kitchen garden in full glory, rows and rows of potatoes and carrots – a wartime staple diet. Throughout the year we will be turning back the clock and demonstrating how the garden would have looked should it have been in the middle of a city.

‘Every Available Space’

Importation of food stopped overnight and the nation had to grow their own, land was scarce so every available space was put in use. The House Terraces will be cultivated to provide food, flower borders will be turned over and the plants removed to enable fruit and vegetables to be grown.

‘Family allotment’

By following the monthly government bulletins’ we will demonstrate what might have been grown through the war, with limited seed available, or none at all, queuing for hours outside ‘Woolworths’ to buy rationed seed potatoes, tomatoes and other root crops.

‘Growing Heritage Vegetables’ 

We will sow, plant and harvest vegetables in large blocks to show off the very limited diet of food available and how it would have been grown in the open field.  

Rhubarb replaces flowers in our Dig for Victory planting outside the house
view of the house with rhubarb growing in front

Explore the Anderson Shelter

Check out the Anderson Shelter by the sunken lawn, take a seat inside and think what it would have been like to sleep here in the garden overnight while bombs sounded all around.

Visit the Anderson Shelter in the sunken lawn
Girl at the entrance to replica anderson shelter with sandbags

Conservation work is at the heart of what we do

To enable us to conserve this delicate garden we need to be able to manage the greater numbers of people visiting in our twelve month opening period, which can be very challenging at times. Part of that management scheme which has been carefully thought through is to rotate the garden areas as they come into season; for example throughout the winter and into early spring we enable visitors to follow the spring bulbs.  Walking on hard pathways, with other areas being viewed from a distance to show of the structure of the plants. This will be followed by the first early herbaceous border coming into flower and other areas will open as the year goes on.