The Ham conveyance of March 1896 which gifted the Ham to the town was made between John George Galloway Radford and Sidmouth Urban District Council, it was finalised after almost a year of negotiations. As Mr Radford was keen to make the gift one can only suppose that the negotiations were to secure the Sidmouth Urban District Council’s agreement to the restrictions placed upon it. It must be remembered that Mr Radford was a well respected Solicitor who was quite clear about what he wished to achieve.
It was also immediately lodged with the Charity Commissioners who retained a copy so that the provisions of the gift could not be overlooked. The map has the stamp of the Charity Commissioners on the back of it with the date of the 2nd April 1896.
The conveyance clearly states “And Whereas the said John George Galloway Radford is desirous of presenting the said hereditaments and premises to the inhabitants of Sidmouth for the free use of the public forever.” This should be a firm enough statement to legally ensure that the wishes are carried out.
The images may difficult to read but fortunately the gift was also mentioned in his will and in a transcription which was submitted to the Charity Commission when the land was re-registered under their auspices on Fri Sep 07 1962. Reading the image and the transcription together helps make things clear. The transcription reads :-
“By indenture dated 26th March 1896 (enrolled in the books of the Charity Commissioners) John George Galloway Radford granted and conveyed unto the Urban District Council of Sidmouth, their successors and assigns, a piece of land formerly part of a piece of meadow land known as the “Ham” situate in that part of the parish of Salcombe Regis which by virtue of the provisions of the Local Government Act 1891, had recently or would shortly become annexed to and form part of the parish of Sidmouth, and coloured pink on the plan drawn on the said indenture, and all the estate and interest (if any) of the said John George Galloway Radford in the foreshore opposite to and adjoining the southernmost end of the said piece of land, and all the rights pertaining thereto, to the use and intent that the same might be for ever used and enjoyed by the inhabitants of, and the visitors to, Sidmouth as a place of recreation freely and voluntarily, subject only to reasonable restrictions and regulations in accordance with the law for the time being affecting the use of public parks and pleasure grounds.”
This transcription is accurate as far as it goes, however it does not include the next section of the conveyance which states. “And it is hereby declared that no permanent building or other erection ( other than a boundary wall or fence) exceeding seven feet in height shall be erected on the said piece or parcel of land south of a line marked A B also shown on the aforesaid Map or Plan. ”
The final piece is also contained on the Land Registry document for the Ham, which says that the land “is subject to the following provision contained in a conveyance thereof”. Their extract is worded slightly differently but has at the end the same declaration “And it is hereby declared that no permanent building or other erection ( other than a boundary wall or fence) exceeding seven feet in height shall be erected on the said piece or parcel of land south of a line marked A B shown on the aforesaid map or plan”. The Land Registry document states that a copy plan has been filed.
The inclusion of the line A B was initially a puzzle to me. However, I have learnt more about Mr Radford and his gifts to the town it has become clear that the Drill Hall was part of the reason for this detail. As shown on other pages, the Drill Hall was meant to also be a public building and the balcony on the east side, and the view from it, were important aspects of its construction. The line A B was intended to ensure that the balcony and view were not compromised by future buildings.
Of course this intention was lost when the balcony was removed and then the toilet block and shelter were built. The view from the Drill Hall windows on to the back of the toilets was not one to encourage people to hire the Drill Hall for the balls and parties which were held there in the early days!
The line A B also existed, I believe, to preserve the view from the northern end of the Ham out to sea. As can be seen from early photographs the balcony on the Drill Hall was well above head height for people standing on the southern end of the Ham. This balcony level may have been approximately the same height as the northern end of the Ham, I need to find measurements from old maps to confirm the actual levels. Even working from approximate data it is clear that the current level of the Esplanade will be seven feet or more above the original level of the south Ham field at the time of the convenance. This means that nothing can be built on the area without breaking the conditions of the conveyance. The toilet block is therefore likely to be a breaking of this condition.