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How Badsey Recreation Ground came into being – a poem by Brian Smith

This poem from my book, “From Blackminster to Golden Lane”, tells how Badsey Recreation Ground came into being.  Hubert Smith was my great-grandfather and was reputedly a little eccentric.  My wife thinks that I carry that gene!

A suitable site had never been found
For a Badsey recreation ground.
For years a Badsey field was sought,
But all negotiations came to nought.

The Stockey looked likely, then was lost,
The public would not stand the cost.
Some of that land was to find an ideal use,
A field for the school it would produce.

Meanwhile Rangers played on at Aldington,
Despite this most of their games they won;
Many a Badsey man was heard to say
All the Rangers games were played away!

It was an unlikely alliance that sparked a change,
A combination most thought strange.
Julius Sladden, a brewer of great repute,
Hubert Smith, follower of the Temperance route.

How this came about remains a mystery,
(There had been some past hostility)
But their past differences they set aside
And for once their aims did coincide.

Both were keen for Badsey to have its field,
So past prejudices were made to yield.
Smith had land which would be most ideal.
Sladden had thoughts of an appeal.

Smith’s price Sladden thought was very fair,
The scheme was born right then and there.
The price of four hundred those two agreed,
Smith would not exploit the desperate need.

It was 1912 when this took place,
And to obtain the funds there was a race.
Sladden called a meeting without delay,
A committee formed, they were on their way.

Julius Sladden was voted to the Chair,
There were no end of people there.
Smith said the land he only would release
For a public field on that piece.

Alternatives all agreed were none,
All past opportunities now were gone.
“This final chance cannot be lost
To secure ideal land at reasonable cost.”

Many made donations straight away.
The total was rising day by day.
One hundred pounds was added in one go,
From the Bazaar and Asparagus Show.

Subscriptions came from rich and poor,
Donations totalled more and more.
Covent Garden agents were on the list,
Few local luminaries being missed.

The ‘Bachelors of Badsey’ numbering 48
Took on subscriptions of a varying rate;
To make regular payments they did engage,
Although most earned just a modest wage.

Two years past, the battle almost won,
Then, the Great War was begun.
The project now was rightly set aside,
Repercussions now felt far and wide.

Many Badsey men would soon enlist
And in the village were greatly missed.
Some of the ‘Bachelors’ of that 48
Would meet a tragic and a noble fate.

The tenants, who’d enjoyed an extended stay,
Had compensation come their way.
When known the target would be passed with ease,
The land was passed to the Trustees.

By 1917 the funds were all in hand.
The Trustees decided to plant the land.
With wheat or other cereal crops –
“Until such time as the fighting stops”.

When that long cruel war was won
The project then could carry on.
Volunteers were back to give a hand
To prepare a field upon that piece of land.

The final crop harvested and removed,
The ground tilled and levelled, the soil improved.
Fences put up, complete with gates,
Everything came together with rapid rates.

Around the field’s edge some holes were made
And trees planted there to give some shade.
A little girl¹, with no-one near to guide her,
Was found watering saplings in with cider!

Then finally, the grass was sown,
After rooting it was gently mown.
The end product it could now be seen,
A fine, flat sward of vivid green.

In 1920, the fifteenth of May,
Arrived the long awaited day!
All the Badsey folk they gathered round
At their brand-new recreation ground.

Speeches were made, the committee congratulated,
All the villagers were happy and elated
And excited children chased a ball,
Such a lovely time enjoyed by all.

The occasion greatly was enhanced
By a band which played as many danced.
A torch light procession concluded the event,
All were tired and happy as home they went.

The Rangers celebrated their new ground
By beating every team around.
Their first season there turned out to be
The most successful in their history.

The Badsey Flower Show, that popular event,
At the new location pitched their tent.
That new venue, many would say
Is one reason why it thrives today.

It has been used for gatherings of all sorts,
For Coronation teas and children’s sports.
In the old grandstand kids would hang around,
Until vandals burnt it to the ground.

Later generations, such as mine,
Would be ‘up the Rec’ come rain or shine.
Too young to know or even care
About how our ‘Rec’ came to be there.

Brian Smith

¹The little girl was nine-year-old Evelyn Barnard (later McKanan-Jones).