Many of us will be familiar with the large recreation ground we are fortunate to have in our village. But I wonder whether any of us have ever thought how long the village has actually had the recreation ground.
Before the creation of a designated recreation ground, several owners of the larger farms offered their meadows for the staging of various village events.
For example, in June 1887 the village’s Jubilee Celebrations took place on ‘meadows lent by Mr J Darby’.
In August 1892, the annual Board School’s children’s treat took place in a meadow belonging to ‘Mr Carter’. ‘Mr J Carter’ [I believe Josiah Carter] erected swings in the meadow for the children to enjoy.
Farmer William Downes of Bury Hall allowed one of his meadows to be used for a similar annual children’s treat in August 1907.
Proposal of a Recreation Ground
The Great Ellingham Parish Council’s Minute Book reveals that the proposed purchase of land for the recreational use of the community, was discussed by the Parish Council from at least 1930. A Recreation Ground Committee was also formed.
Meeting of the Parish Council 12th May 1930
On the 12th May, 1930, the Parish Council held a meeting at which the proposed recreation ground was discussed further. The Parish Councillors present were Mr A Spurgeon (in the chair), Mr W Downes, Mr G Saunders, Mr H T Saunders, Mr A J Pollard, Mr L S Rivett and Mr R Fordham
The secretary to the Recreation Ground Committee, schoolmaster Mr R R Fordham, informed members of the Parish Council that the National Playing Fields Association [founded in 1925] thought it best that the recreation ground should be vested in the Parish Council as trustees. As it is today, the Association is an organisation which offers advice, guidance and help in the provision of facilities for community recreation.
By a vote, the members of the Parish Council immediately accepted the trusteeship. It was also agreed that the management of the recreation ground should be carried on by the present committee.
Resolution Passed for Execution of Conveyance Deed by Trustees
At the same meeting, a resolution was passed authorising the trustees of the committee to execute a Deed conveying the field to the Parish Council.
Meeting confirms Members of the Recreation Ground Committee
At a later meeting of the Parish Council held on the 10th October, 1930, the following persons were confirmed as members of the management committee for the recreation ground: Rev. Boys, Rev. Moore, Mr F Moyes, Mr G Mace, Mr L P Smith, Mr E Beales, Mr A C Chilvers, Mr H Rix, Mr R Dixon, Mr W Filby, Mr R R Fordham, Mr A J Pollard, Mr H T Saunders, Mr G Saunders & W R Lebbell.
George Jude sells ‘Town Piece’
On the 28th February, 1931, George Jude, a farmer of Great Ellingham, sold a piece of land known as the ‘Town Piece’ to the Great Ellingham Parish Council acting as trustees. The Conveyance Deed describes ‘Town Piece’ as follows:
ALL THAT close piece or parcel of arable land situate in the Parish of Great Ellingham in the County of Norfolk known as “The Town Piece” or Town Field” bounded on the south by the Attleborough Main Road on the East by the Ellingham Schools and property formerly of Lord Walsingham and now or late of William Downes and on the North and West by the property formerly of John Cottingham Tingey and now or late of Kenzor Frederick Neal and Arthur Ayers Neal and numbered 205 on the Ordnance Survey Map and containing six acres three roods and seven poles [sometimes referred to as perches] and now in the occupation of the Vendor [George William Jude]
Map taken from a photocopy of the Conveyance dated 28th February 1931 (1) George Wm Jude (2) Roger M Boys & Robert R Fordham as Trustees (3) Parish Council of Great Ellingham. Norfolk Record Office Cat. Ref. PC 116/46.
All rights reserved Norfolk Record Office & Great Ellingham Parish Council.
With kind permission of NRO and Great Ellingham Parish Council
The Conveyance also confirms that George Jude received the sum of £200 for the parcel of land. This sum had been raised by the Great Ellingham Recreation Ground Committee.
The Committee had met on the 13th February, 1931, when the Reverend Roger Mackenzie Boys and Robert Ross Fordham (the Chairman and Secretary of the Committee) were authorised to execute the Deed.
The Deed further confirms that the parcel of land was conveyed to the Parish Council (as trustees) for the purpose of a Recreation Ground for the parish of Great Ellingham.
Earlier Owners of ‘Town Piece’
Extract from 1802 Map of Great Ellingham. Russell James Colman Plans. Norfolk Record Office Cat. Ref. C/Ca 1/84.
All rights reserved Norfolk Record Office. With kind permission of NRO
At the turn of the 19th century, Henry Norton owned the parcels of land which (together) became known as ‘Town Piece’ (or ‘Town Field’). These parcels of land are edged blue on the above extract from the 1802 Inclosure Map of Great Ellingham.
Norton owned the two farms which later became Rookery Farm. The two farms comprised some 170 acres (including the parcels of land edged blue). Indeed the Norton family owned Rookery Farm until 1909.
However, no members of the Norton family ever occupied Rookery Farm or farmed the land.
In 1802, the parcel of land numbered 264 (on the above extract from the Inclosure Map) and referred to as ‘Town Pightle’, was ‘occupied’ by Benjamin Turner.
Robert Day farmed the parcel of land numbered 262 (referred to as ‘Polls’) and the neighbouring allotment (comprising 1a 2r 24p).
By around 1819, Richard Barnes farmed all three parcels of land and continued to do so until at least the 1830s. Thereafter William Colman (and subsequently his son Thomas Hovell Colman) leased Rookery Farm (including the enclosures forming Town Piece) from the Norton family. The Colmans employed a bailiff to manage Rookery Farm.
In 1909, Clement William Barker purchased Rookery Farm with some 229 acres of land (including the Town Piece) from William Joseph Norton.
However within a year of his purchase, Barker suffered a severe deterioration in his mental health. Consequently, Rookery Farm (including Town Piece) was sold.
Auction Sale of the ‘Town Piece’
In September, 1910, Clement Barker’s wife Fanny instructed auctioneers to sell Rookery Farm. The outcome of the auction was published in the Eastern Daily Press of the 9th September, 1910. The farm was sold in four lots.
Rookery Farm with the farm premises and two cottages and some 193 acres of land, was sold as Lot 1. The other lots comprised various pieces of land including Town Piece as Lot 3 which is described as follows:
Accommodation freehold arable land known as the ‘Town Piece’ containing 6 acres 3 roods and 7 perches adjoining the main road and Ellingham schools
The newspaper reported that Town Piece was sold to ‘Mr Lewis’ for £170.
However I do not believe that ‘Mr Lewis’ actually purchased Town Piece.
The 1931 Conveyance Deed by which George Jude conveyed Town Piece for the use as the Recreation Ground recites a chain of earlier deeds. There is no deed listed with the name ‘Mr Lewis’.
George William Jude
Nevertheless, the recited deeds show that George William Jude purchased Town Piece from Clement Barker.
The 1911 census captures 41 year old single man George William Jude with his parents, George and Mary Jude, living at ‘The Street’, Great Ellingham. The Jude family may well have been living at Church Farm.
Approval of the Masters in Lunacy
At the time of the auction of Rookery Farm, Clement Barker was a patient at ‘Heigham Hall for Lunatics‘, a private asylum, at Old Palace Road, Norwich. As a consequence, his wife had the conduct of the sale.
Given her husband’s mental illness, Fanny Barker was required to seek the approval of the Masters in Lunacy to the auction sales. ‘Masters in Lunacy’ would be a very similar body to what today is the Court of Protection.
1911 Conveyance to George W Jude
Approval to the sales at auction was duly granted, and on the 12th April, 1911, Town Piece was conveyed to George William Jude. Reference to this deed is recited in the 1931 Conveyance to Great Ellingham Parish Council.
Occupier William A Bush
It also shows that William Arthur Bush signed the Conveyance Deed. I know that at this time Bush occupied Rookery Farm as well as the associated farm land (including the Town Piece). Accordingly as an ‘occupier’, Bush signed the deed to confirm his agreement to the sale of Town Piece.
George Jude owned Town Piece from 1911 until he sold the land in 1931 to Great Ellingham Parish Council.
During his time of ownership, George Jude mortgaged the piece of land (and most probably his other property in the village) to the Trustees of the Loyal Albermarle Lodge No. 3346 of the Independent Order of Oddfellows (Manchester) Unity Friendly Society.
The mortgage was repaid on the 27th February, 1931 – the day before Jude sold Town Piece to the Parish Council.
The Recreation Ground
Following the completion of the purchase, the Parish Council met with the Recreation Ground Committee to discuss the management and use of the recreation ground. This included the introduction byelaws.
Downham Market Gazette 25th June 1887
Norfolk News 27th August 1892
Eastern Daily Press 12th August 1907. Viewed via The British Newspaper Archive
Rookery Farm Private Collection of Deeds. Thanks to David Ewin
Great Ellingham Parish Council. Minutes. December 1894 to January 1941. Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref: PC 116/10.
Great Ellingham Parish Council. 1962-1970. Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref: PC 116/46
1911 census RG14/11473/134