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Reed Cricket Club – A Brief History
- Early Days
Although cricket has been played on and off at Reed for perhaps up to 100 years or so, it was in 1956 that the present cricket club was formed. Older village residents recount that both before and after the Second World War matches were played in the middle meadows at the back of The Cabinet. The old oak tree (still standing) provided the gathering point for spectators who invariably included Charlie and Bertha Gilbey, comfortable in their deck chairs and keeping score.
The club formally sprang to life in 1956 from a suggestion made by Joe Shepherd (our first club captain) to some of the teenagers who went to the youth club which met in the mission hall (now a house) on the High Street. Joe asked the boys whether they fancied playing cricket and this led to them searching out what was left of the old equipment, a few pads, bats etc which had been used for those few years after the war and which had been left in one of the out-buildings at Goodfellows farm.
In that first summer about six matches were played. Unfortunately no score book exists and there were no match reports in the Royston Crow, but it is known that none of the matches were won, and draws were unheard of in those days, when 50 was usually a comfortable winning total.
The support of the Parish Council was sought for home matches to be played on the village green, which is under the control of the Parish Council. The green has become the club’s home and nowadays without doubt is one of the most attractive cricket grounds in the region. The energy and determination of the players and supporters to get the club underway in 1956 has been matched throughout the 50 years as the club has progressed and continued to improve facilities and playing standards.
- The Club within the village
The cricket club came about because of the widespread support and a willingness to be involved from much of the village population. To turn the green into a playing area took a lot of time and effort, involving the local farmers, the Parish Council as well as those keen to play. Then there were ladies prepared to make teas, people to score and umpire, and of course, The Cabinet willing to serve 22 thirsty young men with pints of shandy at the pub’s peak time on a Saturday evening.
The club continues to enjoy village support and since formally setting up the colts section in the 1980’s it has demonstrably encouraged local boys to be part of the club. The Parish Council has consistently supported the cricket club both by permitting the green to be used for cricket and by recognising that it has been the cricket club which has maintained most of the village green in such a way that it can be enjoyed by all. This attitude was exemplified by the club’s application in 2005 for a “Local Network Fund Grant” of £5,000 from the Hertfordshire Community Foundation. This was specifically in recognition of what the club had achieved and was planning to do, to integrate local youngsters into the club. To date nine village youngsters have directly benefitted through subsidised membership and playing fees and through the provision of free kit and equipment.
A similar source of funding is the Samuel Beadie Welfare Fund. This money was donated to the Club by Samuel Beadie Ltd as part of their Reed CC Youth Cricket Sponsorship in 2008. The specific aim of this fund is to provide support and financial assistance to any families of youth team members where lack of funds might compromise the ability of any youngster to either join the club (Membership Subscription) or play matches where match fees would apply. The fund currently stands at £500 and can be used at the discretion of the Reed CC General Committee.
Relations with the school have been nurtured in recent years, particularly through the good offices of Peter McMeekin, a committee member and also a school governor. This has led to the school using the cricket ground for practice and coaching, as well as swapping arrangement when tea urns/chairs/tables are needed.
Unfortunately the earliest surviving scorebook is for 1959 and the first report in The Crow of a fixture involving Reed was on Saturday 6th July 1957 played at Aspenden. The scorecard read as follows:-
R Miller b S Shepherd 3
R Skipp run out 57
B Liles c Sharp b J Shepherd 11
J Crane b J Shepherd 0
L Mole b Fardell 8
B Dickerson retired 68
b J Shepherd 19
D Mole not out 10
J Poulton not out 0
Total 186 for 6 wkts
R Clayton and F Knight dnb
D Shepherd b Mole 1
G Sharp b C Clayton 0
A Shepherd st Miller b C Clayton 0
L Bysouth b C Clayton 1
N Fardell b C Clayton 3
J Shepherd b Crane 34
S Shepherd b C Clayton 1
S Brown c Mole b C Clayton 0
D Collins lbw b Liles 16
C Collins c Crane b Liles 7
R Bysouth not out 6
Aspenden won by 117 runs.
Joe Shepherd’s 34 was recorded in the Crow’s “Best of Week” list, but there was no mention of Clayton’s 6 wickets.
With the exception of a brief sortie in the late 60’s into the Herts Competition, all matches were friendlies until the club became founding members of the North Herts League in 1983. Historically leagues and cups did not feature in the club cricket scene but by the 1980’s increasing numbers of club cricketers were seeking “more competitive” matches. That is not to say that the so called friendly matches were not competitive! Over the years there have been many local rivalries. Early on this was particularly the case with Cockenach (not helped when Reed batted on after tea, much to the annoyance of Howard Marshall who was then playing for Cockenach).
The North Herts League satisfied the thirst for league cricket for about five years and also enabled Reed to win some trophies – first league champions and regularly winners of the brighter cricket award. But by the late 1980’s the club had grown stronger and was looking for more challenging opposition. In 1988 it joined the Hertfordshire League, then known as the Laing Homes League and has been a permanent member ever since. This means that nowadays matches are played accross the whole of the county and beyond with clubs from Bedfordshire also being allowed to enter.
The format of the league has changed over the years and the league now has 13 divisions. In 2011, Reed first XI is playing in Division 2, the second XI in Division 6, the third XI in Division 10 and the fourth XI in Division 13. As well as league cricket there have also been many cup competitions. Two of these have been longstanding and the club still plays in them today. These are the National Village Cup and the local Keatley Cup.
The National Village Cup holds every village cricketers dream – namely the prospect, however unlikely, of playing at Lords, which is the venue on August Bank Holiday weekend, for the final. The club’s most successful year was 1988 when it won the area final (against Langleybury), then went on to beat Glynde and Beddingham (the Kent winners), and Frensham (the Surrey winners) before losing to Hursley Park in a memorable game in Hampshire. If Reed had won that match they would have been in the last four, and bearing in mind that some 700 clubs entered the competition, this was a remarkable achievement.
Over the last 30 years of playing the village cup, the club has been drawn against Langleybury on numerous occasions. Although a village club on the outskirts of Watford, Langleybury has always attracted quality cricketers and has played in higher leagues than Reed. But the frequency with which the clubs have met in the village cup has led to the development of a healthy respect and good relations between the two clubs.
The Keatley Cup is organised by Royston CC and attracts clubs in and around the Royston area. It is an evening knockout competition of 16 overs per side. Reed has participated continuously in the competition since the 1970’s and were winners for the first time in 1983, beating a strong Royston team, who, needing two to win off the last ball, were restricted to one run. In recent times Reed has been a regular winner of the trophy underlining the club’s strength in the local area.
The year 2006 was not just the club’s golden anniversary, it also marked 30 years of colts cricket. In 1976 junior cricket in Hertfordshire (and Cambridgeshire) was not organised as it is today, and Steve Dunn started the colts by arranging a few games each season for a mixed age group team of about a dozen local lads, including the three Sharp brothers and Peter Tidey. Nowadays virtually the only way children can play cricket is by belonging to a club. It therefore falls to the clubs to sustain and promote interest in playing cricket among teenagers. Our colts section was given official status in the 1980’s when Steve Dunn and Andrew Emms (current club Chairman) gained formal coaching qualifications. The Saturday morning sessions on the green were an immediate hit with youngsters from all the local villages and towns and numbers grew steadily, peaking at 120 junior playing members in 1999. Since then Buntingford, Royston and Cokenach have followed Reed’s example and formed junior sections, reducing our numbers to about 60 each season.
Our colts section is the life blood of the club. It also reinforces the family values that the club has always held so dear, and many of the colts have been the offspring of playing members. These youngsters will have been involved with the club virtually from the day they were born and when they were old enough they introduced their friends to cricket. Of course, with their children showing interest, the parents were keen to help with the running of the colts section, by coaching, umpiring, scoring, chauffeuring and supporting.
In this connection mention has to be made of Cilla Robertson, who for 18 years managed the colts section. Through her exemplary organisation, enthusiasm and persuasiveness, Reed colts has become renowned throughout Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. The role of Colts Liaison Officer is now undertaken by Peter Wholley, while Cilla continues to be active in the club by serving on the committee as our our Welfare Officer.
The club also rewards the colts with their achievements. Each year, shortly before the start of the season, an awards evening is held in the pavilion. This is always well attended and helps to rekindle interest in cricket after eight months of non stop football.
- Ground and Pavilion
The village green is often referred to as common land. Whether or not this is an accurate description, it is certain that the use of the green is subject to bylaws introduced in 1937 by the Parish Council with the consent of none other than the Minister of Health! These bylaws come under the provisions of the Inclosure Act 1857 and the Commons Act 1876.
These broadly protect the use of the land “as a place for exercise and recreation”, and if a person is caught “shaking a rug”, or “wilfully destroying a birds egg”, or “interrupting the proper use of the ground”, they will be liable “to a fine not exceeding the sum of TWO POUNDS”!!! Perhaps the club was guilty when it used to have its egg catching competition during cricket week?
So the use of the green for games and recreational purposes was well established before the war, but this had to be interrupted during the war period when all available land was put over to agriculture. When the Parish Council was asked in 1956 for the green to be reclaimed for its proper purpose and specifically for cricket, the request clearly had the support of the bylaws made 20 years previously.
Transforming the green from farmed land to a cricket ground was a huge project and although some farm equipment was able to be used, eg a seed driller, for the first few seasons the pitch itself was cut by a hand push mower and the outfield cut down by sickles. Fred Rand’s roller was used at the beginning of the seasons, and by the late 1950’s gang mowers were used. In the early 1960’s a Dennis sit-on mower was acquired. Cutting the outfield using the Dennis was at least a three hour job and for many years until his death it was invariably Stand Ford who did this job. He happily performed this task at least fortnightly during the summer and the green soon became an excellent outfield.
The cricket square itself improved season by season, initially through regular cutting and rolling and then by some more specialist attention from Fraser Field who joined the club in 1963. Fraser was a landscape contractor and spent many hours working on the ground, particularly the square which he extended to six strips. Usefully, he also employed Clive Collins, who has continued to provide expert input to the maintenance of the ground to the present day. Interestingly Fraser was the first Reed player to score a hundred, which was against Therfield. Clearly he recognised the value of preparing good pitches – at least for batsmen!
Since the late 1980’s the ground has been managed by Richard Robertson, whose determination to produce the best possible playing surface, has bordered on devotion beyond the realms of duty! Richard will be seen either preparing or repairing wickets almost every evening throughout the summer. During the close season he is probably seen only two or three times a week! The result of this attention is of course a ground to be proud of. Not just excellent playing conditions for cricketers but also a very attractive and well maintained village green enjoyed by the whole community.
It is also Richard who created the new pitches away from the road and who ensured that the colts have good and safe playing surfaces for both matches and practices.
The pavilion is a huge asset for the club. Built in 1976/7 on land purchased from the District Council, it has enabled the club to offer first class facilities to members, guests and opposition alike. The pavilion has been constructed in three phases and each phase has been built using club member’s skills and labour.
Howard Marshall was the driving force for the first pavilion, and he will often relate the story of fitting the roof tiles during a snow storm – such was his devotion to the project. This commitment has been repeated twice since. In 1986 the pavilion was doubled in size, giving more spacious changing accommodation. This again was led by Howard Marshall with much assistance from John Heslam. By this time Howard had become Club President and John, Club Chairman.
The latest extension was completed in 2005. This was managed by John Heslam, who used his unique powers of persuasion to enthuse and involve club members in the project. The commitment of Peter McMeekin and Graham Smith is worthy or particular note. These building works have always had to be carried out in the winter months to avoid clashing with the cricket season, and throughout the 2003/04 winter, Peter and Graham acted as “mates” to the specialist tradesmen. They did all the labouring, fetching and carrying in some of the coldest and wettest weather. But their efforts were appreciated and the outcome is a first class clubhouse, attractive visually and comfortable internally.
The substantial use of club members labour has not only meant good value for money with higher specifications being achieved from the finance available, but also has helped to maintain the excellent club spirit and ownership of the club by its members. Reed is not a “pay and play” club like so many nowadays. More commitment is demanded of its members and usually happily given.
6. Management and Administration
The strength of the club has not been, and is not, confined to the cricket itself. With every successful organisation, there is an excellent team behind the scenes. Reed Cricket Club is no exception.
Norman Reffell joined the club in 1959 and he is regarded as the person who shaped the club organisationally. He introduced the club rules/constitution and made sure there were regular commitee meetings and AGMs. Norman was a cricket lover and he took his cricket very seriously. The writer met him on just two occasions but both times Norman spoke with huge affection for, and knowledge of, the sport, and especially for Reed Cricket Club.
By the early 70’s Neil Marsh, John Raven, Howard Marshall and Mike Taylor were the principal influences within the club’s administration. Neil Marsh negotiated the excellent deal with the council to purchase the land for the pavilion, the funding of which was not just from the sponsored bike ride, but also included successful applications prepared by Howard Marshall to the National Playing Fields Association and the Lords Taverners.
Since that time there have been many people involved with the management of the club, and a good proportion have been non-playing members. Keith Collins not only umpired for over 30 years, he has served on the bar committee. Joe Dunn, Jonathan Fynn, Peter McMeekin, Graham and Bethan Smith, Cilla Robertson, Scott Rouse, Roger Falk and Dennis Easley, all non players, have made major contributions to the clubs ongoing success.
In modern times, however, there has been one individual who has been the driving force behind the club. John Helsam joined Reed in 1981. After a few years he became Club Chairman and has ensured the club has grown and improved in all directions, whilst still living within its means. He and the general commitees, which he has chaired have set excellent foundations for the next generation to inherit.
- The next 50 years
So where to now? Will cricket still be played in Reed in 2056? I would like to think so. But I am not naive enough to imagine that it will be played and organised as it is today. Almost inevitably, pressure on people’s time will continue to increase and hopefully people will become even more affluent. This will probably mean that at sometime in the future the club will contract out much of the work that is currently done by members, eg a paid groundsman.
The first 50 years have shown how the game in Reed has moved on, partly reflecting external factors such as greater wealth, need for greater competition, but mostly because of a basic love of the game and an enjoyment of the company of others, without which team sports will not survive.
Reed Cricket Club is, and always has been more than a cricket team, and its continuation will depend more on its ability to maintain its family based culture than on its ability to win cricket matches. I strongly believe the second inevitably follows the first.
The immediate future of the club is bright and celebrating the golden anniversary will keep the spirit and enjoyment of being part of a successful and historic club alive.
With such a sound history, I am confident that Reed Cricket Club will prosper for the next 50 years and I would like to think that I will be there to celebrate the century, something that has always eluded me!, but in reality I think it always will.
Based on Steve Dunn’s ‘History of Reed Cricket Club 1976 – 2006’