Chesham Cricket Club – A Brief History
1848 is widely regarded as the year in which Chesham Cricket Club was established. However, there is conflicting evidence that a team from the Town played before this such as the Tring Park Cricket Club 150 year handbook which writes that the two clubs first met in the 1830’s.
However, 1848 is widely regarded as the Club’s first year and in 1854 Chesham were reported to have played Amersham and won by 7 wickets. This came from a report in the Bucks Advertiser on 8 July 1854 which suggests that “Chesham Cricket Club is to be revived after many years”.
THE EARLY YEARS
The Club’s first ground was in Higham Mead and we did not move to the Meadow until 1880 when the former site was converted into an industrial estate. Records of the club’s early history are scarce, apart from the newspaper reports, as the wife of the then Secretary Billy Holliman is rumoured to have burned many score books and minute books. Billy, a water cress grower, was an early stalwart of the Club and retired as Secretary in 1929 after 28 years.
Chesham’s heaviest defeat appears to have been at the hands of Harrow Town in the early years when we lost by an innings and 267 runs. Chesham were dismissed for 26 and 31. Perhaps the greatest influential character at this time was Squire William Lowndes who also played for Surrey. The Squire was Captain, as well as President, and the atmosphere in those days was almost feudal. After a good lunch at the Bury on match days he would walk slowly to the Meadow in his MCC blazer. The toss could not be taken, let alone the game starting until the Squire arrived. He invited Dr W G Grace to bring a team down to the Meadow in the years 1905 through 1908 and on one occasion the famous doctor was run out for only 4.
Hospitality was never in short supply in the early part of this century with a beer tent erected on match days. However, after a couple of unsavoury incidents - one when an umpire fell over at the wicket after a long lunch, the other when the waggon carrying a team from Wycombe CC home overturned - the sale of alcohol was banned. The latter story started a legend of how Chesham dismissed Wycombe in only one over!
BETWEEN THE WARS
Affairs dropped to a low ebb in the 1920’s and 30’s due to personality clashes, and subsequently playing strength suffered and fixtures were lost. One of the oldest and friendliest fixtures against Luton was nearly lost after a string of poor games. However, Jack Mash and Giffard Newton got their heads together and “hired” Bill Nevell, a Lord’s professional. He took 5- 25, Luton were dismissed for 80 and they were so impressed by the new recruit they presented him with the match ball. He was paid £5 and the fixture was saved.
Despite this sad period Chesham supplied Hampshire with Geoffrey Lowndes. He was an outstanding batsman and has the distinction of scoring a century before lunch against the Australians and later went on to captain Hampshire.
At this time the ground was shared with the football club, the soccer ground being on the Amy Lane side of the Meadow. In 1930 Chesham United FC, which was formed by Chesham Town and Chesham Generals who had merged after the war, moved to their present ground. The old stand which stood on the Meadow was moved piece by piece to its new location and stood until being bumt down in 1983.
The “New Football Ground” was considered to be one of the best Amateur grounds in the south of England in the 1930’s, and the two clubs became closely linked with many young players taking part in both sports such as Geoff Keen in 1934. Other players to join included Archie Campbell, Frank Webb, Giffard Newton and Jack Mash.
In 1932, Patsy Hendron played at The Meadow and scored a triple century. In the same year, Chesham scored what is known to be their highest score - 342-8 .v. Polytechnic. Cricket was played right through the 1939 season, but towards the end of the following season the club closed down completely. During the Second World War the clubhouse was used for some unusual events and venues, including by the army as a field hospital and by the local Jewish community as a synagogue and a wedding even took place in the Pavilion, whilst a flock of sheep grazed on the square
On 10 March 1946 after being demobbed from service in the Far East, George Piggin, later to be fixture secretary, was shocked to see the grass all over the ground was at least 2 feet high. However, due to the enthusiasm of players returning from the war, by the third week of May, Chesham Cricket Club was back in business.
THE GOLDEN ERA
From the 1950’s into the early 1970’s, we were the envy of all our rivals and were the local side to beat. Some of the Club’s best cricketers played in this period such as Fred Harris and John Mills, who joined in 1954 and 1955 respectively. For over 30 years they had batsmen hopping around, and their career figures show John Mills took over 1,500 wickets, whilst Fred Harris over 1,300 wickets and scored 9,000 runs including 7 centuries with a highest score of 132. They formed a fearsome opening attack for the Club and for the County for many years.
Add to these two the following array of talent and it is easy to see why Chesham were a much feared side: the Taylor Twins, who both went on to careers in first class cricket; Colin Lever an outstanding batsman who scored over 1,000 runs for Bucks in one season; Don Reynolds scored over 10,000 runs; his brother Geoff scored over 12,000 runs and took over 500 wickets; Archie Campbell was Don’s opening partner and they once had a partnership of 244 v Beaconsfield in 1947. This was a club record until 2008 when Tom Fouhy and Jamie Gardiner put on 279 unbeaten against Datchet, although Roy Fisher and Dominic Jeffcote came close in 1984 with an unbeaten partnership of 231 v Northwood.
There was also the Kemp brothers Tony and Bill; it was Bill Kemp who was the driving force behind the concept of Sunday cricket at Chesham in the1960’s; Geoff Keen, who lost half of his right foot while serving with the RAF in the second world war, who scored almost 10,000 runs and Reg Plested, who served the club as Secretary for 29 years, a left arm spinner who ensnared 1,348 victims. He also took 84 wickets for Bucks.
On 26 April 1963 Fred Truman opened the present Pavilion which cost just £6,500 mainly
due to the generosity of Club members. Although, during the 62/63 winter while the
foundations were laid some of the Club`s records were burnt again! But, at least there was a new Pavilion along with a superb 60’s side captained for 12 years by Jack Mash.
In 1967 he and Giffard Newton became joint Presidents, continuing their close friendship and liaison with the club. Under their guidance Chesham was one of the founder members of the Thames Valley League in 1972. Sadly ten years later Chesham lost a valuable member with Giffard Newton’s sudden death. Jack Marsh continued as President for many years and remained a friend of the Club until his death in 2008.
Throughout this time the Club was consistently known for its Teas. A menu from the 1920’s included roast beef and pork, tipsey cake & trifle whilst the teas were prepared by Dolly, for over twenty years who died in 1985. She looked after the teas with Josie Keen, Annie Lewis, and Hazel Saunders.
DECLINE AND ASCENDANCY
In 1974 the 2nd XI became champions of the Second Division of the Thames Valley League but the Club’s success in the 50’s and 60’s became the Clubs’s downfall in the 70’s as during the Golden Era new talent was not encouraged. Eventually players left or retired and the cupboard was bare. However, this led to the formation of the Clubs colts section under Alf Pope and John Newton which ran through the 1980’s and has led to many of the players who still play today.
Through the 1980’s Chesham ran 3 Saturday sides and 2 Sunday sides blooding many young players and the juniors continued under the guidance of Trevor Taylor, with junior sides reaching the national finals in 1981. However, as the colts section faded alongside the fortunes of the senior sides again it was revived in when Jonathan Royals and Steve Ayres once again started juniors at a younger age group and the benefits have been seen in recent County cup success in various age groups in the last 5 seasons. Junior cricket runs from under 5 age group and the Annual Under 9 tournament sees side entering from all over the County. Age group sides are run at all ages from Under 10 to Under 17 and girls sides have been run at various age groups with great success in national competitions.
In recent years the following a change in the Thames Vallley League structure the first team were relegated to Division 2 in 2005although returned as Champions the following year before being relegated again in 2009. The 3rd XI were champions of Div 7b in 2007. Today the Club run four Saturday sides playing in The Thames Valley League Divisions 2, 4, 6 & 8, two Sunday sides in the Chess Valley League. Additionally, associate side the Rising Stars play in the South East Sunday League whilst the Chesham Women run a team playing in the Regional Women’s League.
A special thanks to Edwin Webb who started this project and particularly to Giffard Newton, who wrote down his thoughts and memories before he sadly died in 1982; Jack Mash, Geoff Keen, George Piggin, Bill Kemp and Reg Plested all of whom have provided much of the information in this brief history.