KGV PLAYING FIELDS – PURCHASE 1938
Researched and written by Christopher J. Hogger
In 1938 a small group of residents purchased, on behalf of the village, the 31.5 acres known as the ‘Park’ that had belonged to the then deceased Mrs Pauling, widow of the late Mr Pauling formerly of The Lodge. Their purpose was to establish playing fields, together with a village hall, in the heart of the village, and to achieve this they had to raise the purchase price of about £4,000. Raising the money and getting through the many formalities would prove to be an arduous undertaking, with many twists and turns along the way. The narrative below, which traces events from 1933 only as far as the successful purchase in 1938, is merely an outline. ELHG hopes in due course to produce a much fuller account of the history of the playing fields.
Playing Fields and Local Councils
In October 1933 Effingham Parish Council (EPC) discussed a letter it had received from Guildford Rural District Council (GRDC). A new Town Planning Scheme required GRDC to seek suggestions from parish councils as to which sites should be reserved for allotments and playing fields. A month later GRDC sent a map on which EPC was asked to indicate such sites. By February 1934 representatives of both bodies had met but no decision had been reached about a playing field site. Further months passed. In June GRDC proposed that a site near Effingham Common could be reserved for both allotments and playing fields, but EPC rejected this. Finally, in September 1934 – a full year after the original request – EPC proposed that the site to be reserved for allotments should be the same as that then being used, namely a piece of land owned by Mr Willock-Pollen on Lower Road. It further proposed that the site to be reserved for playing fields should be a 6-acre area at the western end of ‘Bramble Furrow’ field. This field was adjacent to, and to the west of, the so-called Madge’s Field (or Carn Pit Field) on the Home Farm estate. Such a site was far distant from any habitation or key resources such as water supply or toilet facilities necessary for even the most basic sporting facilities. Still, EPC had ticked a box for GRDC who had in turned ticked a box for the Town Planning Scheme.
The Jubilee Celebration Committee
There then followed a period of three years during which no mention of playing fields was recorded in the EPC Minutes. Instead, during those three years the Council concerned itself mostly with issues relating to footpaths. The provision of recreational and sporting facilities for residents was not on its radar.
Meanwhile, however, a group of individuals had begun to take their own initiative in this matter. In early 1935 EPC had called for a public meeting at which to discuss the village’s forthcoming celebration of King George V’s Silver Jubilee. At that meeting, which took place on March 11th, a small Jubilee Celebration Committee had been formed, the elected officers of which were Joseph Stewart Adams (Chairman), Mrs Maude Whale (Treasurer) and Capt. Ivor Alexander Whitworth McGowan (Secretary); additionally, Guy Meyrick Mallaby Mallaby-Deeley agreed to chair an Appeal Committee. Some other residents were also elected to the Committee at this time.
Stewart Adams was the head teacher of St Lawrence School, living in the adjoining School House with his wife Florence, the school’s other principal teacher known as the ‘Governess’. By now he had lived in the village for a quarter of a century and had played prominent roles in various community activities. Mrs Whale had arrived in Effingham with her husband Edgar William in the late 1920s, residing at ‘Windyridge’ on Effingham Common. She was active in the Effingham branch of the British Royal Legion and was mentioned in newspaper reports for her contribution to local Legion entertainments. During the early 1930s the branch had undertaken its own huge fund-raising effort in order to purchase from Mrs Pauling a site in Lower Road near the Catholic Church on which to build its own hall.
Mr Mallaby-Deeley had been elected as President of the branch in October 1933 and had made a crucial donation to their fund enabling that hall to be built. He and his wife Marjorie Constance Lucy were living on Effingham Common Road at Slaters Oak which they had purchased in 1927 upon their first arrival in Effingham. Capt. McGowan, a barrister, had distinguished himself in the Royal Field Artillery during the Great War, earning the Military Cross and D.S.O. for conspicuous gallantry. His family had come to Effingham around 1934-35, residing at Beconridge in Beech Avenue. McGowan was much involved in the Effingham branch of the Legion, becoming its Chairman in the late 1930s.
Thus the Jubilee Celebration Committee was led by some highly committed, pro-active, capable and communally-minded people. Although their immediate task was the planning of the Celebration, a second objective had been agreed at the March meeting. This was set out in a letter sent by the Committee to all parishioners in early April 1935:
“It was further agreed that in the event of the moneys received being more than sufficient to satisfy the above objects, the surplus should be applied towards the establishment of a fund for the provision, equipment and maintenance of Playing Fields, of which the young people of the community stand in great need.”
In the event the Jubilee Celebration yielded a surplus of £19-0s-1d which was duly committed to the new playing fields fund.
It is not known whether the Committee took Minutes of its meetings – if it did then those Minutes appear not to have survived. Instead, the Committee’s actions in this period are known only through a rather sparse, and clearly incomplete, residue of its correspondence and a few other documents.
In the following year, 1936, two major events – one local and one national – radically impacted upon the Committee’s course of action. Locally, the park land of The Lodge had been put on the market, advertised as being suitable for housing; it had already been zoned for just that purpose by GRDC. It formed part of the estate left by the wealthy railway contractor George Craig Saunders Pauling who had died in early 1919. His Will entrusted his estate to designated trustees, these being his widow Mrs Dolores (“Lola”) Lopéz Pauling, his close friend John Scott and the Public Trustee. Mrs Pauling – in consultation with her other trustees and her solicitors Rider, Heaton, Meredith and Mills of Lincolns Inn – was now, in 1935, minded to sell part of what remained of the estate, namely the 31.5 acres of remaining park land. She had already sold her former residence The Lodge with a certain amount of its land in 1928 to The Royal School for the Blind and had moved to the magnificent mediaeval Prebendal House in Thame, Oxfordshire whilst also retaining another residence in Knightsbridge, London.
Looking northwards across the Park towards The Lodge; note Mr Killick’s cows at far right behind the trees.
In August 1936 Mr Beresford Rimington Heaton, from the aforementioned solicitors, replied to an enquiry from Stewart Adams indicating that Mrs Pauling would be willing to sell the land for playing fields at a price of £4,000.
The Committee now had a potential – and in many ways ideal – site to aim for, albeit a much larger one than needed for the purpose originally envisaged. Moreover, the Lord Mayor of London had set up a King George V Memorial Fund
(see poster at right, from 1936) with the aim of establishing playing fields around the country dedicated to the King’s memory, and had invited local authorities to cooperate in this task.
Appeal for Funds
In these new circumstances the Committee now launched a local appeal for funds to secure for Effingham a ‘King George V Memorial Playing Field’. This appeal was articulated in the following notice:
Appeal Fund Notice, 1936
The notice bears no date but its second paragraph begins with the phrase “The death of the late King in the present year”, thus establishing 1936 as the year in which it was written; probably, it was composed in the Autumn.
The notice must have been sent as a draft to Heaton with the aim of seeking Mrs Pauling’s approval. Heaton wrote back to Stewart Adams on November 20th confirming that all was well and noting that the Committee intended to circulate it to the parishioners. The notice bears no names of those responsible for the appeal and, despite ending with an exhortation for residents to make donations, offers no practical guidance on the process for doing so. It is probable, then, that it was circulated with a covering letter supplying these details. It is clear that the Committee’s ambitions had increased since it had been first elected. The notice sets out the intent of erecting on the future playing fields a small pavilion having changing rooms and storage space and, more strikingly, the following:
“… a Village Hall or Club … suitable for Concerts, Dances, Lectures, Film Shows, Whist Drives, Scout and Guide Meetings, etc., etc. … endowing this village with opportunities for developing our communal life and social pleasures which should be unrivalled in any other Parish in the County.”
This vision in 1936 of establishing such a hall on this superb site would have been an exciting one for the Committee’s members. They would not have believed that it would take thirty years to accomplish.
The Effingham Playing Fields Committee
In early 1937 the Committee produced and circulated an ‘Interim Report and Subscription List’, which can be read using the button below.
Interim Report, February 1937
The report was dated February 28th and its covering letter was dated March.
The report lists the members at this time, most of whom had probably been members since 1935. Their original Treasurer Mrs Whale had left Effingham in 1936 and her role taken over by Mrs Nina MacNair, one of the six daughters of the late Charles Edward Lambert. She had lived among the Lambert family at Effingham House since about 1885 until marrying in 1905 to James Alexander Hill MacNair. She and James lived out their married life in various magnificent mansions in Kensington. James died in 1931 and in 1935 Nina, whilst still retaining her Kensington home, returned to Effingham and occupied Yew Tree House in The Street. She had probably been a member of the Jubilee Celebration Committee from the start and had certainly played a prominent part in that 1935 celebration.
The report also mentions that two new persons had joined the Committee. One was Aubrey Dibdin, who had pursued a very distinguished career as a senior civil servant with the India Office; he was living with his wife Sybil May at ‘Fair View’ in Beech Avenue. The other was Cecil Bramall-Jones, then living with his wife Julia Edith at ‘Two Oaks’ in Cobham Way, East Horsley. He was occupied as Mrs MacNair’s general agent and secretary.
Mrs MacNair’s name features prominently on the Appeal Fund Poster produced in 1937, as seen opposite. This photograph of the original poster was taken many decades afterwards when it had fallen into a poor condition. Subsequently a faithful and full-size facsimile was made of it.
Many of the details are hard to make out from the photograph but the words to the right of the plan at the centre read as follows:
“The object of this appeal is to raise the sum required to purchase the 31 acres of land shown coloured green in this plan. It is the … suitable site in the village for recreation park, playing fields, and allotments. When bought it will be declared an OPEN SPACE FOR EVER. If broken up for building it will be LOST FOR EVER therefore give now and give generously. Full particulars of the scheme can be obtained from the Hon’y Sec’y (and below).”
Other members listed in the Interim Report were Rev. Harold Arthur Floud, Rector of St Lawrence Church and living with his wife Marion at The Vicarage;
Rev. Francis Edward Bird, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Sorrows and living at The Presbytery; Anthony Nicholas Diamantidi, a property investor and living with his wife Gladys at Grove House on the Guildford Road; Mrs Lillian Olivia Mooney, stalwart of the Women’s Institute and living with her husband Dermot Joseph at Rose Cottage in The Street; Major Herbert Oliver Cundall, Secretary to Effingham Golf Club and living with his wife Dorothy Maud at the ‘Dormy House’ in Beech Avenue; Charles Nottage, farmer and living with his wife Agnes Louisa at 2, Brown’s Cottages in The Street; Thomas Reginald Nicholson, living with his wife Jessie Winifred at The Barn behind The Street; and finally, but most definitely not least, Barnes Neville Wallis, engineer and living with his wife Mary (“Molly”) at White Hill House in Beech Avenue. The former Mr Mallaby-Deeley had become Sir Guy Mallaby-Deeley in consequence of his father Harry (1st Baronet of Mitcham Court) having recently died thereby passing the baronetcy (a hereditary dignity) to his son. Within the family Guy was known by his second forename Meyrick.
Thus in early 1937 there were 14 members, four of them from Beech Avenue. The Committee had renamed itself as the ‘Effingham King George V Memorial Playing Fields Committee’ but soon afterwards condensed this to ‘Effingham Playing Fields Committee’. In addition to the members, the Committee also had the free legal services, for their intended mission, of solicitor Sidney Alfred Williamson of London firm Peachey & Co. in the Strand. Williamson had long had interests in Effingham, including property development. Formerly he had been the Captain and Father of the Golf Club. At this time he was living in the village with his wife Milly in ‘The Cottage’ on the Guildford Road (distinct from the property of that name standing in The Street) whilst also having another home at 36, Queen’s Gate in Kensington. His experience and guidance would prove crucial in the times ahead.
We have images of most of the persons mentioned so far:
Concluding the Purchase
During 1937-38 correspondence flowed between the Committee, its solicitor Williamson, Mrs Pauling’s solicitor Heaton, the King George’s Fields Foundation, the latter’s successor the National Playing Fields Association, GRDC, other potential grant providers, donors and the local Press. Around early 1937 Williamson had advised the Committee that the purchasers of the land should be constituted as:
“… a body of trustees consisting mainly of prominent local residents …”, recommended to be at least five in number,
and that the land then be vested by a Trust Deed in those trustees together with a body of people appointed to manage the land. By this means the Committee could meet the formal requirements concerning the vested status of land imposed by the King George’s Fields Foundation for the purpose of awarding grants. Some difficulties arose in the Committee’s dealings with the Foundation, to the extent that one might have thought it not worth the involvement, considering that the prospective grant (£500) was only a modest fraction of the total purchase price. But, without the Foundation and the associated dedication of the land as a memorial to King George V, the much larger hoped-for grant from GRDC would almost certainly not have been forthcoming. Furthermore, Mrs Pauling would not have been satisfied that the land would be legally constrained to the sole purpose of playing fields, which was her firm desire. Thus, the Foundation had to remain an integral element in the process.
Correspondence from Williamson indicates that by April 1938 a body of potential trustees was being assembled. Most of them would be members of the Committee. On May 27th the Foundation wrote to McGowan noting that “The Resolution passed by your Trustees on the 23rd of May, 1938 is quite satisfactory”. The term ‘Trustees’ was being used here only in the sense of prospective trustees. It is not known what the Committee’s resolution had been, nor whether it had been written down anywhere – as noted earlier, no Minutes of the Committee’s meetings have been found. However, on May 26th McGowan had written to the Foundation mentioning that:
” … contracts have now been exchanged with the Vendor, and the deposit of £400 has been paid … The Trustees are under an obligation to complete the purchase and pay over the balance of the price (£3600) not later than the 11th August next.”
It may be that the resolution had been this commitment to proceed with the purchase, having named in the contract the intended trustees as the purchasers.
By this time the appeal fund was virtually complete. GRDC had provided a grant of £1,700. The Foundation would in due course provide £300 of the £500 they had previously offered (although this £300 would not actually be handed over until April 1939). A single resident (whom we suspect to have been Mrs MacNair) had anonymously donated £1,000. Six further smaller donations added in another £705. The residue of under £300 – about 7% of the purchase price – was provided by a host of minor donations, every one of them listed by donor and amount in the Committee’s accounts. Many of those donors were not residents of Effingham. Only a quarter of Effingham’s households contributed anything to the fund. Any notion that “the village (as a whole) bought the fields” is a myth. Realistically, it was GRDC, the Foundation and a handful of individuals who “bought the fields”.
Completion in August was not going to happen, however. On July 16th 1938 Mrs Pauling died suddenly at her Knightsbridge residence 23, Montpelier Row (renamed as Montpelier Walk from 1939). The purchase of the land would now have to await the conclusion of the probate process by Mrs Pauling’s executors, these being her older brother Alphonsus (“Alphonso”) John Lopéz Guibara and her solicitor Beresford Rimington Heaton. Exchange having taken place back in May, with a deposit paid, the contract of sale was legally binding upon the executors.
The contract named the following seven persons as “the Playing Fields Trustees”, being the purchasers:
Bird Dibdin Floud Langley Nottage Wallis Williamson
of whom the only person not previously mentioned above was (Archibald) Gordon Selwood Langley, a retired bank manager living at ‘Green Trees’ in Ripley; he had been nominated by the National Playing Fields Association, to which the business of the Foundation had been transferred. Nottage was there as GRDC’s representative for the Parish of Effingham. The purchasers thus included a representative of each body which had contributed a grant towards the purchase. In the contract Aubrey Dibdin was entered as ‘Arthur Dibden’, an error that had been pointed out to Williamson during the drafting but had gone through uncorrected.
Meanwhile, at about this time an Effingham resident and Parish Councillor, Mr James Alfred Robert Bull of ‘Wemada’ in Calvert Road, had written to GRDC querying the constitution and other aspects of EPFC. Apparently he had previously raised questions on this subject at the Annual Parish Meeting on March 23rd, although the Minutes do not record that. His letter to GRDC was forwarded to McGowan who replied to it at the end of July giving a quite full account of the Committee’s actions and intentions and confirming that no money had been borrowed by it.
Another letter was published in The Surrey Advertiser and County Times on July 23rd alleging that there had been friction in the Parish over the purchase of the fields and requesting a clear outline of the funding scheme. A slightly sharp but full reply was written by Stewart Adams, denying that there had been any such friction and referring to the author of the letter as a “Mr Jay”. However, the author was more probably Mr John Joy of ‘Views’ in Orestan Lane who, like Mr. Bull, was a Parish Councillor (the Electoral Register for Effingham at this time contained no male with surname Jay).
At EPC’s meeting on November 9th Mr Joy, seconded by Mr Bull, proposed that EPC should enquire of GRDC as to whether it was going to schedule land in Effingham for playing fields. The motivation behind this is not clear. Their proposal was passed with some dissent, by three votes to two.
Just one week after this, on November 16th 1938, Williamson wrote to McGowan giving the news that everyone had been waiting for:
“I am happy to inform you that the purchase has this afternoon been completed. The Conveyance will now have to be stamped and the Trust Deed approved.”
Conveyance, November 16th 1938
Use the button to view the conveyance.
The conveyance stated the parties’ intent that the land conveyed was to be used and maintained as a King George’s Field for ever. It further contained a covenant restricting the use of most of the land to “playing fields for outdoor sports and games” and a small remaining part to a “village hall and/or social centre for the welfare or benefit of the inhabitants of the Parish of Effingham”. Once the conveyance had been finalized, it would have transferred the land in fee simple to the purchasers to be held by them for the benefit of another party (the inhabitants), so establishing a trust settlement in legal terms and making the purchasers its trustees. The land would have been vested in them as trustees.
The purchasing trustees including their solicitor Williamson had intended that, following the conveyance, the land would next be vested in the Official Trustee of Charity Lands, enabling the purchasing trustees to retire from their role. A Trust Deed would need to be prepared and approved by the Charity Commissioner in order to effect the transition. This had not been achieved by the time the second world war had broken out, so the business of transferring ownership to a broader platform for future governance had to be postponed. During the war, in a letter dated April 21st 1944 to the then Rector of St Lawrence Church, Williamson wrote:
“Arrangements were in hand in 1939 for the completion of a Trust Deed and for vesting the land in the Official Trustee of Charity Lands and for the appointment of a Council of Management who would take the place of the present Trustees … but the outbreak of war caused all these matters to be postponed until the position could be reviewed after the conclusion of hostilities.”
Still, the first key objective of the whole enterprise had been achieved: the village had acquired land for playing fields and, for the time being, that land was relatively safe from housing development.
It is striking, as seen from our present time, that although this was the most substantial land asset that had ever been acquired in the Parish for public benefit, the Parish Council (there to serve the public) had played virtually no part in it. In October 1937 it had merely noted “the efforts of a local body known as the Effingham Playing Fields Committee who were endeavouring to raise sufficient funds by subscription for the purchase of the Parks” which “would at no time become chargeable to the local rates”. In brief, as far as EPC was concerned, the public might benefit from the fields but they would not be taxed in order to pay for that benefit; who was supposed to pay instead was not discussed. In April 1938 EPC had written to GRDC to enquire of its position regarding the land that had been scheduled by GRDC for playing fields in Effingham under the Town Planning scheme back in 1934 “in view of the purported acquisition of 31 acres of land for this purpose by the Effingham Playing Fields Committee”. No reply had been received from GRDC by the end of July, whereupon EPC had passed a resolution “to deplore the fact that GRDC ignore the EPC”. Other than this, EPC had nothing to say about the playing fields. The success of the Playing Fields Trustees in November received no mention in the Minutes of ensuing EPC Meetings until six months later, by which time everything was being overshadowed by the coming war.
Soon after the war EPC, under its new leadership of Barnes Wallis, would play a more prominent role in the arrangements governing the playing fields.