This account of our history was written by Geoff Payne in 1980.
' A not too serious review of the past 75 years.'
This short narrative is but a brief account of the Club and some of the members, from its inception in 1905 as Horsell Cricket Club until the present day.
Picture Horsell without the post 1918 development and some idea can be gained of the village as it was when the Club was formed. It certainly had its own identity and very few connections with Woking. The first ground was the Vicarage field at the back of the "Red Lion" and it was not until 1923 that cricket was played on the present ground at Brewery Road. The idea of a sports ground in Horsell was conceived by a group of influential residents who thought it important that a suitable ground be purchased and made available for organised sport in the village. Perhaps preserving a permanent open space in Horsell also appealed to them. The ground was certainly referred to as Woking's "Emerald Isle" in a fund raising letter sent out by the Cricket Club in 1935, and I'm sure the present generation of members would endorse that opinion.
I think, from the several interesting names the ground could have been given, it was referred as "Front Field" in the conveyance to the Sports Ground Association; "Spooners Field" after the family which previously owned it; and subsequently, "Smarts Field", after the groundsman. it was a pity the powers that be settled for nothing more imaginative than the "Sports Ground".
By the end of the last century the town of Woking was beginning to grow around the station, which at one time was known as "Woking For Horsell", and as early as 1866 a Woking Cricket Club was playing on the Wheatsheaf, making the Wheatsheaf probably one of the oldest grounds in the district on which cricket is still played.
When the Horsell Cricket Club was formed in 1905 a Club calling itself "Horsell and Woking" was playing at the Brewery Field (opposite our present ground), subsequently changing its name to Woking C.C, moving into the town and becoming the town club until it disbanded in 1939.
1905 - 1914
On the 21st January 1905 there was a meeting at the Horsell School for the discussion of a proposed cricket club. It was unanimously agreed that a cricket club be formed and that it should be called the "Horsell Cricket Club".
The ground was to be the "Vicarage Field" (now a housing estate) by courtesy of the vicar, the Reverend Pares, who was elected president. The curate, the Reverend J.C.H. Evereleigh, M.A, a popular man in the village who did much for the young people of the parish and was a prime mover in the formation of the Club, was elected Club Captain.
Norman Pares, who was educated at Eton, had played a great deal of good cricket in his younger days but did not turn out regularly for Horsell. His claim to sporting fame was appearing at outside right for the Old Etonians when they won the F.A. Cup in 1879.
The Horsell Boys Club, which also owed its beginnings to the curate, was closely associated with the Cricket Club in the early days, and was already using the Vicarage Field when the cricket club was formed. The Committee allocated them two evenings a week for practice but ruled that "boys and men must not practice together any night". Playing members paid an annual subscription of 2s.6d. and Vice Presidents a maximum of 5s.0d.
The first club dinner was held in December 1905 at the "Red Lion", Horsell, at a cost of 2s.6d. per head. It was very formal and included a very lengthy toast list.
The President commented thus in the Parish Magazine at the end of the first season: "The Cricket Club which came into existence last summer had plenty of matches but the record of results was not satisfactory. However, everything must have a beginning, so will hope for better luck next season".
A 2nd XI was formed in 1906 and played a limited number of fixtures.
Due to his move to another parish the Rev. Everleigh resigned the captaincy in 1909 and the following resolution appeared in the Club minutes: "The members of the Horsell Cricket Club, in accepting the resignation of the Rev. J.H.C Everleigh of his position as captain of the club, recognise the necessity of the step and rejoice in their captains preferment. They desire to place on record a sense of appreciation of his generous service to the club an also their grateful recognition of those many qualities which have endeared him to every individual member". Praise indeed, and apart from which the Club made a public presentation to him at the Village Hall. Despite his move to Herefordshire, Mr Everleigh continued as a Vice President until 1934.
There are no playing records of this period, but the majority of fixtures were against local sides. A brake was used to convey the team to away, or "out" matches as they were called. The home side were invariably called the "hamsters".
In 1914 cricket was suspended for the duration of the war but a small subscription was collected for the members to enable the ground to be kept in reasonable order.
1919 - 1939
With the cessation of hostilities, cricket started again in 1919. The immediate problem for the Club was to find a new ground as the vicar was unable to allow the continued use of his field as pre-war. A sub-committee was formed to try and locate another ground, and several meadows in the parish were considered and found unsuitable, as were the former Woking Ground at Brewery Field and the Wheatsheaf. Meanwhile, the vicar agreed to the Club using the vicarage field until a suitable alternative was found.
About this time a group of Horsell residents formed an association known as the Horsell Sports Ground Association for the purpose of acquiring and adapting a suitable ground in Horsell and providing there own facilities for sports and games and other events for the benefit of the village.
The scheme was financed by subscribers resident in the parish of Horsell, from whom sums of £1.00 and upwards were accepted. These subscribers duly became members of the Association and were issued with founders' certificates. Records show that the Club purchased certificates to the value of £50.00 although there is a latter minute in 1922 which refers to the Club recommending the Trustees of the H.S.G.A to pay over to the Association £50.00 for the preparation of the cricket table and any balance to be devoted to the Club's use.
From three possibilities "Front Field", Brewery Road, belonging to the Stedman family and previously used as nursery, was purchased for the sum of £1, 400. There were sufficient funds left to drain and lay out the ground as a sports ground; the Cricket Club using it during the summer and the Horsell Football Club in the winter. Tennis courts were also installed and a pavilion built.
On the 23rd April 1923 the ground was opened with a cricket match between the founder members and committee of the Sports Ground Association, captained by the President, Mr.J.L. Sweet, and the Horsell Club under the captaincy of Mr. G. Whittle.
From a nominal rent of a few pounds a year for the Vicarage field, the Club now had to find the princely sum of £35 per annum, which included the services of a full time groundsman.
At the 1921 A.G.M. the Treasurer reported a balance in hand of £1.13s.0d, so it was not surprising that various fund raising schemes were embarked upon, including whist drives and a concert at the Village Hall.
Mr H.Tidy, Headmaster of Horsell School, tendered his resignation from the post of Secretary/Treasurer, which he had held for 16 years, and was presented with a testimonial in view of "his long and honoured service".
Now the Club had ceased to use the Vicarage Field they soon dispensed with the services of the Vicar who had been president since the Club had been formed in 1905. At the 1922 A.G.M. the first time he had been opposed, just one vote was cast in his favour. The groundsman, appointed by H.S.G.A. was Charlie Smart, an ex-sergeant major, who was paid £2.10.0d. per week. Smart, who held the job for nearly thirty years, was something of a martinet as far as the local children were concerned, and such was his authority that the ground became now as "Smarts Field".
Records for the period 1923-1928 are scanty but the Club became established as one of the leading village sides in the area, with the match against Woking normally the highlight of the season.
The 20s and 30s were undoubtedly dominated by the Threadgold and Tucker families. There were 5 Threadgolds and 3 Tuckers playing at the same time but no record of them all playing in the same XI. Threadgold senior had been an outstanding cricketer for the Club since its formation and a committee member for most of the time, including several years as Secretary. Tucker senior, "A.B." as he was known, was Club Captain for most of the inter-war years and a talented all rounder with several centuries to his credit. Both men were also deeply involved with committee work in the H.G.S.A.
Some notable players of this period were Harry Gowler, Vice Captain, with a club record of 4 wickets in 4 consecutive balls at Egham in 1927. Ted Heale, a medium pace seam bowler, who usually headed the averages and also did a long stint as Club Treasurer. Colin Brewer revelled in the reputation as the fastest and most feared bowler in the district. Colin was still playing regularly in 1970 when he died aged 60. Frank Church, an attractive forcing bat. Garland Ashdown, a polished opening bat, and nephew of the famous Kent opening bat of that name.
In the 1930's the Club had the assistance of several Indians from the Woking Mosque, including Prince Aziz who on several occasions represented India against the M.C.C.
There was no shortage of spectators. On the seating available in front of the pavilion and dotted around the ground there were sometimes as many as 50 people watching a Saturday game. The collection box was always taken round, preferably by someone well known in the village, and the contents were a welcome addition to the Club funds. Retired folk made up the bulk of the onlookers, particularly on Wednesday afternoons.
There was one old chap, a retired publican called Charlie Barnett, who suffered from a bulbous red nose. The story goes that in his younger days he was very conscious of this affliction and spotting a newspaper advert purporting to "cure red noses in 10 days or money back" he sent off the required 5s.0d. and awaited the reply. It duly arrived in the form of a letter which he opened with some excitement, no doubt picturing his nose restored to it's former shape and colour, but alas, there was just a terse note which read "re red nose, drink till the bugger turns blue."
In 1934 after much discussion the Cricket Club took over the management of the ground, and to mark the occasion organised a village day. Entertainments included children's sports, folk dancing and the Chertsey Town Band. A letter was sent to the Prince of Wales requesting permission for his name to be used for one of the children's events, but the star turn was definitely an elephant who performed tricks and was on show during the evening "for an extra charge".
Membership to the Club Cricket Conference as a village club was applied for in 1937. The death of the Club's first President, Norman Pares, occurred in 1936.
At the beginning of 1938 the Club was confronted with the resignation of the ground sub-committee which stated that it was impossible to run the club satisfactorily on the sources of income available to the Club. Various fund raising schemes were tried, but without success, and on the 1st April 1939 the Club had no alternative but to terminate the agreement with the H.S.G.A. Until the outbreak of war in September the ground was managed by a joint committee comprising the cricket, football and tennis clubs.
1939 - 1950
After a few months the Club decided in 1940 to close down for the duration of the war and the ground was taken over by Surrey County Council to be used as a playing field. The groundsman was retained and it was subsequently found possible to arrange fixtures from time to time, largely due to Frank Church's efforts. Thus local cricketers home on leave from the services were able to get in a welcome game of cricket.
After the conclusion of the hostilities, the Club restarted in earnest in 1946 with the formation of two Saturday sides as pre-war, but the Wednesday team was not reformed. (Just prior to the war the Wednesday team had experienced difficulty in raising a team and had it not been for the cricket fanatic Arthur V. Hills, founder of the Woking Review who took over the captaincy and responsibility for finding a side, the Wednesday side would have suffered an earlier demise.)
Woking Cricket Club, for which Alec and Eric Bedser played before joining Surrey, was disbanded and consequently a number of it's pre-war members joined Horsell in 1946 and were happily integrated into the Club. Notable among them were Graham Jater, Robin Davies, Dennis Blunden and Bob Cook, all of whom were to play a part in the post war fortunes of the Club, and Bob Cook was subsequently to go to Basingstoke, where for several years he has been Chairman of the Club.
By now Sunday cricket was becoming popular, and in 1947 it was unanimously agreed to start a Sunday XI.
It was obvious that changes in Club policy were pending. An influx of players from local clubs in 1948-49, possibly sensing that Horsell was a club out to improve its status, culminated in major changes in the officers and committee, though not before four senior members had threatened to resign over a matter of team selection. One was Gerald or "Bill" Bristow, who joined the club in 1932 and was the first post war Treasurer. Until the clubhouse was opened in 1952 committee meetings were held at his house, and for several reasons he was the clubs representative to the Horsell Sports Ground Association. Gerald retired as a player in the 1950's and became the Club's first Honorary Life Member. Until ill health prevented him, he regularly attended the Club's social functions, generally with his daughter Jennifer, who for many years was the first team's scorer. Gerald died in 1978.
At the 1949 A.G.M. Hugh Price, managing director of a local timber firm and a much respected senior player, was elected President, Robin Davies Secretary and Geoff Payne Fixture Secretary. Within two years, Bill Godfrey, who had joined the club from Westfield, was elected Club Captain, and Dennis Blunden Treasurer, a position he held for sixteen years. So the club was virtually under new management. (In the space of a few seasons the transition was made village to club cricket, and before long we listed among our opponents such clubs as Streatham, Honor Oak, Wimbledon, Oatlands Park, Guildford, Malden Wanderers, Basingstoke, Banstead and Horsham. On Sundays nearly all 1st XI games, and a considerable number of 2nds, figured are all day matches.
In 1948 the Cricket Club again took over the management of the ground, although some members, pointing to the experiences of the 1930s, were strongly against - perhaps not surprisingly when one thinks of the Clubs limited resources.
About this time, a quaint club rule that all boundary byes should only count as two was changed to conform with the rule books, much to the relief of the visiting scorers.
To retain the new fixtures and improve the Clubs finances, new dressing room accommodation and a licensed bar were urgently needed. The only building the Club possessed was the original wooden pavilion which was far from adequate. After much searching a suitable building was purchased, dismantled and re-erected at the ground. The building which still forms the main section of the present club house, was bought for £90.00 paid for out of the Horsell Victory Memorial Fund and opened by the President in 1952. It would be wrong to think that before the bar was opened players were obliged to go home straight after the game had finished - far from it. The Clubs unofficial headquarters were the "Red Lion" where that popular extrovert and erstwhile 1st team skipper Sim Hinton, could always be relied on to entertain the visitors with his endless repertoire of party games.
Such was the popularity of Lewis Chamberlain's pub that a red lion was chosen as the motif on the Club ties and caps.
Sim had a weakness for old sports cars and on one occasion before the war, the whole team, including the umpire and scorer, piled into a large Vauxhall Tourer to travel to Bisley. On arrival the heap of human flesh sorted itself out, and last to rise was the scorer, a frail old gentlemen looking pale and shaky. It was no surprise when the Club was informed that he had passed away and that relatives were heard to say, "he was never the same after the Bisley game".
From the playing point of view the Club was fortunate to have a number of experienced and able cricketers join in the early part of the decade, and under the leadership of Bill Godfrey the 1st XI went from strength to strength, and in 1953 played through the season without losing a match and winning most of them. The 2nds won 20 out of 35 games played, making 1953 the most successful in the Clubs history.
Batting stalwarts apart form the skipper, were Jack Ingram and Graham Jater, but the sides strength was the wealth of top class all-rounders - Fred Forrester, George Gale, Arthur Baxendale and Bernard Headland. Bernard regularly topped the 1st XI batting averages and in 1959 scored a record 1500 runs.
Cricket with a smile was Arthur Baxendales maxim, coupled with the ability to adapt his game to most situations. Naturally a free scoring batsmen, on one occasion when skippering a weakish mid-week side in an all day game, the opposition had batted much longer than they should have, amassing over 300 runs, and leaving Horsell little time to get them. Feeling somewhat incensed but determined not to lose, Arthur opened the innings and batted through until 7.30pm for just 9 runs, nearly all of which were scored in the last over. As he walked in undefeated Arthur's grin was wider than ever.
Outstanding young players were Ken Carter, Bill Smith and Ray Southgate. Bill took 145 wickets in 1953, and in 1957 left the Club to join Surrey for spell. Ray Southgate and Tom Stephens, both left arm spinners, also topped 100 wickets several times, as did Geoff Payne for the seconds.
Midway through the 1950s Secretary Robin Davies left the Club and was succeeded by Ken Carter. Robin had been a tireless worker and much of the newly acquired status enjoyed by the Club was due to his efforts. Those who know Robin will agree that his neat moustache and stern countenance tend to give him a soldierly bearing, which adds a little flavour to the following story. The club was playing Honor Oak at Dulwich, always a keen game, and Horsell had been set to score something like 1975 runs to win. Robin, who had opened the innings was going along steadily and the game was nicely poised. Ken Maton the Honor Oak skipper trundled up to deliver one of his innocuous looking left arm slows to Robin when the ball dropped from his hand and rolled gently down the wicket, coming to rest about half-way. Short mid off sauntered in to pick it up when there was a stentorian shout of "leave it" from Robin who could be seen with raised hand daring the fielders to move. Mid off stopped dead in his tracks and the usually garrulous Maton was unable to utter a word. The umpire made neither sign nor sound and before the fielders recovered Robin marched smartly down the pitch, took careful aim and struck the stationary ball firmly to the mid wicket boundary. Needless to say Woking went on to win the game.
Although the ground was drained when laid out in 1921, flooding had long been a problem. In his day, groundsman Smart, after taking a rough bearing, would plunge a stake in the ground and vast lakes of water would disappear as if by magic. But when he retired he took the secret with him and try as they might, no one else could get the same response.
It was therefore decided in 1957 to lay additional land drains and this work was carried out by specialist contractors at a cost of £700. Although there was a marked improvement in the condition of the football pitch, other areas of the ground still became waterlogged after heavy rain and further drains were laid by Club members under the supervision of Frank Hough. There has been no serious problem since.
1960 - 1970
As the decade of the 50s came to a close it became patently obvious that the playing fortunes of the Club were on the wane and it was unlikely to capitalise on the progress made in the previous 10 years. Even at the height of its success, the 1st XI had never been a young side and now with some players past their best and several key players leaving, there were no adequate replacements. Little attention had not previously been given to attracting and coaching young players; there was no Colts team until 1964 and the 3rd XI was not started until 1961. The Club Captain, Bill Godfrey, resigned in 1959 and the President, Hugh Price, died in 1961. Both had given great service to the Club and were sadly missed.
The 1st team captaincy was to remain a problem for many years, but the Club was fortunate when Alec Bedser agreed to become President. Despite his many commitments, Alec was able to attend committee meetings, where his experience and advice were of great help.
About 1960, with a view to keeping the impetus of the fifties going and to attract new blood, Graham Jater proposed a comprehensive improvement scheme which included a new pavilion and an indoor cricket net on the far (west) side of the ground. the Woking Squash Club was without a home at the time and expressed a wish to join in. So two squash courts were added to the scheme. A sub-committee of Graham Jater, Frank Hough and Geoff Payne was formed and an architect instructed to prepare drawings. Considerable effort was put into the project and much progress made but, unfortunately, it had to be dropped in 1926 when the Surrey County Council, out of the blue, advised of their intention to terminate the agreement for the use of the ground by the schools. Their rent, of course, would have provided the bulk of the finance for the project.
The scheme was later resuscitated in a more limited form, but the credit squeeze of 1967, resulting in a freeze on loans and grant facilities by the Surry County Council, finally killed it.
The Squash Club subsequently negotiated with the H.S.G.A. for a corner piece of the sports ground and built two courts.
Following the decision to drop the new pavilion project, Brock Braithwaite, who had taken over as Club Secretary from Bill Smith in 1968, produced an improvement scheme which provided for an extension of the lounge, a new kitchen, installation of ladies and gents toilets, also heating and insulation of the lounge and tea area. The majority of this work, including the laying of new drains, was carried out by the membership organised and supervised by Brock and great worker for the club, the late lamented Pim Trussler.
In 1965 Alec Bedser was awarded the O.B.E for his services to cricket, but in 1968 was obliged to resign the Club Presidency due to his increased involvement with Test Cricket. His place was taken by Graham Jater, who had contributed much to the Club since the war, both with sides for improvements and as an active Chairman of the ground committee for several years. he was no mean performer with the bat either, with a number of centuries to his credit.
In 1968, at a Special General Meeting, there was a proposal that the name of the club be changed to "Woking Cricket Club". The name of Horsell and Woking which had been adopted a few years earlier, was though to put the Club on a par with village clubs in the area and that newcomers to the district would look for a club with the name "Woking", that being the principal community. However, by way of an amendment, it was proposed and seconded that the name of the Club be changed to "Woking and Horsell". This seemed an acceptable compromise and was passed with a suitable majority.
During the lean years of the 60s there was a dearth of good cricketers joining the Club and morale was at a low ebb. With a strong fixture list to maintain the committee was worried that some of the better fixtures could be at risk, but, fortunately, this did not prove to be the case.
The thankless job of 1st team Captain fell to Ken Carter, who for several seasons did a splendid job with the limited resources available to him.
Bill Smith, too, who had returned to the club from Surrey, put in some sterling work, both on the field and as Secretary from 1961-67.
In 1964 the Club joined a fund raising scheme promoted by Horsham Cricket Club, and known as H.A.V.A.G.O., in which subscribers participated in a monthly draw for cash prizes. The clubs organiser was George gale, and in the first year a profit of £250 was made. Dennis Brackley took over in 1968, and for a while profits rose to over £400 per annum.
Subsequently, interest flagged and the Club found itself holding more tickets than was healthy, so in 1975 it was decided to opt out and form a 100 club in its place. This has proved extremely popular and thanks to Dennis' hard work the Club's coffers are presently benefiting to the tune of some £700 per annum.
A heartening feature of the 60s was the formation of the Colt's section in 1964. The organiser and coach was John Sturgess and he soon had a host of young cricketers at the nets thoroughly enjoying themselves. The popular Nigel Taylor is the present Colts manager and he has compiled a fixture list which gives all age groups the opportunity of a game. A measure of the success is the number of excellent young players who have progressed to make their mark in the senior XI's.
In 1968 Frank Church, a doyen of the Club and a man of Horsell if ever there was, died. Frank, a much respected man by all who knew him and a fine cricketer, was 1st team captain just before and after the last War. It was due to his splendid efforts that a fixture list of sorts was maintained during the war when Frank could often be seen with the Club bag balanced on the handle bars of his bike - the only transport available to him. His father, Jim, was Club wicket keeper in the early days.
League cricket in the home counties was first seriously thought about in 1967, and for the next few years club cricket in Surrey was in a turmoil.
The first league to be formed was the Surrey Championship and this prompted Esher and Honor Oak to call a meeting of clubs in Surrey anti to league cricket which we attended. Strong words were uttered and it was pointed out by the Secretary of the Club Cricket Conference, who was present, that the rules of the Conference prevented member clubs playing in league cricket. It all proved to be a storm in a tea cup as Esher became founder members of the Surrey Cricketers League and were involved with Wimbledon in its formation. Honor Oak joined the Surrey Championship a little later, and meanwhile the Club Cricket Conference amended the rules to allow member clubs to compete in league cricket. The Club, therefore, found itself somewhat isolated, having firmly voted against participating in league cricket at the outset. It was apparent that unless this decision was reversed, survival at the existing level was uncertain, and in 1971, rather belatedly, it was decided to apply for league membership.
By this time all the major leagues had been formed and it was not until 1973, after several attempts, that we were admitted to the Surrey County League.
In 1977 there was an approach by the Woking Hockey Club to use the Cricket Club bar and clubroom on Saturday evenings after hockey matches. A proposition was put forward whereby Hockey Club members became non-playing members of the Cricket Club but would not be expected to vote at the Cricket Club meetings. During Hockey Club use the bar would be managed by a joint committee from both Clubs under Cricket Club Chairmanship and some financial arrangement to be reached regarding bar takings.
It proved to be an extremely contentious matter within the Cricket Club, with strong views for and against, but it came to nought as the committee were informed by the Police that if there was any change in the use from a bona fide Cricket Club, as laid down by the rules and constitution, it would be in contravention of the drinking licence.
In 1976, when Frank Hough moved to Waddesdon in Bucks, the Club lost one of its characters and hardest workers. An engineer by profession and a Colonel in the RE's during the war, Frank was invited to Buckingham Palace in 1957 to receive the O.B.E. for his part in laying the trans-Atlantic telephone cable. On joining the club in 1949, his knowledge of all things mechanical were soon put to use in the wildest possible sense, and Frank soon found himself servicing the equipment, attending to the plumbing and re-wiring the electrics. He was a great believer in the encouragement of youth, and at a time when the Club was neglecting this important factor, gave coaching and practice on his tennis lawn.
In 1977, after 9 years in office, Graham Jater resigned as President of the Club. Since joining in 1946 Graham, or Jerry as he was known to some of his old cricketing pals, had been a tower of strength in the affairs of the Club. A prolific run scorer with a penchant for fast bowling, he was an integral part of the successful side of the 50's, and subsequently had a long spell as Captain of the 2nds. He put in some sterling work for the grounds committee and it was a great disappointment to him when the "New Pavilion Scheme", which he had promoted in 1960, fell through. Graham's successor in office was Geoff Payne.
Meanwhile the cricket was gradually picking up again and some of the younger members were beginning to make their presence felt. Peter Murphy, who graduated through the Colts, was elected first team captain in 1973, a position he held until 1976 when he became Secretary. Peter has been the leading scorer during the 70's with 50 scores of 50 or over to his credit. Nigel Crowe has emerged as an attractive free scoring batsmen and proved that he is the complete all-rounder, turning in some excellent bowling performances as well as keeping wicket. He has skippered the 1st XI with irrepressible optimism since 1977. Perhaps a lack of penetrative bowling has prevented the side from achieving prolonged success or a consistently high place in the league.
However in 1979 Phillip Shepherd, a young fast bowler, fulfilled much of the excellent promise he had shown in the Colts by taking 100 wickets in the season - the first such achievement in the club for nearly 20 years.
A stalwart of the club since joining in 1968 has been Roy Hubbard, who at one stage combined captaincy of the 1st XI with chairman of the ground committee, and since 1977 has been a very active Committee Chairman. Another loyal clubman, Paul Charman, can boast a membership of some 30 years. During that time he has been 2nd team skipper on several occasions, and more recently, led the thirds.
Of those who played most of their cricket in the 2nd XI, two deserve special mention - Martin Raybould and Val Day could hardly said to be alike in their approach to batting but their could have been no greater triers on the field or harder workers off it. Val converted himself from a late order hitter to a most successful middle order batsmen after his bowling deserted him in the mid sixties.
A feature of the Club calendar in the 70's was the end of season single wicket competition which produced a number of unlikely winners. Another innovation was the "Horsell Award" made to the best young cricketer of the year under 18 years of age. The shield was presented by members of an old Horsell XI in 1976 after a most successful game against the Colts.
It could not be said that Dennis Murphy gave the Club much opportunity to assess his ability as a cricketer as he played for only one season - in 1946. After that he left the district for a while but on his return to Horsell, complete with young Peter, he rejoined the club in 1963 as a Vice President. Since then he and his wife Jean have devoted much of their leisure time to the benefit of the Club, including a stint by Dennis as Club Secretary.
In 1979 Geoff Payne decided to retire and the last playing link with the pre-war Club was severed. During his career with the Club his tally of wickets cannot be far short of 2,000.
Looking back, although the Club has undergone many changes, the game itself is much the same. If the founder members played in a present day league match no doubt they would soon find themselves at home, although they may be surprised by some of the tactics and a little bewildered with the infrequency of a definite result.
I remember, in my early playing days, some of my elders and betters thought a drawn game highly unsatisfactory and often when the captains tossed it was agreed that if neither side had won in the allotted time but a result was near, the game should continue until one side or other had won. "Anything in it we'll play on" was the expression I seem to remember.
The chief milestone in the Club's history was undoubtedly just after the war when it made a determined and successful effort to improve its status with the result that the parochial game of village cricket gave way to the more sophisticated club cricket. Inevitably, fixtures we had played for many years were dropped and much greater distances were involved in travelling, but it transpired that the following decade proved to be most exciting and successful.
In retrospect, it is remarkable the impact made on the higher echelons of club cricket by an erstwhile village club, hitherto unknown.
Unfortunately, the Club was unable to sustain the high level of achievement, possibly because success had come too quickly and a period in the doldrums followed. However, after a hard struggle the tide now seems to be on the turn.
The Club's affairs are presently in the hands of a young and determined committee which has been responsible for a number of improvements to the premises. There are signs too that the playing fortunes of the Club are changing for the better and the current season promises to be the best the 1st XI has experienced for a long time.
The Club has always been fortunate with the help it has received from the ladies. In the early days at the Vicarage Field they provided the refreshments but during the inter war years at the present ground, catering was carried out by the groundsman and his wife, so their help was not needed.
When cricket re-started after the war, once again their assistance was asked for and they were not found wanting, although there was nothing to offer them in the way of a kitchen until 1953 and the equipment consisted of a gas ring and tea urn. Teas and lunches were served alfresco where the equipment shed now stands. Happily conditions have improved since then, and our present ladies can work in more congenial surroundings.
In another 25 years the Club will be celebrating it's centenary and I hope the intervening years will be happy for the members and successful for the Club. Perhaps in 2005 this story can be brought up to date.
Geoff Payne 1980
A history of the Club to date was published in 1980 to mark the Club’s 75th anniversary. Written by the Club President of the time, Geoff Payne, that history can be found on the Club’s website. This article updates the earlier one by looking at the period since 1980.
Written from the perspective of someone who was part of the Club for the whole period and played cricket for much of it, it is inevitably a subjective view of events. Although quite a lot of checking has taken place, it is only sensible to apologise in advance for any errors. Apologies, even more so, to those whose many sterling efforts for the Club do not earn them a reference.
Completing his account during 1980, Geoff noted that the season promised to be “the best that the first eleven had experienced for some time”. Indeed a run of six consecutive wins late in the season brought the team its highest League placing to date (3rd), and perhaps marked a point at which the Club began to approach League cricket as a serious proposition.
Looking back at the 1980s, it can be seen how seeds were sown which would come to fruition in the 1990s, and produce a transformation in many aspects of the Club’s life. Perhaps the single most significant change was the introduction of colts’ cricket and player development at much younger ages than ever before, producing a huge increase in youth membership, parental support and a packed fixture list.
At senior level it was experience rather than youth which mostly lay behind the Club’s modest prosperity early in the decade, although it was a young seam bowler from Nottingham, Phil Nuttall, who from 1980 to 1983 provided the necessary stamina and enthusiasm to sustain an otherwise somewhat aging attack. Nigel Crowe and Peter Murphy were generally the main run scorers, although Nigel’s brother John provided some necessary middle order solidity.
Playing strength was bolstered by the arrival in 1981 of keeper-batsman John Stressing and in the following year top-order left-hander Tim Lighting.
In 1983, a further addition to the ranks was Keith Hine, an opening bowler well known to the Club through his exploits against them for his previous club, Staines and Laleham.
For the one season in which Nuttall and Hine were both available, the first eleven finished fifth in the League while the second team, fielding some useful talent unable to break into the first eleven, took third place in their Division. By 1984, however, with Nuttall and John Crowe gone, Murphy injured for part of the season and Nigel Crowe on the verge of leaving the Club, the first eleven slipped back to 11th place, the start of a less auspicious playing period lasting through to 1987.
By 1983, Stressing had taken over the first XI captaincy with Murphy as his vice-captain, roles which were then reversed from 1985 to 1987. League placings for the team were mediocre from 1984 to 1987, but this was not surprising with experienced players departing the Club or becoming less effective with the passage of time. However, the Club continued to recruit new players with promise or talent and it seemed that better times might be just around the corner.
These arrived with surprising suddenness in 1988, when the first XI recovered from 1987’s lowly 15th placing to finish as runners-up to Brook. It was a matter of slight embarrassment to Peter Murphy, still a fixture as one of Woking’s opening batsmen, that this was Brook’s first season in the County League and that as League Chairman he had played a prominent part in securing their application and election.
The biggest difference from previous seasons was that Keith Hine, after some periods of injury and non-availability, took on the captaincy, got himself fully fit and emerged as the most skilful and hostile seam bowler in the League. Overall he took 47 League wickets, with 5 or more in an innings on 5 separate occasions. His bowling workload did not prevent him from leading the side with a shrewd tactical grasp, and he was not tempted to under bowl himself.
Several others played a major part in Woking’s successful run, with the pieces of the jigsaw formed by various arrivals in recent seasons fitting neatly together. Steve Smith, a steady swing bowler, moved up after a short period in the second team to form an effective support act for Hine in tandem with Phil Shepherd who had been an outstanding Woking colt and was now returning to the fold after a number of seasons at Walton.
Chad Murrin had joined in 1986 as a leg-spinning all-rounder and provided the slow-bowling back-up alongside Ian Doorbar, who had arrived as a young left-arm spinner in 1984 and steadily learnt his trade.
Stressing had left the Club (for Brook!) so after a couple of seasons playing mainly 2nd XI cricket, keeper/batsman Phil Trayner took his chance, opening the batting for much of the season with Murphy.
One of the main run-scorers was Tim Lighting whose appearances since his promising debut in 1982 had been limited by overseas postings but now made over 500 runs at number 3. The other leading run scorer was another left-hander, Andy Richardson, who had joined from nearby Westfield in 1984.
While the first eleven were enjoying this success, the seconds were struggling to make an impact with a surfeit of draws influencing a modest 12th placing. The Club’s review of the 1988 season in the League handbook referred, however, to the performances of younger players giving rise to “considerable optimism” for 1989. This proved a comment of much insight, as the Second XI went forward to record the club’s first senior trophy-winning exploit of the League era.
A name overdue for mention is that of Mike Portlock. He joined the Club in 1978 having moved from Humberside with extensive experience of League cricket in that area. He quickly established himself as a key man on and off the field, assuming the Club Chairmanship by 1981 and holding it for much of the decade. He played several seasons initially in the 1st XI as an obdurate top-order batsman, but in the second half of the eighties he had increasingly played 2nd XI League cricket, and in 1989 took over leadership of the side.
As it happened, Mike did not have one of his most prolific seasons with the bat in 1989, but this opened the way for some of the younger and more dynamic middle order men such as Gavin Ward and Jon Ambrose to post winning scores or lead run chases. On the bowling front Charles Johnson, who had played half a season for the Club in 1986 while at Surrey University and rejoined in 1988 gave notice of his potential to become one of the Club’s major all-time wicket takers by securing 34, while Keith Goodwin, Tony Cooper, Steve Hankins and Simon Webb lent invaluable support.
The first eleven, meanwhile, were unable to maintain their form of the previous year and slipped back to 8th place. Murphy and his new opening partner Murrin sparkled with the bat, but the bowling lacked the penetration shown in 1989 and the team lacked consistency.
While this short history inevitably concentrates on League cricket, something must also be said about other senior cricket of the era, in the shape of the Saturday 3rd XI and the two Sunday sides. The eighties predated the time at which League cricket extended to 3rd Xs, but Woking’s 3rd team from its inception in the 1960s had become a valued club institution.
The club’s dual role was to provide cricket for veteran players unready to give the game up and thus able to help and advise youngsters needing a bridge between colts’ cricket and the top two teams.
No account of recent Woking and Horsell history is complete without reference to the outstanding contribution of John Craig, who ran the team throughout the decade, building on the work of Paul Charman in the 1970s. He helped many young players with their first steps into senior cricket, and bolstered the Saturday 1st and 2nd XIs by ensuring that there was a steady flow of players ready to make the step up when the call came.
In the Sunday cricket of the period can clearly be seen the beginnings of a reduction in quality and commitment which was to accelerate after 1990. In 1980 it would not have been unusual to find 7 or 8 members of the Saturday league first eleven turning out for a non-league match on the following day. By the end of the decade this would have shrunk to 3 or 4 at the most. There was still enough support overall for the Club to put two Sunday elevens into the field, but the cricket was generally of somewhat less quality and intensity.
At times in the eighties, it seemed that what was happening in smoke-filled rooms was in danger of overshadowing events on the field. League cricket in South East England had developed somewhat randomly in the sixties and seventies by groups of clubs forming themselves together, with little discernable structure or opportunity for clubs to progress. By 1980 the more enlightened administrators had recognised the need for change through the development of a structured system with promotion and relegation. However, by 1989 the only major change had been the decision by the Surrey Championship (by common consent Surrey’s most prestigious competition) to invite the clubs of the Surrey Cricketers’ League to form its second division.
Like most Surrey clubs of decent standard, Woking had hopes of joining a structure with the Surrey Championship at its head. The County League to which it belonged considered itself to be Surrey’s third strongest, prior to the disappearance of the Cricketers’ League as a separate force, but by 1989 it appeared that any expansion of the Championship was more likely to be by invitation to individual clubs rather than by wholesale adoption of an existing League.
Peter Murphy wrote in the 1988 County League handbook that it was “unthinkable” that structured club cricket in Surrey would not be extended to a much wider group of clubs. He added, however, that “for the larger clubs outside the Championship, it seems inevitable that there are anxious times ahead”.
Changing the format of League cricket was one way of looking to a different future. More tellingly, Woking sought to secure its own through launching in 1984 a new approach to Colt’s cricket which radically altered the organisation of cricket for the younger age groups. Drawing lessons from local Rugby Union clubs, who were promoting the attractions of “Mini Rugby”, Mike Portlock and Tony Cooper advertised the opportunity for children of a much younger age to come to the Club on Sunday mornings and learn to play the game of cricket.
Previously almost all colts’ matches had been at either under 15 or under 17 level, and it is worth mentioning that even this activity was only possible in the early 1980s because of a huge commitment from 1st XI opener Nigel Taylor. Now, however, boys (and occasionally girls) as young as 7 were being taught the basic techniques. Soon matches were being set up for these younger age groups, with an Under 13 side quickly under way, and under 11s not far behind. As the numbers increased, it became difficult on a summer Sunday morning to find an odd square yard of the field which was not being used for some cricketing game or drill. Of all the things that Mike and Tony did for the Club, none was more important than this, and Bob Hollands then played a major part in carrying it forward.
With more colts and more ground usage came more income, a most welcome development. Like most amateur sports clubs, Woking has always had a tough battle to sustain financial viability and to set aside some provision for development while maintaining existing facilities at the necessary level for good quality club cricket. In this period, typically, there was much discussion of options for development of the pavilion, but little activity other than minor, piecemeal improvement.
The lack of real progress on fund-raising was largely explained by the fact that, astonishingly, negotiations on the extension of the Club’s lease from the Horsell Sports Ground Association continued through the whole decade without being resolved. Without a longer period of tenure, the Club had little prospect of obtaining major grant or loan funding. The issue of the lease and the Club’s tenure was to become a much more significant one in the following decade.
As a sideline on financial matters, it is interesting to look at subscription levels at either end of the decade. Assuming they are a reliable benchmark of inflation, they do not throw a flattering light on economic government. In 1980 a full playing member’s sub was £13 if paid by the 31st May deadline. At the 1989 AGM, members voted for the same category of subscription to be set at £35 for the following year.
As already noted, Mike Portlock had become Chairman in 1981, and held the position until late 1988. He put a huge amount of commitment into both playing and non-playing aspects of the Club in that time, and indeed had much still left to give as these pages will recount. In 1985 Geoff Payne stood down from the role of President, to be replaced by another Club stalwart in the form of Dennis Brackley. Bob More took over the role of Secretary from Peter Murphy in 1982 and showed dedication allied with efficiency in retaining the job through the decade.
A landmark innovation by More in 1986 was the weekly teamsheet. Previously, team secretaries had been appointed to ensure that players knew which team they were playing for, start and meeting times etc. The only full listings of teams for a weekend’s cricket were on the Club notice board. With volunteers ever harder to find for administrative tasks, More recognised that typing out the team lists, copying and sending it to all members would provide an improved form of communication at no greater cost and with less chance of msitakes going unrecognised. Only the advent of electronic media would bring this form of communication to an end.
1990 – 1999
This was a decade which would see far more dramatic changes at the Club than its predecessor, some of them foreseeable at the outset of the decade but some certainly not.
After a period of vacillation by the Surrey Championship, its new Chairman Chris Brown seized the moment and brought forward a proposal to the 1990 Championship AGM that a third division be formed. Woking was one of the 18 Clubs named in the motion.
Legend has it that at the last moment a club representative went against his mandate and abstained from - rather than oppose - the motion, which was then passed by the smallest possible margin. Woking thus played its first Championship matches in May 1992.
In truth, Woking’s playing credentials at the point of election were not outstanding, the 1st XI having slipped back to 15th in the County League in 1990. In their final year of County League cricket they were to make a more respectable showing, but it was the 2nd XI who now led the way, failing by only two points to secure a second successive league title in 1990 and finishing well up again in 1991. Phil Trayner had skippered the 1st XI in those two seasons, but followed something of a Club tradition by getting posted abroad in the winter of 91/92 (he still hasn’t returned!).
Chad Murrin was elected in his place and followed up a period in which he had given Sunday 1st XI cricket some much needed revitalisation by leading the Club into the Championship era. Regrettably this turned out to be Chad’s last season with the Club before joining first division Guildford where he enjoyed several years of regular 1st XI cricket and eventually became Chairman.
There can have been few greater enthusiasts for the game ever to have taken the field for the Club, but even Chad found it hard to inspire his team sufficiently to produce a finish any higher than 9th, bang in the middle of the table. The Club, however, was far from failing to make its mark in the new competition, since remarkably both the 2nd and 3rd XIs won their divisions at the first time of asking.
These successes were notable triumphs for two men to whom the Club already owed much for their off-the-field work: Mike Portlock and Bob More, respective captains of the 2nds and 3rds. To the 2nds went promotion, and to date 1992 remains the only season that the 2nds have played in the bottom division of the Championship. There was no promotion for the 3rds, however, as the Championship sought to transform their growing 3rd team competition into a different shape.
None of the first five years of Championship cricket saw anything startling from the first XI who generally put together enough wins to stay away from the bottom of the table but never enough to challenge near the top. The successful team of 1988 had almost completely moved on with Andy Richardson (captain in 1993) and Peter Murphy the only survivors.
By now, several members of the 2nd XI of the late eighties had become 1st XI regulars, and in the case of Jon Ambrose, Wayne Hazell and Charlie Johnson, were delivering some strong performances. But the overall quality of the team was not sufficient to turn them into promotion challengers.
The 2nd XI were faced with a different problem – that of staying up having been promoted. Once or twice it looked as though survival might elude them, but each year they did enough to retain their second division place, and once or twice pushing up into the mid-table comfort zone. The strength of the 3rd XI varied quite a lot from season to season, but like the 1st’s they were immune from relegation – just as well when in 1994 just two years after their successful campaign, they finished bottom.
In the nine years after Peter Murphy’s stint ended in 1987, the club elected six different 1st XI Saturday captains. In 1996, Chris Sheppard became yet another Woking and Horsell player to yield, mid-season, to the lure of an overseas job and handed the captaincy to his deputy, Richard Walsh, who had shown leadership potential as a young 1st XI Sunday skipper.
Re-elected in his own right as Saturday captain in 1997, Walsh set out on a spell in charge that was to last for seven years. Now the Cricket Chairman, Peter Murphy, had proposed a target of getting the 1st and 3rd XIs elevated to 2nd Division status, and Walsh set about turning a young 1st XI into a more effective and ambitious unit. They became regular promotion contenders, but a top spot proved hard to pin down despite the arrival in successive seasons (98 and 99) of two outstanding New Zealanders in the shape of Ian Meyer and Glenn Morley.
Nonetheless, through a mixture of bringing through young players and recruiting some useful experienced ones, Woking were embarking on the most successful period since League cricket had started. The 2nd XI had the measure of Division 2 by now and were beginning to challenge for a further promotion, while the 3rd XI earned the first leg of the double by winning their Division in 1999. This was a well-deserved success for Peter Smith who had been in charge over the whole period since the last-place debacle in 1994 and got the best from a young and enthusiastic team.
The prospects of the 3rd XI had been greatly enhanced by the introduction in 1999 of a regular Saturday 4th XI. To quote the Club’s submission to the 2000 League Handbook, this ensured that where necessary “there was always someone from the 4ths in form and ready to step up”. Richard Walsh’s brother, Mike, emerged as one of the unsung heroes of Woking cricket by captaining the side through its first six years.
This was one of the significant changes from the start of the decade (when the 3rds were not even playing League cricket). Another was the infusion of good class cricketers from overseas, a number of whom stayed over beyond their first season and under League rules were able to acquire “home-grown” status.
The third, less happily, was a steep decline in the popularity of Sunday cricket, not just at Woking but across the whole region. On the assumption that low availability stemmed from a lack of competitive edge, Sunday League competitions were launched around 1995 and Woking immediately joined one of these. Briefly it created a renewal of interest, but increasingly it seemed that few cricketers now had an appetite for playing on both days of a weekend. Indeed Sunday cricket was becoming sustained more and more by a group of players who preferred old style “friendly” cricket to the hurly-burly and declining etiquette of Saturday League competition.
Colts cricket had continued to flourish at the Club with large numbers turning up for coaching sessions which presented a major challenge to hard-pressed volunteer coaches (occasionally supplemented by paid coaching help). Age groups sides which from the sixties to the mid eighties had rarely strayed beyond under 15 and under 17 were now extending down to under 9s.
A new group of volunteers, largely parents of young players, were involved with the Club, and some were drawn into resuming or prolonging their own playing careers with senior club teams, helping also to integrate youngsters taking their first steps in senior club cricket. Peter Mayho, David Goodwin and George Grafton were examples from the earlier part of the period, while Clive Moon and Trevor Woods of the current Club administration carry on the tradition. Other to whom the Club owes much in more recent years of colts development are Brian Rowlatt and Nigel Holman, but in truth the names deserving of mention are simply too numerous to list.
By 1997 as Saturday and colts cricket at Woking and Horsell thrived, the Club were running their operations out of an extensively improved and refurbished pavilion. The new facilities were formally opened by Sir Alec Bedser at a ceremony on 11th May in that year.
This might be a contender for the dubious accolade of longest-running pavilion improvement project in history, with fund-raising and design work dating well back into the 1980s. Successive schemes were thwarted first by lease issues and then, even when extended tenure had finally been granted, because of the continued reluctance of various grant bodies to offer significant support.
When the rebuilding scheme had finally got under way in winter 1996-97, it was to two Woking and Horsell stalwarts that the club owed particular thanks. One was Tim Lighting, now chairman, who had retired from his work in the oil industry which had sometimes interrupted his UK cricketing exploits, and now had time and energy to spare to finalise the funding package, and ensure that the Club got maximum benefit from what it could afford (nearly £50,000).
The other was Peter Allan. Peter had joined back in the early 80s, having already enjoyed a number of years of good quality club cricket as a keeper/batsman, and at a time when some might have been thinking of starting to run their cricketing career down towards a graceful retirement. He is still playing regularly!
As well as his thirst for cricket Peter brought to Woking his skills as a professional architect, which have been of assistance in respect of a variety of building projects. Here he operated as overall manager of the project, ensuring that the various works were properly co-ordinated and brought to conclusion on time and budget.
The outcome was a building which retained many basic features of its predecessor. To some extent this was unavoidable, given that the construction of a completely new facility was clearly unaffordable. But there were some genuine benefits to retaining the basic shape and layout of the old structure, which had stood the test of time as a design which worked well as a facility both on match days and for the purposes of other users such as the Jiminy Cricket play group and a range of casual hirers.
Moreover, in a reversal of what is achieved by most building projects, this one delivered a new distinctive character to the external appearance of the bar and tea room area with its wooden cladding complementing the changing room section of the building. It was fitting that the Woking Borough calendar for 1998 should feature a scene from a match day at the Club based on a photograph taken less than a month after the opening ceremony.
Any decade in a club’s life will have some periods of sadness and mourning. This one dealt Woking two blows in quick succession. In 1992 Dennis Brackley owned up to feeling under the weather at his own President’s day match in early September. Within two weeks, we and his family had lost him. Dennis had been at the centre of the Club’s cricketing, social and administrative life since joining in the late fifties.
Poor Club record-keeping stops us from knowing how many wickets he took in his 20 years bearing the brunt of the 2nd XI’s medium pace bowling requirements, but it would be a remarkable number. Just as remarkable would be the quality of fun and humour this larger-than-life character would inject into any social occasion. He spent many years as captain shrewdly managing 2nd XIs of limited resources, and later organising key elements of the Club’s fund-raising strategy.
Early the following summer Geoff Payne died. When the history of the first 75 years came to be written in 1980, Geoff was the obvious choice having started playing for the Club pre-war and having retired from playing only the previous season. Without much doubt he remains the Club’s leading wicket-taker, and certainly the longest continuous holder of any particular Club office, his stint as fixture secretary lasting from 1950 to 1983! He remained as President until 1985, having taken office in 1977.
As placid and good-natured a character as you could wish to take the field with, Geoff was one of the outstanding figures of Woking and Horsell cricket, his total involvement lasting for nearly half of the period for which the Club has now existed.
One of Geoff’s last roles as a Club representative was as a Trustee of the Horsell Sports Ground Association, the body with the power to grant tenure of the cricket ground. His own history of the earlier years of the Club explained how the ground was made available for sport through shares purchased by local residents.
Unfortunately the legal vehicle through which the resulting trust was set up proved faulty and by the time the Association granted leases to the cricket and squash Clubs in 1991, there were doubts as to its legal authority and how it could be sustained in line with its own constitution.
Despite the legal complexities and bureaucracy that were bound to be encountered, the clubs decided that their concerns must be pursued since the risk of uncertainty about ownership of the ground was too great to be allowed to remain. The tale of how this was all resolved over the following ten years could itself be the subject of a lengthy (if not very exciting!) article. Sufficient to say that a way was found, eventually through the help of the National Playing Fields Association, to ensure that the ground continues to be available for sporting use and that the cricket, football and squash clubs operate under the certainty of legitimate long leases.
A new Horsell Sports Ground Association with representation from the Horsell Residents Association acts as lessor and maintains a benevolent watch over ground usage.
Following Dennis Brackley’s death, it was fitting that Paul Charman, Dennis’s closest friend and ally over many years, should take over the Presidency which he has held since. Paul’s role in establishing the 3rd XI has already been referred to, but that is only part of a record of service to Woking and Horsell Cricket going back over 50 years. Paul is one of a rare breed who has simply gone on supporting the Club and watching cricket there since retiring from playing.
Val Day, with a similar record of continuous involvement, is usually alongside him, and they are the spiritual leaders of a group of members who mark Sunday lunchtimes all year round with a pint or two at the Club. Martin Raybould is another naturally bracketed with Val and Paul in terms of the time and dedication put in over many years on and off the field, and only his many other commitments (and houses) prevent him attending on quite so many Sundays.
A feature of the Club's history has been its poor showing in midweek competitions. Afternoon League Cup matches and evening games in the popular West Surrey "Flora-Doris" knockout have all seen early exits.
Woking has no great history of tours or cricket weeks, but for a short period from 1989 to 1994 a tour was run with considerable success.
Dave Goodwin was the main instigator, and support from players was generally adequate. For all but the last year the tour was based at the Fox Inn at Ansty in deepest Dorset, and we strayed just into Somerset for some fixtures. The proximity to Surrey was sufficient that tourists could readily take part for part of the week only.
Those who did certainly enjoyed all facets of the tour; it was probably the most social cricket of the year. Golf was generally available on Monday and Friday or on the mornings of matches, and Martin Raybould was sure to find an excellent hostelry for dinner in the evenings.
In 1994, with fixtures in Dorset becoming harder to find, the base was switched to Sussex. Although enjoyed by those who went, this tour lacked some of the rural mystique of its predecessors, and it proved to be the last Club tour, despite ambitious plans by a few younger members
2000 – 2005
The new millennium got under way much as the old one had finished with the 1st XI (3rd) and the 2nd XI (5th) challenging for promotion strongly for much of the season but ultimately dropping out of contention at the death. The 3rd XI quietly consolidated in their new Division.
Finally in 2001 came the 1st XI’s breakthrough season. With Peter Richardson back in the fold after a 16 year gap and with James Morley another key acquisition the team were finally able to sustain their challenge to the end, with the need to settle for runners-up spot in no way taking the gloss over winning promotion at last.
The club's aim of getting all three teams in to their respective second divisions was no sooner achieved than the 2nd XI decided to go one better by getting themselves a further promotion. Steve Hankins’ buccaneering captaincy and good support from a range of players meant that the title was won comfortably without anyone needing to provide a major run or wicket aggregate. It could have been even better for the Club: The 1st XI had started the season as though back-to-back promotions were a genuine prospect. Mid-season confrontations with the big-hitters of the division brought a reality check, but 6th place was a still some achievement.
2002 marked the high water mark in the Club’s recent fortunes. In 2003 the 2nd XI exceeded the expectations of some by retaining a place in the first division of their league thanks to a Houdini-like escape on the last two weekends. Sadly also, the 1st XI found themselves having to scrap for survival, with relegation only avoided for certain on the last Saturday. This was a disappointing way for Richard Walsh (“Walshy”) to finish his spell as captain, but he was at least able to do so with the team still operating at a level above that at which he had taken charge, and with an outstanding record over the period.
2004 saw another struggle for the Club’s Saturday elevens, with players unavailable for a variety of reasons. At one point it seemed that all three League XIs were at risk of relegation but in the end the 1sts and 3rds avoided that fate without undue difficulty. The 2nds, still operating at a more elevated level within their particular league structure, very nearly escaped for a second year but despite a brave fight were ultimately unable to secure the one extra win which could have kept them up.
And not forgetting …
The story of a sports club is above all the story of its players, but many things and many people contribute to success and survival.
Since the beginning of 1982 only four people have held the position of club chairman, Mike Portlock, Tony Cooper, Tim Lighting and Peter Murphy. Since the beginning of 1982, only Bob More, Neil Cheetham and Clive Moon have held the post of Secretary. In a period when administrators have been harder and harder to find, this degree of continuity is remarkable. All have put in countless hours for no reward other than the Club’s prosperity.
To focus on a name not mentioned previously in this article, Neil Cheetham had no sooner relinquished his secretarial function than he was launched on a stint as Treasurer. He has also remained a reliable and often underrated cricketer for various XI - not surprising that “Cheets” is one of the most respected men in the Club.
Another player deserving of mention for energy and commitment – and another who found his only escape from Woking and Horsell was to flee the country - is Robin (“Windy”) Millar, one of those invaluable characters who breeze into the Club and immediately start finding things to do for it. In Windy’s case, after a bit of social organising he took on (and shook up) the running of the bar for a few years in the late 1990s and also designed and installed the Club website, now managed by Andrew Murphy.
In looking back over 25 years, it is interesting to reflect the changing nature of women’s involvement with the Club. In 1980, the traditions of the previous 75 years were still maintained, with the primary contribution of wives, mothers and girlfriends being the preparation of players’ teas. The players expressed their gratitude by inviting their loved ones to the post-season Dinner and Dance! By the mid-eighties, however, it was occurring to women that this was not how they would choose to spend their spare time, particularly as Saturday and Sunday afternoons was as likely to be a break from the working week for them as their partners. Before the end of the decade, the Club had put the match day catering out to contract.
Cricket clubs are not renowned as hotbeds of radical thinking. However, while a few members felt that the demise of wifely catering spelt the end of life as we knew it, most shrugged their shoulders and carried on. The logical extension of greater female independence – women taking on roles previously only undertaken by men – has so far not taken off in a major way despite the trail-blazing efforts of Kitty Merritt in the mid 1980s in moving from the scorers’ chair to the umpire’s coat. However, in the last 10 years Teresa Green has proved a tenacious and effective organiser, first of club social events and latterly of the 200 Club.
Teresa remains the only woman to have held an elected committee post. However, during 2004 there was a concerted effort to launch organised women’s’ cricket at Woking and Horsell and should this get off the ground it could pave the way for the advent of a new wave of women members and administrators.
Football has been played at the ground for many years and leases to the cricket club have made it a proviso that this should be the case. To maintain a winter sport ground in a fit state for cricket is a challenge, and may account for the fact that relationships between cricket and football have not always been of the best. However in recent years, and particularly since a merger of clubs saw the old Horsell Football Club succeeded by Woking Park and Horsell FC, communication and co-operation have mostly been good, with a joint recognition that the clubs face many of the same challenges and are much better off facing them in partnership.
This article has been finalised in late February, with snow on the ground and cricket a distant prospect, yet the 2005 season is really just round the corner. It is a time of hope and anticipation for all cricketers, but especially for those of Woking and Horsell in 2005. Whatever may happen on the field this year, the greatest wish is for at least a further 100 years of cricket at the Club to write about in 2105. When it will be someone else’s turn!
Peter Murphy 2005