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St Helens Village Greens Common is (arguably) the second largest in Great Britain, and is the focal point around which the community has grown over hundreds of years. As you can see below, there are five greens stretching across the village, but they are recorded as one 'parcel' of land (or 'unit') on the register..
The Greens are, in fact, Common Land although a very small area at the top of Vine Road is Registered Town and Village Green. Commons are a remnant of the manorial system, which was finally abolished in the early 1920s but there are about 600,000 hectares (2,300 square miles) of common land in England and Wales. The St Helens Greens Common originally formed part of the Manor of the Priory of St Elen, granted by King Edward IV in 1466.
The map here shows the extent of St Helens Greens Common, as shown in the Commons Register, as Unit CL20. The establishment of a registration process was required following the Commons Act, 1965 with registration of the Greens as Common Land finally confirmed on 6 January 1978. With re-organisation of local government structures in intervening years, the unitary authority Isle of Wight Council is now effectively the registered owner.
The ambiguous term ’common’ refers to the rights held in common by certain people to use the soil of the common, by grazing, cutting turf and so on. Over time it was found necessary to regulate or manage how Commons and Greens were used in order that they could be protected for all to enjoy. Legislation enabled Bye Laws to be created that were relevant to local circumstances. The legislation that has or still does affect St Helens Greens would be:
Through succesive re-organisations of local government the principal local authority (Isle of Wight Council) has become the managing authority and ‘custodian’ of the St Helens Greens.
The IW Council owns a small part of the Greens which has been used for the provision of public recreation and play equipment, and the siting of the Cricket Pavilion (managed by the St Helens Sports Association).
REGULATION OF THE GREENS
The Commons Act, 1899 applies in this instance, under which a Management Scheme was approved by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries in September,1906. It is the Management Scheme that then authorises the making of Byelaws, from a prescriptive list of options from which the Council may choose the most appropriate for the circumstances.
The 1899 Act (in its original and unamended form) and the Management Scheme are set out below:
Byelaws were created in 1907 and 1952, which are set out below:
The Byelaws are summarised here, but in all cases due regard must be had to the actual wording in the files above.
No person, without authority shall:
Also, no-one shall:
The Byelaws also regulate the playing of organised sport and the protection of those parts of the common set aside for so doing and make clear that the overall use of the common is for exercise and recreation.
FROM THE ABOVE, IT WILL BE NOTED THAT IT IS UNLAWFUL TO DRIVE A VEHICLE ONTO THE GREENS WITHOUT AUTHORITY. AUTHORITY TO DO SO IS ISSUED FOR LICENSED EVENTS BY IW COUNCIL ONLY.
The Greens have hosted many public events over hundreds of years, which draw visitors from far and wide. The original 1907 and 1952 byelaws recognised this, and we all wish to see these traditional uses continue for the enjoyment of all. Protecting the fabric of The Greens remains paramount, as is avoiding public nuisance to others.
Village Greens are part of our English heritage and should be protected and enjoyed by everyone as much as possible, and especially by the residents of the village they are connected with. We should all be proud of our Village Greens and feel honoured to live in and be part of a community that has the good fortune to have them.
LET US WORK TOGETHER TO PRESERVE THE CHARACTER OF OUR VILLAGE GREENS