Bell Inn Aldworth Cricket

Cricket and Beer in Berkshire
Aldworth Cricket Club

History

A Potted History

The following is a slightly edited version of notes made by Bob Coles around 1983.
Despite his comments about the early history, recent discoveries in newspaper archives take the oldest references back to around 1830, see below.

The beginning

The finding of the start of Aldworth CC appears to be a forlorn hope, as records (if they were kept) all seem to be lost. The earliest I have been able to trace is a cutting from a Woodcote Parish Magazine of 1893, where the match was played. Unfortunately no scores were recorded, as the report says "no scores were available owing to the fact that the Aldworth scorer had taken the score book home." It did relate that Aldworth had won "owing the accurate underarm bowling of Hall."

We now go from there to 1904.

1933 is the next year of found records, where it is seen that the club played all local clubs, e.g. Ashampstead, Basildon, Streatley etc. This was primarily to restrict travelling too far, as the players only mode of travel was by bicycle, and each player would carry his share of the kit with him.

Like nearly all other clubs, Aldworth had two breaks during the world wars 1914-18 and 1939-45. The present club was re-formed in 1946 Lon Lay Hon Sec and Mr R H McQuhae Hon Treas. Now there was more motorised transport, the club ventured further afield for their fixtures - Peppard, Ipsden etc. - and they would travel to their fixtures by taxi. In those days the club only played Saturday fixtures, and it was not until the late 40's that they doubled their fixture list and included Sunday fixtures as they do to the present time.

Ground

The club over the years has used three grounds - Chandlers Meadow at Pibworth, Ambury Pit Meadow at Bower, and their present venue Victoria Park Rec (or as the villagers know it, The Playground), using the village hall as a pavilion. The ground was given to the village by the Lord of the Manor, who had planted round it three rows of elm trees, and wrote at the time "for the villagers to enjoy their qutes and cricket." The trees alas all had to be removed in 1977, approximately 100 years after they had been planted, owing to the dreaded elm disease, and have been replaced with two rows of beech poplar and lime. This was done also in 1977.

The club has always maintained their own square themselves. This was fenced around as the rest of the field was used for grazing cattle. In the early summer it was a usual sight to see it being cut for the cattle's winter food. One of the hazards of playing under these conditions was avoiding the cow pats, which could make a nasty mess of boots and trousers ( as many players of the past found out, so I am told). The club gradually got mechanised, and at the end of the 40's purchased a motor mower to cut the square, after years of doing this with a hand mower. There was never a shortage of volunteers to do the mowing.

In the late 50s, the club got permission to put an electric fence completely round the whole playing area, thus letting the cattle graze all round under the trees. This allowed the club to have the outfield cut at least twice during the season. This was done by Arthur Walters the local farmer with his tractor and a field mower. In 1968 the club purchased a single unit mower and this was used normally once a week to cut the whole outfield. The ground now began to look clean and tidy; gone were the days of the buttercup and long grass (and cow pats).

Matches

In addition to the usual Saturday and Sunday games the club would stage an all day (2 innings each) game on the two holiday Mondays (Whitsun and August). The earliest I can find on record was played in 1936 v Aldermaston, Aldworth winning the first game and the return being drawn (see scores 1936). These kinds of games were continued after the war playing various clubs, but were then discontinued after 1971.

Several celebrity sides have visited Aldworth. The first in 1953 was when MacDonald Hastings brought a star studded side from London, which included the Marquis of Milford Avon (the best man at the royal wedding in 1947), Barron (the court photographer), film stars Peter Ustinov and James Robertson Justice, and Mark Bonham Carter (now MP). Also accompanying the side was the popular film star Miss Eva Batock. William (Bill) Rushton also brought several star studded sides to the village in the middle 60s, and Richard Ingrams (Lord Gnome of Private Eye) still brings a side for an annual game.

The longest running fixture without a break is the Radley College game. This fixture started in 1946, and though now only one match is played a year, it has continued without a break for 37 years. This fixture was arranged by Mr Vesey Holt (a former Radley pupil) who played occasional games for the club until he moved away in 1948.

 

Newspaper references

The Berkshire Chronicle, Saturday 15 May, 1830 in the Berkshire Chronicle, page 2:

"We hear that a match of cricket will come off on Monday next, at Streatley, between eleven of Aldworth and eleven of the former place."

Also on Saturday 15 April 1871, in the Reading Mercury:

"Aldworth.-On Monday, the 10th inst., an interesting and friendly cricket match was played on the Aldworth Cricket Ground, between the young men ..."

And Saturday 30 Nov 1901, Reading Mercury:

"ALDWORTH. Cricket Club Supper took place on Tuesday evening, the 19th, at the Schoolroom and, although late in the season the room was well filled with members and ..."