Bid to safeguard future of iconic Sidmouth sports ground

PUBLISHED: 07:46 13 July 2011

DEED HOPE: Neil Gamble

DEED HOPE: Neil Gamble

Sidmouth Cricket Club trustees have spent months tracking down some of the 350 shareholders who contributed to the £5,000 purchase the Fort Field in 1935.

A BID to safeguard Sidmouth’s most iconic sports ground for future generations has initiated a search for some of the ‘great and good’- and many others - who helped establish a crucial trust deed more than 70 years ago.

Sidmouth Cricket Club Ground Trustees have spent more than two years trying to track down some of the 350 shareholders who contributed to the £5,000 purchase price of the Fort Field in 1935.

They hope to find as many original subscribers, or their heirs, as possible in an effort to extend the famous seafront site’s use as a sporting venue for another 120 years.

Crucial permission for its present use could run out within the next 30 years.

A vital meeting will be staged on Wednesday, August 10, as the culmination of a quest that has links to the Queen and a pair of Scandinavian princesses.

“We want to retain the Fort Field as a venue for sport forever,” said club chairman Neil Gamble.

“We’re doing it, we hope, in order to protect the ground for future generations.”

While sport has been played continuously at the Fort Field since 1823, the ground was privately owned until 1935 when Colonel Balfour, a major local landowner, encouraged its purchase from his family.

“A trust came into existence and, through public subscription, the great and the good of the town- together with other national and local worthies- purchased shares,” said Mr Gamble.

A ground trust came into operation and the trustees pledged that the Fort Field was to be preserved for the playing of cricket, lawn tennis, croquet, and archery. Hockey was later added to the list.

This original trust deed will run out 21 years after the death of Edward VII’s last surviving direct relative as of December 1935 - either the present Queen, or the Duke of Kent or a Swedish or Norwegian princess.

“It could be some time early in the 2030s that the original deed would have gone into abeyance and the trustees then would have to do something about it,” added Mr Gamble.

“We’ve decided not to wait that long and plan to hold a meeting of the heirs of original subscribers on August 10 to resolve the matter.

“Some are direct relatives, others are representatives of various commercial or sporting organisations who contributed in 1935. It is hoped they will give permission to enable a new trust deed to be drafted.

“We’ve spent many months tracking down up to 30 of the original 300 plus subscribers. Although we only require five subscribers for a quorum, the larger the number who turn up, the more legal validity the process has.”

Anyone with a subscription certificate, who has not been contacted already, and would like to attend the meeting can contact chair of trustees Tony Holland on (01395) 577209.


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