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

NetherHeyford_Cricket_2

The team in the 1960’s

NetherHeyford_Cricket_3

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 – Volume 4 of 4 – Pages 22 to 27

The Story of Heyford: The Jubilee Hall V1C7

The Jubilee Hall used to stand just behind the memorial green, on the opposite side of the road to where the Butchers and Patisserie are today. It was a stone barn with a thatched roof and was used as a meeting place for clubs and events much as the village hall is used today .

It was an ancient building, possibly built in the late 1600’s at the same time as ‘The Springs’, the thatched stone house which still stands today just behind the site of the Jubilee Hall. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the house and barn were occupied by a family called Smith who ran a laundry there. Bob Browning who was born in 1892 recalled the laundry but we don’t know for sure whether it was run from the house or the barn.

The name Jubilee Hall is believed to have originated from Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, probably her Diamond Jubilee of 1897. It may be that this was when the barn began to be used as a meeting place rather than as a laundry.

In 1914 the house and barn which had been owned by the Church were bought by the Ward family  The Jubilee Hall continued to be used as a meeting place until around the time of the second world war, and we have several local memories of it from the 1920’s and 1930’s.

The Jubilee Hall

JubileeHall_NetherHeyford_1920

Photo lent by Janet Randall

This photograph, lent by Janet Randall, was taken in 1920. n the far right is the old Post Office. To the left of this can be seen the scaffolding from the building of the New School House. In the centre of the picture is the thatched house known as ‘The Springs’, and in front of this is the war memorial.  Note the size of the oak tree beside it. The building on the left is the Jubilee Hall.

Memories of the Jubilee Hall
In March 1981 there was an article published in the Prattler, written by Marjorie Hamborg, based on information from Mr and Mrs Amos Lee, which gives a good insight into its use. This article is reprinted here in italics but we have also added some additional information based on the recollections of a number of other local people.

From The Prattler March 1981
“Our readers may have noticed that to the left of the thatched cottage facing the Memorial Green there is an old wall built of Northamptonshire stone. As this is now being reshaped to camouflage the building of a garage, I thought it would be of interest to know a bit about the history of this part of Heyford. So I visited my friends Mr and Mrs Amos Lee in Furnace Lane as they can give us new villagers some of the history of the Jubilee Hall that used to stand on this site.

At one time this was the only place where the young folk could gather, and here they came to play darts, skittles, rings, bagatelle, and a bit of boxing.”

It was also used for private parties. Dorothy Kingston had her Wedding reception there and Tommy Rolfe of the Foresters supplied them with a ham for £1.

The Pussyfoot Club
“The hall was mainly used by the men of the village, was teetotal, and was given the name ‘Pussyfoot Club’. The ladies of the village were invited when a dance was held there. Mrs Dorothy Kingston remembers them well, the fiddle being played by Lily Porch and Bern Kingston, and the piano by Lily’s sister Phillis. I also understand that Mrs Cameron from the school also used to take part. There was a small stove around which wet clothes could be dried in bad weather.”

Bob Browning who was born in 1892 recalled that ‘it was open six evenings a week between 6 pm and 10 pm. You could buy drinks there and play skittles. Sometimes there was also boxing, done in those days with bare fists.’

Bill Nickolls also remembers the Pussyfoot Club. The youngsters came from 5 pm to 8 pm. They paid a halfpenny per night to play darts, billiards, skittles and cards. Later the older ones came. They took it in turns to run the bar. Bill remembers on one occasion how somebody put a firework in the keyhole. The door jammed and they had to escape through the toilet window by climbing on the bucket.

Bill Kingston remembers the dances on Saturday nights. His father Bernard, and Lily Porch (later Mrs Green) played the violin. They danced waltzes, the military two-step and the lancers (a formation dance).

“However partly due to agitation by mothers whose sons became too fond of the card games carried on there, and partly to difficulty of getting committee members to organise events, the hall fell into disuse.”

The Laundry
“Before Mr and Mrs Ward came to live in the cottage Mrs Lee’s stepmother had a laundry there and Mrs Ada Smith can remember as a child seeing Mr Lee trundling his basket of clean laundry up Furnace Lane.”.

Cobblers Shop
Another person remembered with the Jubilee Hall during the 1930’s was Sid Eales. There was a small wooden hut next to the Jubilee Hall in which he ran a cobblers shop. He had been injured during the first world war and walked with a limp. He not only mended shoes, but would also take bets on your behalf if you wanted him to.

Fire wood and the black market
Jack Haddon had a timber yard a little way up Weedon Road Where the Randalls now live.

“Mr Lee tells me that during the second world war years the hall was used for chopping firewood and he remembers what a grand employer Jack Haddon was, working alongside Mr Lee, Mr Andrews, three or four women from the village and others, and there was a good trade with the bundling machine working at full blast. The wood came from as far as Brockhall Park and was stored in the paddock at the side.”

Jack Haddon apparently also did some black market dealing there during the War. There’s a story which says that while a deal was being struck inside the hall there was some panic because the local bobby was seen approaching. “Don’t worry,” said Jack reassuringly, “he’s only coming to pick up his joint!”

The Final days
When at last the hall was no longer used it fell into disrepair. Around 1954 the building had become unsafe, and when David Ward removed one of the beams it finally collapsed. Mr Ward had the wall built along the boundary line and many of the remaining slabs of stone disappeared in various directions.

Weedon Road/Furnace Lane

JubileeHall_NetherHeyford_FurnaceLane

Photo lent by Janet Randall

This photograph shows the view along the Weedon Road. The Jubilee Hall is on the right hand side and Sid Eales Cobblers shop can be seen at the end of the building.  On the left of the picture is the butchers shop and slaughterhouse. Note also the telegraph poles and the lack of proper kerbs and pavements.

Margorie Hamborg and Stephen Ferneyhough

Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 1 of 4 – Pages 13,14 & 15