Wantage Recreation Ground celebrates its 100th anniversary this month (May 2020).
But one of the driving forces which brought about this important public space for the town was the Community of St Mary the Virgin.
According to local historian Trevor Hancock, writing in the Wantage Herald, it was in 1917 that the town’s Urban District Council received a letter from Sister Kathleen with a petition from 868 people, mainly boys and girls, asking for somewhere to play as an alternative to the streets.
In June 1919 a public meeting considered four options for a memorial in the town to those killed in the First World War: a new hospital, a recreation ground, premises for the Comrades of the Great War (predecessors of the Royal British Legion) and a public lavatory. The proposal for a Recreation Ground was approved and a committee was formed to take forward the idea.
Later that year, a leading local family offered a field in Newbury Street and fundraising got underway. A house-to-house collection raised £82 1s 9d, and a profit of £56 1s 11d from a sports day cleared the remaining debt.
On 13 May 1920 the new Recreation Ground was officially opened. Following speeches, a cricket match between King Alfred’s School and the Town was played, which the school won by just three runs.
Over the century generations have enjoyed the Rec, which continues to be popular today and all because of that petition presented by Sister Kathleen.
Photo: Wantage Herald/Hancock