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Wheddon Cross Playing Field

Last summer the West Somerset Free Press reported that it was the 40th anniversary of the purchase of the Playing Field. Wrong! The Playing Field was actually purchased on the 3rd April 1968 as recorded on the Minutes of the Moorland Hall. I can remember some details of when the Field was purchased but being away at College there are large holes in my knowledge. Who better to ask for a potted history than Jim Collins and Edgar Webber. The field next to the Rest and be Thankful belonged to Simon Pearce's father who purchased both Thorne and North Wheddon Farm was put on the market by James Phillips and Sons Auctioneers for £950 (the village was to be offered first refusal of purchase). Mr Pearce also sold a corner of the field to the Council, who later built the 8 bungalows for OAPs in the 1970s and named it Bouverie Close after Squire Bouverie who owned the Estate until 1928. The village was given the opportunity to purchase the field and a meeting was held with the following attending - Sydney & Edgar Webber, Jim Collins, Dr Coaker (from Raleigh Cott now Manor), Leonard Stevens (from Hawkington), Millie Jell, Mr Jolly and others. It was thought that £250 could be raised but not £950. Jim C said ‘If we don’t buy the field our church and parishioners will never forgive us’.

Next on the agenda – how to raise the money? Every farmer was asked to donate £5 and a house to house collection was made. Donations of £15 by Dr Coaker, £50 from Cyril Phillips brought the early total to £230. Jim C then asked the Playing Field Association based in Whitehall for help -giving his Navy rank and position as National Park Warden to add a little weight to his request. His name and rank were immediately recognised by the person answering the phone - a fellow Officer who had served with Jim in Singapore. ‘I will match every £1 you raise’ Jim was promised and lo and behold a few days later a cheque for £230 arrived for the fund. Jim will always remember one donation from ‘Granny’ Davies of 2/6p. He said it meant more to him than all the large donations received because to her it was a lot of hard earned money

A major fund raising initiative was organised with whist drives, dances etc and with the match funding from the PFA and other sponsors including Billy Butlin and a lot of hard work from Jim C and his team the field was purchased and the footballers and cricketers no longer needed to drive the sheep out of the field before they could use it. The field behind the present pavilion used to be used for matches.

The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells dedicated the playing Field on Sunday 21st July 1968 with music provided by Watchet Town Band. An Altar was set up in the field and there is a photograph of the Dedication and a service sheet with the Bishop with Rev Bonsey - our vicar, the Rev Miller from Timberscombe, Dr Coaker and Geoff Pugsley our Church Wardens at the time.

As well as purchasing the field the Moorland Hall was improved (sound familiar!) by local builder John Burt. This was when the stage was added and loos beside the old kitchen. A grand opening by Tom King MP with a band from the Army Camp at Norton Fitzwarren playing from Fairfield (on the Taunton Road), round the crossroads and along to the Hall and field. I am told that this moved Granny Takle to tears (mother of Tony and Christine).

I can remember some of the fund raising especially the dances with the Dominos and Hotspots playing when the ‘young ones’ – Binnie and Roly and the even younger ones Anne C, Eric C, Jim S, John M, Margaret M, Roger W, Richard W, Gerald E, Derek E, Bridget C, Dave C, myself and many others had a great time. Thanks to the foresight of our elders the sportsmen had a clean field and we had a venue for our functions such as the Fete.

It wasn’t until 1970 that the loos were moved to the ‘new’ extension with the work again done by John Burt of Minehead.

I understand that there was a local ‘Hippie’ happening on the field on one occasion. I am not sure whether it was for fundraising or to celebrate the opening but there are some very local people with a few stories to tell!

The field was bought by the village for the village. Thank you.