Grittleton CC is celebrating 150 years of uninterrupted cricket being played in the cricket field at the eastern end of Grittleton in 2018. As part of the celebrations, some of the club have been delving into the archives to find out more about the history of the club and those who played there. This article contains excerpts from a history of the club that will be published this year.
This part covers from the earliest recorded game to 1945. More recent history will be uploaded later in 2018 – subscribe to this site to get updates.
The 1868 photograph of Grittleton Cricketers
If you have visited the Neeld Arms or the GCC pavilion you may have seen the iconic photograph that is labelled on the back: “Grittleton Cricketers in 1868: Presented by Colonel Neeld in 1912”.
A game between the “Village” and the “House” was played on Thursday 6th August 1868, and reported in the Devises and Wilts Gazette. This is most likely the game when this iconic photograph was taken, only 30 years after photography was invented, and 4 years after Wisden was first published. The scorecard shows a close, hard fought game, being won by the village scoring 80 and 51 in their two innings and the House scoring 60 and 69 – a winning margin of two runs. Unusually, there are three members of the Neeld family on the scorecard.
The photograph reveals a lot about the nature of cricket in 1868: Bats were similar in design to modern day, at least one of those in the picture has a splice, though the 1868 Wisden suggests that these were based on cane or whalebone. Pads are being worn by some of the seated players and hobnail boots are very much in evidence. Three players are wearing quartered caps, suggesting this was a team uniform. Much white is being worn but is not mandatory. The police are ready for any crowd trouble, as can be seen if you look on the back row, two from the right, where there is an early “photobomb” from the local constabulary.
What was cricket like in 1868? Bowling was underarm or roundarm, there are no boundaries and overs were 4 runs old. There is no mention of leg-byes or byes but wides and no balls existed. Pitches would have been unset and not closely mown, leading to low scoring games.
This picture has triggered the 150th celebrations for the club, but was it the first game played at the cricket field?
The first recorded game of Cricket at Grittleton
The first recorded game at Grittleton we have found is in the Bells Life paper, published in London on 26th August 1849, some 168 years ago:
Grittleton and Fosket. – The match between these two villages was played at Grittleton, on Monday, it being the annual revel there. It was a closely contested game, and won by Grittleton by 3 runs only, the bowling of Cooling and J. Light on the side of the latter being very effective; and the batting of Bennet and Painter of Fosket was also good. Score: Grittleton 49 and 53 – total 101; Fosket 45 and 53 – total 98.
This suggests that this was not the first time Cricket was played at Grittleton. It is conceivable that the Cricket was played in Grittleton 175 years ago.
The Influence of the Neeld Family
The Neeld family were the originators and participants in one of the first Wiltshire cricket clubs – Grittleton CC.
John Neeld (1805–1891), inerited the Grittleton estate in 1856. He was MP for Chippenham and also lived in London. As a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Queen Victoria He was awarded the first Baronet of Grittleton. As reported in the Devises and Wilts Gazette, 22 Aug 1850, He was the keen instigator and spectator of cricket at Grittleton:
“A portion of the park is entirely given up to the several parishes in his possession and employ, the materials supplied and every facility made for playing the noble and truly English game of cricket”
The Neeld family were keen players and spectators right up until the demise of the estate: Sir Audley Dallas Neeld (1849–1941) played in the iconic cricketing photograph game at age 19, taking 11 wickets in the game. Inheriting the estate on his brother’s death, he died aged 92 without any heir and the estate was dispersed in 1967. He also appears in the 1927 photograph shown below.
Hard to play and “played” hard.
Searching the records between we found 31 documented games between 1841 and 1945. Grittleton were a force to be reckoned with, losing only five of these. The small village played against tough opposition, including Chippenham, Tetbury, Trowbridge and Westinghouse.
But hard play on the pitch was matched by “play” after the match. Post match meetings in the Red Lion (Now the Neeld Arms) are often mentioned. End of season parties, known as “Wind Ups” also feature: for example in 1866: “ After full justice had been done to the excellent repast provided by the worthy landlady, the usual loyal and patriotic toasts were duly honoured. Numerous other toasts followed: The Chairman, The Duke of Beaufort, Sir John and Lady Neeld, the secretary, the hostess etc. Several good songs were sung, and altogether a most enjoyable evening was spent.
Inter War Cricket
The picture shown, dated 1927, shows that cricket was very active in the inter war years. Pictured clearly in front of the familiar pavilion, The Neeld family take pride of place centre stage, including A.D. Neeld and are surrounded by 11 or 12 players, umpires and supporting people. Some of those pictured are mentioned in contemporary newspapers:, for example:
R.Bird was mentioned in the county honours weekly list in June 1934, Taking 5-38 vs Sherston.
Jasper Hopkins was also an all-rounder and wicket keeper, and was taken to hospital in 1932, having had the ball strike him on the back of the hand, an x-ray showing a splintered bone.
Walter Woodman lived at Foxcote lodge, and had over 50 years service on the estate, playing for the club with his brother for some 40 years, here he is taking on the role of umpire in later years.
The next installment of the history will be uploaded later in the year. A full history of GCC, including much more detail than posted here, is available. If you would like a copy, please contact us.