Coronation Playing Field and Hoole Allotments
Hoole Urban District Council
The Minute Books of Hoole Urban District Council (UDC) contain the official record of its work.
As the country returned to peace-time conditions after the First World War, the Elms, on Hoole Road, became the Council’s second Town Hall.
The Council’s planning powers and its responsibilities for improving the environment, health and way of life of the people of the District were extended.
It introduced the District Library, and free dental checks and treatments were introduced in the local Primary Schools. ‘Caution’ signs were erected close to the schools, bus services were licensed, and white lines were painted down the middle of certain roads, where it was ‘deemed necessary’, as the Council worked more closely with Cheshire County Council.
The national government set up a Housing Commission to assist Councils in financing the purchase of land and the building of ‘Houses for the Working Classes’, and the Hoole Town Planning and Housing Committee, created in 1919, became responsible for housing.
The Committee was in charge of the acquisition and the use of local land. Smallholdings and allotments, greatly extended during the First World War, were also part of its responsibility. The District required land to be made available, in order to improve provision for the leisure and recreation of the people.
This very important committee included all councillors and became a meeting of the whole council.
The Hoole Allotment Colony
The Section of the Street Plan from Hoole Urban District Council’s Official Handbook, 1947, shows the land already used for the Allotments, which was compulsorily purchased by the Council in July 1926. There is an access road from Hoole Lane and access from the junction of Panton Road and Canadian Avenue.
The Ministry of Health approved a mortgage of £3,100. The land cost £250 per acre. Walker, Smith and Way acted for the Council. Their accounts show the annual payments made by the Council since taking control of the land during 1917.
The first ‘four acres plus two roods or thereabouts’ of this land, called Allotments No.1, was leased by the Council from Mr. S. Smith in February 1906. Plot rents were 17 shillings per year, which is about £90 at today’s values.
In the Council, waiting lists, tenancy agreements, rent arrears, weed control, notices to quit, and compensation became part of the business of meetings. By 1909, the Surveyor was responsible for allotments, and managing waiting and lettings lists.
Hoole Council had an interest in the land, which had been part of Hoole House Estate, and which had been used for the Royal Agricultural Show in 1893. To achieve its plans, the Council negotiated directly with the owners and leaseholders of the land which is now Hoole Allotments. Canadian Avenue was completed from Hoole Lane to Hoole Road. Hoole Public Park was extended, renamed Alexandra Park, and completed in 1913. The agent for land which remained in the Vivian Estate held twenty and a half acres, off Hoole Lane, which he would not break up into smaller parcels. Mrs. Kennedy owned the land bordering Hoole Lane, to its south, which she would not lease or sell.
Four additional acres of land were leased from C.P. Smith, heir to S. Smith on the same terms as the land for No.1 Allotment and were called No.2 Allotment.
In January 1913, an approach road, four feet wide was laid from the junction at ‘the top of Bater Avenue’ with Canadian Avenue to give access for the users of the land: cricketers, tennis players, smallholders, and allotment holders. There was disappointment all round because the entrance was supposed to be 10 feet wide. Seasonal arable farming and grazing continued on the land around.
Then, on the eve of the First World War, William Williams, builder, agreed to grant a lease on three more acres of land adjoining that of C. P. Smith, for the same rate, to be ‘pegged out’ as No.3 Allotment.
After the completion of Alexandra Park, Hoole’s Annual Horticultural Show was held there, organised by the Parks and Allotments Committee of the Council.
However, in 1916, Lloyd George was swept to power as head of a coalition government. The country was in the midst of an emerging food crisis, caused by the impact of the German blockades on supplies. Emergency measures had to be introduced to combat severe food shortages and price rises.
In 1916 a Cultivation of Lands Act was passed, so, from January 1917, Hoole Council was preparing to acquire more land for the cultivation of food and use as allotments.
Conscription had been introduced in 1916. The smooth running of local government was affected by the absence of the enlisted men, and the extra demands of the war effort and food crisis. Hoole Council was permitted to raise the salaries and pay of its workforce.
The situation in Hoole in 1917 was exacerbated by the fact that the allotment land already being used to grow potatoes was withdrawn from use in November by an inspector from the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, due to infection by Potato Wart Disease.
Local Authorities became responsible for implementing Food Control Orders. Employees undertook additional duties to help the local population provide and grow their own food, to control rations, and create emergency stocks of essential supplies, like coal. Sugar distribution and waste paper collection fell to Hoole Council.
In March 1917, the ban on Sunday working on land and allotments under Clause 9 of Allotment Tenancy Agreements had been lifted. A Sub-Committee of five members of the Council, in addition to the Parks and Allotments Committee, was appointed to manage the additional work resulting from Food Control Orders.
In September 1917, soft fruit growers were asked to apply for surplus sugar for making jams and preserves held at the Beehive Hotel. The Council closely monitored each application for bogus requests and ordered the return of any unused sugar: one ‘grower’ was reported to the Council because he did not have any fruit bushes.
From 1917, Alexandra Park and its Park Keeper (using its greenhouse) distributed the plants, prepared for growing on, to local residents. Cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts were made available at 100 plants per shilling (1s).
When two girls were caught picking flowers from the beds in the Park and some boys were caught using bad language and breaking a pane of glass in the greenhouse by throwing stones, their parents were summoned to appear before the Council. Local head teachers were issued with copies of the Council by-laws and were ordered to hold assemblies on the subject in the schools in Hoole District. Any damage was to be paid for by parents.
During the crisis of 1917, the Council gained greater powers to acquire more land, in the same area as existing allotments, under the Cultivation of Lands Order. It compiled a list of those requiring allotments, then the Smallholders’ Society was asked to release all available and suitable land to the Council for use as allotments. The Cheshire Smallholders’ Society Ltd. was operating on the land owned by Mrs. Kennedy, and some of the land owned by C.P. Smith.
From 1917, due to the urgent need to respond to the food crisis and war conditions, the amount of land used as allotments expanded. The land acquired to form Hoole Allotments as we know it today was retained for allotments and compulsorily purchased from the landowners after the war.
At the end of the war, in 1919, the Land Settlement Facilities Act was passed. The renting of allotments was to be open to all, without the requirement for training, and returning service men joined the existing waiting lists for allotments. In Hoole there was also a reawakening of interest in living standards and providing homes for the returning service men and their families.On 16th July 2017, on its Open Day, Hoole Allotments & Gardeners Association (HAGA) celebrated the centenary of the allotment colony.
Improving Recreation in the District
The Minute Books record that the Town Planning and Housing Committee discussed “the urgent need for a playing field for the youth of the District” in late 1919. Priority was given at this time to purchasing land to erect 60 houses.
The Council experienced growing pressure to make changes to Alexandra Park to accommodate football.
In September 1925, a proposal was put to the Parks and Allotments Sub-Committee of the Council to put in two football pitches near the playing area. The proposal was rejected on the grounds that football required a playing field and was not suitable for Alexandra Park. The Sub-Committee proposed the installation of two seats for the children to use on the south side of the play area.
Hoole Recreation Ground
The 1947 Hoole Urban District Council Street Plan calls the land the ‘Recreation Ground’, the majority of it, like the Allotments, having belonged to the estate of Hoole House. The plan shows the extended Panton Road.
Careful reading of the Title to the land contained in it, which became Coronation Playing Field in 1953, shows that Parcel 1, a narrow strip, was purchased by the Council in 1926, at the same time as the allotments. Today it is part of the access road to Hoole Allotments. As importantly, it is also the footpath from Panton Road to Park Drive South, which skirts Number 3 Bowling Green.
There are currently initial plans to make this footpath safer, by separating vehicles and pedestrians with a footpath through Coronation Playing Field, skirting the other sides of the Bowling Green within the playing field.
The land for the bowling green, on the South side of Panton Road extension, which is 0.429 of an acre, was purchased under the Physical Education and Training Act 1937.
Parcel 2. When Hoole UDC ended in 1954, this parcel of land was called ‘The Hockey Field, now part of Coronation Playing Field’ in the transfer of land assets. It measures 1.46 acres and was acquired under the Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937.
The Cricket Club is clearly marked. Hoole Cricket Club's pitch was here with its own pavilion, which was to become the headquarters of Hoole British Legion. There were also tennis courts by Park Drive South, and in the 1950s a hut for Hoole's Army Cadet Force was built in the same area.
There used to be a path through to the ‘Cricket Field’ from Canadian Avenue which was replaced for access by the extension to Panton Road.
It is shown in the photograph of the house opposite the corner of Panton Road and Canadian Avenue. The old path was the route to the first set of allotments, introduced under the 1908 Allotments’ Act.
Parcel 3. In February 1930 Hoole UDC went on to apply for permission to purchase ‘land for playing fields.’
The sum requested was £3,216 to purchase the additional land and 9.742 acres were to be purchased on the South side of, and fronting Hoole Road. A further £384 was to be found for ‘draining and fencing’.
The Minute Book for 1930 also records the Council deciding to approach the Playing Fields Association for a grant. It was to be twenty-three more years before the Recreation Ground became Coronation Playing Field.
29 April 1953: His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh opened Coronation Playing Field
History of the Playing Field
The land occupied by the Playing Field was originally a part of the Hoole House Estate and after sections of the Royal Agricultural Show were held on it in 1893, it was used for sporting activities. The Hon. Claude Hamilton Vivian who had inherited the Hamilton family estates, played for Hoole Cricket Club and in addition to providing the pitch on his land, also built a cricket pavilion complete with flagpole at the southern end of the field. We know that the flag was flown at half-mast following the death of Charles Brown (of Browns of Chester) in 1900. Interestingly when the Hoole House Estate was advertised for sale in 1896 it was suggested "being a mile in length a portion of it was admirably and peculiarly adapted and situated for a RECREATION GROUND or SPORTS CLUB in connection with which the House would make an excellent CLUBHOUSE".
Hoole Urban District Council eventually acquired the field and plans approved in 1930 included three football grounds, three tennis courts, three cricket pitches and a green for clock-golf, the tender of Messrs. E. Brassey & Sons for laying out the land being accepted. In 1931 the Council agreed that Hoole & Newton Football Club could play their home matches there. The tennis courts were built adjacent to Park Drive South and the other sports were fitted in according to season. The Chester Ladies Hockey Club Field which had been purchased by J.E.Varley in 1926 so that the Club could continue to play there was purchased by the U.D.C in 1939.
Over the years carnivals and festivals had been held on the playing field and the three schools in Hoole used it for sports activities. The first carnival appears to have been in 1924 when the Boys Brigade organised a fancy-dress parade, one third of the funds raised going to the Hoole & Newton Nursing Association. Carnivals often included horticultural shows, and parades were headed by a Carnival Queen, with her retinue on decorated floats. V.E. Day celebrations saw a large bonfire lit, and funds raised by events at that time went to the Hoole ‘Welcome Home’ Fund. Hoole's Festival of Britain Week in 1951 was based there. Motorcycle meetings were held in the late 1940s and 1950 and 1951, which probably contributed to the deterioration of the grounds.
By the 1950s the field was becoming in need of refurbishment, the tennis courts were closed, and a new changing pavilion was erected, named after William Brown who at the age of 91 had been a Councillor for 30 years and also three times Chairman of the Council – the grand old man of Hoole. The improved playing field was opened during Festival of Britain Week but the opportunity of a royal visit in 1953 could not be ignored for a much grander official opening ceremony, and the name 'Coronation Playing Field'.
The Duke's Visit
The following extracts are taken from the Cheshire Observer 2nd May 1953:
“Three minutes before the Duke was scheduled to arrive at Hoole Playing Field a roar of applause went up from the crowds along the streets, but it was only for the fire engine which had been called out to Canadian Avenue on a false alarm.”
“The next roar of applause though was the real thing, and flags waved, and voices shouted as His Royal Highness walked up the road to the new gates of the playing field. The civic party included the Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff of Cheshire, the Chairmen of Hoole Urban District Council and of Cheshire County Council, local dignitaries and the Chairman and Secretary of the National Playing Field Association.”
“The Duke was presented with a silver-plated key on a red and gold cushion with which to open the gates. The presentation was made by Miss K. Edmundson, the only woman member of Hoole Urban District Council. The Duke, smiling broadly, unlocked the gates and walked up the path to the pavilion.”
“God Save the Queen" was played by the Band of the Hoole Army Cadet Force and lining the route was a guard of honour from the Hoole & Newton British Legion and detachments from many organisations including the Red Cross and the Boys Brigade.”
“From the platform of the pavilion which contained nearly one hundred invited guests, Mr. T.L. Trelfa, Chairman of the U.D.C. extended to the Duke a most loyal and warm-hearted expression of welcome. "Today" he said "is unique in the history of our District in that we are for the first time receiving a visit from a member of our well-beloved royal family. It is proper in this Coronation year that we have been able to make some finishing touches to the playing field, for the Duke of Edinburgh is so deeply interested in the activities of the National Playing Fields Association.”The Duke's Speech
“The Duke replied that he was delighted to take this opportunity to open yet another field and that they had chosen the name of Hoole Coronation Playing Field. These outdoor facilities are not just important. They are essential especially for children who have not got gardens, and also for people nowadays who spend such a lot of time in offices and factories. It is immaterial whether as a result of these fields the standard of games went up or not. If it did, so much the better but if didn’t, it didn’t make any difference. This particular field has taken a certain amount of time to achieve this state, but it is the result of the combined efforts of a great many people.”
“The Council had originally bought the field and there had been grants from the Ministry of Education, the National Playing Fields Association, the Don Bradman Fund and the Taverners’ Association and they had all helped to create this field. At this point the Duke’s speech was interrupted by two dogs tearing around and around chasing each other in front of him. The Duke stopped his speech, laughed and said “Anyway they have got the right idea”.The Duke walks through the crowds
He then moved off to declare the ‘Bituturf’ cricket pitch open, cutting the tape across it and then walked to the other end with Mr. Trelfa. As he was leaving the cricket pitch His Royal Highness paused several times and spoke informally to several people in the crowd. He called to 14 years old Anthony Readdy of 6 Park Drive “Have you ever played on here?”. The reply was in the affirmative. To James Bull of 7 Park Drive south he said “Do they come up and bump you?”. This time the response was in the negative.
A little further on the Duke asked Mr. T.H. Thomas of Flat 10 Hoole House, acting captain of the All Saints Church Boys Brigade, if any of his boys were going to the big Boys Brigade meeting to be held in London at which the Duke would be guest of honour. Mr. Thomas said not this year but last year 30 of his boys had gone to a similar event. “God Bless the Duke” called a voice in the crowd and he walked across to have a word with Mrs. Catherine Smith, shaking by the hand and congratulating her on reaching a fine old age.
Hundreds of boys and girls, ignoring formality, surged around the Duke who appeared to enjoy the experience. It was with the utmost difficulty that he made his way through the cheering crowd. As he was leaving the Duke spoke to the Drum Major of the Army Cadet Force Band, Ralph Earlam, and spotted that the insignia on his sash had been changed from GviR to EiiR and asked “Have you been cheating” “Yes Sir” came the hesitant reply.
This photograph shows the current Chairman of Hoole History and Heritage Society, Ralph Earlam (then the drum major of Hoole Army Cadet Force Band), being quizzed by Prince Philip when he opened Hoole Coronation Playing Field on 29th April 1953. Ralph led the Pipe and Drum Band which played the National Anthem.
The pavilion in the background (demolished in 2021) was the William Brown Pavilion, named after a long serving councillor with Hoole UDC.
Standing smartly to attention is Major Harry Pleavin, commandant of Hoole Army Cadet Force and a Hoole Urban District Councillor. Ralph recalls that Harry Pleavin personally adapted his sash to carry E.R. in place of G.R. The Queen had now succeeded her father, George VI, but her Coronation at Westminster Abbey took place on 2nd June 1953, a little over a month later.
The gentleman in the dark suit was Viscount Leverhulme, Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire.
The Duke's Itinerary
The opening of the playing field was part of a six-hour tour, the Duke arriving at Hawarden RAF Airport, visiting John Summers Hawarden Bridge Steelworks, and then naming Chester Sea Cadets new training ship “DEVA”.
The Nation's loss
From these original reports it is clear that the Duke’s ability to be interested in people and to make appropriate comments and astute remarks which have been widely reported during tributes to him, and which have brought about the Nation's highest regard, were evident in Hoole on that day, 68 years ago.
Chester City Council registered the Title Plan to the land at the Land Registry in 1999. It shows the Pavilion and the original footpaths of Coronation Playing Field.
The gateposts to the playing field still carry commemorative plaques.
- Article researched and written by Linda Webb, March 2020, Hoole History & Heritage Society