SIR HALLEY FIELD: They hoped for quiet life with no questions

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If Ray Tucker inherited a valuable legacy, but found a careless trustee had given it clean away, would he just shrug and leave it at that? Doubtful!

But that’s his suggestion for the Halley Stewart Field (Spalding Guardian Readers’ View, September 26).

Until well after World War II, the then Black Swan Field was in the possession of Mr Clarke, landlord of the pub. Its main access was from New Road, linking the field more directly to the town centre.

Spalding United had no exclusive use in those times. A long row of occupied caravans lay along the south side and, before the war, a pair of tennis courts and a pavilion in the north-west corner were home to the Spalding tennis club.

The field was very active. There were regular funfairs and circuses. Events like the big pageant on the 40th anniversary of the scout movement were held in the field. That particular pageant had big marquees across the field for several days, with displays and competitions on the area in front of the grandstand, and large numbers of visitors tramping the ground.

Ad hoc groups used it casually for games like knock-about football, cricket, and rounders. Children played in it and dogs were run in it.

Mr Clarke often had horses in the field, roaming over the whole area. The reality of the place was that it was freely accessible most of the time, with paid access only for actual football matches or other special events.

Ironically, it seems that only when the field was gifted to all the townspeople did the football club begin to assert dominance of possession.

The council trustees neglected the terms of the trust from the beginning and allowed the club to acquire a feeling of virtually exclusive ownership, which appears to have become rooted.

The club’s website describes the field as ‘the Halley Stewart Football Ground’, which might surprise the charity which gave it to the townspeople for other purposes.

I believe that the football club was once effectively an amateur organisation. It seems now to be a business enterprise, and no doubt hoped for a quiet life with no questions asked about its occupation of the Halley Stewart.

I am not (as Ray Tucker puts it) a confederate of Bill Johnson, but Bill deserves credit for throwing daylight on to this murky situation. I hope the trustees can now rise honourably to their responsibilities, and find a non-slippery way out.

John Tippler