The playing field/community centre site was originally a field used as permanent pasture, and was called ‘Budget Piece’ (according to a 1932 map).. It was owned by the Diocese of Peter borough.
At the start of WW2 (circa 1940) the Ministry of Works acquired a site in the corner of the field, annotated in the map below as YHA.
A building was erected, mainly timber framed, with a brick built ablution block, to house the newly reformed Land Army movement. Pay was 48/- (£ 2.40) per week in 1940. Their uniforms comprised green jerseys, brown breeches, and a brown felt slouch hat. They carried out a variety of duties – about a quarter did the milking and general farm work, others cut down trees, worked in sawmills, and even rat catching ! In 1943 Land Girl pay had increased to 65/- (£ 3.25) per week.
Due to the 8th. Army successes in North Africa in 1943 many prisoners started to arrive in the U.K. The use of the Land Army building was changed to a P.O.W. Hostel, housing about 35 Italian prisoners. The nearest P.O.W. Camp was at Weedon.
The prisoner shown on the left above was Vincento D-Armo – after the War he married a local girl (Hilda Brown) and settled in the village as a farmer – he was quite a character. The prisoners worked on the local farms and were a happy natured crowd.
After the War in 1946 it was decided that the village needed a playing field and village hall. Emphasis was placed on the playing field. The ex-P.O.W. Hostel was up for sale for £ 1000.00. However, only £ 670.00 could be raised - discussions and negotiations continued until 1950 when the site was lost (for a further 54 years !).
The hostel site was purchased by the Youth Hostel Association – the hostel opened in 1953 by Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller. It remained open until 1983.
Village attention was then directed to the adjacent field. This was owned by the Diocese of Peterborough. After lengthy negotiations it was purchased (one of the signatories was Sir Winston Churchill). Much work then ensued, the results of which can be seen today.
When the Youth Hostel closed in 1983 it was bought by a local builder for his offices and yard. On the day after he bought it he sold an L shaped portion of the site to the Playing Field Association (see below). Ten years later the builders offices/yard was purchased by a Health and Safety Consultancy – called Aims.
In 1999 the village decided that it needed a new community centre, the existing village hall was ageing and had received an adverse structural report. A new body was set up – Greens Norton Community Centre Association. It was firstly a committee of the Parish Council, but later set up as a separate entity as a charity.
In 2003 two things happened - the Playing Field Association disbanded, and its assets, including their two parcels of land, passed to the G.N.C.C.A.
Secondly, Aims let it be known that their site was up for sale. The price was £ 300000.00. The Parish Council decided to buy it with a 20 year loan from the Public Works Loan Board. The purchase was completed in 2004.
In 2005 the site was leased to the G.N.C.C.A. for 28 years. They raised £ 100000.00 from various grants. This wasn’t sufficient to employ a contractor, so the conversion work was carried out over a 20 month period by a few volunteers. It was extremely challenging, particularly the finances.
It was finally opened in November 2006. It slowly but surely became very popular (in March 2020 there were 98 bookings in just one month). It has hosted many diverse activities including Brownies, Guides, Rainbows, Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, UK Fencing Team, many Fifty Plus Group activities, auctions, toddler classes, weddings, funeral wakes, christening celebrations, parties, dinners, cookery classes, seminars, etc, etc.
Over the years the G.N.C.C.A. has been self sufficient financially. It has raised funds to carry out many projects –
- Replacing the windows, fascias, soffites with upvc type
- Installing air conditioning in the main hall
- 2012 – complete refurbishment of the only remaining building from the original Land Army building – the brick built ablution block, converting it into 4 No. stores.
- 2015 – building new table/chair store (off main hall)
- 2015/2016 – conversion of rear building into changing rooms, meeting room, kitchen, etc.
When this was written in 2020, the G.N.C.C.A., having been in service for 14 years, is in a sound financial situation and has matured into a facility of which the village can be proud.