It all began with an act of generosity.
Miss Jervoise of Targetts Farm made a Deed of Gift in February 1951 of a parcel of land behind the then British Legion Hall (the former Congregational Chapel) “- to be used in perpetuity for the benefit of the Arborfield & District Branch of the Legion.”
We have a plan of the propsed British Legion site dating from 25th February 1949, showing the new land behind the old Congregational Chapel and including a Caretaker's House, with Hart's Cottages and Hillcrest opposite:
Nothing much happened until 1960, when the British Legion called together a list of village organisations who might be interested to discuss how best to use the land for the benefit of the community:
"The Arborfield & District Branch of the British Legion has decided to call a meeting to be held at their Headquarters, as above, on Wednesday the 6th April 1960, at 8:00 p.m. and to this Meeting each organisation in the village is invited to send two representatives, if possible with some guidance from their Committee as to the support that would be forthcoming for this project. Would you therefore please do your very best to arrange for two representatives to be present, and to speak on behalf of your body?"
Here's a list of the original invitees:
Here's the original proposed layout as drawn by Ken Garrett on 5th April 1960:
A revised plan was drawn up by Ken Garrett on 18th May 1960, after the initial meeting:
A committee was formed under the name "Arborfield Playing Fields Association", and met sporadically over the subsequent years. A wish-list of facilities was drawn-up, including tennis courts, bowling greens and a children's play area, and villagers were asked whether they wanted these facilities and if they would use them. Only about a quarter expressed a wish for them, which the Committee felt was insufficient to go ahead at that stage (at an estimated cost of £1,200).
The ground was more or less levelled and a few shrubs donated by Stephen Sale were planted. By 1964 a Lease was drawn up between the British Legion (as Landlord) and three Officers of the Association (as Tenant), at a peppercorn rent of £1 a year for 21 years (with break-points every 7 years), and at last some playground equipment was planned and erected. Fencing was planned but never installed. The lease listed these six names:
Stanley Leonard Bowyer of 52
Peach Street Wokingham (Chairman of Arborfield B.L.),
Euan Oliphant Fleming of Bridge
In 1967, after there had been some adverse
publicity in the local press, the British Legion suggested that they
should take the lead to fulfil the intentions behind Miss Jervoise's
Will:- "The land to be used for the benefit of the
community" . Unfortunately,
quite what was in the Deed of Gift (as quoted above). This was
turning into a comedy of errors.
[Based on the Minutes of the Arborfield Playing Fields Association]
Do you have any photographs of the site of the playing fields, or the original playground equipment, that you are happy to share? If so, please contact the Webmaster.
The Parish Council went ahead with a recreation ground on Swallowfield Road, opened in 1974, and moved the play equipment there.
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