At a meeting of the Parish Council held on the 20th May, 1932, it was agreed that the Recreation Ground is free “to any party in the parish for useful purposes, providing application is made to the council for their sanction”.
A year earlier, and as trustees, the Parish Council had purchased land for the purpose of a Recreation Ground for Great Ellingham.
A newly formed Recreation Ground Committee (who were also then members of the Parish Council), were appointed to deal with the day to day management of the ground. Further, a number of byelaws were introduced.
Norfolk County Playing Fields Association
With the increase in leisure time, the Norfolk County Playing Fields Association championed a desire to have playing fields in most, if not all, of its towns and villages. In an undated leaflet, the Association felt that:
“the increased leisure [time] has produced a need for properly organised outdoor social activities, which if neglected, young people will be forced to seek other ways and means of spending their spend time”
Indeed, the Association assisted with the funding of Great Ellingham’s playing field with £40 from the County Association, £10 from the National Association, £30 from Carnegie Trustees and £30 from Norfolk King George V Memorial Fund.
How did the village use the newly created recreational ground?
Cricket & Football
We know that cricket was played on the recreation ground from as early as 1933, although cricket had been played in the village for many, many years before that.
The Parish Council Minutes for 1933 reveal that the Parish Council would ask the Cricket Club to send the rent ‘of the Cricket Ground’ to the treasurer of the Recreation Ground Committee. Although the ground was free to “any party in the village for useful purposes…”, it seems it was not free to those clubs frequently using the ground.
1955 Great Ellingham Cricket Team
Taken at Pulham Market 9th July 1955
Left to Right – Mills (Umpire) J Davey, P Martin, D Melton, Hotchkiss, B Jude
B Fincham, J Fowle, E Melton (Capt) E Filby, G Fincham
Photograph: P R Lange, Pulham Market. Courtesy David Fowle
Football matches were also played on the Recreation Ground. However, the Great Ellingham Football Team was disbanded some years ago.
Nevertheless, the village still has a thriving cricket club.
Bowling Green & Tennis Courts
At one time, there was also bowling green which was near to – or on the spot of, the tennis courts which were on the far side of the ground – near where the ‘Scout’s Hut’ is today. Indeed in August 1939, the Parish Council received a complaint with regard to tennis being played on Sundays!
Around 1932, the Parish Council granted permission for the Recreation Ground Committee to erect a pavilion. It was reported that the Committee had sufficient funds for the building.
Cricket match on the Recreation Ground c.1960s. Courtesy David Fowle
A local resident recalls that in the 1960s there was a green painted ‘cricket pavilion’ with toilets at the rear. It was possibly a wooden structure clad in corrugated iron.
The pavilion (sited near to the footpath leading from the ground to the largest of the ‘council housing estates’), is shown in the centre of the above photograph. I think this is very likely the very same pavilion which was erected in the 1930s.
Tommy Clarke and David Fowle sitting outside the pavilion in the 1960s. Courtesy David Fowle
In January 1941, there were ‘enquiries in the parish’ regarding the ‘ploughing up’ of the recreation ground!
The matter was brought up at a Parish Council meeting. However, discussions ended when members of the Council were advised that it was against the objects of the Norfolk Playing Fields Association to plough up any playing field which had been procured for that purpose!
Ditches, Cycle Track and Children’s Play Equipment
At least by the 1960s, there were swings, a roundabout and even a see-saw, as well as a climbing frame. There is still a designated children’s playground today, albeit with updated facilities.
There was a cycle track near to where the ‘Scouts’ Hut’ is today. Ditches surrounded the ground – great spaces for making ‘camps’.
Fetes & Celebrations
Many fetes were held at the Recreation Ground. Before the village had a ‘Rec’, the larger farmers lent their meadows for the village fetes.
The Revered Boys held a fete on the Recreation Ground on the 1st June, 1932. He also organised another fete there on the 13 June 1938.
However despite having a Recreation Ground, some village fetes were still held on meadows or grounds belonging to local farms.
In August 1935, the Reverend Boys held a fete at Rookery Farm to raise funds towards the cost of making cricket pitches and providing requisites for the Recreation Ground.
In 1977, the Recreation Ground and Centre were used for a celebration of the late Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee. There were also celebrations for the marriage of the then Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.
On the 1st June, 1935, the Watton Hingham & District School Sports were held on the Recreation Ground. The ground was closed to the public whilst the sports event took place.
Air Raid Drills
During the Second World War, a former pupil recalled that children from the school practiced air raid drills – the boys dug a ditch on the ‘Rec’ as a dugout.
School’s Use & Acquisition of Land
The school utilised the Recreation Ground too.
In 1948, the Chief Education Officer agreed to pay £5 per annum for the use by the school of the Recreation Ground.
However this arrangement may well have ceased following Norfolk County Council’s purchase of 1.41 acres of the land forming part of the Recreation Ground in April 1963. It was purchased to enlarge the school field. The price paid by Norfolk County Council was £675.
The area edged blue on the above extract from an O.S. Map of 1945 shows the approximate area of land conveyed to Norfolk County Council by the Parish Council in April 1963.
Courtesy Ray & Maureen Beales
Recreation Ground Centre
The village hall – or, rather, the Recreation Ground Centre was erected in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It is thought that the then members of Recreation Ground Committee conveyed the structure to Great Ellingham from Wroxham.
Since its construction, the hall has undergone many changes.
However, it appears that there were plans for a village hall on the Recreation Ground earlier than 1963.
The Norfolk Record Office holds an undated plan for a village hall at Great Ellingham amongst Parish Council Records.
This plan appears to predate April 1963, when a piece of the Recreation Ground land was sold to Norfolk County Council. This is clear as the plan shows that the site of the proposed village hall to be on the land which was sold to the County Council in April 1963.
Accordingly, it follows that the earlier plans for a village hall prior to 1963 did not proceed.
For several years – and particularly during the late 1980s and into the 1990s, Great Ellingham held an annual carnival. The carnival procession sometimes began in Hingham Road but on occasions, started off in Rectory Lane. The procession concluded on the Recreation Ground. These carnivals were always well supported.
The 1990 carnival was organised by June Ling and Maureen Beales. Up until then, several of the carnivals had been organised by Charlie Ayton.
Amongst the entertainment provided in 1990 were Morris Dancers, the New Buckenham Silver Band, Wymondham Sapphires and the ladies of the Keep Fit Team. A total of £1,531.43 was raised that year towards the Improvement Fund of the Recreation Centre.
Great Ellingham Carnival. Date not known
It would be remiss of me not to mention the ‘Royal Visit’ to Great Ellingham.
In 1987, HRH Princess Anne landed in a helicopter on the Recreation Ground. After landing safely, the Princess was taken by car to her nearby engagement at the Wayland Hospital. Many villagers turned out to get a glimpse of the Royal visitor.
1987 The ‘Royal Car’ leaving Great Ellingham Recreation Ground
Today’s Recreation Ground
Today the recreation ground is still well used. It has sports facilities – particularly for cricket and pétanque. The Great Ellingham (St James) Scout Group hold their meetings in the ‘Scout Hut’ which is at the far side of the ground.
There is a thriving Recreation Ground Centre which, again, is well used for hosting various events during the year. The centre also houses the Preschool with the ‘Chit Chat’ group meeting at the centre during the middle of the week.
In 2000, the Breckland Astronomical Society moved its activities to Great Ellingham. Their observatory is adjacent to the Recreation Ground.
Great Ellingham Parish Council Records. Norfolk Record Office. Cat. Ref. PC116/46
Great Ellingham Parish Council Minutes 1894-1941. Norfolk Record Office Cat. Ref. PC116/10
Great Ellingham Parish Council Plan of Proposed Village Hall [undated]. Norfolk Record Office. Cat. Ref. PC116/56
Great Ellingham Parish Council Byelaws Great Ellingham Recreation Ground. Norfolk Record Office. Cat. Ref. PC116/24
Great Ellingham Parish Council Recreation Ground Byelaws 1932. Norfolk Record Office. Cat. Ref. PC116/25
Great Ellingham Parish Council Norfolk County Council Playing Fields Association Leaflet [undated] Norfolk Record Office. Cat. Ref. PC116/62
Diss Express 2 August 1935. View via the British Newspaper Archive
Great Ellingham County Primary School Centenary 1896-1896. Compiled by J E Watts. Published by Great Ellingham County Primary School 1996.
Village Pump Magazine 1990. Thanks to Carol Ewin
Thanks also to those who commented on the Great Ellingham Community Facebook page