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The following article is gleaned from and acknowledgements to:
Archives of the Guernsey Evening Press
Guernsey Life 1967 (W E R Barrett)
Greffe Office and
Historical notes left by the late Major R G Davies
In 1986, as we complete an ambitious redevelopment of the King George V Playing Fields, it is interesting to look back over the 50 years of the Foundation.
In 1936, on 30th January, King George V died. Later that year, on 3rd November, King George’s Fields Foundation was constituted by Trust Deed: “To promote and to assist in the establishment throughout the United Kingdom of playing fields for the use and enjoyment of the people – every such playing field to be styled “King George’s Field” and to be distinguished by heraldic panels or other appropriate tablet medallion or inscription commemorative of His Late Majesty and of a design approved by the Administrative Council”.
Here in Guernsey in response to an appeal which had been launched by the National Playing Fields Association in 1935 to commemorate the King’s Silver Jubilee, the sum of £3450 had been raised by public subscription, all of which was sent to England to the Jubilee Trust Fund. The Island’s contribution included a generous donation from the Reverend P T Mignot OBE, who followed this up by promising to provide funds to establish a Playing Field for the Island.
Sadly Rev Mignot died suddenly before his intentions could be given effect and without having made provisions in his will Mrs Mignot, his widow, offered £2000 towards the cost of carrying out his wishes, with the proviso that action must be taken before the end of 1936.
At a public meeting held at the Guille-Allez Library on 23rd June 1936 a committee was formed to review the need for a new playing area to compensate for the loss of the Fort Field which was needed again by the recently returned Military Garrison after a period of eight years during which it had been loaned to the civilian population.
At three subsequent meetings that committee considered two possibilities:
the provision of a central playing field and the Provision of two or three smaller playing fields in different parts of the Island.
They decided, unanimously, in favour of a central site, and recommended the purchase of an area of 7.5 acres at Les Blancs Bois.
It is interesting to note that a circular letter was sent to no less than forty nine clubs to see if they would use this area. Of forty four replies received twenty nine said that they would be glad to use it, fifteen said that it would be too far away for their members to get to it.
The committee commissioned a survey by Mr E F Laine, states Engineer, who gave an estimate of £750 for drainage, and a further £600 for surface preparation. The asking price of the land was £1600 which, together with costs of preparation, fencing, and provision would total an approximate £4000.
A local fund raising committee added £1000 to the £2000 Mignot bequest, and application was made to the National Playing Fields Association for the balance. The NPFA approved the application and made a grant of £2700.
Major General Sir Edward Nicholson Broadbent KBE, CB, CMG, DSO, the Lieutenant Governor, called a meeting of all subscribers on 9th December 1936 at Government House, as a result of which a Joint Committee of funds was set up viz. The Bailiff, the Reverend B Guille, the Reverend John Leale, Commander Mainguy, Major R G Davies and Messrs P de Putron, D A Aubert, W H Arnold, G J Ridgway and F F Peek (Hon Sec).
This committee was authorised to appoint Trustees and an Executive Committee for future management of the Playing Fields, but it was not until 12th January 1938, at a meeting at the Bailiff’s Chambers, that the following Trustees were appointed: The Bailiff (Sir Victor Carey) ex officio; Sir A Laine and Messrs G J Ridgway, P de Putron, D A Aubert and F F Peek (Hon Sec). Any future appointments to be made by the Bailiff.
The first Executive Committee was Messrs P de Putron, (President); V E Stone, J J Eveson (Hon Fixtures Sec), C Roussel (Hon Treasurer), and Major R G Davies (Hon Ground General Secretary).
For some unknown reason action was never taken to register a Trust Deed at the Greffe. This omission never really mattered until, many years later, we came to embark upon a programme of redevelopment. Four years of legal proceedings culminated in an Order In Council dated 19th March 1985, ratifying a Projet de Loi entitled…
The King George the Fifth Memorial Playing Field Trust (Guernsey) Law, 1985.
For the first time we had a legal existence!
But – back to the nineteen thirties – the first game played at the new venue was a cricket match between the Guernsey Island Cricket Club and the Guernsey Commercial Cricket League on June 8th 1939.
A full time groundsman had been employed.
There was no charge
for admission for spectators!
An interesting Press photograph depicts R L S Bichard being clean bowled by F E Stroobant with wicket keeper J A C Webber in attendance.
The Ground was
officially opened by the Lieutenant Governor, attended by the Bailiff, at an
Athletics Meeting on 31st August 1939.
The printed programme lists all the competitors in all twenty-three events. Present day readers might be surprised to discover how many of today’s Island dignitaries were once sprightly young athletes.
September 3rd 1939 saw the outbreak of war, and June 1940 the Occupation began. Cricket, football and hockey were played until June 1942 when, in spite of efforts being made to persuade them to build elsewhere, the Germans erected huts and constructed metalled roadways to house Organisation Todt workers.
The drainage system was smashed and the fields rendered useless as a sports field. Here lies the origin of all our subsequent problems. Early in 1940 Mr F F Peek resigned due to ill health and Major R G Davies became Hon Sec. In October of the same year he was appointed Trustee to replace Jurat D A Aubert, deceased.
I have not been able to find any detailed records of sports fixtures during the Occupation, but it is clear that there was plenty going on.
There is some correspondence revealing a disagreement as to whether winners’ names should have been engraved on the trophies presented at the 1941 Islands Sports held at KGV. With so many noted athletes out of the Island some felt it more appropriate to suspend the engraving. Others felt strongly the other way and it was left to individual winners to decide.
On borrowed and
improvised fields, such as Peter Robilliard’s, hockey defiantly survived.
Meanwhile, at Laufen camp, Messrs Davies, Stroobant, Self, and many others kept the flag flying. The trophy, made there from discarded tins as a Muratti Trophy, is now in the possession of Guernsey Hockey Club, and is competed for every Easter between local veterans and visiting veterans. Frank Stroobant presents it to the winners and never fails to fascinate our visitors with this piece of local history.
By the time of Liberation – May – May 1945 – two more Trustees, Messrs G J Ridgway and Sir A Laine had died and had not been replaced.
Major Davies was empowered by the surviving Trustees to sell the huts which had been unconditionally handed over to them. Sold by auction they realised £2,582. An estimate for the restoration of the field was received from Messrs J & D Norman at £3850 and this was accepted.
The field was re-sown in May 1948 and cricket resumed in the summer of 1949, and football and hockey later that year.
The National Playing Fields Association made a grant of £1,500 towards the cost of restoration – an exceptional payment, outside their mandate, made in recognition of the fact that Guernsey’s was the only field to have fallen into enemy hands.
During the rehabilitation of the field, the money which had been put aside for the building of a pavilion had been swallowed up, and for the next few years a Nissen hut served as changing room. Then came a very generous offer from Mrs Mignot providing funds to build the Mignot Memorial Pavilion.
Throughout the 50s and into the mid 60s the Playing Fields accommodated all the requirements of the Grammar School for Boys, which meant soccer, rugby and hockey in the winter, whilst in the summer the majority of League cricket was played at KGV on a concrete base Bituturf wicket.
Receipts from pitch hire, even when boosted by a States Grant of £150 per annum, were barely adequate to meet the cost of part-time groundsman’s wages, and mower running costs. There was certainly no margin for capital improvements – and all this time the field was getting excessive wear and becoming increasingly subject to flooding.
By 1969 the departure of the Grammar School for their new fields at Les Varendes was imminent threatening the loss of a large proportion of the KGV income. In May that year the States set up the Adult Sporting Needs Investigation Committee under the chairmanship of Miss Albiges – this in response to the efforts of the recently established Guernsey Sports Council under the leadership of Bill Robilliard.
In considering the future needs of KGV the Committee made several suggestions including the idea that the Board of Administration be persuaded to undertake maintenance, on an agreed basis, in lieu of a continued annual grant. This was the beginning of the Maintenance Agreement which has been running for some years now, on a 4 yearly renewable basis.
By 1971/72, despite valiant voluntary efforts by Committee men and various keen club members – with spades and drain rods, the flood problem at the lower end of the field had become critical. This, together with the commissioning of the hard porous pitches at the Osmond Priaulx Field at Foote’s Lane, made KGV’s pitches less and less attractive in the winter months, and revenue continued to decline.
The number of Trustees had dwindled to just two – the Bailiff, Sir William Arnold, and Major “Jock” Davies. The latter had been for many years a very active Secretary to the Executive Committee as well as being a Trustee. By the end of 1973 both these distinguished gentlemen had died, leaving the new Bailiff, Sir John Loveridge as the sole Trustee.
Colonel Rex Broadbent, long serving Chairman of the Executive Committee, sought to strengthen the organisation by attempting, through the Crown Officers, to draw up a formal constitution in a proper legal framework.
1977 arrived, and still no progress …”more urgent draftings have delayed this”.
Colonel Broadbent, in failing health, indicated his wish to hand over to a younger, fitter person. Sadly, within a year, he died.
Jock Davies and Rex Broadbent; these two stalwarts of KGV, great personal friends over many years, are deserving of very special mention in any history of the Playing Fields. With scant resources, in a particularly difficult period in the Island’s history, they worked tirelessly and achieved miracles.
A subscription list for “friends of Jock” was opened in 1982 so that his 35 years service as Trustee, Hon Secretary, and Benefactor, could be recognised in the development. The names of some 65 contributors will be inscribed on a number of seats outside the Clubhouse.
In October 1978 the Bailiff appointed two Trustees; Mr G M Dorey and Mr J W de Putron.
Meantime, in the rest of the Island, there had been significant developments. The first achievement, and possibly still its most noteworthy, of the Guernsey Sports Council, was the initiative of the States Sports Committee. By 1978 this had been renamed the States of Guernsey Recreation Committee. Early in 1978 the Recreation Committee began a review of sporting needs – outside activities.
Mr C A Spensley, now Chairman of the Management Committee, began a long series of meetings with the Committee’s representatives, States Engineer, Public Thoroughfare Committee, Building Inspectors and local contractors, to investigate the feasibility of upgrading the lower end of the field.
It was clear that the field had reached a crisis point. Its potential was enormous, but major works were necessary if it was to provide the modern sporting facilities demanded by today’s young athletes. The alternative was continuing decay, and waste of a valuable community asset.
The Management Committee, with some trepidation, and no funds worth mentioning, decided to make a really big effort. This was the beginning of the 3-year Development Plan which is just completed.
The first exercise was to commission a comprehensive survey of the field, determine the scale of the problem, decide on a plan, and obtain a professional quantification of cost. We had to be prepared for a nasty shock, take time to recover and consider – and then decide whether to do none, some, or all of the necessary work.
We approached Messrs Timothy, Cresswell, Cuttle & Dyke (now Cresswell, Cuttle & Dyke) as our main consultant, and Messrs Wakeman, Trower, Scobbie & Partners as Quantity Surveyors. Their advice was augmented by consultations with the National Playing Fields Association, The National Turf research Institute, The States Technical Services Department, the States Works Department, and Swindale Sports Services. Mr. Les Lenham, regional cricket coach of the N.C.A. also gave valuable advice at an early stage.
The decision was made to do a two-phase development. Phase One was to give a complete facelift to the playing areas, involving total re-grading and comprehensive drainage. This would increase the playing area by the size of one full size hockey pitch, within the existing boundary.
Phase Two would depend upon the successful completion and payment for Phase One.
It would comprise extension of the car park, construction of a new Clubhouse, and purchase of an adjacent plot of land to accommodate four cricket practice nets.
On 2nd February 1983, at a ceremonial “turning of the first sod”, His Excellency Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Le Cheminant launched Phase One. From the outset the Management Committee had been encouraged by the commitment made by the Lord’s Taverners, Guernsey Region, and by the Guernsey Hockey Club. Strongly led by Chairman Geoffrey Birch, Lord’s Taverners undertook to raise £70 000. In a brilliant presentation at Lord’s, in competition with many other mainland pleas for support, Greville Mitchell won a special concession for Guernsey, allowing total retention of funds raised to be devoted to KGV.
Hockey Clubs, both Mens and Ladies, promised £10 000, and the Development Fund was opened by Puffins Ladies Hockey Club with their cheque for £10. From little acorns big oak trees grow!
The States of Deliberation, at their February 1983 meeting, decided to make a grant of £60,000 to our fund, with the proviso that, when the new Clubhouse became profitable the States would be freed of the continuing commitment to finance the field maintenance.
The States Works Department submitted the lowest tender for Phase One, and they completed in time for some cricket to be played on the newly laid Nottingham Clubturf wicket in July and August 1984, and for hockey to start on all three pitches on September 1st.
A series of rapid developments made 1984 a notable year. 1981 had been IYDP – International Year of Disabled People. – the main purpose of which was to inform and educate us all about the needs and the potential of disabled citizens.
The rapid growth of the activities at the Ron Short Centre Youth Club was co-incident with the formation of GSAD, Guernsey Sports Association for the Disabled, under its founder chairman, Jurat H W Bisson. At about this time the Trustees had the unexpected opportunity to purchase an adjacent vinery site – good level land, with easy access. Ideally suited as an area for specialised facilities for sports for the disabled.
Here began a series of amazingly generous moves by the National Westminster Guernsey Trust C Ltd, which culminated, eventually, in the massive contribution from the Alan J B Tickle Trust. The land was purchased, plans drawn up for both outdoor and indoor activities for the disabled and local contractors were invited to tender.
Mr Nigel Le Page had succeeded to the Chairmanship of GSAD and he joined the Management Committee in time to contribute substantially to the planning. Architect Nigel Cresswell’s superb design must surely qualify for some award.
The contract for outside works was awarded to Ronez Ltd and for the Clubhouse to J W Rihoy & Son Ltd. On May 23rd 1985 Lord Boardman, Chairman National Westminster Bank PLC, formally laid the stone in memory of the late Alan J B Tickle at an impressive ceremony attended by some two hundred guests. By November we were ready for the Topping Out ceremony, most ably performed by Lady Frossard.
Management Committee began the considerable research necessary before a Sports & Social Club can
be formed. The primary objective is to bring together in one club a totally
integrated membership of both able bodied and disabled sportsmen and women,
past and present.
Club officials from cricket and hockey were involved in helping Hon Secretary John Williams to draw up draft rules, and categories of membership, for submission to the Crown Officers and the Royal Court.
The success of the whole project depended, ultimately, on the support given over the next few years to the King George’s Sports & Social Club. It was crucial to their ability to honour the agreement with the States viz. to become self sufficient in exchange for the grant of £60 000.
Membership fees were kept deliberately low at £10 per annum (single) and £15 per annum (family), recognising that all active players are already paying their individual club subscriptions and/or match fees.
The Management Committee was confident that everyone would be impressed by the superb facilities, and that support would be assured.
No more exciting or inspiring start could be given than that they should be honoured by a Royal Visit. On Saturday May 3rd 1986, Her Royal Highness the Princess Anne, Mrs. Mark Phillips, unveiled a plaque to commemorate the completion of the redevelopment, before making a tour of all the various areas of activity.
The achievements of the past three years had been quite remarkable when one recalled the modest beginnings.
A sum of close on half a million pounds was spent – almost all of it raised locally. There was initially a shortfall of about £50 000, the last lap of the race always being the hardest!
It would be invidious to mention everyone who had been involved. The exception must be Sir Charles Frossard, Chairman of Trustees, for his leadership and constant encouragement.
Suffice it to say that support and approval had been phenomenal – whether from labourer, contractor, club member, neighbour, architect or banker – enthusiasm had been the name of the game.
Guernsey Press 2016
The Guernsey Sports Commission has been approached by the Trustees of the KGV to come up with a scheme to re-generate and enhance the whole of the existing facility and add on supplementary facilities.
It is intended that the project will be constructed in three phases:
Phase 1: DONE
Construct a mixed use all-weather playing surface, drainage works, grass pitches, cricket nets, pathways and works to all existing and new perimeter trees. Create temporary accommodation for the Dyslexia Day Centre.
Phase 2:STARTED FEBRUARY 2016 (completed by 2018)
Pavilion: Demolish and build new extended changing rooms block.
– Form extended accommodation for sports administration offices and a new base for Headway.
– New layout for Spensley Room to accommodate community activities.
– Re-establish a lift to all floors and build a new kitchen on first floor.
– Form an escape staircase through the building to a ground floor escape door.
– Construct a new entrance lobby.
– Establish a new cafe and seating area, to include outside terrace on ground floor.
– Establish new layout with toilets to ground floor.
– New bar layout and balcony seating/viewing area.
Phase 3: COMPLETION BY 2020
– Erect a new picket fence demarcation line, construct hard landscaping and form a patio and a kiddie’s play area.
– Form accommodation for the Dyslexia Day Centre, general meeting rooms with spectator balconies within the roof space.
– Construct new grounds men’s workshop, yard and storage facilities.
– Complete all the site works, car parking and landscaping, including the new entrance/exit road.
– Construct a Rotunda Viewing Platform with Bandstand and complete all site works adjacent to the building, including a performance area with some fixed seating and exterior lighting.
For photographs see the ‘Cricket Grounds’ article