The Victory Sports Ground was created to commemorate the employees of Greene King who took part in the 1st World War, many died in the conflict but it was Edward Lake who was working at Greene King in Bury St Edmunds that came up with the idea to have a permanent memorial. Edward, who was managing Director of the company, and his wife Blanche had six sons (as well as six daughters) and all went to war during the 1st World War. Their worst fears were clearly that they would not see their sons again Edward Lancelot, Harold Walter, Alan, Basil Charles, Ronald, Henry Neville as friends and relatives received telegrams to tell them that their sons had been killed in action. However, at the end of World War I, uniquely and amazingly all the sons returned.
Edward’s gratitude knew no bounds and he persuaded the board of Greene King to purchase 26 acres of land and open a sports ground to commemorate the return of most of the brewer’s work force from war (21 were killed). It was opened in July 1920 and when the War Memorial was unveiled it read that ‘Edward thought nothing could be more appropriate than a large recreation ground where men of the present and future generation could join in those manly sports which have made the English nation what it was’. The sports ground was named The Victory Ground. The pavilion was built at the same time and survived until the redevelopment of 2013.
It soon became one of the best sports grounds in East Anglia with three cricket, soccer and hockey pitches and ten tennis courts and bowls pitches. It was used primarily by the brewery work force but also by schools in Bury and it became the ground of the Bury and West Suffolk Cricket club, with several of the side coming from Greene King. Matches were played mid-week and selection for the team meant automatic leave from the brewery, even during its busiest periods. The ground was very well looked after by Herbert Hargreaves for many years (Herbert had played for Yorkshire with some cricket greats that included Sir Len Hutton) and knew how to provide a superb sports facility.
In 1975 the ground was purchased by St Edmundsbury Borough Council who operated the ground as a community facility. The quality of the ground began to reduce and the cost implications to the Borough council became significant, in fact the cost to the council was in the region of £150,000 per annum this was due to the employment of two full time grounds staff and the considerable council management involvement. The quality of the ground deteriorated to such an extent that Suffolk stopped playing Minor Counties matches after discussions with the cricket club a forward-thinking group of individuals formed a `not for profit` organisation to take on the running and maintenance of the ground under a lease granted in 1995. The quality of the ground steadily improved and became again one of the best sports grounds in East Anglia.
In 2007 discussion commenced with regards to improving the pavilion and changing facilities. The old pavilion had served its purpose and was badly in need of replacement. These discussions involved Bury St Edmunds Cricket Club and South Lee School who were seeking to provide an indoor sports hall but had insufficient space on their adjacent site. The discussions, negotiations and fund raising culminated in the creation of the superb new indoor sports centre and community pavilion which was built in 2013 at a cost of £2.25 million. The old pavilion was taken down in 2014, in it were memorial boards containing the names of Greene King employees who died in both world wars, these have now been returned to Greene King to be displayed in their museum. The ground is now owned by The Victory Sports Community Interest Company who purchased the ground from St Edmundsbury Borough Council on January 1st 2013 it has charitable objectives and is available for use by the local community.
The Community Interest Company has an independent chairman (Matthew Fullerton) Grounds Director (Bobby Flack) Finance Director (Roger Cook) two representatives of Bury St Edmunds Cricket Club (Keith Bishop and Paul Whittaker) two representatives of South Lee School (David Barker and Mervyn Watch) and Jonathan Warnock representing Sporting 87 Football Club. The CIC operates the grass areas of the ground, South Lee School as part of the agreement reached with the Borough Council operates the sports hall and Bury St Edmunds Cricket Club run the Community Pavilion and associated changing facilities. The major outside funder of the project was the England and Wales Cricket Board who insisted that their money go the cricket club hence the cricket club had to operate the Community Pavilion, however a management agreement was agreed between all the partners that allows those using the ground to utilise the Community Pavilion and associated facilities. A Community Use Agreement was entered into between South Lee School and St Edmundsbury Borough Council to ensure the Sports Hall is made available at affordable prices outside school time to local sports clubs. In effect Bury St Edmunds obtained an additional indoor sports facility at no cost to the council tax payers of the area.