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Frognal Lane Playing Field

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Few people in Teynham will recall what the village was like before the playing field existed just off Frognal Lane. It’s been there as long as nearly everyone can remember and played a prominent part in many lives. Its days may well be numbered now on the current site, with plans for a housing and industrial development on the playing field, and the adjoining farmland. So what’s the history of this much-loved plot of land?

The good people of Teynham and Lynsted joined together during and after the Second World War to raise money, via a Welcome Home Fund with the exalted title of ‘Teynham and Lynsted Welcome Home Sports and Social Committee’, to provide a playing field for both communities. A difficulty soon arose, though, as the Welcome Home Committee couldn’t find a suitable site. Occasionally letters appeared in local newspapers demanding to know what had happened to the money that had been collected.

Towards the end of the 1950s, the land alongside Frognal Lane - originally a site where brick earth was excavated – was secured for a peppercorn rent. The Welcome Home Fund was spent on fencing and levelling the site and what was to become the playing field was handed over to the Parish Councils of Teynham and Lynsted for them to jointly run it.

Associated Portland Cement (later taken over by Blue Circle) entered into a 29-year lease on the land on April 1st 1960. Subsequently Blue Circle would not agree to renew the lease but allowed the field to be retained by the parish councils on a rolling one year lease. The parish councils tried to get Swale Borough Council to place a Compulsory Purchase Order on the field and include it in its Local Plan to protect it but to no avail. The rolling one-year lease arrangement continued when the land was eventually sold to Trenport Investments.

Meanwhile, back in the 1960s, the Chairman of Teynham PC, Lou Nethercoat, and the Clerk of Lynsted PC, David Bage, met regularly at Lou’s house to sort out all the details of running the field. It was decided three members of each Parish Council, along with three nominees from the old Welcome Home Committee, would form a Playing Field Management Committee. Mr Bage became its Honorary Secretary and Ronald Dixon, the Treasurer of the Welcome Home Committee, the Honorary Treasurer.

At the same time Teynham and Lynsted Football Club and Teynham and Lynsted Cricket Club were set up. Both soon had committees up and running with the first task to sort out what exactly was going to happen with the site and how to get hold of a pavilion.

David Bage, who was secretary of the Management Committee, wrote extensive memoirs of his many years of service to the community. He remembered: “We got news that Manston Aerodrome were flogging off a number of huts or sheds and a few of us from the committee drove out there one Saturday afternoon. We picked one of a suitable shape and size and within a week it was dismantled and delivered to the playing field. We organised a working party from the football and cricket clubs and re-erected it one afternoon. It was put on brick piers and was all very primitive to start with but gradually facilities became more sophisticated.”

Mr Bage remembers how the cricket club got a drinks licence and organised its own bar. The players liked to socialise after a game with their fellow cricketers, friend and foe alike, whereas the footballers just wanted to go straight home after the match. A tennis club was also formed but only lasted a few years as the prime movers seemed to lose interest and the court they’d established fell into disuse.

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The football club began by competing in local leagues and then joined the Kent County League and were founder members of that league’s Premier Division. In 1998 Teynham & Lynsted amalgamated with local rivals Norton Sports, and later changed their name to Woodstock Sports, playing in the Kent League until disbanding in 2015. The cricket club moved on after a while to play at Norton.

A Children’s Committee was formed as a result of pressure from the community to make the playing field accessible for youngsters and not just for the enjoyment of grown-ups playing games. Money was provided for children's equipment – slides, swings etc – but they were often vandalised and eventually had to be abandoned.

The field at one time had two slides (one large, one small), a roundabout and a small climbing frame. Mr Ernie Furminger was the caretaker of the field, responsible for opening and locking the main gates every day and keeping the field tidy. He was also the cricket club representative on the Management Committee and ensured the cricket square was protected most diligently. Woe betide any event or person impinging on the ‘hallowed square.’

The cost of running the field proved too much for the two parish councils at the time so a public meeting was held and it was decided to run an annual fete to raise additional funds. A Fete Committee was formed, and its chairman was Frank Cork, a police sergeant who lived in a police house in Cherry Gardens, Teynham, and was an active member of the community. As a result, successful and ambitious fetes – still remembered fondly by many people - were held on the field into the 1970s. Highlights of those fetes include daredevil motor-cyclists, exemption dog shows, tug-of-wars between pub teams, and best baby competitions.

In addition to the fetes, there were firework displays, five-a-side football tournaments, boot fairs, the circus and carnivals. The pavilion was used for providing teas and coffees for fetes and the many other events that took place though it also suffered an arson attack on one occasion.

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Replacement changing rooms were provided on the field when Graham Winzar, who was Teynham Parish Council Chairman as well as Chairman of the Management Committee, organised for a redundant portacabin from the building of the Channel Tunnel to be transported to the field. Volunteers from the football clubs under the guidance of Teynham Wanderers FC founder Frank Champion worked on the portacabin to make it fit for purpose.

Mrs Chris McIlroy, a leading figure in the history of the playing fields, became Secretary of the Teynham and Lynsted Playing Field Management Committee in the 1970s and in 1977 took over as Clerk to Teynham Parish Council. She gave up the Management Committee role when she ended up writing letters to herself in her dual role but remembers: “The Chairman in charge of the Management Committee at the time was Bert Goldberg and he would broke no interference from either of the Parish Councils into the work of the Committee which sometimes resulted in heated letters being exchanged! This was when I decided it was time to go.”

Moving on to more recent times, the Teynham and Lynsted Playing Field Management Committee disbanded on May 15th 2012 because Lynsted with Kingsdown Parish Council, which contributed one-third towards the running costs of the field, withdrew its support. The minutes show this was the final meeting after a period of 52 years.

By the time the new Sports Association took over in 2012 the football teams then using the field were Beechwood 1976, Teynham Wanderers, Lynten Athletic and Teynham Gunners ladies team.

Teynham Sports Association replaced the management committee, with the following officers: Chairman - John Lawrence; Vice-Chairman - John Kemp; Treasurer - John Cunningham; Secretary - Tina Welsted. In 2012 the Association signed a formal agreement with Teynham Parish Council, who had since negotiated a five-year lease with Trenport Investments, the field owners, at a commercial rental of £1,400 a year, to undertake the operation and management of the playing field. In October 2016 Trenport granted the Council a further two year lease for an annual rent of £1,550 per annum.

⦁ With thanks to Mrs Chris McIlroy for her extensive contribution to this article.

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Here’s some memories contributed by Teynham residents of the Frognal Lane playing fields:

Sue East: ‘My grandfather Reub Mills, who lived in Frognal Lane from the 1930s until moving to the new OAP bungalows in Donald Moor Avenue around 1970, was the playing fields gate keeper in the 1960s. It was his job to lock and unlock the gates each day, and also keep the pavilion tidy. I remember he was issued with an official park-keeper’s hat, but don’t recall him ever wearing it! A wooden park bench was bought with the proceeds of the 1964 fete, and at one time a plaque was attached to it but sadly the bench was vandalised. But grandad kept the plaque, which is still in my dad’s shed. To be honest, it’s not that exciting, just a smallish metal plate engraved with the words: “Purchased with the proceeds of the 1964 Fete”.’

Alan Ivory: ‘I remember going there with my class and Mr Pollard from Teynham School in 1975, after we moved to the new school in Station Road. We weren’t allowed to go on the freshly sown grass at the school, so had our PE lesson at the playing field on one the football pitches.’

Liz Fleming: ‘There used to be a funfair there when I was young, I don’t know if anyone else remembers it. I won my mum an ornament on one of the stalls and I still have it now.’

Amanda Seymour: ‘1st Teynham Scouts used to hold a football tournament attended by many scout groups in the area. Personally I remember the big slide the most!’

Emma Marie: ‘I remember gathering there as a Brownie preparing for the carnival with all the other participants. One year that stands out to me was when the Brownies dressed up as Pokemon characters.’