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John Meads 2017
The Development of the Recreation Ground
(King George's Field)

An Evening Telegraph photograph of the official opening of King George V Field
in March, 1939. L-R: Cllr. R. B. Pownall, Cllr.A.C Harris, (hidden behind him Mr.
G.C. Borman, Surveyor) Cllr. R.J. Mackintosh, Cllr. A.G. Miller, Cllr. J.W. Patrick
(Chairman),Rev. R.W. Sharpley, Cllr. J.E.Taylor, Cllr. A. Barlow, Mr. L.G.Smalley,
Clerk and Mr. T.H. Harvey, late Clerk.

The search by the local authority for a recreation ground for Burton Latimer came to an end in 1938 when the Urban Council concluded the purchase of the field that had been in use for many years, with the permission of the landowner and the farmer, Mr. Edgar Denton, for annual carnivals and fairs. The purchase was made possible by a grant of £550 by the King George's Fields Foundation.

The Parish Council had started the quest as far back as 1895 when the council was first formed, and the Northampton Mercury reported on 15 February: " The Burton Latimer Parish Council has set a good example to other village authorities by deciding as one of its earliest steps to take a good sized field as a public recreation ground for the children and such other of its inhabitants as care to avail themselves of it. In most places if the children want to enjoy a game in the fields they do so at the risk of offending some farmer as trespassers and the village street is therefore their only playground. The Burton Council has started remarkably well in every respect."

It is thought that the field chosen was the Chapel Field at the end of Meeting Lane, owned by the Baptist Church (now the site of Yeomans Court) and in February 1896 the letting terms and names of the committee (Messrs.W. Attfield, J. Osborn and T. Ambler) and trustees (Messrs. J.A. Wallis, C. Barlow and W.J. Gross) were decided and later in the year it was decided to erect several additional seats. A few months later it was reported the trustees of the Recreation Ground were prepared to let the ground for £17 10s. with the reservation of the grazing. this seems to indicate that the field was not exclusively used as a recreation ground but had animals grazing on it as well.

The next reference found was in 1901 which seems to show that the council had been looking elsewhere for a new site. The Northampton Mercury of 8 November reports: "Mr. Attfield reported that he had seen Mr. Wells with regard to the proposed new Recreation Ground, and Mr. Wells had agreed to let the field to the Council from Christmas to Michaelmas, 1902 at a rental of £21. The matter was referrred to Messrs. Attfield and Boardman to complete the arrangements for the tenancy."
(Mr. Wells' field bordered the High Street between the Burton Gas Company office and Rock Terrace. It was, for many years, used to hold the annual fair and other activities at the time of Burton Feast. It was sold to the Co-operative Society twenty years later as building land and eventually became Pioneer Avenue).

However, negotiations seem to have broken down and in March 1902 a stormy Annual Parish (Public) Meeting took place at which "Mr. F. Stokes asked why the Old Recreation Field was given up, and the Chairman explained that the Council had hoped to get Mr. Wells's field for that purpose, but although the tenant was willing to let the field, the landlord refused. - Mr. T. Ambler said there was a party on the Council who were against the Old Recreation Field at the outset, and now that party was stronger they had succeeded in getting it given up. (This refers to the "Church versus Chapel" animosity current at that time) - The Chairman: I don't want any personalities here. - Mr. A.J. Ball: Why did you not say that at the Council meeting? - Mr. Ambler: I am not going to cover any of you up; I am not personal. - Mr. Bird: I hope you will submit to the ruling of the Chairman. We want no one called "damned liars" here. (Laughter) - Mr. Ambler: You got rid of the Old Recreation Ground. - Mr. Ball: All the Council but you were in favour of giving up the field. I appeal to the Clerk for the minutes. - Mr. Ambler: I know what I am saying. - Cries of "Order." - Mr. Ambler: You had better keep in order. - The Chairman: It is far better not to go on with this; we have done our level best to get another field. - Mr. Bird: At the meeting of the Council this (Monday) evening the Chairman (Mr. Barlow) offered the free use of the three acre field on the Isham foot-road for two years for a recreation ground. (Applause) - Mr. Tailby: I will move a note of thanks to Mr. Barlow for his generosity. - Mr. F. Downing seconded and this was carried."

thomas Ambler Charles Barlow Thomas Bird
Thomas Ambler
Charles Barlow
Thomas Bird

At a Parish Council meeting in 1904:"Mr. Maycock mentioned two sites as suitable for a Recreation Ground viz: Band Croft (Bancroft?) and Barwick's Charity. - It was decided to approach the owners". The whereabouts of Band Croft is not know, but Bancroft House once stood opposite the Horse and Groom. Barwick's Charity owned Savages Close, which is bounded on the north by Burton Latimer Hall's garden wall, on the west by Kettering Road and on the south by Spring Gardens. Later that year "The Sanitary Committee reported that they had again discussed the matter of a recreation ground, but finding no field suitable, they had allowed the matter to stand over".

Two Northampton Mercury reports in 1909 mention a Recreation Ground: in May, following reports of the improper use of the Recreation Ground it was decided to appoint a caretaker. In June it was reported that Mr. W. Meads had been appointed at 50 shillings per annum.

On 24 May1912 "... It was reported that at a special meeting of the Board (Kettering Rural Council Sanitary Board) the question of public baths had been under consideration. It had been pointed out that the site at the east corner of the Chapel field was hardly suitable and that, if possible, some spot should be found nearer the centre of the village, as it was impossible to secure a greater depth than five feet at the deepest end". This seems to to imply that Chapel Field was still being used for the Recreation Ground.

Understandably, the recreation ground would not have been considered a priority during the First World War and for a few years afterwards. There are several photographs of parade entries standing at the end of William Street adjacent to the field that eventually became the Recreation Ground and which the council tried to purchase.

William Streetin the 1930s
William Street in the early 1930s with the decorated archway
leading into the field used where hospital parades were held and
which eventually became the Recreation Ground

No mention of a recreation ground in newspaper reports are found after this until 1932 (possibly because they are not available online) by which time Thomas E. Gray had developed an area to the west of Polwell Lane as a swimming pool with the intention of adding other amenities as time went on. This took the pressure off the council as regards public baths but did little to stop criticism about the lack of amenities for the young.
In December 1932 deadlock had been reached between the landowner and the council over the cost of the field the council wanted to buy and the council sealed an order for the compulsory acquisition of the 101/2 acres of land . However, negotiations went on for several more years until, in 1936 another offer was made and accepted. In the meantime Cllr. William Batty, who owned land in Higham Road close to where the brook goes under the road, offered to sell part of it to create a childrens playground. The offer was welcomed, but in view of the imminent purchase and successful application to the King George V Memorial Playing Fields Association for £600 towards the capital cost of laying out the field, it was turned down.
So, in 1938, the scheme was started . Their were already two grass tennis courts in the corner of the field and these were converted to hard courts. To coincide with the provision of the field, a new road was laid to link Pioneer Avenue and William Street and the entrance gates erected mid-way between them. A quiet "rest corner" with a rustic arbour was provided in a triangular grassy area opposite the gates, edged with rose beds. In due course toilets were built in the corner of the main field nearest William Street - this had a tap on the outside wall, the only running water available to users of the "Rec" - and nearby a large wooden shelter, used as changing rooms for football teams.
The younger children were catered for with the provision of a Wicksteed slide, swings and rocking horse, all standing on concrete and tarmac. The Urban District Council employed groundsmen to look after it - one that sticks in my mind was Mr. Payne who lived in Pioneer Avenue (I think) and kept a strict eye on the youths that gathered there.

The "Rec" in the 1950s. Some years later it was extended to include the
field beyond the railings.
The shelter/changing rooms in 1963, towards the end of its useful life. It was
replaced by the Community Centre in the 1970s.

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