Disclaimer: No official history of the field exists to reference. So the following history has been compiled using Trust documentation, recollections and reminisces and Parish Council documentation, and Mortimer History groups publications.
The Alfred Palmer Memorial Trust operated almost invisibly from 1939 until 2012, with very few of the Beneficiaries aware of the Trust and Trustee’s existence. In 1993 the Trust granted Mortimer Football Club (MFC) a 25 year lease for a small amount of the field for their club house. As MFC grew the APMF became known more as a football field than as a general recreation field. Indeed, other uses of the field, that longer term residents will remember, gradually declined. The Trustees supported this as MFC developed into the successful club they are today.
Since 2012 the Trust has been far more visible to the beneficiaries. This page will help explain briefly why.
- In 2012 the three Trustees were Mr. D. Gardiner, Mr. G. Puddephat and Mr. M. Evans.
- In 2012, following a dispute between neighbours and MFC about newly installed floodlighting, the role of the Trust was put under public scrutiny. Complaints were made and MFC had to retrospectively ask for the permission of the Trustees and for planning permission from West Berkshire to have the floodlighting. This was granted with a number of restrictions.
- In 2013, to support their expansion plans, MFC proposed a new 25 year lease for exclusive use of the entire field. The original Covenant document does not allow the Trustees to grant such a lease, but Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Evans did sign it. Mr. Puddephat (in this case appointed by the Parish Council chairperson) had resigned and , therefore, did not sign. A new Trustee was appointed (Mrs. Barker) and, highlighted that the Trust could not grant any user exclusive use of the field, and the proposed lease was not executed.
- In 2014, Mr. Evans resigned as a Trustee and Mrs. Smith was elected at a public meeting of the Beneficiaries. The complaints from Beneficiaries and the aborted lease focussed the Trustees on improving the governance of the Trust and the Charities Commission was asked for assistance. They agreed with the need to improve governance procedures and appointed an adviser to the Trust.
- In 2014 a meeting was organised for the Beneficiaries to provide input into the planning of the future of the field and promote wider use of it, once again, by the Beneficiaries. This was used to create the first draft of a development plan for the APMF.
- In early 2015, following consultation with the Charities Commission, the Trustees clarified and amended the Governing Documents of the Trust and lodged these with the Charities Commission. In particular this amendment addressed and formalised the process of appointing Trustees. It also removed the ability for Trustees to dispose of any part of the estate by way of a lease. All use of the field is now, therefore, controlled via hire agreements.
- Later in 2015, Mr. Gardiner, after many years of service, resigned as a Trustee severing the final link between the Palmer Family and the Trust. After speaking with Mr. Gardiner and researching all options for maintaining the family link, Mr. Hannawin was appointed as a Trustee in accordance with the earlier amendment.
- The development plan was completed and presented at an open meeting to the Beneficiaries. The largest part of the development plan is to establish more permanent changing and other facilities for users of the field.
- In mid 2015, this website was launched to make the Trust’s work more transparent and accessible to the Beneficiaries.
- In 2015, hire agreements were created and put in place with nearly all field users. All existing user groups had hire agreements tailored to meet the specific needs of their group. The hire agreements do not prevent any of the historical users of the field from continuing their use.
- In late 2015 the Trust has began a round of fundraising to implement parts of the development plan.
- The fact that the Trust can no longer grant a lease to any organisation may prevent individual user groups raising money for developing their own facilities from their sporting associations. This is because the sporting associations like to see a long term future for their investment. As the Trust can provide this long term future directly, we would like to make applications to those sporting associations directly. We would like to do this in cooperation with each of the user groups and in keeping with the development plan. This way grant applications can be stronger and facilities can be developed to benefit the user groups and the wider Beneficiaries. This has been communicated to the relevant user groups.
- The Trustees continue to work to improve the governance of the Trust and to maintain and improve the field. It is crucial for the preservation of the APMF as an open recreation space, that the Trustees protect the integrity and stability of the Trust.
WHO WAS ALFRED PALMER?
Dr. Alfred Palmer (1852-1936) was a member of Reading's famous Palmer family, being the younger son of George Palmer who went into partnership with Thomas Huntley in 1841. Prior to 1841 the Palmers were a Quaker family of yeoman farmers at Long Sutton, Somerset.
Following an engineering apprenticeship in Lancashire, Alfred Palmer spent over fifty years working for Huntley & Palmers, the biscuit manufacturers, chiefly as engineering director, where he was responsible for the design, building and maintenance of the biscuit machinery. His mechanical inventiveness enabled the firm to produce up to 400 different varieties of biscuit in huge quantities.
In 1877 he married Alice Maria Exall, whose father William was a partner in the firm of Barrett, Exall & Andrewes, makers of agricultural machinery in Reading. In 1878 they had a twin son and daughter, Eustace and Phyllis. In 1900 Alfred Palmer bought Wokefield Park with its large estate, where he lived for the rest of his life.
In 1905 he held the position of High Sheriff of Berkshire. In the 1920s, together with Lady Wantage, he was instrumental in turning Reading from being a University College under Oxford University into a fully-fledged University in its own right. In recognition of this, Reading University awarded him its first Honorary Doctorate of Science.
WHY WAS THE FIELD LEFT IN HIS MEMORY?
In 1939, 3 years after his death Alfred Palmer's five grandchildren (Neil William Gardiner, Gerald Eustace Howell Palmer, Elizabeth Mary Palmer, Rodney Howell Palmer, Denis Harold Palmer Gardiner) purchased a field in Mortimer from the Benyon estate for £230. They stipulated that the field would be held in trust in his memory as a public ground for the resort and recreation of and as playgrounds for or otherwise for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Parishes of Stratfield Mortimer and Wokefield.
Part of the original document stated that an inscription should be placed at the entrance to the memorial field commemorating their grandfather. These inscriptions can still be seen on the gateposts but are barely legible now. If you stand in front of them at the entrance the left hand one says “In memory of Alfred Palmer of Wokefield Park”.
The right hand one says. “This field was given to the village of Mortimer by his five grandchildren 1936” .
HOW DID THE FIELD GET BIGGER?
The original conveyance of 1939 shows the field of a different size to what it is now, being only 5.1 acres. It was an odd shaped piece of land bordered on the north by Stephens Firs woods, on the east by a field, on the south by West End Road and on the west by a drainage ditch. Beyond this ditch was the Turners Arms public house, which had a large parcel of land attached to it owned by W.H. Brakspear & Sons Ltd, brewers of Henley-on-Thames. In 1954 a second parcel of land, amounting to 1.4 acres, was purchased from Brakspears. At that time, prior to the county boundary changes in 1972, both the original field and the second parcel of land were partly in the Parish of Stratfield Mortimer (Berkshire) and partly in the Parish of Mortimer West End (Hampshire). The whole field of 6.5 acres is now in the Parish of Stratfield Mortimer (Berkshire).
The field has always been linked to the history of both Mortimer Football Club and the Baden Powell 1st Mortimer Scouts and Guides. The land where the Scout hut is now was once part of the field but was sold to the Scouts.