|52° 49' 31.0872", 1° 31' 38.4924"|
Prior to 1908 the land marked on the map as the Original Playing Field was owned by Bryn Lee Smith Esq of Tirley, Tarporley in the county of Cheshire. Bryn Lee Smith sold the land to Eleazar Biggins Emerson of Tollesby Hall, Marton, Cleveland on 23rd December 1908. Blacksmith’s rights are mentioned in the transfer document, making the connection with Blacksmith’s Lane, which is still the name of the adjacent road.
In October 1935 the land was sold by a Miss Ethel Mary Alice Maud Emerson to a group describing themselves as “The Managers of Happisburgh Non-Provided School”. The six managers were:
- The Rev Cyril Deane – Vicar at the time
- Thomas Roofe – Farmer
- Frederick William Gooch – Farmer
- Reginald Bernard Pearse, Esq
- Herbert Thompson – Farmer
- John Rudd Turner – Farmer
The purchase price was £240 and a deposit of £24 was paid. The remainder was undertaken as a personal mortgage to the signatories from Miss Gertrude Wilkinson of North Walsham. The mortgage was discharged in 1938.
A declaration of Trust was made on 8th September 1936 and recorded in the books of the Charity Commission of England and Wales. “The said Trustees shall hold the same ….. as public Recreation and Playing Field for the Parish of Happisburgh.”
On 13 April 1951 the Parish Council was included in the Trust. On 10th July the same year the original Trustees were removed and the Parish Council invested by Order of the Minister of Education as Trustees and Administrators of the Foundation known as the Recreation Ground and Playing Field Trust.
In 1951 the Parish Council leased the land to John Love, George Theobald and Sydney Nobel for use as a Playing Field at an annual rent of 1 shilling. This lease has lapsed but there is some suggestion that the Parish Council behaved improperly in granting the lease as they were not permitted by the governing document to delegate responsibility.
After the lease to John Love et al. in 1951, responsibility for day to day management of the Playing Ground rested with the Sports and Social Club. The Playing Field was equipped with two sets of swings, a roundabout, a see-saw and a climbing frame incorporating a trapeze, rope ladder, hanging rings and a horizontal bar – all mounted on a concrete plinth (the safety culture of today did not apply then!). Members of The Cricket Club and Football team maintained the field which was used by the Football Club in the winter months. The cricket pavilion and toilets were then sited on the east side of the Field. In the 1960s, a tennis court was created on the south side and a Tennis Club established.
Every year on August Bank Holiday Monday, a village fete was held on the Playing Field to raise funds for maintenance. This became a well loved tradition involving everyone in the village but, as the years went by, it became increasingly difficult to find sufficient volunteers to take over the organisation. Gradually the fete became a smaller and smaller affair and eventually ceased altogether, leaving a large funding gap.
As time went on, the cricket pavilion and toilets began to fall into disrepair and it was decided to erect a new pavilion on the additional strip of land, shaded on the map, was given by Mrs Mary Evans of Walcott House, Walcott for this purpose. The land for the Bowls Green was similarly gifted.
The building was a second-hand prefabricated structure and did good service for many years. At one time it housed a bar for club members which generated income. However, the imposition of tighter laws on drinking and driving laws, and difficulty in finding sufficient volunteers, brought about a decline in takings and eventually the bar was forced to close. With less income coming in, only minimal maintenance and repair could be carried out. Disaster struck when a gale damaged the roof. It was then discovered that, because of a mix-up over change of insurers, the loss was not covered by insurance. The Parish Council came to the rescue with a loan from the Precept Grant and decided to take back its proper responsibility as Trustee of the Recreation and Playing Field.
The Parish Council also took over responsibility for maintaining the play equipment but, when new Health & Safety legislation was introduced, it was realised that the funds available were insufficient to implement modifications and maintain the equipment to the standard required. There was thus no alternative but to remove the equipment and grass over the area. complying with new Health & Safety Legislation and increases in insurance premiums, forced the Council to removed the equipment. In recent years play equipment for the under-fives has been provided on the other side of the field.
In 1996, a new village hall was built on an additional piece of land, again provided by Mrs Evans. In recognition of her generosity and that of her late aunt, Miss Wenn, the hall was named the “Wenn-Evans Centre”.
Today, the Playing Field is a well-used facility. Cricket matches are played almost every weekend during the summer and football matches on most weekends during the winter.