‘A CLUB BE FORMED’
A Brief History by Mark L Ryan - Club President
K R Rayner’s small monograph ‘A History of Leamington Club 1900-1950’ is an indispensable guide to the continued activities of players at the Arlington Avenue ground. And he is correct to record that the Club was founded on 21st February 1899 when the Mayor of Royal Leamington Spa, G L Bland Esq., proposed to a group of local worthies gathered in the Town Hall “that a Club be formed for the promotion of cricket… the annual subscription to which shall not be less than half a guinea.” The original pavilion was purchased from Milverton C C for £35 (later to become the Ladies Pavilion) but quite soon replaced by a new one designed by Cundall and built by T Pratt for £192.5s.6d. Sir Wathen Waller was landlord - a notable teetotaller (look at the local map and see where the old established pubs lie in relationship to the ground) - he offered the ground to the club for £2,500 in 1920 and which was raised by 1925.
Nevertheless, for those who have an interest in the history of cricket, when and where the game began in Leamington have still to be ascertained. The first account appears to be Wednesday 8th July 1829 when a Leamington XI played against eleven gentlemen of Rugby School on a ground near Newbold Comyn. On the 18th August 1833 the Leamington ‘new’ club should have played the Coventry Club in a return fixture but for a highly contentious dispute which resulted in the Leamington players being attacked by a mob of 400. On Saturday 3rd June 1848 the ‘Courier’ carried an advertisement for the Royal Leamington C C asking for “gentlemen desirous of co-operating in the formation of the above club.” Later that month the club was formed under the patronage of Lord Leigh (a support to be re-established in 1924 when up until 2003 the Leigh family were successively represented as Vice-President and Life Member) and E J Shirley Esq. It lasted not long being “dissolved” in April 1850 (although in 1850 there were five other ‘clubs’ in existence containing the words ‘Leamington’ and/or ‘cricket’) to be replaced by a “new club in connexion with Messrs. Parr and Wisden’s cricketing arrangements.” In this context, in 1850 Leamington C C played its first match against the MCC, Parr and Wisden being in the local team: two matches were played, the first at Lord’s on 11th and 12th July which Leamington won by 11 runs, the second at Leamington on 5th and 6th August with Leamington again victorious by an innings and 66 runs. Matches against the MCC became regular fixtures once the Leamington Club was re-established in 1899/1900. (Incidentally, the MCC played the then Leamington College in the 1880’s and 1890’s).
Oddly, this 1848 Club played an All England XI on September 21st, 22nd and 23rd in that year, a match about which much has been written. Parr and Wisden’s venture lasted until 1863, a Leamington C C playing several matches on their ground. The ground eventually became Victoria Park and was taken over by the Corporation at the insistence of Dr T W Thursfield (see below). Adverts appeared in the ‘Courier’ in 1870 and 1880 concerning efforts “to supply a long-felt want in this town for a ‘good club.’”
In all the euphoria expressed locally on the establishment of a town cricket club in 1899 it should not be forgotten that this was not the first time such an event had taken place nor that the wealthy and influential had had a hand in promoting other cricket clubs in Leamington in the nineteenth century.
A trawl through Becks, Stevens and Spennells Street and Trade Directories beginning in 1870 reveals some very interesting references though one supposes a note of caution: how dependent are we on the reliability of the editors of these directories and their subscribers? In any event, between 1870 and 1880, Becks records six references to either Cricket Club or Leamington C C (1871/2, 1873/4, 1877, 1878, 1879, 1880) but there are also references to a Milverton C C (1879) and a St. John’s C C 1879). Leamington C C then played at Leam Terrace East but by 1880 had moved to Avenue Road and by then was recorded as having a President - W Harding JP and a Secretary, a Mr Williams of Clapham Terrace. Then the trail runs cold. After 1880 and up to 1887 neither Becks nor Spennells record a reference to cricket clubs.
However, after 1887 the Directories are full of information indicating the presence of at least nine different cricket clubs, several being of fitful existence.
In 1897 there were the EARLY CLOSING C C, ALLIANCE C C, POLICE C C, the POST OFFICE C C, the YMCA C C and even more interestingly the MILVERTON C C was still in existence but in this year its President was Alfred Lyttleton and its Vice President The Mayor, Dr T W Thursfield - both these men became Vice Presidents of Leamington C C By 1900 there were the LIBERAL C C, a PARISH CHURCH C C, the YMCA C C, and the LEAMINGTON ATHLECTIC C C. In 1912 there was a LEAMINGTON THURSDAY C C and a BREWERY C C (whose ground was The Brewery in Lillington Avenue). All these clubs give in the various directories a list of secretaries, captains, patrons, headquarters and grounds.
These clubs between 1888 and 1896 had variously as Presidents and Vice-Presidents an apparently distinguished set of clergymen - The Reverends H L Maud, A Sewell, W C Furneaux, W G Wise and F N Carus-Wilson. None of these became associated with Leamington Cricket Club; they may well have been moved on in their ministries. In common with several clergymen linked to Leamington C C as Vice Presidents (see below) in the club’s early years, none of these gentlemen appeared actually to have played. This is partly an assumption because, although we know historically many men of the cloth were successful players, the absence of scorebooks hinders research. Moreover, I have been unable to find any references or descriptions of any of these men as personalities or figures in their own right; their careers in the church are traceable but as to their views, responsibilities and detailed association with cricket as such remains an untapped vein.
A more assiduous and painstaking researcher would no doubt be able to fill in a more detailed year by year list of the cricket clubs in Leamington after Parr and Wisden left in 1863. How ephemeral or long-lasting were these clubs could be ascertained, as could, perhaps, their fixture lists, the results and who was the likely membership.
Nevertheless, it does put into context the establishment of Leamington C C and the impetus behind it.
Leamington Cricket Club as established in 1899 is lucky to possess its Minute Books from then until about 1960. The schoolmaster’s cry about spelling, punctuation and grammar must have applied then as now. It is a considerable trial to read the writing - there is no Bob Cratchett copperplate script here. Deciphering the hand is difficult and especially in attempting to distinguish names. Nevertheless, one is struck by the ‘persons of quality’ who litter the Minute Books as Presidents and Vice-Presidents. I have selected a number of characters about whom readers may have some interest. The list provides an insight into not necessarily the cricket and cricketers but the whole social milieu of the town - though of course the content of the fixture list and the players themselves also add flavour to the nature of the town and its inhabitants. These bygone days may also have had a resonance in the history of Leamington C C up until fairly recently.
The following paragraphs refer to the period 1899 to 1919, though there are references to the careers of some Vice-Presidents thereafter. In passing it is interesting to reflect on the presence of 18 military men who were Vice Presidents in the period from 1900 to 1926; there were another 10 post 1920. Medical men and clergymen were also prominent.
When in 1899 it was decided “a club be formed” the original committee acknowledged only four Vice-Presidents under the Presidency of G L Bland, the then Lord Major of Royal Leamington Spa; he became a Vice-President the following year and remained so until 1909. The original four included C A Smith Ryland (a distinguished Warwickshire family), Sydney Flavel, who had been Mayor several times before 1900 and for three years in 1903-1905 and was later an Honorary Freeman of the Borough, and the Hon. Alfred Lyttleton; Lyttleton was Leamington’s MP from 1895 until 1906. Lyttleton had a remarkable career, having been a quintuple blue, a double international, national Real Tennis champion, a cabinet minister and coincidentally President of the MCC from 1889-1899. Incidentally, Lyttleton had been President of Milverton C C in 1897 and 1898.
By the following year a considerable change took place. The number of Vice-Presidents increased to 24 under the Presidency of Sir Francis Waller. Among this 24 were some of the most prominent men of the town and some who were to make names for themselves in the future. One was H W Bainbridge: born in India in 1862 he opened the batting for Cambridge against Oxford in 1885 and scored 107. He played for Warwickshire and was captain between 1887 and 1907, becoming County Secretary between 1903 and 1930, and Chairman between 1931 and 1939. Dr M H C Atkinson was a Vice-President from 1900 to 1924 and Mayor between 1915 and 1918. Frederick Harry Haynes MD, FRCP was a Vice-President for 34 years and was consulting physician to the Warneford Hospital in Leamington; he was especially interested in the scientific advances in medicine, particularly in connexion with syphilis and its relation to cancer, and he contributed articles on these subjects to the British Medical Journal and other periodicals. He was a member of the BMA for 58 years. He is perhaps better known as one of the founders of lawn tennis, the origins of which are to be located in Leamington. Perhaps the most locally distinguished of Vice Presidents was Dr Thomas William Thursfield; he had been mayor between 1894 and 1897, was granted the Freedom of the Borough in 1910, he died in 1924 aged 85. He lived at SELWOOD in Beauchamp Square and possessed one of the few telephones in the town, No. 85. Thursfield had been personal physician to Dr. Jephson and was one of the most influential figures of the town. When he died he left an estate of gross worth of £78,272. He had been Vice-President of Milverton C C in 1897 and 1898. He, like Alfred Lyttleton transferred his allegiance to Leamington C.C. presumably at the demise - or translocation - of their former club (as did, incidentally, one P A Baker). The Right Reverend Cecil Hook was a Vice-President between 1900 and 1909 and Vicar in Leamington between 1896 and 1905; he became Lord Bishop Suffragen of Kingston upon Thames and Chancellor of Southwark Cathedral 1915 - 1921. Sir James Heath was MP for North West Staffordshire between 1892 and 1906 and created first Baronet of Ashbourne Hill in 1904. Captain W H Starkey was a Vice-President for 26 years; his address was simply BERICOTE. Also in 1900 General Edward Dandridge was a Vice-President; he had served in the Indian Army.
In 1901 the number of Vice-Presidents increased by ten, from 24 to 34. Was this THE club to which to belong? Colonel Grosvenor H Webb CB and Colonel Forsyth and a General Prinsep joined the V-P List; General Arthur Haldimand Prinsep had seen service in the Indian Mutiny and on the North West Frontier.
In 1906 a Lieutenant - Colonel Malcolm Kincaid Smith became a Vice-President; he was MP for Stratford upon Avon 1906 - 1909. Also in this year an H E Wise joined the list. I have been unable to discover whether he was a relative of THE Wise family whose considerable estates were inherited by the Waller family in 1888.
The Reverend W Armstrong Buck, Vicar of Leamington between 1907 and 1916 became a VP in 1906; he emigrated to Pau, Monte-Carlo and Nice until 1937. In 1907 the Reverend C C Brookes was elected as a VP; he was vicar at St. Mary Magdalene in Lillington - interestingly an appointment which had historically been in the gift of the Wise/Waller lordship.
In 1908 the Venerable George Arbuthnot, vicar of Stratford upon Avon 1879 - 1908 joined, probably on his appointment as Archdeacon of Coventry in 1908; he wrote ‘Shakespeare Sermons’ in 1900. Ernest Murray Pollock became a VP in 1910 (until 1924). He was MP for Leamington between 1910 and 1923, was knighted in 1923 serving as Solicitor-General, Attorney-General and elected to Master of the Rolls as Viscount Haworth in 1926. By now the list of Vice-Presidents numbered 41 and in 1911 48. In this year Alfred Holt became a VP, having been mayor between 1907 and 1911 and, later, between 1925 and 1929; he had captained Leamington C C between 1900 and 1905 and again in 1907; in 1899 he had supervised the layout of the club grounds. In 1913 General Thorneycroft became one of 50 VPs as did Brigadier-General E A Wiggen DSO; he had served in South Africa between 1899 and 1902 and fought at Gallipoli; he became High Sherriff in 1930 and lived at Grey’s Mallory. Alexander Whitelaw Thorneycroft CB had fought at Spion Kop and throughout the Boer War.
By 1914 the number of Vice-Presidents had risen to 53. The Club ‘closed’ between 1915 and 1919. In 1919 the Vice-President list was left in the hands of the Committee and in 1923 a large number of the VPs had unpaid subscriptions. Since election appears to have been ‘en bloc’ I have been unable to ascertain who were VPs in the immediate post First World War period until 1924 when a complete list is provided in the Minute Books. Also in 1919 Sir Wathen Waller became President. His brother, Sir Francis Waller had been killed in the war in 1914 aged only 34 and had been President since 1900.
If raising money presented a crisis in 1925, that was nothing to 1927 when Sunday cricket was suggested. A Special General Meeting on 5th August voted 15 to 14 “to empower the committee to arrange a limited number of matches to be played on Sundays for next season.” At the end of 1928 a further special General Meeting was called to see whether the experiment be continued; the Leamington and District Clergy urged re-consideration. The Local Press described a keen and lively debate and there was an overwhelming vote in favour of Sunday cricket. Thus was ushered in the weekend two day matches against the Googlies, Yellowhammers, Romany and the Buccaneers bringing to the ground such notables as the Hon. Lionel Tennyson, J W H T Jackson, A P F Chapman, D R Jardine, R E S Wyatt and W R Hamond, England captains all.
In just a snapshot of inter-war cricket, the 1932 fixture list had 32 matches including eight two-day games, some of which included The Warwickshire Regiment and The Bicester Hunt; also included were Northants Amateurs, the excitingly named Bacchanalians (odd since Waller forbad drinking on the ground) and Gentlemen from Staffordshire, Leicestershire and Suffolk. In 1960 there were 48 matches but only two two-day games. So highly regarded was the town club that it was reported on in ‘The Tatler’ of July 1953.
The pre-war period was dominated by the legendary F A Ward. Captain between 1908 and 1913 and again 1919 to 1932, he claimed to “have worked for one day and didn’t like it.” He bowled slow floaters with Parr his valet as wicket-keeper - unless a stumping was missed and the unfortunate servant was sent home to clean the silver. Poor Parr: one Leamington cricket week he lost all his wages to dropped catches. Wardy’s success with the ball was mischievously alleged to have something to do with a dark fir tree background at the Avenue end. In the very early days A C S Glover was thought to have been the best player to have graced the ground; he captained Leamington in 1906 and Warwickshire CCC in 1908-9. Leslie Duckworth records a strange event about Glover. ‘The Birmingham Post’ reported a games against Gloucestershire in 1899 which suggests Glover threw the ball at a group of spectators in response to their insulting remarks.
The MCC sent a message of congratulations on past achievement and best wishes for the future to the Club on its Jubilee Dinner held on 28th April 1950. Post-war cricket up to 1971 retained much of the pre-war character: two day games abounded and against the usual foes and others such as the Eton Ramblers and Free Foresters, there was the D H Robbins Cricket Week during which a host of current and budding Test players made their appearances – Gibbs, Kanhai, Lloyd, Hunte, Pataudi – and there were day matches against Oxford University Authentics, R.A.F Bomber Command, Shrewsbury Saracens, as well as Gentlemen from Shropshire and Staffordshire together with the Warwickshire Pilgrims, The Bucanneers, The Rydal Dolphins, The Leicester Gnomes and The Cryptics. An atmosphere hard to define characterised these days when the ground always seemed full, particularly on Bank Holidays especially when these included Tuesdays and four days of continual Cricket! A certain class distinction still held sway, days too when a harsh economic reality did not seem to impinge. Cricket was the essential: bar, teas, showers, ‘facilities’ were almost incidentals, though the local baker, Mr. Sabin and his family always managed a successful trade in ice-cream, teas, sandwiches and cakes served from a white hut near to the gated entrance. And certainly there was an endless supply of young players from Warwick School, notably by V G Evans, D I Dollery, P F Ramage together with their Masters D W Keighley and R W Hosen (who died in 2005). It was also the era of “uncovered” pitches. In these days too there was a Ladies Pavilion, a Ladies Tea Committee supervised by such incomparables as Dora Lord, Margaret Rushton and Wyn Tedstone. The black and white photographs – those way back to 1903 – do no justice to the wonderful rainbow colours of Club Blazers; here Steven Baldwin can regale you as to whether Leamington’s colours were black, yellow, and green or cerise, chocolate and silver; for the funny side of this one could need Herbert Farjeon’s ‘Pavilion Gossip’. And there were also the stalwarts of the club – Ned Holland, S.J. ‘Syd’ Oldfield, A N Lord. The club was privileged to maintain – and still does – an ‘out’ match against the MCC though in recent years this is played only every two years while from 1953 to 1989 a game was played against the Cross Arrows at Lords. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s teams travelled as far as Finchley, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Lydney. Now it seems the ‘leisured classes’ have all but disappeared and the game itself very much reflects the times.
New competitive edges were introduced – The Saturday Midlands league began in 1971 to be restructed (nationally) into County Board organised leagues in 2000; a Sunday League Competition began in 1984 but faded out in the late 1990’s. The First XI won only one league championship in 1991 together with the 2001 Sunday League and Cup; the Second XI won the Sunday League in 1987, 1991, 1994, and 1997.
In keeping with new demands for players, spectators and members in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the magnificent new Pavilion was built in 1983 and opened by M J K Smith and funded by the sale of part of the ground. In the three decades of 1960 – 1989 older locals will recall PH (Phil) Bromley, Roger Hosen, Mike Willard, Peter Smith, the legendary Stan Clare, Alphie Sam, Jim Rushton, Andrew Hamilton, Peter Beddoes, David Lord, the infamous scorer ‘Jacko’, Graham Davies (who indeed scored three successive centuries on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and who failed on Tuesday complaining of tiredness) and Gordon Lord. Do clubs today provide the continuity of families like The Tedstones (Ken, Wyn, Janet, Geoff and Roger)? And thinking of legends – no, not Terry Light, but JMA (Jack) Marshall, Captain 1955 – 1963, President 1963 –1997, a member for over 60 years and who once bowled an eleven ball over in County Cricket because Alex Skelding forgot the call over when a wicket fell. Or Roy Davies, Captain 1964 – 1972 who once held the highest individual innings on the ground – 167 – and who six times scored 1000 runs and took 100 wickets. Roy’s 167 was eclipsed in July 1995 when the Second XI scored 444 for 0 in 45 overs against a nine man Rugby CC team with B J Whitlock scoring 202 and Matthew Lloyd 232. Or the now retired ‘silver fox’ Clive Antrobus, who took all ten wickets (for 52) in a match in a season when he took 122 wickets; if he now only plays occasionally, he it is who masterminds the increasingly successful youth policy (see below). Perhaps no less remarkable was the First XI win over King’s Heath in June 1988 when in chasing 228 for 5 off 58 overs Leaming scored 229 for ) in 36.3 overs with G A Tadstone and P C Beddoes each 110 not out. And as for ‘characters’: who remembers Cedric our groundsman: a whole page on him in The Guardian of 1975 and notoriously recorded in an article in the MCC Yearbook of 1971 for his efforts in the match between Wolvington v Leamhampton. Also to be recalled were the eccentric umpires Stan Goode (fiddlers all) and Wally Coburn.
The increasing demands upon players given the changes in social and economic circumstances meant that one great loss to Leamington CC was the demise of the August Cricket week. Leamington had always played several mid week matches against touring sides – Astolat, Hull Zingari, Cheshire Cats and the MCC when this game was moved from May to early August. From 1984 until 1997 games were played on each day of the week against, variously, Worcestershire Scholars, Warwickshire Pilgrims, Clarendon Park, a Joffre Pitcher XI, The Magistri, The Dragonflies, local league XIs and Brighton and Hove. This latter fixture remains; it is played for the Wisden Trophy to acknowledge the links between the two towns seen in the name of trophy. For those interested in the Parr-Wisden associations with Leamington Cricket R.S. Baldwin’s booklet ‘John Wisden at Leamington Priors’ is a fascinating insight into the Victorian age of sport.
With the advent of the Birmingham and District League Championship in 2000 Leamington found recent success, particularly in 2001 when the Second XI was promoted to the Premier League only to be relegated straight away but bouncing back in 2003; the First XI won promotion to the Premier League in 2004. Indeed 2004 was something of an annus mirabilis with both sides in the Premier League, the Third XI gaining successive promotions in the Cotswold League, U16s winning the Warwickshire League and the U13s becoming National Champions and the Club being declared Warwickshire’s Club of the year. In all of this it was a time of professionally engaged players, (through this is surely a throw-back to pre 1939 days where records suggest a professional was employed but to bowl at members) paid players, the erection of all weather nets supported by Sport England, the acquisition of overseas players through the King’s Langley (Australia) exchange, and an England player Wayne Larkins as captain for two years.
I wonder if anyone can think in terms of part of the letter to her son by Mary turner of East Hoathley, Sussex, in September 1739.
“Last Monday youre Father was at Mr Payns and plaid at cricket and came home please enuf for he struck the best Ball in the game and wishd he had not anny thing else to do he ould play at cricket all his life.”
The arrival of Rob Williams at Leamington CC in 2002 has thrown up an interesting historical highlight of the early years of the Club.
Rob has considerable experience as a Northamptonshire player and captain of Oxfordshire but played much cricket at Everdon Hall as a close friend of the Hawkins family. Near Daventry in Northamptonshire, cricket was first played at the Hall in 1907 when Major Henry Hawkins bought the 1000 acre estate in 1896. Major Hawkins died in 1930 and the game at the Hall died with him. In the Major’s era touring teams played at the Hall - Incogniti, The Rotters, The Crusaders, Free Foresters, Cross Arrows, I Zingari and The Fantasians.
However, his son, Captain RH (Dick) Hawkins revived the pitch in 1948 - when he was able to find the square in a field occupied by a herd of Jersey cows. Shortly after the Captain’s death in 1997, the Hall was sold, cricket lapsed, though I understand that recently it has been revived.
In going through many of the archives Rob Williams discovered several old scorebooks from before the First World War. These matches seem to cover a period of about six weeks, from early July to mid August. This was Country House Edwardian cricket at its finest; the London ‘season’ was over and Scotland and 12th August called. Remarkably, here are recorded matches played between Everdon Hall and Leamington CC whose recent re-incarnation had been in 1899/1900. Given the extremely patchy records of Leamington matches until the late 1950s and despite the eccentric memoirs of games played by FA Ward (Captain, President and stalwart of the Club for decades), this unearthing is intriguing.
One can only imagine how the players journeyed between grounds, how long the matches lasted (since the scorebooks do not record times), where all the players stayed. As ever in fixtures of this kind and era, players include men of the cloth, medical men, members of the armed forces and the uninitialled ’professionals.’
Early matches played by Everdon Hall between 1909 and 1913 (which these books record) include S Schilizzi’s XI, Weedon Garrison, Warwickshire Gentlemen, Roadsters CC (who or what could they be?), Daventry Early Closers (usually on Thursdays), Newnham Hall, Northants Club and Ground, Lord Ludlow’s XI, MCC, Wellingborough Masters, Pytchley Hunt and, of course, Leamington CC.
Surely no coincidence could be intended but your writer was fascinated by a match played at the Hall against a Dr Ryan’s XI and in the match, 5th August 1913, a J Ryan scored 166 not out. As far as I am aware there is no familial connection. Perhaps worse from my point of view, I actually met and talked to a number of the players who participated in some of these matches.
As to the recording of the games, the scorebooks have entries for a second innings for only one of the sides; in some cases the innings of the side batting second goes on beyond the score of the opposition batting first. Often, the bowling averages of the second innings is unrecorded. If anyone wants to peruse these 'cards, please contact the author.
A further interesting sidelight is that in a match played between Leamington and the MCC on 21st and 22nd July 1905 a certain H Hawkins played for the MCC. I have been unable to identify him in the photograph of the teams hanging in the pavilion.