The Recreation Ground adjoins Hay Street in the centre of the village. Long known as the The Rec, today it is also referred to as The Park; a rather urban term.
Owned by the Steeple Morden Parish Council it is home to two football pitches, a cricket pitch, bowls green, three hard tennis courts and children’s play area. The Village Hall, sports changing rooms, with public toilets and separate bowls pavilion are also to be found there. There are two areas for car parking.
Behind the Recreation Ground to the west is the village Conservation Area with native trees and wild flowers dipping down to West Brook running through White Ponds.
At the first meeting of the newly created Steeple Morden Parish Council held on 8 December 1894, one of its first acts was to resolve “It is desirable to provide a Recreation Ground for the village”.
At its second meeting, 3 January 1895, a sub-committee was formed and charged with taking this proposal forward.
At its third meeting, 24 January 1895, the sub-committee reported that it had identified land owned by John Jarman of Kneesworth [in Station Road] and the Steeple Morden Benefit Society [in Hay Street] as being potentially suitable for a Recreation Ground. Mr Hitch said that the Benefit Society would refuse to let the land.
At the first Annual Parish Meeting held 28 March 1895 the proposal to provide a Recreation Ground was put to a public vote, which was lost 15 to 14! The main concern was the cost would be borne on the rates. Not a large turn out and clearly the Council were not swayed by the negative view of the electorate and were soon back on the case.
After more investigation a plot extending to 4 acres and fronting Hay Street owned by Mrs Gordon was selected as the most suitable. However, Mrs Gordon was not a willing seller, in fact, she was dead against. After enquiries and committees, involving the County Council, this plot was eventually compulsorily purchased by the County Council on behalf of the Parish Council at a cost of £287 including expenses, on 31 August 1902. It was largely financed with a mortgage loan from the Public Works Loan Board of £250 granted 12 March 1903 and charged on the rates.
The remaining land owned by Caroline Gordon was later acquired by Cambridgeshire County Council as part of the farm small-holdings.
In May 1965 The Parish Council acquired a plot of land from the County Council to add to the south-west corner of the Recreation Ground. It measured 162 feet north/south by 138 feet east/west amounting to 0.51 of an acre. The purchase price was £160, equivalent to £314 per acre.
The following month the Parish Council was granted planning permission for change of use to a bowling green on 0.26 acre of the newly acquired land. The village bowling green had been in Cheyney Street opposite The Bell and this was lost when the brewery sold the land for development in the mid-1960s.
In June another plot of land was acquired from the County Council, on the west side of the Recreation Ground and adjoining the plot acquired in 1965. The new plot measured 195 feet north/south by 140 feet east/west amounting to 0.63 of an acre. The purchase price was £225 this time, equivalent to £357 per acre. This additional land was for a children’s play area.
These purchases brought the total area of the Recreation Ground up to 5.14 acres.
In late 1984 the Football Club told the Parish Council (PC), that with two senor teams and the increase in youth teams playing, the pressure on the single pitch was considerable and there was need for a second football pitch, which could not be accommodated on the existing Recreation Ground. Would the Council consider acquiring additional land to provide for a second pitch. The adjoining land alongside and behind the Recreation Ground, was farmland in the ownership of the Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC).
It is fair to say that the SMPC was not enthusiastic, in view of the likely heavy expense, which would benefit only one of the sports using the Rec.
However, an initial approach was made to the CCC and the response was that it would consider selling part of the land lying behind the Rec, but not the block of land alongside fronting Hay Street. This ignored that the back land was unsuitable for a football pitch as it sloped down to the stream on the western boundary. Rather strangely, the PC asked the CCC if it would be willing to sell a 30 foot strip of the front land adjacent to the Rec, which in itself would not have been sufficient for a football pitch. Surprisingly, the CCC agreed in principle to sell a 30 foot strip totalling about 0.45 acres for £8,700 and PC to fence with 4 foot post and three rail and pay own legal costs
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Last Updated on March 5, 2023