Martham Playing Field (Coronation Recreation Ground)
Various sports had been played in the village for many, many years before a playing field was provided. Bowls, cricket and football had been played on the Village Green and on pitches, meadows or fields generally lent by sympathetic landowners, or in some cases in gardens of the bigger houses. The demand for better facilities grew particularly after the 2nd World War as people had more leisure time and competitions developed with tournaments between villages. Fund raising began as early as 1949 to achieve the aim of developing a playing field as can be seen from the account below of the Martham Gala Week of September that year.
The final catalyst to meet demand and actually provide facilities seems to have been the 1953 Coronation of a new Queen and fresh hope after the 2nd World War. The Parish Council began to take soundings about what villagers wanted to do to celebrate the Coronation. The popular choices were a children’s tea on the Green, a playing field with children’s corner and improved street lighting.
On 27th July 1953 a new Coronation Playing Field Committee was formed by the Parish Council and it was agreed to complete the purchase of the field at Rollesby Road that had been rented for the past couple of years from William Rayner Chapman the local farmer and butcher. The purchase of the six-acre field was completed on 30th October 1953 for £700.
The Playing Field provided a new home for the village cricket and football teams as well as the children’s play corner and a general-purpose open space.
Mr. Chapman, who was also a keen cricketer, remained involved with the Playing Field and its maintenance and improvement as can be seen from the article below that was published in the Yarmouth Mercury on 11th April 1958.
Fund raising efforts continued for some years and with the help of a grant from the Ministry of Education’s Adult Education and Youth Service £2,100 was raised to provide a new Pavilion. Opened by Sir Edmund Bacon, Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk on 23d May 1957 it was built by Martham Boat Building & Development Co. It included changing facilities, showers, footbaths, toilets and a central reception and kitchen area. The event was recorded in the Yarmouth Mercury shown on the right.
In 2006 the original children’s play corner and dilapidated tennis courts were in need of improvement and updating. The Parish Council identified fresh grant facilities that became available at the time from recycling credits and successfully bid for a large grant that paid for the multi-activity facility you see today at the north-east corner of the Playing Field. In subsequent years the Council built a proper path beside the play area and had the former muddy pot-holed Playing Field Lane properly surfaced.
In the 2000’s the popularity of bowls in Martham and neighbouring villages was at a high level. Such was the demand that the Chapman farming family were again approached and agreed to sell an adjoining field to the south of the Playing Field and in 2006 a new bowls green and club house was built that resulted in the club going from strength to strength in local league and cup competitions.
In the 1970’s Norfolk County Council added to the facilities on the field by building a Youth Club that successfully operated for many years. They decided to close it in 2008 due to the rising cost of maintenance and local government spending cuts. The Parish Council took over the building for free in 2009 with NCC paying a contribution to repairs and this not only saved the building but also the Youth Club that continued to run until 2016 under the banner “Just4u”. The Parish Council took advantage of owning the building by turning it into a Community Centre and offices for its services. On 27th May 2013 the Council opened extension to the Centre. It was built with the help of a grant from Great Yarmouth Borough Council meaning that it cost villagers nothing. The result was a new gym like facility that is adaptable for a variety of uses. The new building saw an immediate demand from all sorts of users that have taken advantage of the flexible space.
Community Centre photographs: click a thumbnail for a close-up and scroll through all the images from there.