CHEAP AT THE PRICE
In Arle, only one farm escaped the Compulsory Purchase Orders, namely Hope Farm, which still exists. Sadly, one by one, the farms and little market gardens which covered this area, fell to the march of progress.
Over a period of four or five years, various plots of land were acquired by the Council but at what price! It had been decided to pay only pre-war prices for agricultural land despite the fact that land, being at a premium was worth much, much more.
First Hesters Way Farm went, owned by Mr. J. Brown and occupied by the Fletcher family who were re-housed in Tanners Road, then Arle Court Farm and land in Brooklyn Gardens. Some small plots in Village Road were taken over and further out to Hesters Way Lane and Fiddlers Green. The price paid per acre varied considerably, being higher per acre for smaller plots than for larger ones - averaging £66 per acre for Hesters Way Farm to £1273 for The Nest in Village Road. Mr. Gabb of the Rockeries had part of his frontage compulsorily purchased which was swallowed up into Hesters Way. He then protested loudly at his revaluation once his previous outlook had drastically altered, but he was one of the lucky ones as he later sold more land to the electricity authorities and to Robert Hitchins (Builders) for a considerable sum.
Not so lucky were the Wood Family of Arle Farm. In c.1879 one James Wood, dairyman and farmer, purchased Arle Farm and built it up into a very prosperous business. When he died in 1905 his effects were valued at over £19,000 - a considerable sum for those days.
His farm passed to his descendants who continued to farm it successfully and an article in the Echo of October 1949 shows it to have been one of the best farms in the county.
At that time it was farmed by Mr. S.G. Wood and the farm was unique in that whilst other farmers had to feed their cattle on hay or silage during a drought, Arle Farm land was so rich in meadow that cattle could be grazed on it throughout most of the year. This was not only good for the cattle but saved on costs. So convenient was this continuity of grazing that Mr. Wood was able to work the farm with a labour force of only four and whilst other farmers and their labour force were busy in the hay field Mr. Wood and his men were busy singling his 10 acres of sugar beet, for although the accent was on beef Mr. Wood grew sprouts, lettuce, marrows and the like - crops which did not call for a great deal of attention.
He brought in his store of cattle in February/March and fattened them up during the late Spring and Summer, and gradually sent the cattle to market, in batches from June onwards. The first batch were graded as 'super, super specials' and averaged 11½ cwt.
All the 98 acres of grassland were permanent pasture and it was this rich pasture which made the farm so prosperous. This, however, was of little consequence when in 1953 the Council, compulsorily purchased the 156.023 acres of land for £16,000 and so this farm which had been owned by the Wood family through three generations passed out of their hands.
What lies upon that land today? Well a large part of it is Kingsmead School and Playing fields, while the rest is covered by Welch Road, Dill Avenue and, of course, Hesters Way Primary School and on to the recreation ground and to the border with Hayden Road.
So, one by one, the farming families of Hesters Way, lost their farms and their livelihood and the scene changed forever. But perhaps all is not completely lost, for the residents of Welch Road recently got together to create an environmental beauty spot behind their houses. And the pupils of Hesters Way Primary School are going to write a history of their area, and perhaps, make a model village, so perhaps, in some small way, this might compensate for what has been lost.
However, private owners were not the only ones affected by the compulsory purchase of land. For many years the County Council had owned land in Hesters Way which served the Grammar School as a Playing Field. When, in 1952 a Cabinet decision was taken to establish a branch of the Foreign Office in Cheltenham in the area used by the War Office during the war, it was obvious to the Cheltenham Council that additional land in that area would be needed and plans for the estate had already gone forward and been approved by the Ministry of Health.
The contractors, Messrs. Wimpey were anxious to make a start but vehicular access to every part of the estate was imperative. A spinal road (later Princess Elizabeth Way) was planned from Tewkesbury Road, skirting an island, and then joining Gloucester Road, with links from Arle Road and Brooklyn Road.
This raised a particular thorny problem. The old Grammar School playing field lay in its proposed path but the Cheltenham Council, mindful of the urgency to get the estate started and house the many families desperate for homes, approached the County Council to obtain the land. The County Council was prepared to sell the ground and provide another field.
Many meetings were held with the Grammar School Governors. In a Borough Surveyor's Supplementary Report dated 17.10.1950 Alderman Clara Winterbotham complained that a recent meeting of the School Govenors she had been informed that the construction of the spinal road on Hesters Way Estate would take away the cricket ground used by the School and stated this would cause great difficulties and expense. She referred to an earlier assurance that the Grammar School would not be disturbed for some time and felt that the Borough Surveyor in withholding that information had been guilty of gross discourtesy. Alderman Lipson tended to agree with Miss Winterbotham and Councillor Bernard Ward, as a school governor agreed but spoke in less strong terms.
In explanation the Borough Surveyor stated that he realised the earlier assurance given to the Grammar School Governors was important and had, himself tried loyally to work to this agreement, but the situation had completely changed and the housing department had accelerated the rate of housing progress. The contractors urgently needed access and any further delays would put the programme back and be costly. There were many letters to the Echo deploring the loss of the Playing Field and though a new one was to be set up at the new Grammar School site, nevertheless it would take years to establish cricket pitches and the like of the same quality as the old field.
Not only the Governors, but old Patesians (after richard Pate the school's founder) and others felt that the Council should have been aware of their obligations to the school, but they did not seem anxious to know and in the event the Grammar School lost its playing field and the Headmaster, Mr. G. Heawood, resigned. At his Speech day in 1952 he protested that he had always thought he was helping the Governors to resist the compulsory purchase order of the school playing field by the County Council as part of a rehousing development scheme. 'It had come as a shock to him later to find that this was not so'. He felt so strongly about this that when he was criticised for complaining to the Press and asked to give an undertaking not to discuss the matter further in public, he had no alternative but to resign.
So, in addition to the other dispossessed land owners, there were others who suffered by yet another compulsory purchase order. Yet, what were the Council to do? Houses were desperately needed: pressure was on them to build estates as quickly as possible, they were in a cleft stick and there was no way they could please everybody. In January 1952 an Echo Article set out the cost of providing a new playing field, namely £8,224. The Education Committee reported that £5,440 would be spent by Cheltenham Corporation on the preparation of the field plus £2,500 payable to the County Council for the present-day cost of building the pavilion and £290 for adjustment on inequality of land. The County Council was, in addition, to be faced with the expenditure of £2,766 for fencing and, among other things, the cost of two cricket squares.
The new playing field would include about three acres of the old field which had been used for potato growing during the war.
We seem to have come full circle on the question of playing fields, for it seems to be the policy now for some schools to sell off part of their playing fields to raise extra cash.
Compulsory Purchase Orders in Arle and Hesters Way
|Date Acquired||Owner||Name of Property||Acres||Price||Price/acre|
|06/09/1945||K.B. Welch||Arle House Estate||13.68||£6000||£438.69|
|25/03/1949||J.R. Brown||Hesters Way Farm||67.68||£4500||£66.49|
|11/05/1949||G.A. Peacey||The Nest||0.59||£750||£1273.84|
|03/04/1950||Dowty Group||Unwin Estates||10.00||£1000||£100.00|
|19/06/1950||Dowty Group||Unwin Estates||3.50||£280||£80.00|
|26/07/1950||Pye Bros.||Orchard Estate||30.41||£4838||£159.12|
|19/07/1950||Miss Belcher||End Village Road||2.24||£300||£133.81|
|30/03/1951||E.T. Waine||Fiddlers Green||13.64||£1300||£95.28|
|28/07/1951||J.W. Court||Junction H.W. Lane||1.90||£475||£250.00|
|31/07/1951||F. Gabb||The Rockeries||0.38||£375||£1000.00|
|11/02/1952||J.D. Brown||Arle Court Farm||49.67||£8300||£167.10|
|11/05/1953||G.S. Wood||Arle Farm||156.02||£16000||£102.55|
|19/11/1953||B. Butler||Welch & H.W. Road||1.59||£225||£141.51|