History of Frocester Cricket Club
Written by Eddie Price – 2008

History of Frocester Cricket Club
Information taken from ‘FROCESTER. A Romano-British Settlement, it’s Antecedents and Successors – Volume 4 The Village’ Written by Eddie Price – 2008

Village cricket may have started in Frocester in 1857 and the club appears to have been well established by 1874 when a 2nd XI scored 127 in their first innings, to finally beat Leonard Stanley at Frocester by 119. One player scored sixty.’ The club had no ground of its own, but relied on the kindness of its farmer members for temporary venues. In 1884 the first match of the season, played on 1 May against Eastington, was lost. The outcome of one against Coaley is not known. John Altham Graham-Clarke, Frocester’s major landowner, was among the earliest patrons of the club. Its President, Charles Chapman, who came to Frocester as a farm pupil, married into the Hayward family, and was tenant of Court Farm for ten years, went on to play for Derbyshire. Interest then appeared to have lapsed until 1889, when a meeting was held at the George Inn to revive it.” Mrs Graham-Clarke was elected President and Revd W Symonds, Captain F Parry and E Blackwell and W Thorpe were vice-presidents. The team’s captain and vice-captain were L A Graham-Clarke and T G Hawkins, and the committee members included five farmers and Thomas Deacon, the blacksmith. The President allowed the club to use the Manor Park (OS 109) for their pitch during the forthcoming season. Thereafter the annual results continued to be recorded intermittently in the parish magazines. In 1905 Frocester beat Slimbridge on Whit Monday, and Stroud Rovers at the end of the season. However, it was noted that the club was occasionally disadvantaged by the non-appearance of promised players because they had to reach away matches as best they could by horseback, carriage or on foot; the use of bicycles was still rare. The results for that season were only four wins, with five draws and seven defeats. The most regularly used site for home matches was Little Nutfield, by permission of E Blackwell, and this field continued to be the favourite venue until the First World War.

Leonard A Graham Clarke, the first cricketer 1857

Fields used for recreation in Frocester

Frocester cricket team 1933

from left: Darell Pitman, Stuart Miles, Ernie Shill, D Savory, Ivor Deacon, Stanley Clarke, Wilf Hunt, Tom Goodchild (capt), Tom Barnham, Norman Prout

in front: Clarence Partridge

In 1920 those who returned from the conflict and the younger lads in the village restarted the cricket club. Initially no regular team existed, and members only played matches among themselves. Their equipment comprised the stumps and bails, two bats and balls, and a pair of pads and gloves for the wicket keeper. Two years later, however, fixtures were arranged with local teams such as Eastington, Frampton, King’s Stanley, Nympsfield, Slimbridge, Stinchcombe and Whitminster. A match against Cadbury’s (Frampton depot) second XI was lost by 17 runs.

For the next ten years home matches were played in Little Nutfield, Big Stanborough, and Broad-meads by permission of Charles Jeffes, in Long Field and the Hurns by Arthur Chamberlayne, and in part of Pound Close. These temporary seasonal pitches were never fenced, but a suitable flattish part of the site was scythed, mown and rolled as the occasion required.

Animal droppings were removed on the day of a match with a shovel and bucket, and the outfield was usually rough and often undulating ridge and furrow. Pavilion and toilet facilities were non-existent, and it was said that ‘you couldn’t flush, only blush’/ There were no refreshments, but usually plenty of cider. In 1933 the club’s management committee comprised Revd F M Vine, chairman, S A Rugg, J Aldridge, with the team’s captain and vice captain, TW Goodchild and J A Chamberlayne, ex officio members. Club membership stood at about thirty-two, each paying a 4s annual subscription. The financial balance stood at £5 8s 3d.

On 25 June 1935 a proposal that Eastington and Frocester should combine and have a permanent playing field received little support. At the meeting Rear Admiral Richard Bevan, a member of the National Playing Fields Association, who had recently come to live at Osborne House, was told that Frocester says: We are very comfortable as the farmers are very kind’ ! A field on Frocester Farm was, however, not available for use the following year, so Bevan approached the author’s father, Charles J Price, who had recently come as tenant to Court Farm and it was agreed that the club should have the regular use of the old pitch in Little Nutfield. This was then enclosed with removable fencing on posts set into concrete sockets, and the shed on the west side of the field acted as a changing room or pavilion.

Cricket in Little Nutfield 1938

Local fund-raising activities, often arranged with the help of wives and lady associates, who also ran the catering for home match teas, were started almost immediately. These were continued each year there-after to finance and improve the existing facilities. An invitation for opponents put in the Stroud News led to a total of eight home and six away matches being played during the 1936 season, some of them held on Thursday evenings. Saturday matches included those played against Cadburys of Frampton, Eastington, Edge, Haresfield, Kings Stanley, Miserden, Rodborough and Stonehouse. A green cricket cap with a suitable club monogram was obtainable for 4s 6d from Whites of Stonehouse, but it was agreed that the club would pay Is each for merit badges. White flannels were considered preferable for the players, and coats of a similar colour were provided for the umpires. The rota of members for voluntary pitch maintenance was found to be unsatisfactory, and in 1938 Tom Goodchild and Barham were appointed permanent groundsmen. The club finances had improved and part of a credit balance of £11 17s 8d was spent on a new handle for the stone pitch roller and a table and two chairs for the scorers. It was agreed to purchase a practice bat and three balls, two pairs of batting gloves, a scorer’s book and a cricket carpetbag in which to transport such items. Some of this kit was eventually donated to the club. Tuesday evenings were devoted to practice sessions, with Friday as an alternative date. A verandah was added to the front of the pavilion shed to improve the facilities, and a large elm tree trunk alongside it acted as a grandstand for spectators.

 

In 1940 it was decided to discontinue club activities for the duration of the war, and the £11 19s 4d balance in its funds was invested in War Loan Savings Certificates for the future benefit of the club. However, enough players, most of them members of the Home Guard, were available for informal matches to be played whenever possible. Frocester is proud of the memory that it was one of the few village cricket teams that continued to play until the war’s end, and as their spokesman said during an interview for a recorded broadcast by the BBC Home Programme,

‘we will last out if our last two balls survive’ 13 Some aspects and highlights of a wartime home match were published, with nine illustrations, in Picture Post on the 26 August 1944. The team, led by Eric Eaton, scored 66 runs, eleven more than their opponents, the local representatives of the RAF Regiment. Most of the spectators were women and children.

Frocester at home v RAF Regiment 1944

From Picture Post 26 Aug 1944

The club regained its strength after the war, and was well supported by J E H Graham-Clarke, its president. Vice-presidents included C J Price who allowed the club to use Little Nutfield, the vicar and up to ten other village residents. Local fund raising efforts were successful and it was reported in 1951 that the financial balance stood at over £15 despite heavy recent expenditure. The annual subscription varied over the next ten years between 7s 6d and 10s. About forty-five members attended the annual dinner held at the George Hotel in 1951. In 1954 Frocester first competed for the Stroud and District Cricket Association Knockout Cup. and Don Smith was presented with a bat to commemorate the century he scored in a match at Oldlands. A similar presentation was made to Jim Curson who in 1958 reached the same score when playing against Cope Chats. In 1955 there were two teams; D Pitman led the Saturday one, with F Clifford as vice-captain. John Hawkins, the Sunday Captain, became Secretary of the club in 1956, a post he has now held for over fifty years. The club continued to flourish, and decided to award small cups to those topping batting, bowling, and catching averages. It was, however, recognised how the club was reliant on the continuation of the goodwill of individuals for the use of the field, the facilities supplied by John and Kate Hardiman at the George Hotel, and the inevitable problems associated with the regular weekend catering. For many years this was ably shouldered by Mrs J Thomas, the wife of the club’s umpire, who coped with only occasional assistance.

Matters came to a head in 1958 when J E H Graham Clarke, the president and owner of most of Frocester, expressed a wish that it would be advantageous if the cricket club could be relocated, and discussions began about the future of a new playing field. Acting on the suggestion of two prominent club members, J Thomas and J Davies, both estate employees, it was decided that Pound (now Pounds) Close, a triangular six acre arable field in the centre of the village would be the most desirable situation. The last matches were played in Little Nutfield in 1959, and the new cricket square and outfield were laid down and seeded in the upper, southern, part of the field during the autumn. It was not ready for use during 1960, when all matches were played away. Enquiries were made for details of grants available from the National Playing Fields Association and it was decided that club members should erect A cedar wood pavilion. The completion of these earlier facilities was achieved by 1961 at a cost of £335.

Official opening of Cricket pavilion by Lady Cooper 1961

This was partly financed by a loan of £170, repaid in 1963, from Lady Cooper, the elder of J E H Graham Clarke’s two daughters. She officially opened the new ground on 7 May, the day when the first match of the new season was played against an XI which included the Gloucestershire and England player, Tom Goddard. This was the last game of cricket in which he participated. The loan was partly offset by a grant of £125 from the NPFA and was repaid in 1963. The lower two acres of Pounds Close was cropped with barley, sold for the benefit of the club for three more years, and then became the village recreation ground. The original grant of a twenty-one year lease of the whole was then given up by the club in favour of a Recreation Ground Trust. At the time it was not realised that this had been registered as a charity and, after some furore thirty years later, the matter was settled and ownership of the land was vested in the Official Custodian of Charities.

Most of the club’s social functions such as its annual dinner, dances, skittle competitions, and fund-raising activities continued to be held at outside venues, but the minutes of the committee meetings record the progress made over the next five years to improve the facilities on the home ground. The catering arrangements, now taken over by Mrs M Hawkins, were improved by the installation of a sink unit costing £17 in the pavilion, and discussions ranged between subjects such as the requirements of a club bar licence and the ladies toilet. The roadside hedge was to be netted, and a sightscreen was needed on the south-west boundary of the pitch. Club caps and ties were to be green with red lettering and three players were in charge of coaching classes. In 1965 the subscription rate was raised to 12s 6d, the first increase since 1952, and the club treasurer, F W Clifford, reported that despite the expenditure of £206 there was a credit balance of £132 in the accounts. The leam continued to compete in the Stroud knockout competition, and a charity cricket match between the Frocester and Woodchester XIs was played on Boxing Day. The growing support for the club was well illustrated by the number of new vice-presidents.

 

The finances of both the Cricket Club and the Dursley Lions Club Charity have been materially boosted by the takings of the Frocester Beer Festivals, the first of which was held in a marquee set up on the triangle of grass at the rear of the pavilion on the last Friday evening and Saturday in August 1980. It was reported in 1984 that forty different beers, twenty-five wines, eider and food were on offer. Admission cost £2 and included a glass or mug. Entertainment was provided by three jazz and two Country and Western performers. A cricket match was played on the Saturday. Free car parking was provided in OS 68, once part of Pound Close but now a separate paddock on the opposite side of the road; the Recreation Ground was used for private tented accommodation. Over three thousand people attended the 1985 event. Although initially slightly marred by a little anti-social behaviour outside the premises, the restriction of entry to holders of tickets bought prior to the event, improved stewardship, and fencing brought the early problems under control. It has proved to be an extremely well patronised annual event and has now been held for over twenty-five years. In 2001 the sum of £600 from the proceeds were donated towards the purchase of the play equipment on the Recreation Ground. The programme issued for the 24th event to be held on 22-3 August 2003 advertised one hundred and twelve named beers from fifty-three brewers, six different ciders and a selection of fifty wines. In that year (a typical one) a green date-stamped glass served as the receipt for an entry ticket, and tokens were used for food and drink. Musical entertainment with some short breaks was provided by a single band between 6.30 and Ilpm on the Friday and by five more from 11.30am to 11.00pm on the Saturday.

John and Marjorie Hawkins playing skittles in 1991

The bar and skittles proved to be a popular social part of the club’s life and in 1966 a week-long skittle contest was played on a temporary alley behind the pavilion. Later extensions to this building have included a lounge bar known as Noggers Nook at the east end. This room is also used for committee and parish meetings. New changing rooms and toilets were built on at the other end. The original long central part with its entrances includes the main bar, storage and catering facilities, with sufficient room on the north side for a skittle alley to be laid down each winter. Despite these improvements catering for home matches continued to be a heavy burden on the ladies, and this was well publicised by Mrs Marjorie Hawkins in an article detailing the problems of a cricket club wife, and printed in the local newspaper.”

The Silver Jubilee celebrations held in 1986 to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the move to Pounds Close included a Gala dinner, and on the 24 July two thousand spectators watched the home team play an International XI. Frocester lost the match, scoring 220 for 8 against 262 for the same number of wickets. A Sportsman’s Dinner is now held annually in a marquee in front of the pavilion, followed by a Summer Ball held in the same accommodation on the following evening.

The club’s reputation and the improvements, both to the pitch and facilities which, in 1997, included the acquisition of part of Church Ground (OS 153), now named St Peter’s Field, for the establishment of a second pitch, attracted more and better players. This has led to a much higher standard of cricket, which, from 1968 resulted in an impressive list of Honours. Perhaps the most prestigious was the occasion when Frocester, although beaten by Kington of Hereford at Lords in 1993, became the runners up for the National Village Cup. Other achievements included winning the Stroud League Competition six times, with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th XIs between them achieving a similar number. The club has been Gloucester Village Knockout Champions on eleven occasions, and the Holloway Knockout winners on seven.

1993 National Village Cup Runners up

The fixture card for 2004 listed a full programme of both home and away matches played between May and August. These include 1st and 2nd XIs League and Sunday fixtures, 3rd and 4th XI League fixtures, and some midweek and evening matches. The main home ground used by the first two teams is Pounds Close; the others use St Peter’s Field. Young players have always been encouraged and the junior teams have been both Stroud and Gloucester under 13 and under 15 winners a total of nine times. Large numbers are regularly coached on Monday evenings. In 2004 subscriptions for playing members was £40 for prompt payers, and £10 for juniors if playing senior cricket. Match fees for spectators were £3.50 for adults. Additional storage and inside accommodation for the scorers to operate the Ken Hill electronic scoreboard was added to the west end of the pavilion in time for the opening match of the 2006 season, by which time the roadside fence was lined with boards exhibiting the names of the club’s local business sponsors.

Pounds Close pavilion built in 2017.

Source: Frocester – A Romano-British Settlement, it’s Antecedents and Successors. Volume 4 The Village
Author: Eddie Price
Published: 2008