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On 30th January 1936 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 are 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, either the provision of a central playing field or 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.
The committee commissioned a survey by the States Engineer, Mr E F Laine who gave an estimate of £750 for drainage with a further £600 for surface preparation. The asking price of the land was £1600 which together with other costs would total approximately £4000.
A local fund-raising committee added £1000 to the £2000 Mignot bequest, and an 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 a Management 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 Vistor Carey (ex officio), Sir A Laine, G J Ridgway, P de Putron, D A Aubertand, F F Peek (Secretary)
The first Management Committee being: Messrs P de Putron (President), V E Stone, J J Eveson (Fixtures Secretary), C Roussel (Treasurer), and Major R G Davies (Ground and General Secretary)
The playing fields were officially opened by the Lieutenant Governor at an Athletics Meeting on 31st August 1939. However, September 3rd 1939 saw the outbreak of war, and in June 1940 the Occupation began. Cricket, football and hockey were played at KGV 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 at KGV.
The drainage system was smashed and the fields rendered useless as a sports field.
After Liberation in May 1945 1945 Major R G Davies was empowered by the surviving Trustees to sell the huts, which had been unconditionally handed over to them, at auction for £2582. An estimate fore the restoration of the field was received from Messrs J & D Norman at £3850 and this was accepted. The field was resown in May 1948 and cricket resumed in the summer of 1949 with football and hockey later that year.
The National Playing Fields Association made an exceptional grant of £1500 towards the cost of restoration. This was made in recognition of the fact that Guernsey’s was the only King George’s Field to have fallen into enemy hands.
During the rehabilitation of the field, money which had been put aside for the building of a pavilion had been used elsewhere and for the next few years a Nissen hut served as changing rooms. A very generous offer from Mrs Mignot provided funds to build the Mignot Memorial Pavilion.
The Germans created a camp, named Lager Ute, to accommodate the many hundreds of prisoners-of-war who were forcefully engaged in building the large concrete defence structures along Guernsey’s west coast.
The twenty huts covered most of the site and were made to look like greenhouses from the air to help hide them amongst their neighbours.
King George Fields Restoration Work
Those who remember the King George Playing Fields when they were opened in 1939, three days before war was declared, when a most successful sports meeting was held, and then saw them after Liberation – rows of huts, large buildings (with concrete floors in some cases) and metalled roads in between – will be surprised to see the changes now.
Last year, the Trustees – the Bailiff, Jurat Pierre de Putron, Major RG Davies (who also acts as Honorary Secretary), and the late Sir Abraham Laine – passed the contract for their clearance with Messrs J and D Norman, and though a great deal of work was done in 1947, it was not possible to sow in the autumn, as we hoped.
Work had to be suspended early this year, owing to the urgent priority of extending the Airport, but it is now in full swing once more, and it is hoped to sow well before the end of the month.
A grant of £1500 was made towards restoration by the National Association of Playing Fields.
In removing the metalled roads, some of the sub-soil was brought to the surface, but as far as possible this has been remedied by bringing in good soil from the sides; lime and fertiliser have been applied, give a good growing season, it is possible that two football pitches and one hockey pitch – all badly needed – will be available for the 1949-50 season.
Unfortunately a road ran across the cricket pitch and it is possible that this will have to be moved.
Guernsey Press 24th April 1948
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 with athletics and cricket in the summer. The majority of Island league cricket was played at KGV on a concrete base Bituturf wicket.
Receipts from pitch hire from the Grammar School and others, even when boosted by an additional States Grant of £150 per annum. were barely adequate to meet the cost of a part-time grounds man and incidentals. There was certainly no margin for capital improvements. The fields were getting excessive wear and were increasingly subject to flooding from the nearby douit.
In 1969 the imminent departure of the Grammar School for their new fields at Les Varendes threatened 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 with the States.
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.
Major Jock Davies and Colonel Rex Broadbent, two stalwarts of KGV, great personal friends over many years, deserve 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. Jock served the organisation for 35 years as Trustee, Secretary, and Benefactor and in 1982 was recognised for his superb service to KGV.
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 under a robust legal framework.
The number of Trustees had dwindled to Just the Bailiff, Sir William Arnold, and Major Jock Davies. However, by the end of 1973 both these distinguished gentlemen had died, leaving the new Bailiff, Sir John Loveridge as the sole Trustee until he appointed two new Trustees: Mr G M Dorey and Mr J W de Putron in 1978.
It was clear that the field had reached a crisis point. Its potential was considered 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.
Jurat Tony Spensley had been appointed to lead the Management Committee. With some trepidation, and no funds worth mentioning, the committee decided to investigate the feasibility of upgrading the lower end of the field and embark on a 3-year Development Plan. 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.
The Spensley Era
During the 1960s and 70s the dominant use of the playing fields was cricket in the summer and hockey in the winter. In those days hockey was played on well-prepared grass pitches rather than artificial all-weather pitches as today.
In 1982 the Guernsey Hockey Club was keen to improve the facilities that it could offer to its members; many of whom also played cricket in the summer. It was decided to embark on an ambitious expansion of the facilities which would include acquiring the additional land between the original parcel of land and the road.
Architect’s plans were drawn up for a new Clubhouse. The design provided changing facilities with showers and toilets at ground floor and a committee room with a kitchen and large bar opening out onto a balcony at first floor.
The douit on the northern boundary was culverted and herringbone drainage was added to improve drainage within the playing areas.
Externally, the car park was enlarged and a hard-surface tennis/netball court and cricket nets were constructed, all with flood lighting.
These new changing facilities rendered the old pavilion redundant. The space was taken up by the Dyslexia Day Centre who made it their headquarters paying rent to KGV.
The team were successful in securing a significant number of donations from Lords Taverners, the Guernsey Hockey Club, and the States of Guernsey and particularly from the Alan Tickle Trust. These donations together with a bank loan and many smaller levels of support were sufficient to pay for this ambitious project culminating in 1986 when Princess Anne opened the new facilities on 3rd May.
The Trustees were Bailiff, Sir Charles Frossard, J W de Putron, G M Dorey
The Management Committee included: N J Brouard (Treasurer), R J Williams (Secretary), G V F Birch, J C Bromley, V G Collenette, J Gilchrist, N A Le Page, P S D Ridley, E W Waldron and C A Spensley (Chairman)
Ultimately it was decided to commence a two-phase development. Phase one gave a complete facelift to the playing areas, which involved a total re-grading of the surface and the installation of a comprehensive drainage scheme. This increased the available playing area by a full-size hockey pitch. Phase two comprised an 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 Lords Taverners, Guernsey Region, and by the Guernsey Hockey Club. Strongly led by Chairman Geoffrey Birch, Lords Taverners undertook to raise £70 000. In a brilliant presentation at Lords, in competition with many other mainland pleas for support Greville Mitchell won a special concession for Guernsey, allowing total retention of funds to be devoted to KGV. The local Hockey Club promised to add £10 000 to the funds.
The States of Deliberation, at their February 1983 meeting, decided to make a grant of £60 000 to the Development 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.
Phase one was completed in time for some cricket to be played on the newly laid Nottingham Clubturf wicket in July 1984, and for hockey to start on all three pitches in September.
The year 1981 had been declared International Year of Disabled People to highlight 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 the Guernsey Sports Association for the Disabled, under its founder chairman Jurat HW Bisson.
Fortune dictated that the KGV Trustees were able to purchase an adjacent vinery site which was ideally suited for specialised facilities for sports for the disabled. This sparked interest from the National Westminster Guernsey Trust Co Ltd which culminated in a significant contribution to the funs from the Alan JB Tickle Trust.
On completion of Phase two thanks were given to the leadership and constant encouragement of the Bailiff Sir Charles Frossard. The skills of the Architect Nigel Cresswell and the perseverance of the Management Committee which managed to raise almost half a million pounds to complete the two phases.
The Management Committee led by Tony Spensley gave considerable thought to the formation of a Sports & Social Club with the primary objective of integrating able bodied and disabled sportsmen and women, past and present, into one club. Secretary John Williams consulted broadly before drawing 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 by the King George’s Sports & Social Club to become self-sufficient in order to meet the demands of the States.
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 turn of the century saw some major changes at the KGV. Not to the buildings or the playing areas but to the regular sports users. Hockey, which had been one of the major sports at KGV for many years had moved to its new home and clubhouse at Footes Lane.
This gave St Jacques Rugby Club the opportunity to move to KGV as their permanent home and utilise the available pitch space, Cricket Was still thriving in the summer months but with eight local rugby sides looking for pitches on which to play, in the winter, this was an ideal solution. In addition, for a few seasons, there was also an inter-island league with fixtures to accommodate.
In 1995, the cricket square had been relaid whilst Colin Bromley was chairman of KGV. This initiative was fully funded by the GCA and led by its President Brian le Prevost. In 2003, the old cricket nets were replaced and relocated. During this time the grass areas were looked after by the States Works Department whilst the new grass wicket was tended entirely by Guernsey cricket. Alan Hamilton took over from John Cockayne in 2000 and Stuart le Prevost joined him in 2007 by which time arrangements were made for cricket to look after all the grounds.
As a result of increased usage the bar also became busier leading to more regular income. This income gave the Management Committee the chance to commence with overdue improvements to the facilities within an ambitious modernisation plan.
In 2004 improvements were made to the bar area and more space was created by taking away an existing staircase. In 2007 a large extension to the clubhouse was commenced with a plaque being unveiled to mark the start of the project by the Bailiff Sir Geoffrey Rowland. This project added office accommodation and toilets over three floors. The reconfiguration of the main entrance and staircase to the first floor meant that the entrance to the bar could be repositioned thus increasing the bar area.
The Guilbert Era
The construction of an all-weather hockey pitch at the Elizabeth College Memorial Fields and some years later a second all-weather pitch together with Clubhouse on States land at Footes Lane left a void at KGV with hockey relocated.
At the turn of the century the available winter season pitch space was taken up by rugby with St Jacques RFC relocating to KGV as their permanent home. At that time there were several local rugby sides with an inter-island league providing regular fixtures.
KGV was busy again with a steady income which permitted small but overdue improvements to KGV to be initiated by a new committee led by Jeff Guilbert. In 2003 the cricket nets were relocated and in 2004 the first floor bar was remodelled.
In 2008 an extension to the clubhouse was added to provide office accommodation and toilets. This reorganisation provided the opportunity to remove an old staircase and provide a new entrance to the bar thus enlarging the bar area.
Also in late 2008 an opportunity arose to purchase an adjacent parcel of land, for further sports development, from the Babbe brothers. The acquisition was expedited through a new company ‘The friends of KGV’ and financed by a group of like-minded supporters.
The Trustees during this period were: The Bailiff, Neville Brouard and Colin Whalley.
The hard-working volunteer team that helped achieve these significant improvements included Patricia Simon (bar manager), Phil Johns (Treasurer), Ian Hunter (Secretary, Jeff Guilbert (Chairman)
The Current Era
In 2009 the Sports Commission were asked to help transform the facilities at KGV to make them financially self-sufficient and re-appraise corporate governance arrangements.
New Trustees were appointed to the Trust and new Directors appointed to The Friends of KGV Ltd which became the operating company of KGV. This arrangement replaced the Management Committee. A new trust was formed with more flexible powers to own Friends of KGV Ltd and the land acquired by that company. The two trusts have worked together with the intention of merging into a new trust to be established by Order of Council.
The Lieutenant Governor Vice-Admiral Sir Ian Corder KBE CB was asked to become Patron in May 2017
A comprehensive business plan was developed that included incorporating the recently acquired land into the sports facilities by constructing a 3G floodlit all-weather pitch capable of being used by both rugby and football.
The Dyslexia Day Centre moved into temporary accommodation that was acquired from the airport runway contractors thus permitting the demolition of the existing pavilion. A new changing facility to be named The Lords Taverners Pavilion incorporated large home and away changing rooms and large general use changing rooms that could be designated for either male or female usage.
A complete refurbishment of the KGV Clubhouse was carried out. Extensions were carried out at ground floor level to extend the community rooms and add headquarters for Headway Guernsey. Offices for the administration of KGV and for Guernsey Cricket were allocated and a new groundsman’s workshop and storage yard was built.
At first floor level the kitchen was upgraded and the bar refurbished. New toilets were added and the escape staircases were brought up to modern standards. All floors could be accessed from a new lift.
At second floor the roof space was converted into office space through the construction of a flat roof with dormer windows on the north elevation. The Health Improvement Commission and the Guernsey Community Foundation were the first tenants who took occupation in April 2020.
Externally a nature walk around the perimeter of the site was created, the playing areas were separated from traffic for safety reasons and the car park was remodelled to include substantial planted areas to improve safety and break up the tarmac areas.
The Trustees in 2012:
The Bailiff, Sir Richard Collas, John Greenfield, Mark Thompson, Steve Lloyd, Nigel Le Page and Dominic Wheatley.
Secretary to the Trustees: Graham Chester.
The Board of Directors in 2012:
Jeff Guilbert, Mark Latter, Andrew Laws, Andy Le Maitre (Company Secretary), Jon Creasey (Finance) and Stuart Falla MBE (Chairman).
In 2020 the work was completed, providing sports facilities for use at the weekends and evenings, and community facilities for use every day. Many community events are now held including King of the Ring Boxing, The Proms on the Wicket, Summer Fayre and much more.
The area comprises the grass pitches, a new changing room building, a 3G all-weather pitch, cricket nets (grass and artificial), a pavilion incorporating groundsmen’s equipment, offices, meeting rooms, bars, and a large car park.
The main entrance to the building features the KGV Guernsey Story Wall 2020 which was consulted and the information used in some of these items and pictures.
The main building incorporates the Lynda Walker room, the Spensley room, the Lansdown room, Sports Bar and the Legends Terrace Bar. Around the complex is the Dorothy Langlois Nature Trail of 1km.
The organisations using KGV as their headquarters are:
Guernsey Cricket Board
Health Improvement Commission
Guernsey Community Foundation
Leisure league for 6-a-side football
Saints Foundation – Southampton FC school holiday soccer courses
Guernsey Walking FC
University of the 3rd age (U3A)