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. A full history of GCC, including much more detail than posted here, is available. If you would like a copy, please contact us.
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.
In Living Memory
We have found records of games played at Grittleton in the late 40’s and early 50s. Ian James, now living in Nettleton, first played for GCC in 1952 at the age of 16, retiring in the late 1970s, has a pin-sharp memory of his GCC career and the characters in the team. Toiling up the hill to bowl at Grittleton, his best figures were 8 wickets for 4 runs, and his highest score was 84 not out vs. Nettleton.
A clipping from 1965, shown to the right, provides insight into the club characters. Grittleton easily subdued Westinghouse, with Ian taking 6-36 and Ivor Gough, who usually opened the bowling from the top end taking the other 4. Reg Hopkins was “tip top” and the captain.
Behind the stumps was Earnest “Bim” Talbot: a club stalwart. Ian’s three sons also played: Steve, Nick and Andrew. Castle Combe CC merged with GCC through lack of players bringing the Swan family, Graham, Gordon and Geoff. Ron Skidmore, and Peter Moore were key batsman and captain. Many of these characters can be seen in the team photo below.
GCC in the late 1950’s. Back row (left to right): Mr. Gough. Bob Hopkins. Lionel Cole. Jeff Smith. Stan Chivers. Bim Talbot. Ivor Gough. Dickie Cole. Ted Hulance. Front: Ian James. Ray Hulance. Reg Hulance. Les Cole. Percy Hulance.
Ian remembers the Grittleton pitch as soft, with an elm tree that counted as two runs inside the boundary. Games were friendly and timed: “You had to get them all out”, “no sledging”. He remembers playing at Seagry, RAF Hullavington, Corsham and Lacock, and especially Nettleton, which was the “needle match” made more interesting by the cow pats in the outfield and their trigger umpire.
John Wilding has provided some more recent memories. John started playing in 1972 and has never officially retired, still turning out for the Neeld arms as Umpire to this day. He has been Chairman and President and is a life member. He found a 1974 fixture card that shows a set of friendly fixtures including Westinghouse seconds and Warwick Castle, a touring team from London.
GCC on tour to Dorset, Wareham and Swanage in 1987 or 1988. Back row (L-R)): Roy Kilfoil, Julian Shipp, Edward Wilding, Nick James, Geoff Stuart. Front: Adrian Shipp, Andrew James, Phil Rawlings, Matt Newman, Alastair Kilfoil, John Wilding.
Adrian Shipp became a key member of the club in the 80s. His sons, teamed with Ian James’s, the Wildings, the Kings, the Randolphs and the Runacres could form a very strong team, all from within the village. The strength led Grittleton to join the Wiltshire leagues. GCC entered and topped division 6 in 1987. Brian Roberts topped the league batting (Av 48.7), Steve James led the bowling averages (44 wkts @7.27, best 6/16).
This dominance continued up through the leagues to league 2 in 1991. Individually Steve James came 2nd in the second division bowling averages in 1992 (firstname.lastname@example.org, best 8/66) Julian Shipp topped the Division 3 batting averages in 1990 with an average of 53, he also achieved this in 1993 in Division 2, with an average of 42 and top score of 140 not out. Adrian Shipp topped the division 4 and 3 keeping stats in 1989 and 1990. GCC attracted players and was able to field a second team in the lower divisions between 1990-1995. However, in 1995-6 the club lost players and fielded a single team and dropped two leagues, exiting the league in 1998 mid-season when it became impossible to raise a team on a Saturday.
GCC’s England Player
Every cricket club worth its salt has had an England Player in its ranks at some point, and GCC is no exception. Richard Ellison remembers playing at Grittleton in his teens during the early 1970s:
“I have 3 memories; the splinters you could pick up from the changing room floor, scoring a decidedly dodgy 13 in a ridiculous amount of time at a ground near Swindon and running out Ron Skidmore who was not best pleased with the calling from a snotty 13-year-old”.
Richard played 35 times for England, his test debut was in the 1984 Oval Test. He took 10 wickets in the 1985 fifth Ashes Test. He played a total of 207 first class matches, taking 475 wickets at an average of 28.7.
21st Century GCC
In 2000 GCC fielded one team in the Sunday Malmesbury Village League (MVL). Under the chairmanship of David Randolph, the transition from league to village friendlies was undertaken with care – the club remained solvent, was inclusive, and had enough critical mass to keep playing.
Key players in this time included Huw Williams, Richard Dunn, Alastair Kilfoil, Viv Beresford, Chris Russell, Kevin Pearce with Mark Webb as captain and keeper. The MVL suited the club and GCC usually challenged for the title. In 2002 GCC Played 18, Won 13, Drew 1 and lost 4, with Richard Dunn winning the bowling prize and Al Kilfoil the batting prize with an average of 38.
The tradition of the Cricket Club vs the Neeld House, this time the public house rather than the private estate, started again in 2005 as a Sunday game and became the President’s game when Charlie West took on the post in 2006. This game became a hotly contested affair, with the Neeld/President’s XI never beating the Club, yet…
In 2006, under the chairmanship of Edward King, the club added spacious changing rooms and showers to the pavilion. In 2010 Grittleton took the decision to leave the league and seek like-minded friendly opposition.
Recent years has seen village cricket decline, with many local sides merging or folding. GCC teetered on the edge of folding in 2013/14 but the club core members were determined not to allow the tradition of cricket at Grittleton to break. The club insists on being inclusive, without losing the will to win, and has attracted many local players who cannot commit to league cricket. Since 2010, a second team has emerged in the village: a Neeld Arms XI playing mostly 20:20 evening games against other social sides.
Some of GCC in 2017: Left to Right: Richard Saull, Andrew Carrington, Edward Daly, Andrew Jones, Anthony Josey, Rob Ward (c), Julian Howgill, Graham Perkins, Mark Webb, Peter Cross.
The next 150 years of cricket at Grittleton?
The ambience of the Grittleton Cricket Field makes it a great place to play cricket: it is admired by all who play there, whether as a familiar home ground or visitor. Cricket is a part of Grittleton and as well as enjoying the noble and truly English sport the current generation of players respect their duty to the considerable history and legacy of those who have played before. We hope the sound of Cricket will be heard there for another 150 years, whether league, friendly or social.