This is a further extract from Mary Walden-Till’s presentation at the 3Rs Public meeting (Weds 23 Aug 2017):
“I don’t believe it is possible to understand the importance of The Ham unless you see it in historical context.
When you mention The Ham the response of most people is that it is the grassy bit by Alma Bridge, but that is only part of it. The Ham meadow, as conveyed to the town by John George Galloway Radford, stretches much further than the grass and children’s play area, as can be seen here. That itself is only a part of the area of the original Ham field.
At an earlier time The Ham went from the sea shore back almost to the ford. It was bounded on the east by the Sid, and on the west by Ham Lane. This was before the Gas Works was built on part of it. When Mr Dunning, the owner of the Gas Works, died the spare land was sold to Mr Colin Sleep, a glove manufacturer in Holmdale. He sold it on again in 1888, this time advertised as building plots. The land nearest the Sid was bought by a Sidmouth Solicitor, John George Galloway Radford.
I do not believe it was ever his intention to build on it. He was a member of the Council and had been for many years. He was a philanthropist, as most rich Victorians were encouraged to be, and he knew that the Council had discussed buying that land for a pleasure ground for many years; but had not had the money. It would seem likely that he always intended to give it to the town.
Whatever his motives it is a fact that in Jan 1895 it was reported in the newspapers that he was giving part of the Ham for a Drill Hall for the Volunteer Rifles and that the rest of it would be handed over to the town for a Pleasure Ground. The Drill Hall part of the gift moved on apace, the foundation stone was laid in March and the Hall opened on the 16th October.
The hand-over to the town did not go so smoothly. In fact it took until 6th March 1896 until the terms were finally agreed and the Conveyance signed. There must have been a lot of discussion of the terms. This Conveyance document was immediately lodged with the Charity Commissioners, the fore-runners of the Charity Commission.
Under the terms of the Conveyance the land was given to the inhabitants of and visitors to Sidmouth as a place of recreation ‘for ever’. Subject only to ‘reasonable restrictions and regulations in accordance with the law for the time being affecting the use of Public Parks and Pleasure Grounds’.”
For the actual wording of the conveyance, here’s a link to the Transcript of 1896 Radford conveyance
And for latest news concerning Port Royal regeneration, see our most recent posts, including this one earlier today: https://saveoursidmouth.com/2017/08/25/theyve-stolen-our-drill-hall-claim-makes-front-page-headline-in-todays-sidmouth-herald/