MAY 13, 2020, sees the 100th Anniversary of the opening of the Recreation Ground in Newbury Street which was presented to the town of Wantage as its War Memorial by Mr Edward Brooks Ormond.

How did this come about?

The story starts in 1917,when Wantage Urban District Council received a letter from Sister Kathleen of the Community of St Mary the Virgin enclosing a petition from 868 persons mainly boys and girls asking for a place to play instead of the streets.

A sub-committee was set up and several suggestions were made including Garston Lane and The Camel.

Nothing further was done due to the war. In June 1919, there was a public meeting in the Town Hall to consider a war memorial for Wantage.

Four suggestions were made: A new Hospital, a recreation ground, premises for the Comrades of the Great War (predecessors of the Royal British Legion) and a public lavatory!

The Recreation Ground proposal found most favour and a general committee was was formed.

In August 1919, this committee had an offer from Mr E B Ormond on behalf of his father of the whole of the field in Newbury Street that belonged to him.

The council accepted the offer and the Recreation Ground was developed by public subscription under the direction of a joint committee of the Comrades of the Great War and the council.

The joint Hon Secretaries were Cllr J E Quicke of Charlton Road and Mr Percy Jones of Wallingford Street. As part of the fund raising for the park, a house to house collection raised £82 1s 9d and made a profit of £56 1s 11d on a sports day to clear the remaining debt.

On May 13, 1920, there was a parade from Wantage Market Place to the new Recreation Ground led by the Wantage Boy Scouts Bugle Band, a naval detachment, King Alfred’s School OTC, the Girl Guides and members of the Recreation Committee and Wantage UDC.

On arrival the ground was declared open by Mrs E B Ormond.

After speeches of thanks to Mr Ormond for his gift of the land, the National Anthem was sung and a cricket match followed between Wantage town and King Alfred’s School which was won by the town by three runs.

Over the subsequent 100 years, the recreation ground has been enjoyed by all the subsequent generations.

This writer can remember the annual Wantage Carnivals that took place here in the 1970s, in particular those opened by Johnny Morris and Roy Castle.

The main gates to extreme south of the ground, were requistioned at the beginning of World War 2.

Therefore on December 30, 1948, Miss Adkin and her sister Mrs Brooks (daughters of Mr C D Adkin former Chairman of Wantage UDC) presented to the council two new pairs of entrance gates dedicated to the memory of their sister Miss Sarah Adkin which were made by Wantage Engineering Co Ltd.