The Ham was once a marshy area that served as a flood plain for the lower reaches of the Sid. By the late nineteenth century it was described as meadow land and the largest portion was owned by a solicitor called Mr John George Galloway Radford. He wished to present this to the inhabitants of Sidmouth “for the free use of the public forever”.
The conveyance that resulted from this philanthropic gesture stated that it should “be for ever used and enjoyed by the inhabitants of, and the visitors to Sidmouth as a place of recreation freely and voluntarily, subject only to reasonable restrictions and regulations in accordance with the law for the time being affecting the use of public parks and pleasure grounds”.
Thus Mr Radford’s intentions were both absolutely clear and written into a legal document that cannot be ignored. Notwithstanding, the concept plan for Port Royal raised the possibility that Ham Charity land could be taken into use for a boat park (to replace the current boat standing) and an access road.
The original conveyance, containing a map of the area in question shown in pink, was lodged with the Charity Commissioners and is now also held by the Land Registry. This map is shown below – it is taken from the original 1886 conveyance and is a certified Land Registry document:
Meanwhile, the following plan view by Jillings-Heynes shows how the development (as outlined in the concept plan) would “eat” into the Ham:
Clearly the proposed development overlaps the Ham area as delineated in the legal documents. If this land is used for boat parking and an access road, it cannot at the same time be available “for the free use of the public” – it would be restricted to use by a private club and using public land for the exclusive benefit of any private enterprise is strictly against this Charity’s rules.