In 1919 Novos were struggling to find a place to play until Mr Talbot, Headmaster of the R.G.S, allowed the club to use the school field, and the club stayed there for slightly more than two seasons before a nomadic life for 7 years. Between 1921-1925 the club had had five grounds, with lack of facilities and at considerable expense to the players. Novos played on the Golf Course of Benton Road, Brough Park Race Course, and West Avenue, Gosforth. One season Novos played all their games away, and then Novos came upon Benton Lodge in 1925. The club played on the field, but weren’t able to purchase it. Until Col. A. W. Wittle, who had found the field tried to negotiate, but the owners would enter into nothing until a substantial guarantee was forthcoming. Three guarantors signed their names: Eddie Watson, Don Ash and Paul Lazzari.
The question of the purchase of the ground at Benton was most importantly pursued in 1926 to 1927 and a great ground purchase scheme was organised, and John Stewart took over as Treasurer. The reaction to the ground purchase scheme was not very wonderful, having in mind that a depression was settling over the country at that time. Messrs’ Stewart, Little and Dix put the scheme to Sir Arthur Munroe Sutherland (RGS pupil: 1878-83) and he authorised Dix to make an offer for the ground of £4,000 although the owners were asking £5,500. After a lot of haggling the ground was purchased for the £4,000 and Sir Arthur became the owner. Sir Arthur was a good landlord to the Club and built a fine clubhouse, the envy of many; laid tennis courts and put the ground in good condition.
Sutherland Park, originally leased from the family company B.J.Sutherland & Co, (Shipping Merchants) was then purchased by the Royal Grammar School in 1940. Munroe Sutherland offered the ground for sale both to the School and the Rugby Club. Unfortunately in spite of valiant efforts Old Novos were unable to raise the finance so with the help of a low interest loan it was sold to the RGS, who remain the current landlords. The first game to take place in front of the newly built pavilion at Sutherland Park was in April, 1928 against Ryton. The original photograph of this momentous occasion can still be seen in the clubhouse to this day.
Not only did Sutherland buy the ground for Old Novocastrians, he was, by far, the most munificent benefactor the Royal Grammar School ever had. Many generations of Old Novocastrians will remember him as an ever-present figure on Speech Days and other major occasions. The rifle range and armoury (1915), now gone; the organ, given in memory of the 138 Old Novocastrians who fell in the Great War; the swimming baths (1930); the gymnasium (now replaced); the old junior school and the staff common room; even the cost of obtaining the school’s Coat of Arms in 1930, all given by this extraordinary benefactor. He was the last private owner of Dunstanburgh Castle which he donated to the nation in 1929 and amongst many other properties; he owned Close House in Heddon and Mansion House in Jesmond.*
*Thanks go to the Old Novocastrians Association for the final paragraph.
Above: Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland (1920)