Village purchases land at top end of pond

After many years of trying, the village of Sutton Poyntz has finally succeeded in purchasing the small plot of land at the top end of the village pond, known locally as the “Springhead car park” (because that is how until fairly recently the land was used); this land has now been renamed "Top of the Pond".

The land is shown here in a 1987 photograph taken by a former resident, Fredy Litschi, whose wife Joyce was mayor of Weymouth in 1980/1 and died very recently. The sign on the corner of the plot reads “The Springhead. Patrons Car Park”.

Stop Press - 14 January 2015

This morning, the skip that has been on the Springhead car park for several years, while the land's ownership was uncertain, was finally removed. We are most grateful to Portland Stone for acting so quickly when we pointed out to them that their skip was on our land without our permission.

March 2016

The Society organised a new noticeboard for the village, plus large planters which served both to beautify the area and to improve safety by separating pedestrian and motor traffic. Other later work was done to rebuild damaged parts of the stone wall and to improve the drainage of the area. Here is the result of the work - thanks are due particularly to Bill and Hilary Davidson, Chris Balfe, Jez Cunningham and Colin Marsh. The noticeboard was paid for by a donation from the Wilson family, and acts as a memorial to John and Lesley Wilson who had retired to the village. The planters were paid for partly from a County Council donation arranged by Cllr David Mannings.

Ownership history

Ownership of the land has been disputed, but research by the Sutton Poyntz Society established clearly the chain of ownership. It was sold by the Weld Estate in 1925 to a villager, John Guppy, who sold it on in 1926 to the Weymouth brewers, John Groves & Sons, who owned the Springhead Hotel (as it was then) and started its use as a car park for the hotel.

In 1950, John Groves sold a narrow strip of the land to the County Council to widen the road to assist buses turning (at that time, buses, including double-decker buses, used to come right up to the pub). In 1960, John Groves amalgamated with JA Devenish, trading initially as Devenish & Groves Ltd, and later as Devenish Brewery Ltd. In turn, the whole Devenish operation was bought in 1993 by Greenalls, the Warrington brewers.

Up to this point, the Springhead car park remained in the same ownership as the pub itself. However, when in 1999 Greenalls sold their pub chain to Scottish & Newcastle, the tiny bit of car parking land was forgotten, and not included in the sale. The land known as the Springhead car park therefore continued to be owned by Devenish Brewery Ltd (who still existed as part of the Greenalls group of companies).

Purchase from Devenish

In 2011, the Sutton Poyntz Society approached Devenish’s, who said that they still owned the land, and would be willing to sell it to a local authority or local amenity group. Neither the Borough nor the County Council had any interest in buying the land, so in August 2011, the Sutton Poyntz Society started action to buy it on behalf of the village. Obtaining it was a frustrating business – understandably the matter was low in the seller’s list of priorities. But finally, on the 2nd December 2014, the village received news that the purchase was complete, and had been registered by the Land Registry.

Village meeting

The village held a meeting on Friday 19th December. Despite the closeness to Christmas, almost 60 villagers attended. They heard John Crisp, chairman of the Sutton Poyntz Society, describe the background to the purchase of the Springhead Car Park, and in particular the circumstances that had driven the Sutton Poyntz Society committee, unwillingly, to conclude that purchase was the only way of solving long-standing problems. John Sutherland then described the very long history of correspondence and action that had finally led to the purchase of the land from Devenish Brewery Ltd. He also explained why it had been necessary to create a Limited Company, Sutton Poyntz Ltd, to hold the land, and described the moment we learned that Sutton Poyntz Ltd was now the legal owner, with Title Absolute.

Bill Egerton read out the Objectives of the Limited Company, which are the protection of the village’s beauty for the benefit of villagers and visitors. He then explained that Title Absolute was effectively unchallengeable, and that we were therefore in a position for the village to decide what it wanted to do with the land. (P.S. In practice the villager who had disputed the ownership made various subsequent attempts to overturn the village's ownership, but unsuccessfully). The meeting then held a discussion on how to improve this small piece of land so that it matches the beauty of the pond and other land around it. The meeting closed with a celebratory drink.