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Pirton Cricket Club

The History of Pirton Cricket Club

Cricket - Village Cricket - which should in no way be confused with the first class game or even that practised by our illustrious neighbours in Hitchin, Letchworth, Stevenage etc. has been played in Pirton for over 100 years. As we shall see, the game at this level closely reflects the prevailing social and economic conditions of the countryside.

The first recorded evidence of the game in Pirton can be found in the parish magazine of August 1904. An unnamed benefactor had presented the village with "a complete set of cricket materials". Subsequent to this, a team was formed under the captaincy of John (Spratty) Burton. Subscriptions for the first season were 1/- (5p) and club caps were available at 6d (2½ p) each.

Matches were played on Mr A. Trussell's meadow in exchange for the princely rent of 15/- (75p) per season. Only our forbears know the location of Mr Trussell's meadow; it is safe to assume however that its primary use would be that of grazing land, the cricket "table" being fenced off to protect it from the stock and their attendant hazards. This luxury did not extend to the outfield, the cattle were never evicted and their accompanying flies and droppings rendered fielding an uncomfortable pastime; due to the long grass, runs were invariably scored via the aerial route. The cowpats weren't all bad; when mixed with loam, spread on the pitch, rolled and sun dried it produced a remarkably true playing surface.

Chances for play were limited, the team would have consisted mainly of farm labourers and local tradesmen, who worked for 5½ long days and, by popular convention, would observe the Sabbath.

This left only Saturday afternoons for cricket, and as the parish magazine observed, "as the harvest is early this year there will probably be opportunities to play after it is over". Games were played against local villages, but anything further than an 8 or 10-mile bike ride would have been prohibitive.

Unfortunately there are no recorded details of the ensuing 30 years. It is known however that the location of the cricket ground moved on at least three occasions, once to "Bob Davies's field" which was at the bottom of Priors Hill and thence to "The Bents" (named after the type of grass) which was diagonally next door to the existing playing field. By this time facilities were shared with the football club, both sports being run under the auspices of "Pirton Men's Social Club". In 1933 The Bents became unavailable and activities moved once again, this time to "The Doles", Tom Lake's meadow in Shillington Road. It was here that Pirton gained its first sports pavilion, a second hand site hut from Shelvoke and Drewry which was erected by local volunteers. The Doles was used until 1939 when all sporting activity ceased due to the outbreak of war.

After the war the football section moved to "The Dial" on the corner of West Lane and Burge End. The new location was not of sufficient size to accommodate cricket, so the cricketers were homeless and the team disbanded. Occasional away cricket matches were played, in particular the traditional fixtures against Holwell, Henlow, Hexton, etc. Sometimes the better village players such as "Tina" Crawley, "Mootsa" Males or Percy Wright would guest for Holwell, but otherwise things were fairly quiet on the cricket front until 1958.

In 1958 the long awaited playing field was opened; the square had been properly levelled and seeded (and not a cow in sight). There was now a situation where the village had a pitch but no organised team to use it. Various games were played by ad hoc teams against works teams or representative sides from the traction engine people, boys v. men matches etc. and slowly interest in cricket was rekindled which resulted in the formation of ...

"The Modern Cricket Club"

This happened in November 1968, and was basically an offshoot of the Pumpkin Club who had been masterminding most village events during the late sixties. It was thought there was sufficient interest to form a separate club, a general meeting was called and a new organisation was born.

The original committee were: Jack Newman (chairman), John Dawson (secretary), Roland Brown (treasurer), David Saunders (fixtures), John Scriven, Jack Baines, Joe Titmuss, Keith Pamphillion, Bob Castle & Martin Raffell . Commander Martineau (one of the senior village dignitaries at the time) graciously agreed to become president and, most importantly, The White Horse (now The Motte and Bailey) was selected as headquarters. After much discussion Dick Sanders was chosen as captain and a full fixture list arranged for the 1969 season.

Facilities and conditions were far more basic than now. The pavilion was a wooden shack, now enlarged it still stands next to the present one in the corner of the playing field. There were no showering facilities; teas were taken on a "veranda" covered with corrugated perspex. The toilets were a pair (male / female) of Elsan bucket and chuck it devices (emptying of which proved a suitable reward for errant bowlers, non-scoring batsmen or catch droppers).

Despite the conditions the club gained strength and became fairly successful, if not at cricket certainly as an established village organisation. At that time there was far less in the way of recreational diversions so there was no shortage of people willing to play or contribute socially. There were single wicket competitions, six-a-side tournaments, dances, dinners, race nights, barbecues on the village green and most importantly 40 or so games of cricket every year.

The club continued in this vein for 5 -10 years with many memorable incidents and people contributing along the way. Things were, however, slowly changing. Works teams were disbanded, people found alternative ways of spending leisure time, the better players chose league cricket, the original Pirton football club (now defunct) was pre-eminent; this and other factors in different insidious ways conspired to make life difficult for the club; the fixture list was reduced, social functions became a rarity and membership dwindled.

However, the faithful few continued remaining true to the basic principal "predominately Village and pleasure only", and so it was until 2007 when the club entered a team in division 11 of the Saracens Hertfordshire Cricket League. This was really the result of Peter Bidgood starting a colts section of the club around 1995. Youngsters who had been playing competitive 20 overs a side cricket from the age of 10 or 11 wanted to continue playing more competitive cricket than the Sunday afternoon variety, once the junior leagues finished at the under 16 age level.

The Saturday league side has been promoted twice, in 2009 and 2012, whilst the Sunday side continues to play Village Cricket in the traditional friendly manner against other local villages. There are no factions and very few meetings, just a gang of kids (of all ages) enjoying themselves.

Perhaps you will come and have a look, maybe even join in. It really is a very pleasant way of spending a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

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