A petition has been launched to save an historic village sports ground where the famous First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon once played.

The pitches owned by the G T Sassoon Family Trust at Heytesbury near Warminster have been used for generations by villagers to play cricket and football.

Heytesbury Cricket Club and Heytesbury Football Club have played sport on the land off Park Street since the 1930s when Siegfried Sassoon laid the pitches at his home at Heytesbury House.

Sassoon bought Heytesbury House in 1933, promptly joining the local team and playing with them until his death at the age of 80 in 1967. The house was later sold by his family in 1996 for redevelopment into apartments and houses.

Wiltshire Times: Heytesbury Cricket Club’s ground. Photo: Trevor Porter 70430-3Heytesbury Cricket Club’s ground. Photo: Trevor Porter 70430-3 (Image: Trevor Porter)

But now the sports ground is under threat from the family's trust, which wants to sell the land to a developer for housing.

Isabel Deverill, one of the trustees, has been approached for comment.

A previous application in 2017 to build 23 homes and a new village hall in return for donating the sports ground ‘in perpetuity’ divided the residents and was later withdrawn by the trust.

In August, the trust gave Heytesbury CC and Heytesbury FC notice to quit and told them to find a new home by the end of October.

The move was a direct response to Heytesbury, Imber and Knook Parish Council applying to Wiltshire Council in July to have the sports ground listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

This would allow community groups time to put together a bid when the land goes on the market. But villagers fear they may not be able to raise the likely six-figure sum asking price.

Now Heytesbury parish councillors Vanessa Sturmey and Anthony Wilson, have launched a petition on the change.org website to save the land.

Mrs Sturmey, who chairs the PC, said: “The ACV was approved but the owners objected and entered into a disposal of the land in September.

“The review by Wiltshire Council ended in November and they refused the ACV. The parish council is taking advice and considering whether to apply again. 

“The owners do not want to engage with a divided community, and that's understandable, but I feel this is a much bigger issue than the local community and is a national issue of importance. 

“The fact is the community really doesn't know what the owners want to solve this and if we did, I'm sure we could work to a resolution.

“The land is regarded as having sporting/historical and cultural importance by sports clubs/supporters, the local community and the wider public, the clubs had their annual licence terminated. 

“The pitches are not being maintained and could soon become a wilderness, the owners own 16 acres of land which they want to develop. The sports pitches cover about eight of the 16 acres.

“We would like to encourage the owners to engage with the community to see if a scenario can be found that will have a positive outcome for everyone and save the future of the pitches.” 

The petition says: “We are opposed to the development of Heytesbury Sports Ground, which has been used by hundreds of people for sports and recreation since the 1930s.

“We call upon the owners to engage with the community: on how sports and recreation could continue at the historic Heytesbury Sports Ground for future generations; to allow community maintenance of the pitches during this time; to consult on any future development plans.”

 To sign the petition, click here.