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The Ham, Sidmouth..a point of view, some history, and a conveyance

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:






Vigorous audience participation at last night’s ‘3Rs’ Public Meeting, for a Retain-Refurbish-Reuse alternative for Sidmouth’s Port Royal

The five perfectly-pitched short presentations at last night’s Public Meeting were each restricted by Chair, Di Fuller, to not much more than 5 minutes. This maximised the time for questions and comments from the audience packed into Sidmouth’s All Saints’ Church Hall, and ensured ample time for the questions to be answered. There was a clear strength of opinion in the room, that Port Royal regeneration should be carefully conceived as a suitable legacy for the town. Local knowledge from those attending, raised issues such as flood risk and contamination that could disadvantage residential development on this site. Potential loss of existing public parking behind the lifeboat station was also a concern.

Speakers were EDDC Councillors Marianne Rixson (Ward Member Sidmouth-Sidford), Cathy Gardner and Matt Booth (Ward members Sidmouth Town); and local residents Mary-Walden-Till and Jeremy Woodward.

Mary Walden-Till concentrated on The Ham conveyance land. She told the crowd,

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’.

It was a Trust for which Sidmouth Town Council is now the Trustee, with all the legal responsibilities that entails. Sidmouth Town Councillors act to manage that trust on behalf of the Council. It is a complex legal arrangement but it does not in any way affect the terms of the Conveyance which forms the Governing Document of the Charity.

It was therefore incorrect to allow part of The Ham to be included in the Local Plan area ED03 as being available for redevelopment. The toilet block stands on Ham land, and the Land Registry deed says it is covered by the terms of the Conveyance. I have asked EDDC Councillors to correct the boundary of ED03 but they never even bothered to acknowledge my email.

None of The Ham land is available to be built on or to be used in any way other than for free recreation for all. It can not be used as parking for cars or boats, as that is restricting its use. Using it as car parking was suggested, and thrown out, in the early part of the 20th C. Nothing has changed since then as far as the Conveyance is concerned. And nothing can change with the Conveyance except through our connivance or apathy.

It is in breach of charity law to do anything which adversely affects the rights of a charity’s beneficiaries, and any of those beneficiaries has the right to complain to the Charity Commission. Anyone who has ever been to Sidmouth is covered by the terms of the Conveyance, so there are a large number of people who can demand that the terms are kept.”

All the presentations, and programme for the meeting, are detailed here:

23 aug 3Rs final slides

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Grand Picnic on the Ham, this Sunday 27th August. Organised by supporters of 3Rs campaign

For those who missed last night’s Public Meeting (report to follow), the 3Rs campaign follow-up event is on Sunday. Poster below kindly provided by the organisers:


Are you concerned about the “consultation” and ultimate future for Port Royal and Eastern Town?
The Ham was bequeathed to the people of Sidmouth to enjoy “for ever”, so why not demonstrate what this area means to you?

Join us for a Grand Picnic on The Ham
Sunday 27th August 2017
Between 1 & 4pm*

Let’s get together and share our thoughts.
Bring your own food, drink and seating.
*Weather permitting!