Wellesley Recreation Ground
The Wellesley Recreation Ground is an important historic and recreational asset of Great Yarmouth and has great untapped potential:
- the world's oldest football stand
- fantastic facilities for athletics
- situated next to the sea
- part of a strong urban fabric
- adjacent to the Venetian Waterways and Boating Lake
- walking distance to the town centre that is itself being regenerated
The Wellesley Recreation Ground was opened in 1888 in order to provide formal facilities for sports in Great Yarmouth. By 1890, local architect, JW Cockrill, had erected a tennis pavilion, ticket office and grandstand on the site. All three buildings are now listed with Grade II status. The grandstand is now considered to be the oldest football stand in Britain, and possibly the world, and is still in use. The other two buildings are not in use and are currently boarded up. The Recreation Ground is also protected by a 'Fields in Trust' covenant.
Today, the ground is utilised by Great Yarmouth Town Football Club and Great Yarmouth Athletics Club, with community use on the co-located Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) and tennis court.
In 2015, Great Yarmouth Borough Council undertook a Sport, Play and Leisure Strategy to provide an evidence-led approach to the future provision of leisure and sport facilities for the borough's population. The need for further artificial grass pitches (3G/4G) in the borough was identified to serve the borough's needs moving forward. The Wellesley Road Recreation Ground was also identified in the strategy as a key site that could benefit from a trust model of management, recognising the opportunities for dedicated site management and external funding.
In 2019, Sporting Assets was commissioned to complete a feasibility study of the site, to look at future development and improvements opportunities that could be made to meet the needs of the community and the Council's objectives. The feasibility study was completed in March 2019. The initial review of the site identified several site issues including:
- increased anti-social behaviour on the site
- lack of planned maintenance investment of the site with the grandstand being in poor decorative condition, and the changing rooms in need of complete refurbishment
- the Grade II listed tennis pavilion and ticket office are redundant and continue to be at risk of loss
The feasibility study informed the start of a phased approach to improving the site.
What next for the Wellesley Recreation Ground?
The Council is proposing a new development and a number of upgrades to the Wellesley Recreation Ground, with a focus on developing the site as an outdoor recreational sports and leisure hub for the Borough.
The planned developments will enhance the performance quality and maximise the benefits of this sporting amenity.
The development will have no adverse visual impact on existing heritage assets, minimal visual impact and no unacceptable impact on local and residential amenities or the surrounding environment.
What are the new facilities for the Wellesley?
A brand-new artificial grass 9v9 (4,108sqm) football pitch has been installed to the south of the site, which was previously an unused grassed area. The pitch includes a spectator area and is surrounded by 4.5m ball stop protective fencing, plus six new 15m LED-lit floodlights.
Refurbishment and repurposing of the Grade II listed tennis pavilion has provided changing and welfare facilities for the 3G pitch and other activities on site. The refurbishment includes two separate changing facilities with showers and toilets, a communal breakout area with basic kitchen facilities, and a separate accessible toilet facility.
Are there any plans for additional works to take place at the Wellesley?
Very recently, improvement works on the athletics track and throwing cage have taken place, plus the ticket office has undergone refurbishment.
Following the completion of the 3G pitch and tennis pavilion, opportunities to improve the Grade II listed football stadium will be explored.