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 public house. 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 that 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 60+ 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 and girls 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 that has maintained most of the village Green in such a way that it could 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. Many 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 £350 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 a sharing arrangement when tea urns / chairs / tables are needed.
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
C Clayton b J Shepherd 19
D Mole not out 10
J Poulton not out 0
R Clayton Did not bat.
F Knight Did not bat.
Total 186 for 6 wkts
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 as 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 across the whole of the county and beyond with clubs from Bedfordshire and north London also being allowed to enter.
The Herts League structure has changed over the years and currently (2017) contains 27 Divisions each of 10 teams. It is accredited by the ECB as a Premier League. For the past 15 years, Saracens Rugby Football Club has been the League’s sponsors and it is officially known as the Saracens Herts Premier Cricket League (SHPCL). Reed First XI has been part of the Championship Division since the League’s latest re-structure in 2013. Being in that second tier Reed have challenged for the one guaranteed promotion spot to the Premiership but have not quite managed it yet. As of 2017, the Second XI is in Division 4B having won three consecutive promotions as Champions of their Divisions in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Third XI began in full-time competition in 2006 and play in Division 9A. Similarly, the Fourth XI commenced their League campaign in 2009 and these teams, as well as the Sunday side that continues to play friendlies, became the ideal environment for Colts in the Under 13 age group upwards to start playing alongside and against adult players in what is known as “Open-Age Cricket”. Many parents, who had ceased playing years before, suddenly found themselves being drafted-in to play in the same team as their offspring. After some success, the Fourths had to withdraw from the League during 2017 because of a lack of availability throughout the club. It follows that any player dropping-out or being unavailable in any team has a knock-on effect, and unfortunately the Fourth team suffered.
Different Formats have been introduced. Matches in the first 5 and last 4 weeks of each season are limited overs (50/50) and the middle 9 games are “timed” matches that can end in a draw after 100 overs. (The First XI plays matches containing up to 115 overs.) We have also seen traditional white clothing and red-ball cricket replaced in the Championship Limited Overs matches by coloured kit and pink balls. Reed wears their distinctive club colours of Royal Blue trimmed with Yellow.
As well as Saturday League cricket and the Sunday Friendlies, there have also been many cup competitions and mid-week leagues over the years. Reed has won more than their fair share and always fielded strong teams over the past 30 years. Generally however, player availability in the district has dropped-off to what it was a generation ago and it is problem replicated nationwide.
Locally, the Keatley Cup was an evening mid-week competition involving many nearby clubs in North Herts and South Cambs. In recent times Reed was a regular winner of the trophy underlining the club’s strength in the local area. However, the organisers at Royston CC had to re-think this in 2016 when only a few clubs showed any interest in entering. In its new format, four teams battled-out a six-a-side round-robin followed by a Final between the top two teams. Reed’s sextet won the final against a strong Lord’s Taverners side. Unfortunately, Reed was unable to defend their title in 2017 because of a clash in the fixtures with a National Village Cup Quarter-Final match. Read-on!
The National Village Cup holds every village cricketer’s dream – namely the prospect, however unlikely, of playing at the famous Lord’s Cricket Ground which is known as the Home of Cricket. Reed have entered in every year since its inception in 1972 and the club’s most successful year had been 1988 when it lost to Hursley Park (Hampshire) in the Quarter-Final. In those years more than 700 clubs entered the competition.
With again recognising cricket’s lack of popularity as the national “summer sport”, less than half that number of clubs participate nowadays, but Reed continue to enter and in the Hertfordshire & Bedfordshire Group are likely to encounter strong Clubs comprising good quality players. It is as easy to win a round-or-two as it is to fall at the first hurdle. As for village cricketers fulfilling their Lord’s “dream”, how wonderful can it be that 14 Reed players have had their dreams come true; eight of them twice! In 2012, Reed overcame Woodhouse Grange from Yorkshire in the National Village Cup Final by chasing 184 for 9 and winning by 6 wickets. The team that day contained three pairs of brothers and 10 of the XI had come through Reed’s successful Colt’s structure, (11 if you count the 12th Man). This was our proudest moment and several hundred supporters had travelled to St. John’s Wood for this late-summer clash. James Heslam captained the team on that Sunday and it came one day after he had led the First XI in their last Herts League match of the season that saw them win their Division and thus a place in the Championship Division with the “big clubs”. Man of the Match in that 2012 Village Cup Final was 21-year-old Tom Greaves who had taken 2 wickets and scored a half-century. There had been useful runs from James and Will Heslam, Chris Jackson and Stuart Smith and wickets had fallen to Mitchell Cooper (3), Lee Johnson (2), Jack Tidey and Karl Ward.
Fast-forward 5 years, and Tom Greaves had become Club Captain when Reed was matched against two-time Village Cup winners Sessay CC, also from Yorkshire. Along with Tom, James and William Heslam, the Tideys, Jack and Sean, Stuart Smith, Mitchell Cooper and Karl Ward were all making their second appearances at Lord’s. This time 9 of the XI were ex-Colts with three more in the reserve / support group. Making their debuts at Lord’s were batsmen Richard Wharton and Rob Lankester and opening bowler Toby Fynn. Greaves took 3 wickets this time, Ward added 2 as did Cooper and Sean Tidey and Fynn had 1 apiece. Wharton sparkled with 2 leg-side stumpings and there were catches for Smith (2), Cooper, Fynn and Ward. Sessay closed on 164 for 9 after 40 overs. Losing two early wickets in response set the scene for James Heslam batting at number 4, to join opener, Richard Wharton, in a partnership of 107 that effectively won the match for Reed. Heslam was out for 54 when just 12 were required. Wharton completed a memorable all-round performance and was undefeated on 86 when skipper Greaves slotted a six into the crowd to win the match. Wharton was named Man of the Match and upwards of 400 Reed supporters celebrated the Club’s second success in this prestigious national competition.
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 President) 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 30 each season.
Our Colts section is the lifeblood 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. An ECB-led imitative known as “All Stars” introduced in 2017 is aimed at attracting 5 to 8 year-olds and up to 30 youngsters can be seen on Sunday mornings learning their skills. Some are even third generation Reed players.
In this connection mention has to be made of Cilla Robertson, who has supervised the Colts section for more than 20 years. Through her exemplary organisation, enthusiasm and persuasiveness, Reed Colts has become renowned throughout Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Cilla continues to be active in the Club by also serving on the Club Committee as our Welfare Officer. More than twenty Club players have qualified as ECB Coaches since those early days.
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 almost 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 Second World War, but this had to be interrupted during the war period when all available land was put over to agriculture (the “Dig for Victory” campaign). 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, for example, 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 Stan 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 snowstorm – 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.
Just before his death in 2017, the Club Committee were pleased to inform Howard that the Clubhouse would be named The Howard Marshall Pavilion in his honour.
- 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, Rosemary Collins, Dennis Easley, Roger Fulk, Jonathan Fynn, Peter McMeekin, Cilla Robertson, Graham & Bethan Smith and Peter Wholley have made major contributions to the Club’s ongoing success. So too have former or current players Roger Bowcock, Clive Collins, Michael Curtis, Andrew Emms, Richard Robertson, Scott Rouse, Paul Watts, and Peter Baker.
In modern times, however, there has been one individual who has been the driving force behind the club. John Heslam 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 Committee have set excellent foundations for the next generation to inherit. In recent years, the make-up of the Committee had begun to involve younger, current players who wished to take-on responsibility in Club affairs and when “JQH” did not seek re-election to the Committee in 2016, that “next generation” did step-up to leadership when Stuart Smith was elected Chairman, albeit with a few long-serving Committee members at his side to advise him.
- 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, for example, 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.
Steve Dunn (2006).
Based on Steve Dunn’s ‘History of Reed Cricket Club 1956 – 2006’ (The Golden Anniversary)
Updated contributions by Peter McMeekin, (June 2011).
Updated contributions by Peter Baker (September 2017).