There is strong evidence to suggest that cricket has been played on Weybridge Green since 1814 when the local vestries gave leave to “W M Watson resident of the Public House known by the sign of the Stag and Hounds” to level part of the gravel pits opposite to form a “Cricketing Ground”.
Unfortunately, the present Club does not have in its possession any official records of cricketing activities during the 19th century. It is known, however, that four generations of the Bowman family have played cricket on the Green. The first of these would have played in top hats, the conventional headgear of the period. As this family have in their possession evidence that at least one of their relations played between the years 1820 and 1840, cricket could well have been played here regularly for at least 180 years.
At the turn of the century two clubs Weybridge Albion and the St Michael’s Church Cricket Club used the Green on alternate Saturdays. As the latter Club was restricted to young men under the age of 18, it was in effect and unofficial nursery for the Albion. At this time the sub to the St. Michael’s Club was 5 shillings per annum.
The precise date of the formation of the Albion although not known, is presumed to pre-date 1870 and a poster advertising one of the games against Oatlands Park Cricket Club is reproduced here. It seems that local rivalry was no less than it had been in recent times for there were no end of complaints about the rough state of the Green. Indeed for some considerable time all future matches were played at Oatland’s ground. For many years before the 1st World War the Albion was a fairly prosperous organization. Both Saturday and mid-week sides were run. Much of the credit for this was due to T. Bowman, for the hard work and financial assistance he rendered to the Club. He captained the side for many years with and George Ayres [of “the Hand and Spear”] he helped to organise several charity matches against the Surrey County Cricket Club.
These games were hugely popular and large crowds saw such famous players as Abel, Hobbs, Sandham, Hayes, Hayward, Richardson, Hitch and Rushby play on the Green. Collections exceeded £100 on every occasion – a remarkable sum in those days – and the local Hospital benefited accordingly. After the 14-18 war these charity matches never made quite the same impact and were discontinued in 1921.
About the time the Albion experienced a decline in their financial support and were short of talented players, but a completely new club organized by the employees of the New Weybridge Electric Co. was formed and competed in the Woking and District Cricket league. It had quite a few playing successes in the league but for many of the players the poor quality of the wickets and inexperienced umpiring detracted from their enjoyment of the game.
The Albion and Weybridge Electric used the Green on alternate Saturdays until the end of the 1923 season and the matches between the two were invariably tight. By today’s standards the playing conditions in the early days were somewhat primitive; the actual playing area was much smaller than now and the outfield was usually in a fairly rough condition except, that is immediately after the two occasions each year when a local farmer mowed it. The wickets, themselves were considered “sporty” and some of the older locals could still remember the pond on the ground – which amazingly re-appeared for the whole of last winter.
In 1921 the Weybridge U.D.C., to its great credit, spent a considerable amount of money levelling the playing area and the banking surrounding it. This project, in addition to effecting major improvements, also provided jobs for many unemployed ex-serviceman. Shortly after the completion of this work permission was given to enclose the square with a chain barrier when play was not proceeding.
On the 24th March 1924 Weybridge Albion and Weybridge Electric amalgamated to form Weybridge Cricket Club. A phoenix was chosen as the Club emblem and purple and black as the club colours. Much of the credit for accomplishing this merger and the stability and status which any new organization requires must go to the first Hon. Secretary and Treasurer Mr W A Harman, an indefatigable servant of the Club for many years.
The very first match played by Weybridge Cricket Club was on 24th May against Vickers on the Green. From the records if seems that Weybridge recovered from 7 for 4 wkts. H W “Bert” Lambert and E R “Ron” Sheppard have both made tremendous contributions to the Club over many years and in a way it was appropriate that, in their contrasting styles, they should have had considerable say over the outcome of the match. By 1926 the playing membership had increased to 36 and it was decided to start a 2nd XI. Also at this time the Council made further improvements to the playing area of the green, but it should be remembered that for many years an enormous amount of voluntary effort into the preparation of wickets and on improving the general condition of the square, by one Bert Lambert.
Until 1933 pitches were at right angles to those used, batting from the Queen’s Road end looking into the evening sun in September could be a nasty business.
The early 1930′s, was a very difficult period for many Clubs, these being the years of economic depression, and a lion’s share of the credit for keeping Weybridge in a healthy and solvent condition must got to Mr W A Harman the Hon. Sec, Treasurer and scorer to boot.
The quality of the cricket improved steadily throughout the period. There were experienced players at or nearing their best. e.g. Sheppard, Kent, Lambert, Roe, Howard and Hefford and some young highly talented players like C H “Sam” Buss and R G “Bob” Marsh [whose 178 in 1937 remained a club record until beaten by Darren Dempsey’s 181 in 1996] and in addition Andy Holt. This provided a nucleus of a well-balanced team with an excellent blend of youth and experience.
Sam Buss was quite quickly whisked off to the Oval where he remained on the Surrey staff for several years. On his return his left arm slow bowling was usually too much for all except the best club batsman [and often for them as well] even though he seldom, bowled a googly. His control of flight, length and line was remarkable. As a batsman the figures speak for themselves, he scored more centuries than any other player. In the early 30′s he took such great care of his bat that when it was not in use it was encased in a black leather cover. In those days he played with great perseverance, later any inhibitions were cast off and he developed his natural talents into a fine free – scoring stroke player.
Bob Marsh on the other hand was not interested in making cricket a career. He was naturally gifted, correct, forceful right hand bat who first played for the 1st XI at the age of 14. Andy Holt an all rounder for Lancashire joined the Club late in 1930 and made such an impression that he was elected skipper in 1932 and 1933. He was a highly accurate seam bowler and a reliable middle order bat.
In the period leading to the 2nd World War the strength of the Club consistently improved annually and with a fixture list mainly confined to the immediate vicinity the Club tended to dominate the local cricket scene.
In 1940 many cricket clubs were forced to suspend their activities. Weybridge however were fortunate to be able to continue although 18 members of the Club were “called up” to serve during the War. The Club survived this period intact and with the arrival of the Hurdle family, a great deal of voluntary labour and a wonderful Club spirit, Victory Year in 1945 provided one of the best seasons cricket in the Club’s short life. With the return of nearly all the members who were in the services it was found possible to field two sides on at least one day each week-end from 1946. The strength of the Club grew quite rapidly and in 1949 Brian Hurdle began his reign as captain, which was to last until the advent of League cricket in 1970.
The introduction of several younger players further strengthened and already experienced and successful side. And in Buss, Metcalfe, Cyril Lambert, Tony Ruffell and Brian Hurdle the Club had a side to match the best in Surrey.
As a direct result of this improvement in playing standards came stronger fixtures which now included many of London’s leading Clubs.
After many years of talks, negotiations and planning the start of the 1953 season saw the Club with an actual Pavilion on the Green. For the first time in its history Weybridge Cricket Club had a permanent headquarters and bade farewell to the weekly chore of marquee erection etc. On many occasions and for a whole host of reasons, the Club has been indebted to the local Council for its interest and co-operation and none more so than this.
A feature of this period was the number of Benefit games staged – 9 in all, starting with Stan Squires in 1948 and ending with Mickey Stewart in 1965. Early on they were incredibly popular and the Surrey Herald describes the match on 23rd July 1948 as “undoubtedly one of the largest crowds ever recorded at a cricket match in N W Surrey, and certainly, within memory, the largest crowd ever seen on Weybridge Green”.
In 1960 John Hyland joined the Club. A fast left arm bowler, John’s great virtues were his accuracy, change of pace and his sheer bloody-mindedness. He complimented an already fine attack and with his opening partner Trevor Burton [equally surly!] provided a formidable new ball partnership. Several new players emerged to press for places in this successful decade – Gadd, Cooper, Pope, Coyle and the outrageous John Beminster. In fact, by the end of 1969 the Saturday 1st XI had not lost a game for 2 years.
In 1962 Brian Hurdle’s father Bill, for many years a stalwart became President of the Club and held this office until 1981 when Brian, himself, succeeded him.
In 1971 Weybridge’s first venture into League cricket met with varied success. After playing very well early on against Cranleigh, Reigate Priory, Leatherhead and Esher crucial mistakes were made in this new format and the Club slipped from third place to finish seventh. This was just about as good as it got for a long decade or more. As the side got older together so results proved to be elusive and even the introduction of new players such and Smith, Norcott, Wyborn and Farrow could not fully recharge the ageing squad.
If things were not all they could be on the field, off it the Club was expanding in numbers so much so that a social 3rd XI was formed under Wally Mould and a Colts section was started under the guidance of Brian hurdle. The Clubhouse was also extended and the scoreboard refurbished.
Brian Hurdle became president in 1981, and the captaincy alternated between Mike Davey and Tony Cooper until 1987. Despite several false dawns the successes of the ’60′s seemed a long way off and it was not until the merger of the Cricketers’ League with the Surrey Championship that any sort of plan seemed to develop.
The nadir of 1987 was immediately rectified by the appointment of a keen young skipper – Chris Notton and with the 2nd XI led by Ramon de Bertodano the results were instantly forthcoming. Both sides finished in the top half and having secured the services of the Antiguan Howard Warner, Weybridge were back in the hunt.
Warner was easily the best batsman in the league and with Chris Notton they were the two top bowlers. Opposition that had long regarded Weybridge as something of a pushover rapidly had to change their minds, and the Colts who had, year by year improved now appeared in force in the senior sides, to make Weybridge one of the youngest teams in the league.
The Club spirit was excellent and was heavily re-enforced by the decision to open the Pavilion and Bar on a daily basis. Consequently the membership virtually doubled to over 400. Much of the credit for this must go to the Chairman John Adams and the pavilion team of Roy and Margherita Leggett.
On the 14th July 1989 the Club celebrated Brian Hurdle’s 50th playing anniversary by hosting an invitation match to honour the event. Nearly 100 members and guests were entertained to lunch and tea in a marquee, and Brian was presented with a unique, hand crafted solid silver replica of a white lining machine. [Only a lot smaller of course. Ed.] This was in recognition of his years of pushing one around the Green – from which it was calculated that had now painted over one million yards of white line.
This decade could not have started on an unhappier note. Weybridge’s popular President Brian Hurdle passed away at Easter. Words just cannot describe the enormous amount of time and effort Brian put into the Club over 50 years. His wife, June, donated the watercolour that adorns the front cover of this handbook to Weybridge Cricket Club as a memorial to Brian.
On the pitch meanwhile, the 1st XI were promoted and then a fortnight later, relegated. Discussions go on to this day about who did and who did not know that the team had one surplus-to-regulations overseas player. We shan’t dwell on this, however, suffice it to say that the next year both 1st XI and 2nd XI’s were promoted to the 1st Division. The 1st XI was unbeaten in the League and comfortably dispatched the 40-point penalty by the end of May. Andy Bell led a determined side, bolstered by the arrival of fast left arm Andy Chapman, and with Steve MacDonald breaking the League batting record and Chris Notton 50 wkts the side recorded 14 wins to amass 115 pts and finish in 2nd place.
From then on, the side settled into a comfortable lower – mid table position in the 1st Division, until Jason Sayers took over the captaincy in 1997 to take the 1st XI to 8th place.
The following year a top 10 position was essential if the Club was to be playing premier League in 1999. The last match against Sunbury proved to be not just a decider for the top 10, but for the actual title itself. With the best batting line-up Weybridge could muster, Sunbury bowled and fielded superbly to dismiss the side for 106 and deservedly won by 6 wkts. 2nd place, however, was ample reward for a highly competitive season.
1999 heralded the dawn of Premier League cricket under the umbrella of the new English Cricket Board. Cunning Weybridge had recruited wisely and were well suited to he new, longer format, which rewarded attacking cricket. Again, Sunbury were to be the last game. Unfortunately [or fortunately, depending on your point of view] this turned out to be a complete anti-climax as a ‘phone call from the League Chairman had awarded Weybridge the title on the previous Sunday. Monumental celebrations ensued.
The decade that had started with intense sadness, now ended with immense satisfaction. The next 2 years were to cement Weybridge Cricket Club at the top of Surrey cricket, how Brian would have been pleased.
Ramon de Bertodano