The Story of Heyford: Cricket on the Village Green V4C5

Like most villages in England Nether Heyford sported the idyllic sight of twenty two people dressed in immaculate whites playing the age-old sport of Cricket on the Village Green.

A team game remarkably like cricket was being played in England as early as 1300 and by the 1700’s it was being played by the landed aristocracy and so became part of our culture. In the early 1890’s County Cricket was established with clubs being admitted only when the MCC judged their standard to be acceptable and the county of Northamptonshire was admitted in 1905.

The period 1890-1914 is regarded as the golden age of cricket with interest in the sport becoming widespread. Today it is not quite so popular with the young and it is not surprising that India and Pakistan have such magnificent teams as children take up cricket there as soon as they can hold a bat and at week-ends you can see teams and teams of players on any given space practising their skills -far more than even our local lads play football.

The tradition of a local cricket team still goes on in Heyford, but not on the Green. For the last few years you could see Julian Rice and his merry men playing on the well-tended sports ground by the Pavilion built ten years ago and situated just as you enter Heyford from the A45. (The Pavilion used to be the football changing rooms which were moved from the village green to the sports field). Still an idyllic sight but not the same perhaps as when cricket was played in the centre of the village.

The early years

The Cricket Club in Heyford was founded by Henry Isham Longden when he came to the village as Rector in 1897. He was, according to Joan Wake in her book ‘The life of Henry Isham Longden’, fond of cricket and apparently he had played for the Northampton Cricket Club in his curate days, so it is not surprising that he was always ready for a village cricket match. Hevford’s Bob Browning (1892-1997) recalls cricket being played on the green in the early 1900s, but these were in the days of friendlies against neighbouring villages.

There must have been a lapse of all activities during the 1914-1918 war with all able-bodied men fighting, but cricket resumed in the 1920’s. At this time the green was more uneven than it is today as it was grazed by cows. There was continual debate about whether a proper pitch could be laid. According to the rules laid down for the management of the green no digging could take place, and much argument went on about laying such a pitch. However agreement was eventually reached and a wicket turf was laid on the centre part of the green by Jack Nickolls and Tommy Kingston.

In the 1920’s the Heyford team consisted of such people as Bert Thompson, Frank Reeve, Bob Foster, Dick Foster and Ron Humphrey. They played friendlies against local villages, Farthingstone and Everdon. Before each match nets were erected along the far side of the green to protect the windows and slates of the houses nearby. And of course they all met afterwards in the clubroom of the Foresters Arms.

In the 1930’s the players included Bill Kingston, Bernard North, Charlie Copson, Jack Butcher, Dennis Clarke and Reg Collins. The main umpire for Heyford was Sonny Thompson and they played against Everdon, Pattishall, Astcote, Bugbrooke, Kislingbury and Harpole. Bill Kingston recalls that before they could play they had to make up the pitch. They had to fill in the holes, patch it, turf it and roll it because the cows had been on it all week! And according to Charlie Copson the pitch was so well prepared that it was used on Friday evenings for tennis matches.

Cricket as it appeared on the Green in the 1940’s and 1950’s

NetherHeyford_Cricket_1

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The team in the 1960’s

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Standing, left to right: Jack Draper, Peter Brodie, John Draper, Michae Ingray, Norman Fonge, Bernard North, Ron Copson, Bert Thornicroft, Ben Spokes

Kneeling, left to right: Dennis Clarke, Jim Blood, Harry Haynes, Charlie King, Reg Collins 

Twenty years without a club

Then the cricket ceased. In the Sunday Telegraph a few weeks before Easter 1999, it was reported “The village Cricket Club has been forced to close after the wives and friends of the players refused to make their teas”. This, I hasten to add, was not what happened to Heyford. By the 1950’s Tommy Rolfe had left the Foresters and houses had been built alongside the green between Middle Street and the Post Office, making it difficult to protect them against damage from the balls. Also there were few young men in the village in the post war years because many were moving to town to take advantage of modern work and housing opportunities.

In the Mercury & Herald November 6th 1969 a little piece about Nether Heyford appeared. “Heyford is developing fast with an attractive diversity of new and stylish housing running in price to the five figure bracket, but in the heart of the village the scene remains much the same as half century ago – thanks to the preservation of one of the most expansive village greens in England. It is a curious fact, however, that Nether Heyford has no cricket club. It used to have one but the young people have cars these days and go where they will for their sport and pleasure”.

The club reformed

However, on the 16th June 1977 a meeting was held with Charles King asking the question “Would it be possible to raise a cricket team in the village?” and no article about cricket in Nether Heyford would be complete without a mention of Dave Jenkinson who, after this initial meeting, was elected Chairman of the newly reformed Cricket Club with Charles King, who lived in Hillside Road, becoming the Secretary.

Charles told the local paper that when they had started up again they played half-a-dozen evening games with limited overs to test out the interest. But with no pitch and little equipment and the green being used all winter for football, it was becoming very difficult to keep interest going. He reported that “we’ve had talks with a local farmer about using one of his fields, but at the moment we’re playing all our matches away from home; we book pitches on places like the Racecourse in Northampton. But the real snag about a square on the green, is that we’d need to spend £160 on safety netting along the roadside”.

Thus a new venue for cricket was being called for. Plans for playing fields were being started and fund-raising events taking place. And an apt headline appeared in the paper: “Cricketers bat on and refuse to be stumped”.

Discos at the Foresters Arms followed and on December 23rd 1977 a Christmas Supper Dance was held, music by the Neal Stanton Band, and tickets at £2.50. At this time the membership fee of the Cricket Club was £1 a head and the match fees 10p per game. More and more local people became involved with the Club and Mrs. Rosemary Haddon was elected Treasurer having the grand sum of £155.4p in the kitty.

In 1978 on the 25th May the Mercury and Herald reported some memories from Mr. Albert Garrett who was clerk to the parish council for 35 years and at that time 79 years old. “We used to play cricket on the green” he said “they’ve just started the club up again. I played until I was 60” and he laughed. “We used to break a lot of windows but this time I think they’re getting something to protect them. Even so, we always had a collection to pay for them, especially for one old chap who had his broken regularly.”

And in 1982 when Dave Tite was secretary, the Club was looking back to 1977, the year that Heyford Cricket Club was reformed and remarking on how well the club was doing since it started without money, equipment or fixtures. In March 1983 Geoff Garrett was voted Captain and Paul Horrocks was persuaded to take on the job of fund raising- a difficult but necessary job in the circumstances. They had a full fixture list and entered for the Watney Mann Cup.

All matches ‘away’

In 1984 still without proper grounds the Cricket Club flourished, meetings were held still at The Foresters Arms with Mine Hosts Alf and Marg Parker and youngsters were being recruited. At the Parish Council Annual Meeting members raised the subject of their need for practice nets in the village, perhaps on the green, and these “would not take up a great deal of room and could be used by the School and would add to the attractions of the village”. If you look at the fixture list for July 1984 you will see that not one of the matches were played at home. And amusingly on the front of the fixture list you will see the following:

REMEMBER:

It is better to have played and lost than never to have played at all.

(Gayton excepted)

At the 7th AGM of the Heyford Cricket Club on Sunday, 31st March 1985, the Chairman reported sadly that there was now no prospect of home fixtures being played within the Parish Boundary but that it was to be hoped that progress on the Heyford Playing Fields project would mean a ray of hope for future seasons.

The following report in September in the Prattler went “Came second to Ryland 0/B’s in the Clenbury / Haine Shield. Lost in the final. Watney Mann Cup got through to the second round by having a bye in the preliminary round – and beating Gayton in the first round. Lost to Buqbrooke in the second round. We have started a Youth Team with the lads doing most of their own organising. They have been going for about six months and have had two fixtures against very good sides. They tied their first game against Wootton Youth and narrowly lost to Rylands Under 15’s. They have a practise net on the Green every Monday evening. The lads show a lot of promise and hopefully next season we call get them into a league through the Cricket Association. “

But it was to be some time before cricketers could enjoy the game on their home turf. An article appeared in February 1987 stating that “The Parish Council, through its Leisure and Amenities Committee, has been looking into the possibility of acquiring enough land to provide a playing field for the use of the inhabitants of both Nether and Upper Heyford. This matter was also discussed at the last Annual Parish Council meeting. A steering group has been formed to consider the matter, and the outcome of their enquiries to date is that Mr. J Spokes of Upton is prepared to sell approximately 10 acres of land, which seems to be ideally suited to a games area. The land forms part of a flat field, which is situated behind the allotments and Mrs. Smith’s field on the Upper Road.”

The team in 1980

NetherHeyford_Cricket_4

This photograph, taken on Jeremy Rice’s front lawn, shows the team as proud winners in 1980 of the Clenberry / Haine Shield.
Standing: Julian Rice, Ray Haddon, Dave Tite, Tony Charville, G Starmer, Graham Drake
Seated: Alex Kirkbride, Geoff Garrett, Geoff Sturgess, Mike Tharby

Home turf at last

In July 1988 the cricket square was making good progress “thanks to the efforts of the Grounds Committee headed by Jeremy Rice.” And in 1989 Geoff Sturgess of Hillside Crescent was very encouraged by the good turnout for the Youth Cricket Under 16’s Team as nets were now available down on the Playing Field.

In the Prattler, May 1989, the following article appeared compiled by Alex Kirkbride:

“The merry click of bat against the ball, the expectant rush, the cheering that proclaims skill of the greatest of all English games; Flutter of the flags, the branches of the trees swaying beneath the summer breeze; No sweeter music in the world is found than that upon an English cricket ground.

R Ratcliffe Ellis; Cricket Music

Yes, the dream is now a reality. Heyford Cricket Club is back at home”.

And now in 1999 Simon Legge has taken over the captaincy from Julian Rice and will lead his team in League Cricket. The village Green has seen the very last of the cricket but thanks to all the efforts of the stalwarts of the village, the cricket heritage will continue.

 

With grateful thanks to Barbara Haynes, Julian Rice and Dave Tite

Julie Rands-Allen

~~

Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 4 of 4 | Chapter 5 of 8 | Pages 22 to 27

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

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The Story of Heyford: The Methodist Chapel V1C3

The chapel buildings
Methodism was very much a part of village life in Heyford for almost 130 years. It flourished from the 1830s until the 1960s. The first chapel was built in 1838. This was the small red brick building which still stands at the top of Church Street, immediately to the left of the Heyford Stores. It has a barn style roof with a single beam across the middle, and there was originally no floor upstairs. It has a blank plaque on the front wall and it still has signs of the tall chapel windows. It was converted to a private house in the 1870s.

According to the religious census of 1851 there was a general congregation of 50 in the afternoon and 50 in the evening. lt is hard to see how this number of people would have fitted into such a small building. It must have been standing room only.

In 1879 the existing building in Church Street was erected. lt was built by Alfred Marsh on land donated by Thomas Faulkner, and services continued to take place there until the early 1960s.

The founding family
There is a typescript in the Northamptonshire Record Office, unsigned and undated, which gives some details of one of the families involved in much of the chapel’s history. This typescript refers to Mrs J.S. Gammage who as a young girl around the turn of century was of the fourth generation of village Methodism. It records how, ‘in 1835 when the early pioneers of primitive Methodism missioned the village of Heyford from Northampton, Mrs Gammage’s great-grandmother gave them a welcome and shelter. She also helped in 1838 to secure the first Methodist Chapel in Heyford, owned by the Northamptonshire circuit, at a cost of £65, furniture included.’

Mrs Gammage’s mother ‘was given to hospitality. The saints of god found shelter and refreshment beneath her roof.’ Her father, Thomas Faulkner piloted the chapel for over 50 years until his death in 1917. ‘No man was more typical of the staunch Methodist and radical stock of the Victorian age than Thomas Faulkner. The oppressed looked to him for succour, and the poor found in him a friend. The earliest impressions that the writer of this document had of Mrs Gammage (which must have been around the 1880s) was ‘of a little girl dressed all in white, asking the local preacher for the hymns in the new chapel, then after the service taking him home to her fathers house to tea and introducing him to the missionary box, and pleading the cause of the little black boys and girls in a far-off land.’ The musical service at Heyford also owed much to Mrs Gammage. ‘At the age of twelve she took charge of the organ and became secretary of the Sunday School, and later became choirmaster.’

MrsFaulkner

Mrs Gammage’s mother, Mrs T.G. Faulkner.

The chapel interior 
At the rear of the chapel was a gallery in which there was a large pump organ with two keyboards and a series of pipes. For almost fifty years from the early 1900’s this organ was played by Mrs Evelyn Clarke, a daughter of Wesley Faulkner and grand-daughter of Thomas Faulkner. Her two sons Keith and Dennis both remember operating the hand pump. Keith remembers how he had to watch a gauge which showed how much air was in the organ. When the gauge reached a certain level you had to pump air in by hand. It was tempting to allow the gauge to run low and risk silence in the middle of one of the hymns as the organ ran out of air. Dennis remembers as a youngster how the services seemed to be long and boring. Either side of the organ in the gallery was seating for the congregation. Downstairs, just inside the door there was a pulpit and there were wooden pews stretching to the back of the church. The carpets and upholstery were supplied and maintained by Pearce’s of Northampton and were rich blue in colour. The windows at the front of the church were stained glass and included the images of Mr and Mrs Thomas Faulkner.

The chapel business
Also in the Northampton Record Office is a the ‘minute book of the Heyford Trustees and Chapel Committee’ which has periodical entries between 1925 and 1960. Below are some details from this book which give a flavour of life in the chapel during that period.

May 1925 — it was agreed ‘that we install electric light at the Heyford Church and school’

June 1929 – an envelope system was established to enable members to ‘promise to contribute the sum of … per week towards the amount required for carrying on the work above church.’

Mrs Ralph Clarke 6d / W Faulkner 3d / Miss Furniss 6d / Mr and Mrs Furniss 1s Od’ / Mrs Thompson 3d / Alice Eales 3d

Feb 1937 – the general chapel committee acting on behalf of the Methodist Conference paid a grant of £10 ‘to aid the extinction of the debt of the Lower Heyford Methodist Chapel’ and also ‘that the trust should be renewed before long as the number (of trustees) living is now only five.’

]an 1938 – ‘we record that Miss Furniss be reappointed secretary, that Mrs Humphrey be the treasurer, that Mrs Clarke be reappointed organist, that the assistants be Miss Furniss and Miss Faulkner, that Mrs King be reappointed caretaker with remuneration as before, that the property stewards be Mr Warwick and Mr Faulkner’

Jan 1939 – ‘that Mr Arthur Humphrey be asked to procure a new ash bin’

Nov 1940 – ‘we record with sincere regret the death cy‘ one of our members brother Wesley N T Faulkner who passed away on Oct 19th 1940 and was buried in the Lower Heyford cemetery. Mr Faulkner had an almost lifelong association with the church… he was a local preacher, a class leader and a society steward’

Feb 1941 – the minutes refer to ‘Heyford Methodist Chapel (formerly Primitive Methodist)’

July 1941 — ‘that we receive with pleasure the gift of land adjoining the chapel from Mrs Wesley W Faulkner’

July 1942 — ‘that the repairs done by Mr W ] Denny to the front boundary wall of the chapel have been satisfactorily completed and that the bill of  £22.7s.4d has been paid’

Dec 1949 – ‘the meeting received with joy the inspiring and generous offer of Messrs Pearce regarding the renovations of the interior of the church… it was agreed that Mr Pearce ’s suggestion that the organ be brought down into the body of the church and the gallery be partitioned off be adopted’ .

Feb 1953 – ‘as the pipe organ had not been brought down into the church as agreed because of its need of repair, the minister offered to enquire whether it had been disposed of as being beyond repair. No definite information had reached the trustees as to its condition and whereabouts. It was noted that it had been in working order when removed. ’

Feb 1959  –  ‘new heating arrangements were discussed and it was decided to have electric convector heaters installed, these to be obtained through the kindness of Messrs Pearce and Co at wholesale prices’

Feb 1960 — ‘we record with sincere regret the passing of our dear friend and brother Mr Luther Furniss u/ho served the church in so many ways’

The Methodist chapel in the late 1930s

MethodistChapel_NetherHeyford

 Photo lent by ]udy Armitage.

The end of an era
The last people to be married in the chapel were Keith and Brenda Clarke in 1953. The last christenings were of their children Elaine and Trevor. The congregation by this time was very small, certainly smaller than that of the Baptist chapel.

Keith & Brenda Clarke Wedding 1953

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Photo from Trev Clarke, 2019 “The last wedding to be held there, my mum and dad  – Brenda and Keith Clarke”

By 1962 the chapel had virtually ceased to function. All the original trustees had died, and some of the few remaining members transferred to the Baptist chapel. In 1963 some of the pews, together with the stained glass windows which depicted members of the Faulkner family, were also moved from the Methodist to the Baptist chapel.

Between 1962 and 1965 there was considerable legal correspondence to establish ownership of the chapel, and of the land adjacent to it that had been donated. In 1965 it was finally sold to the Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs, and the Youth Club was formally opened in the Autumn of that year. After 130 years, Methodism in Heyford had come to an end.

Stephen Ferneyhough

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Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 1 of 4 | Chapter 3 of 13 | Pages 6,7 & 8

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers