Village Greens History
Martham Village Greens are wholly owned by the Parish Council. They are registered with the Land Registry under reference number NK388689 and are also registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965 under reference No 25/U/84 as unit VG34. Commonly known as the Village Green the official records refer to Villages Greens (plural) because they are in difference sections.
The Greens have probably been at the heart of the village ever since it has existed but the earliest written record that relates to them is the 1812 Inclosure Award. The Inclosure map and Award list the owners of the Greens as the Special Commissioners and the land marked as plot No219. The Award went on to describe the boundaries of The Greens by reference to the five roads that enter them which were what we now know as Repps Road, Rollesby Road, Black Street, White Street and Hemsby Road. It said the size of plot No219 was five acres, one rood and 32 perches
The tithe map was drawn because the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 required that payments of tithes in the form of farm produce should be replaced by money payments. Tithe was a tax which was paid to the church to support the building and pay the Vicar’s salary. The aims were to show boundaries of all areas of land for which tithe was payable by the owner or occupier. Generally, the map shows fields, roads, woods and buildings. The Village Greens are shown as owned by the Commissioners of Drainage and two plots numbered 323 and 684 which cover much the same area as the 1812 Inclosure Award but excluding what is known locally as the Island Site and two tiny plots numbered 320 and 321 described as “Sawpit – Waste”. These are in the area where the bus shelter is today and what is known as Timber Hill which may be a reference to the saw pit activity.
Commons Registration Act 1965
The Village Greens were registered under this Act on 1st October 1970 ref: No25/U/84 as unit VG34. Generally, the registration excludes roads even though the original 1812 Inclosure Award included land that now has roads on it. Strictly speaking the existing mettaled roads that are on and around the greens are on top of the original village green but time has moved on and Norfolk County Council has taken ownership and responsibility for their maintenance.
Challenged Ownership – 1973
A long and detailed inquiry was carried out on 22nd October 1973 by the Commons Commissioner when a claim was made by the Trustees of the Will of William Bracey that they owned the land registered as Unit VG34 under the Commons Registration Act. The claim was made by Mr Claude L Carter and Mr Edwin B Vincent who were the Trustees of the Will of William Bracey who claimed to be the freehold owner of the land in question. During the hearing reference was made to The Greens being used for fairs and fetes before 1930 and that it had been used regularly for cattle grazing until the middle 1930’s when increases in road traffic made it unsuitable. The Trustees cut the grass until 1965 when it was taken over, in an informal agreement, by the Parish Council to maintain it.
In delivering his judgement the Commons Commissioner referred back to the 1812 award that allotted the land to the Special Commissioners and that those Special Commissioner were the Lord of the Manor, the Vicar of the village and each and every owner or proprietor of twenty acres or more of land drained by virtue of the Act. He determined that the land was vested in the ownership of the Special Commissioners and their successors and that nothing had since happened to change that position and therefore William Bracey did not own the Greens. It followed that his Trustee could, also, not therefore own it. He was satisfied that William Bracey as Lord of the Manor had a beneficial interest in the land as one of the Special Commissioners and that Mr Carter and Mr Vincent had the same beneficial interest as Trustees but that none of the other Special Commissioners had divested themselves as owners and therefore Carter and Vincent, may have been Trustees of the Will, but did not own The Greens.
The full text of the judgement handed down by the Commons Commissioner is available and can been seen as a pdf by clicking HERE.
Village Greens Management
A formal Management Agreement was completed between the Lord of the Manor and the Vicar of Martham (acting as the Special Commissioners) and Martham Parish Council on 1st April 1975 for the Council to “exercise all control and management of Martham Village Greens as if it were the Absolute Owner”. The Agreement went on to say that “All expenses in the control and management of the Greens shall be borne by the Council. Any income received by the Council in their management of Martham Greens shall be used to defray its expenses of management or be retained towards its future expenses of management.”
Change of Ownership
We have seen above that the judgment of 1973 confirmed that the owners of The Greens were the Special Commissioner of Drainage as appointed under the 1812 Inclosure Award in accordance with powers under the Martham Inclosure and Drainage Act 1807. The Special Commissioners had extensive powers in relation to the drainage of the Greens and were in effect appointed a drainage authority. This was set against a backdrop of sewerage and drainage being almost non-existent at the time. Toilets consisted of little more than crude facilities at the end of gardens with open ditches draining into fields and any other convenient water outlets supplemented by night soil collection. Ponds stank, environmental health was poor and as the population grew so did complaints. Drainage functions were becoming more and more serious and were taken over by more modern constituted local drainage boards under the land Drainage Act 1931. In this area the relevant drainage board was the former East Flegg, Martham, Repps and Thurne Internal Drainage Board. Following on from them was a long and complex series of successor drainage authorities formed by changes in law and statute that took over the functions of many of the former smaller boards under orders made by the Secretary of State and various drainage acts. Eventually the King’s Lynn Consortium of Internal Drainage Boards acquired ownership when the East Flegg, Repps, Martham and Thurne Internal Drainage Board was abolished in January 2005 under The Broads and Norfolk Rivers Internal Drainage Order 2005. After several changes of title the King’s Lynn Consortium of Internal Drainage Boards later became known as the Broads (2006) Internal Drainage Board (IDB).
The IDB made an application for first registration of The Greens which the Land Registry was satisfied it was entitled to and The Greens were registered to the ownership of the IDB under reference NK388698 on 12th June 2009.
Meanwhile Martham Parish Council had continued to care for and pay for the maintenance of the Greens so when the true new owners were discovered the IDB did not want the ongoing responsibility and agreed to sell The Greens to the Parish Council, freehold, on 4th March 2010. Thus, the Greens belong to Parish Council and remain a community asset accessible to everyone for all time.
- The growth of motor vehicle use in the 1970’s led to more and more parking around the edges of The Greens resulting in erosion of the grass and puddles. The Parish Council undertook a programme of erecting short concrete posts to protect The Greens.
- Further work was undertaken to combat erosion around the edges of The Greens throughout the mid 1970’s when the Highways Authority agreed to install kerbs to all the roads.
- Between 2010 and 2012 The Parish Council enhanced The Greens by planting hundreds of daffodils and supplying planters in support of Great Yarmouth in Bloom.
There is an album of photos related to The Greens below. Click a thumbnail for a close-up and scroll through all the images from there. There are two pages of photos.