1. THE WOODLANDS PLAYING FIELD
A map of Winthorpe dated 1775 shows a field called Town End Close. The boundaries of this field correspond with those of the present Woodlands Playing Field site except for the space taken up by the houses along Gainsborough Road and the bungalows added to the end of Woodlands after the original development.
The first recorded reference to the need for a playing field in the village appears in the minutes of a Parish Council meeting in 1964. The idea was raised again at subsequent Annual Parish Meetings, particularly by Fred Gilbert who ran the youth football team. At the time football was played on the Park (between the Lord Nelson public house and the A46) but this site became unavailable in 1971.
Possible locations for a football pitch were considered and attempts were made to use part of the Village Field (now known as the Cricket Field) or to purchase land nearby. By 1974 all such plans had been abandoned because of the lack of co-operation of the various parties involved.
An idea, first mooted in 1971, was resurrected. That was for the Parish Council to lease the field behind the houses on Gainsborough Road from the District Council to provide an amenity area for the village that would include a football pitch. The District Council was co-operative and a lease agreement for seven years was reached in 1976.
With the help of funding from both the District and County Councils the field was levelled and seeded with grass. Because of the severe slope a massive amount of earth moving was involved to achieve a level field. The equipment used could have created a motorway (incidentally, there was once a plan to extend Woodlands through the field to allow more space for house building). Probably because of over-compaction of the soil the grass did not grow properly and the field puddled badly. Never-the-less football began and Fred Gilbert continued to manage the village team using the new facilities. In more recent times the grass quality has improved enormously due to the efforts of the Winthorpe & Coddington Tigers management team.
In 1983, by which time Maurice Harvey had become Chairman of the Parish Council, agreement was reached to purchase the playing field from the District Council. The District Council gave a grant of £3,780 towards the cost of £6,000. They also gave a loan of £2,200 to be repaid over seven years. Sadly, the following year Ken Bark died. As Clerk to the Parish Council and later as Treasurer of the Youth Club Committee he had done a tremendous amount to help bring about the creation of the Playing Field and its subsequent use as the site for the Youth Centre.
2. THE YOUTH CENTRE 1977 - 1999
Prior to 1974 there had been an informal youth club in the village, latterly run by Fred Gilbert in connection with the football team. In 1974, following a public meeting called by Hector Young, Parish Councillor and later Chairman of the Council; a Youth Club Management Committee was formed. Fred continued as leader, Peter Foden became Chairman and Ken Bark became Treasurer.
The re-formed club met in the Village Hall but the space was so small that putting up a table tennis table prevented any other activity. The temporary solution was to have two groups, each taking turns to have the bat at each end of the table!
It was obvious that larger facilities were needed and the Youth Club Committee decided to try to build a "Youth Centre." At the time Cottam Power Station had just been completed and the site construction huts were being cleared. One that had previously been used at a Welsh power station site was being demolished as unfit for further use. It was recognised that with repairs and additions it could be what was needed. It was purchased for the sum of £10! (Apparently there had been an idea in 1962 to purchase a second hand building from High Marnham Power Station to become a new Village Hall for Winthorpe.)
A gang of volunteers went to Cottam, dismantled the hut and loaded it onto a low loader kindly provided by Theo. Godfrey. Included in the heavy gang were Mike Casterton, Bob McClymont and Brian Cheetham.
At the time there was no available site for the building or money to cover the construction work. The Stewart family agreed to the building sections being temporarily stored in a building adjacent to the, then, barn in Hargon Lane. There they stayed until the Parish Council had created the Woodlands Playing Field and agreed that the Youth Centre could be erected on it.
The Youth Club raised £1,000 for the project. The County Council gave a grant of £3,000 towards materials and equipment. The Manpower Services Commission agreed to provide labour through the Job Creation Programme to erect the shell of the building. A leader and six youths were recruited by the Youth Club Committee. Their wages were paid from funds provided by the Manpower Services Commission. Jean Foden, by then Secretary of the Committee, had the job of calculating the wages and paying the workers who lined up in her kitchen every week. The total cost of the labour was £9,000.
Work on the site began in June 1977 and the shell was completed by October. The fitting out of the building and its decoration was done by the Youth Club members and the Committee. Many people in the village helped with the provision of materials and in other ways. It was completed by the end of the year and the official opening was performed by Councillor Anne Yates on December 17th 1977.
In addition to the existing Senior Youth Club a Junior Youth Club started up under the leadership of Peter Milroy and Joan Casterton. Several new village organisations were formed and it soon became obvious that the building was not big enough. In 1982 it was extended by over 50% at a cost of £4,500. The County Council gave a grant of £3,300 towards the cost, the remainder being financed by the Youth Club.
The Youth Centre became the location for many social and other activities. Slightly older residents will remember (or wish to forget?) the 50/50 and Fancy Dress Dances that took place several times a year.
The Committee hoped the building would last 10 to 15 years by which time something more permanent might be built. In the event it lasted 22 years but by then it was no longer watertight and car body filler was not sufficient to hold it together. A replacement was needed.
3. THE COMMUNITY CENTRE
In 1996, Hector Young recruited a small group to plan a project for Winthorpe to celebrate the New Millennium. The group established the concept of a Community Centre to augment the Village Hall and to replace the Youth Centre.
In late 1996 a larger Project Committee was established to progress the project. Peter Thornhill agreed to become President of the Committee.
In May 1997 the Winthorpe Community Centre Charity was established. The remit was to create and administer a Community Centre for the benefit of the residents of Winthorpe, Langford and Holme but open to all.
The Project Committee, now responsible to the Trustees of the Charity, continued to develop the proposals for the Centre under the Chairmanship of Hector Young, with Frances Kelly as Vice-Chairman, Mike Lawrence as Treasurer and Peter Foden as Secretary.
Sub-committees were set up to deal with building matters, fund raising and other aspects of the project. In total, over thirty people were involved, each bringing his or her brand of expertise, experience and enthusiasm to the project. Amongst those most involved were Brian Wareing, Mark Kneen, Malcolm Shelmerdine, David Jackson, Colin and Maureen Smith, Chris Perkins, Keith Lloyd and Brian Cheetham. The W.I. provided practical help, as did many others.
After consideration of other potential locations the Playing Field was selected as the best site for the project. A design brief was prepared and issued to local architects and quantity surveyors. The brief covered a multi-purpose building, two tennis courts, a children's play area and associated facilities. The design submitted by David Morris of Smith-Woolley was selected.
The project was officially launched by Peter Thornhill in the Youth Centre on June 21st 1997.
The National Lottery Charities Board were approached for Lottery funding. They could not fund the sporting element, i.e. the tennis courts, but the remainder of the project was a legitimate subject for an application for funds.
Although 100% funding was possible, the application for £234,000, submitted in September 1998, assumed that a further £20,000 would be raised from other sources. By the time of the application that amount had been obtained from Grant Giving Trusts, local businesses, individual donations and from fund raising events in the village. The funding for the tennis courts remained to be raised.
The successful outcome of the Lottery application was announced in January 1999.
The detailed specification for the building was prepared by Smith-Woolley and issued for enquiry to local building contractors. The tender from Hart Properties of Welbourne was accepted.
The challenge had always been to have the new building finished in time to be the venue for the New Millennium Party. In spite of the problems associated with any building work this was achieved. The highly successful party will long be remembered by all who attended, particularly those who had been involved in the project. One of the Millennium Beacons offered by British Gas had been applied for. At first the application was unsuccessful but the beacon earmarked for Lincoln Castle could not be installed on the parapets as intended. So it ended up on the Playing Field and was lit as part of the national chain to celebrate the arrival of the 21st Century.
Meanwhile, throughout 1999 and early 2000, fund raising continued to reach the target of £280,000, the total cost of the project including the external facilities. The contract for the tennis courts and children's play equipment was awarded to Charles Lawrence. Work commenced in March 2000.
The finishing touches to the site were completed in time for the Official Opening on May 20th 2000 by Lady Buchanan, Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Nottinghamshire and a member of the Awards Committee for the East Midlands Region of the National Lottery Charities Board. This was one of the last functions attended by Peter Thornhill before his untimely death some months later. As President of the Community Centre Charity he had kick started the project with a very generous personal donation and had worked hard behind the scenes to help bring the project to fruition. He is commemorated by the Thornhill Room in the Centre. Margaret Thornhill kindly agreed to take over the role of President.
In 2001 the Jubilee Walk was created, although it was not called that until a year later when carved stone plaques were installed at each end. The Community Centre Charity funded the path to the stream and the Parish Council provided the bridge and the path to Holme Lane. Records show that the idea of a path from Woodlands to the Cricket Field was first suggested by Bob Burns in 1973. By 2001 Maurice Harvey had become Clerk to the Parish Council and he championed the provision of the bridge that made the Walk possible. Old maps show the dotted line of a path from the Fosse Way side of Winthorpe to Holme Lane. Some sort of stream crossing must have existed then. Now the old path has been re-created although little, if any, exactly follows the original route.
From its opening the Centre became the location for many old and new activities in the village. New organisations formed to use the facilities including a Mother & Toddler Group, Line Dancing and Table Tennis. The Garden Club transferred from the Village Hall as its membership grew. The Youth Club made the transition from being owners of their own building to hirers of the new one. The Brownies continued but closed after a few years because of lack of numbers. The WI and the newly formed Village Choir use the Centre for larger meetings and concerts respectively. Classes in various subjects have been arranged. One of the main uses of the Centre has been for parties and celebrations for all ages. The monthly Lunch Club has become a regular social occasion mainly for the older residents.
The junior football pitch is the home ground of the Winthorpe and Coddington Tigers who benefit from the new changing rooms in the Centre. The Tennis Club has two courts as well as the changing rooms when required. The children's play equipment is constantly in use and the benches donated by residents provide comfortable seating for parents and others.
During the planning of the project the name "Community Centre" evolved. Later some thought was given to a new name but by then that is what everyone was calling it and it stayed. It seems appropriate for what it is now one of the main centres of community activity for Winthorpe and the surrounding area.
Mr. Peter Foden. February 2005.