Local History Society

  Memories - Arborfield Playing Fields Association

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:

1949 BL Plan  

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:

Army Apprentices' School

Not represented Full facilities internally available.

Bell Ringers


Gardening Society

S. G. Bentley.

Mothers' Union

E. J. Wilson; E. M. Allen.

Observer Corps

S. G. Bentley.

Parish Council

S. G. Bentley.

Parochial Church Council

Norah Brooker; C. Hamilton Wilson.

REME Training Centre

Captain M. S. Caygill, REME.

School Managers

Mrs. Simonds (gave apologies).

Sunday School

L. Hall.

Women's Institute

P. Moores; D. M. Goddard.

Young Wives' Group

D. G. Streak; E. L. Barones.

Church Youth Fellowship


Youth Group

G. Edwards; C. A. Pigott.

Arborfield & District British Legion

Geo. Bentley; Mr. Ken Barrett.

Arborfield & District B. L. - Women's Section

E. Mulford.

Arborfield & District British Legion Club Ltd.

P. Jones; Ald. Bowyer.

Here's the original proposed layout as drawn by Ken Garrett  on 5th April 1960:

Plan 5th April 1960 

A revised plan was drawn up by Ken Garrett on 18th May 1960, after the initial meeting:

Plan 18th May 1960

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.),
Alton Swift Crosley of Arborfield Court (Hon. Sec. of Arborfield B.L.),
Charles Hugh Hatcher of 12 Eversley Road (Hon. Treasurer of Arborfield B.L.);


Euan Oliphant Fleming of Bridge House, Arborfield,
John Henry Harris of 62 Bearwood Road, Wokingham,
Ramsay Leo McKissack of Grange Cottage, Greensward Lane (all officers of Arborfield Playing Fields Association).

The Committee continued to meet around once a year, with membership based on the various organisations who might use the site (which resulted in a steady annual turnover in personnel), with the school's headmaster Mr. Pigott in the chair. Money was always short, and volunteer labour and committee membership were hard to find.

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, that's not quite what was in the Deed of Gift (as quoted above). This was turning into a comedy of errors.

By 1971, after some correspondence between Martin Shearn (the then Clerk to the Parish Council), and Blandy & Blandy (the BL's solicitors), it was realised that the Association was in a hole. It was agreed to terminate the lease and put the assets and liabilities in the hands of the Parish Council, even though the lease seemed to imply that the BL had the right to retain the playground equipment. This gave the BL the freedom to redevelop their land with a new hall and caretaker's flat - but without two dwellings that the BL had wanted to put on the left-hand side of the frontage (now part of the car park) as shown in the following plan dated 28th April 1969:

BL Plan 1969  

The Minute Book was then transferred to the Parish Council in May 1971. Apparently, there should then have been a General Meeting to wind-up the Arborfield Playing Fields Association , but there's no mention that this ever happened. So does the APFA continue to this day?

[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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