19 Tod’s Piece



todThe town’s recreation ground and allotments beside North Street East commemorate a man called Tod, a mighty mower with the scythe. For a wager he undertook to mow in a day the grass in this field measuring 7 acres, 2 roods and 16 perches. The feat was considered impossible for a single man, but labouring from dawn to sunset he achieved it, won his wager and dropped dead of exhaustion when he finished.

In January 1748 the Parish Vestry first rented this field from the Lord of the Manor, Gerard Noel Noel, later Lord Gainsborough at 1d per year for the use of the inhabitants of the town. Very likely it gave a legal footing to an already long established use. Perhaps it was here that the archery butts stood, where in Tudor times the men of the town were required to practice their skill on Sunday afternoons. When in 1752 the field was enclosed by private treaty, the £60 paid by Lord Gainsborough went to William Warren as repayment of part of the money lent by him to the town of Uppingham for building the old workhouse situated by the traffic lights at the corner of Orange Lane and North Street East. In the 18th century there is record of a bowling green on this site.

Even in 1748 the field was already called Tod’s Piece. Nothing is known about Tod the mower. In the 1630s a John Todd, churchwarden, signed the parish registers so we should look there as a possible date for the wager.

In April 1903 the Parish Council took a new 21 year lease from Lord Gainsborough paying £30 per annum rent for 7.359 acres. And in December 1928 they raised £1,100 mortgage to purchase the land – £500 for the recreation ground and £550 for the allotments. Around this time the young men of Uppingham applied to the Parish Council to use Tod’s Piece for cricket and football. The document – held in the Council’s safe – contains come 60 signatures. Permission was granted and football is played on the ground to this day though the down cricket club has moved elsewhere. In 1966 part was leased to the Uppingham Sports Club for tennis courts. The Club became inactive in 2002 but the tarmac courts remain.

In 1996 a part of the allotments was sold to a housing developer for affordable housing and the money used to fund the children’s play area.

Tod’s Piece is a much loved and treasured amenity providing a welcome open space in the centre of town, a place for children and their parents to play, used by the town’s football and other sports clubs. Here in summer a hundred years ago there was held Uppingham’s annual Cycling and Athletic Sports Day with races for all ages, music by the town band and the ever popular catching the greasy pig event open only to ladies. The Bowls Club hut is a relic of the prisoner of war camp that once stood on the site of the Community College. In the 1914 War, 60 Germans were held there and they would walk to the Post Office to collect black bread sent to them from Germany through neutral sources.

Since then Tod’s Piece has successfully seen off the greedy who want to sell the land for money and the obese who would like to use it for car parking. Its future is once more under consideration in the Town Council whose duty it is to treasure and preserve this valued amenity.

P N Lane
November 2012