A History of Berkhamsted Cricket Club

100 Years of Cricket by H.E.Todd

Think of it – one hundred unbroken years of cricket in Berkhamsted. It is a sobering thought! And the writer is even more sobered by the thought that he has played every season for the Club for nearly half of its history – to be precise for forty six consecutive seasons! Admittedly his more recent appearance is dignified by the term “played”, but he did turn up once in white flannels for the Third Eleven last season. (They were very short on the day!) and he did actually stagger to the wicket to make one run, though a veil should be drawn over his antics in the field. 

Actually to call 1975 the Centenary Year of the Berkhamsted Cricket Club is a conservative estimate. As early as 1819 wickets were pitched for a Married vs Single game in the town, and the Mechanics Institute organised a similar encounter for several years from 1867 onwards in the Castle Grounds – and what a beautiful setting that must have been. Odd games about that time were played by Berkhamsted School and teams like the Berkhamsted Brewery and the Berkhamsted Foot Beaglers, but it was not until 1875 that a real fixture list of seven matches was published by the Town Club in the local press, and by the 1880s a full programme against many of our present day opponents was regularly embarked upon.

Comments in the press show that club playing and organisation problems have not changed. In 1892 playing away against Chipperfield “The fielding of the visitors in some degree accounted for their heavy defeat”. Centenary season captains please note! In 1905, against West Herts “White was given out lbw and a very doubtful decision it appeared to be from the attitude of several of the players”. Naughty! Naughty! “We cannot undertake to insert matches unless they are properly written on one side of the paper, and they must reach this office not later than Thursday morning”, Secretary please note, but for Thursday read Monday!

And, again in 1905, after the first match for the season against Wolverton “It may be especially urged at the commencement of the season that the prolonged interval, the arbitrary adjournment for refreshment, and the early drawing of the stumps will not tempt an increasing number of spectators to come and see the play”, perhaps the beauty of the ladies doing teas was responsible for the prolonged interval. Bless them, they are still doing teas, and are still as beautiful as ever. What would be have done without them over all these years?

Umpires were as vulnerable as ever, even in 1927! “A curious incident was that Cowleys’s first two overs both comprised seven deliveries. The seventh ball of his first over was no-balled by umpire Bass, and the seventh ball of the seventh over bowled Stone. It was a straight delivery which Stone said he did not see as a train was passing by his line of sight”. In those days the wickets on the Town Ground were pitched from canal to railway, and the trees along the railway side were much smaller. Obviously this encouraged local guile, and Jack Cowley had some!

The present Town ground has been used since before the beginning of the Century, it was shared with Berkhamsted School until 1915, when the school moved up the hill, and later the Institute used it on Sundays and the Hockey Club during their winter season. The Institute merged with the Town after the Second World War, and some excellent players were inherited, including the Waller brothers – one of whom played for the County and the other became Captain of the Club, and also our much loved President Jim Harrowell. The old pavilion on stilts was replaced in 1937 with the present building, which is constantly being altered and redecorated. At present members are busily engaged in making it smart for our Centenary season.

With the advent of the Wanderer eleven – later to be called Third eleven, the junior team always played away until, for a time, the School ground was kindly lent during the holidays and, more recently, excellent wickets have been made available at the Cow Roast, through co-operations with the Hockey Club.

Links with the past are still firm with some of our older spectators, Walter Brinklow, who umpired back in the 1920s is a regular attender on the ground, and he is able to compare present day form with the tearaway bowling of Tally Morgan who first played in the 1890s and signed his last minutes as Chairman in 1951. The writer took over the captaincy in 1937 from delightful Jack Cowley, who was already vice-captain in 1911 and making runs and taking wickets in his elegant way.

Like all local clubs, we have had our ups and downs. During one vintage period between 1923/33 we were lucky enough to have some excellent players and also a Chairman who was an MCC administrator. The result was that we were privileged to play mid-week matches against touring International teams – the West Indies three times, New Zealand and India. After that for a period, though excellently administered on the Max Crispin era, the results were less impressive, and they reached their nadir when the writer was Captain! Oh, those regular resounding defeats by Chesham!

The main aim of this article, however, is to bring an earlier published history up to date, and to concentrate on the last ten years, which have been some of the most successful the Club has known. It is a happy thought that we enter our hundredth year as winners in the 1974 Herts League, which included all the senior clubs in the County. Indeed, we can surely claim over recent years to be the most consistently successful club in the County, for we also won the Hertfordshire Competition in our first year of entry in 1969, were again champions in 1971, and in all other years have been well to the top of the table. And amongst more local clubs the Gazette Cup, which included the hazard of strong village and works teams who are apt to spring surprises, has been won five times since 1966.

On looking through the results over this decade the outstanding impression is that so many matches were actually won. Of course some were lost as well – though few in comparison – but very few were drawn unless weather interfered. Ken Burling, one of the most aggressively elegant batsman who has been seen on the ground, was skipper from 1965 – 1968. In 1965 Denis Atkins, Bob Walker, Dave Wilson, Denis Beard and Norman Warren were making the runs, and Brian Collins was already taking wickets. 1966 was another excellent season with variety given to the bowling by Cook, and by 1967 Barry Keeling and Bob Niven were adding youth and style to batting and bowling. In 1968 the Collins/Buckle opening attack caused havoc, as it has done many times in later seasons. Brian was chosen for the County, John Davies showed class whenever he played, and Laurie Thompson arrived to give ballast in more ways than one.