Polegate has the distinction of being the first town in the country to have its War Memorial Recreation Ground declared a ‘Centenary Field’ by Fields in Trust in partnership with the Royal British Legion.
The Patrons of the trust are Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and, Prince Harry. Prince William launched this UK wide project in Coventry on July 6.
This is Polegate’s story. Because insufficient funds were raised to provide a 1914–18 War Memorial in Polegate village, in 1922 three local men, Rupert Sackville Gwynne (MP), Clement Knight (corn store manager) and Alfred Pain Wiggins (a gentleman) purchased land and created Polegate’s, War Memorial Recreation Ground (WMRG) to honour the 33 local men who were killed in that Great War.
In 1926 the WMRG was given to the council for use by the inhabitants of Polegate.
In mid 2008 a development company approached Polegate Town Council (PTC) to consider permitting the building of a medical centre on one acre of the WMRG.
There was considerable opposition from residents and sports clubs and, an action group called, Keep Our Recreation Ground Intact (KORGI) was formed and I became chairman.
In the following months the proposal was not followed through by the developer.
It became clear that there was a need to protect the land from any future development and maintain the existing covenants.
At that time a majority vote by PTC was against protecting it. KORGI applied to have the land registered as a village green. The application failed.
Despondent but not defeated KORGI went into hibernation.
I was advised very early on that the ‘Centenary Fields’ project was being created, and in January this year KORGI resurfaced. In early June, I wrote to all councillors outlining the detail of the project and this became an agenda item for PTC on June 30.
It became clear there was a desire to protect the land. Following due consideration Polegate Town councillors voted unanimously that the War Memorial Recreation Ground should be protected as a ‘Centenary Field’. Consequently the land is now protected in perpetuity – an extremely proud moment for KORGI and its stalwart supporters that stayed the course.
Polegate councillors are to be thanked for their honourable decision and for the path they have set for future generations to acknowledge the status of and enjoy their recreation on this land.
A ‘Centenary Fields’ plaque unveiling is being planned by the council for Friday, October 31, details of which they will publish.