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  • TREES ON THE RECREATION GROUND – a 2017 report, Mr Norman Hodnett



The Recreation Ground was given to the Village in perpetuity by the nephew heir of the the last Lord Cowley in 1920. It comprises 9 acres of prime land in the centre of the Village. As such it is an irreplaceable asset – fire in the Hall or whatever and insurance and grants will replace it – but no-one is going to give the Village 9 acres again. It follows that it should be looked after and loved.


Its early fortunes were mixed. A Government local authority change combined Seagry, Sutton Benger and Draycot Cerne Parish Councils in 1934 and there is some evidence that Seagry dominated proceedings for the ensuing 40 years. At some point in the 1930s the Sutton Benger Cricket Club objecting to the charges for the use of the Village Hall built their own clubhouse – some of you may remember the concrete plinth base which continued to exist until the MUGA was built over it. I found in the Parish Council Minutes of the early 1960s a record of a protest by the Village Football Team who turning up for a Home match to find the grass on the Rec pitch was up to their knees. In 1964 the Cricket Pavilion was set on fire and the tennis nets from the adjoining courts were thrown on the fire.


In 1974 following a further Government reform of local authorities(and coincidentally at the same time as the opening of the M4) Seagry and Sutton Benger and Draycot Cerne were separated again into the two Parish Councils we have today.


From the 1920s Sutton Benger Village Hall was a timber and corrugated iron structure – as were so many across the country and built just after the first World War. This one was built in 2001; and its completion triggered a number of things including the reforming of the Cricket Club.


Now that was a pretty long introduction to the topic of trees on the Rec: simply because I can then make the point that in its first 84 years of existence there was no successful attempt to plant trees on the Rec other than in the hedge. In 2004 John Carlyon, then a member of the Hall Committee initiated a plan to plant trees; and after the initial plantings we formed a group to plant more and to regularly look after them during the early years of their lives while the trees established themselves. The plantings are mainly in groups where they provide shade but do not interfere with any of the team sport activities.

On the west side of the Rec we have the group of four black poplars and an aspen to provide shade, at the far end we had four Wild Service trees – now reduced to two. They are slow growers and no match for trucks or the determined vandal. By the gap in the hedge the holm oak is growing well and further into the copse there is a further oak which is flourishing. On the east side we have four Himalayan birches; then a group of four walnuts and a clump of hawthorn bushes. Towards the gate we have four Scots pines which in time will diminish the visual impact of the pylons on the horizon. There are individual trees here and there including the hornbeams along the front of the playground; and in the playground itself the most recent plantings; which include a Persian Ironwood. The Olivers Lime just on the left as you come through the playground  gate will recover from the frost damage inflicted last month – it is an uncommon species and in time will be a delight. And lastly the hedge around the Car Park put in by the working group 10 years ago is flourishing – it contains 6 varieties of hedge plant. And the young oak by the pedestrian entrance at the school end is going well.


I keep an eye on what is going on with the trees and where necessary carry out minor  formative work with consent from Wiltshire Council – The Rec is in the Conservation Area and so once trees have a 3inch diameter stem at a height of 5 feet, then any pruning requires planning consent; and nearly all the trees have now attained that size. Formative pruning calls for decisions – low branches keep the grasscutters away and deter dogs; but they are attractive to climbers and branch pullers. A broken-off branch leaves a wound through which any number of undesirable organisms can penetrate the tree’s protective systems. Similarly cuts low down of the bark by strimmers and dog-leads can lead to the slow death of a tree. Fortunately our grasscutters are understanding and helpful; so on most of the trees formative pruning has taken the lowest branches above the pullers reach. I took half a dozen lower branches off the black poplars late last winter; some showed evidence of ‘pulling’.


When I first came here in 1978, the Rec looked like an untidy green square growing a few goal-posts.  But now it is an attractive, almost park-like green venue for many activities. We should treasure it as an irreplaceable asset to the Village.


May 2017


Norman Hodnett

Sutton Benger Tree Warden







19.7.1922   P.C. unanimously agreed to accept the playing field of 8 acres generously offered by Beachly Crundall esq, for the use and benefit of SB, DC and Seagry, and to administer the same in accordance with the wishes of the donor.

14.3.23       Management committee elected from the 3 parishes. Also a sports committee.

17.4.28       Three trustees appointed for the village hall, viz Mr C West, Mr A Buy, and Canon Westlake.

15.2.31       Rev Hayter replaced Dr Sturridge on Hall Man Cttee

27.4.36       Gift of Chestnut tree from Mr H S Warren Smith planted in rec field.

2.12.46       SB village hall deeds obtained from bank for sighting after the gift of Seagry Hall by Lady Cowley.

12.12.46     Hall accounts to be included in PC financial statement. Fire Ins raised to £1000.

4.2.47         Hall fire insurance raised to £1500

21.2.1950   Report by MOH Auditor admin of hall not in keeping with regulations. Legal position investigated re setting up separate trustees instead of management committee.  VH and Rec Field legally property of PC. Relevant portion of deed conveying rec to PC was read.

20.10.50     PC decided that VH committee should continue to function, except that accounts should be kept by PC. Cttee to consist of two thirds PC and one third others (1 WI, 1PCC, 2 Sports Club, plus 2 others).

1.8.50         Cinema shows – Mobile Cinemas to book hall every Friday night at 25/-, to be agreed on monthly basis NOT accepted.

Tithes of £1:4:4 paid on rec for ½ year



3.10.50       Tithes of £1:4:4 paid on rec for ½ year. Tithe Redemption Commission apportion tithe on rec at £2:9:0 pa.

Social Club to put up two swings on rec and pay 1 year’s insurance to cover accidents etc. Swings to become property of PC. W.I. offered to pay for piano tuning.

1.12.50       Tithe redemption. It would cost £54:12:2 to redeem tithe annuity. No action taken.

28.5.5         Title of Bank Account for hall to be Sutton Benger Parish Council – Hall account.

9.9.52         Public Liability insurance policy transferred to Yorkshire Ins Co as of 9.10.51.

Hall water supply – leaking pipes in need of replacement.

25.2.53       160 chairs acquired for the hall, cost to be staggered £20 this year, £40 in 53/54 and £14 in 54/55. Old chairs to be sold.

27.7.53       WCC Education Dept offered Playing Field Maintenance Grant of £15, provided free use of the field continues for organised games for Sutton Benger VC school, and occasionally Christian Malford school.

21.9.53       Sports Club cut back hedge adjoining Back Lane.

14.12.53     WCC Ed Cttee grant of £20 accepted.

Lighting and heating costs of vh: Number of primary units of electricity used reduced from 156 to 108.

24.5.54       Seagry School given permission to use the field, but not Christian Malford.

7.10.54       A crisis in the running of the village hall resulted in the disbanding of the management committee and the election of a new one.

12.4.56       In order to qualify for Ministry of Education financial assistance to carry out general improvements to the hall the PC would be required to lease the hall to a Management Cttee for a period of not less than 25 years.

29.5.57       Legal Advisor to National Council of Social Services advised extending terms of lease to 35 years. Forrester & Forrester instructed to do the work.

Sports Club given permission to lay on water to from the main in Sutton Lane provided the work is done at their expense, and they pay half the cost of tapping into the main.

Permission was given for the sports club to lock the gate to the tennis courts to prevent unauthorised use.

12.9.57       New Management Committee set up to conform to Min of Ed conditions to qualify for hall improvement grant of £180. Four members of the cttee to be nominated as private trustees to lease the hall from the PC. Trustees Mr Titcombe, Mesdames Reeves, Chalmers and Drummond.

16.10.57     Lease of hall to the above 4 approved at nominal rent on 35-year lease.

4.12.57       Grant of £180 approved by MoH. Lease of hall to trustees executed.

16.4.58       Clerk to write to National Council of Social Services for return of title deeds to playing field so they may be lodged with counterpart lease for village hall at Lloyds Bank, Chippenham.

21.5.58       Sale of grass keep in Rec field to be negotiated.

27.8.58       Electric wires for floodlights dangerously low. Sports Club not given permission for the lights. Told to rectify both.

Grass keep sold for £14.



5.11.58       Title deeds for playing field deposited with Lloyds Bank, Chippenham.

Mr Tyler to cut portion of hedge for £1:10:0.

Village hall painted.

24.3.59       £2 paid to Mr Tyler for hedge cutting.

3.6.59         British Legion Rally allowed on field for 28.6.59

31.3.60       Trust Deed for hall trustees executed. Committee reconstituted with 5 elected members of village plus nominees from village clubs.

15.6.60       Sale of rec grass keep arranged by Mr Webb

28.3.61       Wayleave consent for SEB to have cable across corner of the rec. Poles on corners of tennis courts.

28.3.61       Mrs Reeves left the village – resigned as chairman of vh cttee.

31.5.61       Grass keep too wet to be of value.

10.10.61     Wayleave rental of 4/8d paid by SEB, iro new poles and stays on rec

31.5.62       Youth Club requested rec to be kept cut to facilitate their use of it.

5.12.62       Rec Field registered under 1960 Charities Act.

21.3.63       Mr Bodman quoted £3 per chain to cut rec hedge along road frontage. Instructed to carry out work, limited to £40.

Permission granted for youth club to hold a gymkhana on rec on 8.6.63

17.5.63       CC assistance being sought for regular cutting of rec for benefit of YC.

12 chains of hedge cut and layed for £36.

23.9.63       Maintenance of field discussed. Sufficient cut for football club. PC asked to make more general maintenance. School to ask CC to surface entrance by hall as used by pupils. YC to approach County Youth Assoc for ongoing scheme.

Gate in dangerous position – to be resited.

2.12.63       Gate rehung to open inwards and approach done out with hardcore.

Mr Woodham of Wilts Playing Fields Assoc advised on maintenance of rec. Advised formation of Sports Club for fund raising.

20.1.64       Open Parish Meeting re maintenance of rec. Mr Woodham advised identifying the size of field needed to function effectively and sell the rest for building to provide a maintenance fund. Vote for this carried by 6 for and 3 against. Sub cttee formed to identify area for sale and to form a sports club. PC to ask Charity Commission for approval.

  • Advisory Rec Field Sub Cttee to keep field cut needs capital outlay of £150 for gang mowers and tractor. Annual running costs £50. Wilts Playing Fields Assoc to be asked for loan of £150.

Alternatives to raise cash a) A penny rate on SB and DC producing approx £45 – £50 pa, or b) sale of portion of field to provide fund.

23.3.64       RDC advised 1d rate could not be levied on part of parish. Min of Ed legal branch said that part of field could be sold.

23.3.64       86 local govt electors at public meeting Unanimous agreement not to sell any of field but to form management cttee to run field.

5.6.64         Management cttee working well. £10 set aside by PC for rehanging gate.

9.9.64         Public liability insurance for field affected in conjunction with hall policy.

Wayleave consent for underground cable across corner of field near hall.

7.12.64       £10 paid to EG&J Martin for rehanging gate. Request from Chief Ed Officer for gate from field to school – agreed

4.2.65         Insurance cover for hall raised to £3,500, plus £400 for contents.

25.3.65       In response to a request clerk to send copy of trust deed for the field to the Man Cttee.

13.9.65       Advise being sought in order to charge for entrance to field for special functions, and to enforce rules and regulations of field.

11.11.65     Parking of heavy vehicles overnight causing obstruction to vh entrance.

13.1.66       No common land within the parish for registration under the 1965 Act.

31.1.66       Meeting to reform VH Man Cttee and persuade inactive members to resign. Agreed to amalgamate VH and Rec Man Ctees.

10.3.66       Joint Man Cttee set up. New trustees Mrs White, Mr Lord, Mr Ledingham, with original trustee Mr Chalmers. Official deeds of appointment to be drawn up.

8.3.67         Legal Dept queried whether field is a playing field or recreation ground as there are legal differences. Agreed it is a recreation field, therefore PC should retain control of it.

10.1.68       Insurance for village hall to be updated

22.5.68       Dealers lorry parked at east entrance to rec. Public Health Inspector to be asked to help get it moved.

                   Deed of appointment of new trustees completed.

4.12.68       PC made grant of £10 towards maintenance of field.

11.3.70       SEB to lease n/e corner of rec for 21 years for sub-station at £7:10:0 pa with option to renew for a further 21 years, from PC.

Arrangement being made to provide hard standing at vh for parking.

20.5.70       SEB lease executed by Mrs White and Mr Martin.

16.9.70       First year’s wayleave rent of £7:10:0 paid into bank a/c. Counterparet of lease to Lloyds Bank with Rec title deeds. Money to be used towards field upkeep.

  • Grants of £15 to Man Cttee by PC.


  • Village hall chairman (Jim Baverstock) and parish council chairman (Kay Taylor) undertook a review of the charity registration of both the hall and field. The Charity Commissioners advised that much of the work carried out in the 1960s had not been correctly done, and that a new scheme should be constituted.

14.7.93       Charity Commissioners approached with a request to amalgamate the two existing charities for the hall and field, and to correct the incorrect registration details in their current information.

6.3.99         New scheme for the joint village hall and recreation field charity drawn up and sealed by the Charity Commission.