Grand Opening of Sutherland Memorial Playing Field 1956

Moira McQuaide history of Burpham

Land from Bower’s Farm was given by the Duke of Sutherland in September 1954 to the Mayor, Alderman and Burgesses of the Borough of Guildford as Trustees, “to hold in Trust for the perpetual use as a public recreation and playing field as a War Memorial to the residents of Burpham who were killed on active service during the late war”.

It nearly didn’t happen as The Times reported in 1956 that a petrol station wanted some of the land, but it was decided that the residents had a right to be heard and eventually they won. On Wednesday 27th June 1956 there was a Grand Opening Ceremony, when the Duke of Edinburgh arrived, flying his red helicopter, then got out of the wrong side and completely missed the Guard of Honour waiting to greet him. The Duke unveiled a plaque, planted a tree and talked to many of the children attending the event, before flying off again. In the afternoon there was a Grand Fête, with a fancy dress parade, police dogs, races, bands, sideshows and dancing. A fun day for everyone.

John Saxton was Chairman of the SMPF Management Committee for many years and he kept the spade used by the Duke to plant the tree, apparently a Blue Atlas Cedar, cleaned it up and it has never been used since. Unfortunately it wasn’t engraved, but it is still as good as sparkly new. The football and cricket clubs used the playing field and children used the recreation area. Over the years the playing field was developed and improved, the public area was extended, more trees were planted and more facilities added.

Sadly, it seems that the Duke’s tree was replanted at least four times and it’s not known if it survived. Today there are facilities for football, cricket, bowls and tennis, as well as meeting rooms and a well-equipped children’s playground and lovely green spaces. The car park is well-used, both by parents dropping off children to school or nursery, users of the facilities, or even, on occasion, vans for film crews who are filming nearby. There have also been instances when travellers have parked up on the field, needing to be removed by police. Sutherland Memorial Park received the national Green Flag award in 2005.

In memory of John and Sheila Saxton, keepers of the Duke’s spade for over 60 years.

If you are willing to share your memories and/or photos to tell us more about Burpham then please contact Moira MacQuaide, either by e-mail ( or by phone or text (07963 756543). My two books (‘The History of Burpham Primary School’ and ‘Burpham – A Gateway to Guildford’) are still available from me for £10 (free delivery locally) or on Amazon.



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