Tony Wimbush Reflects...
Thatcham Cricket Club - A Potted History
No records exist that show exactly when Thatcham Cricket Club were officially formed although there are indications that the first matches were played as far back as c.1767 making the club one of the oldest cricket clubs in the history of the game.
According to leading MCC historian T.Waghorn, in his book ‘The Dawn of Cricket’, reference is made to a match between the ‘Gentlemen of Thatcham’ and ‘The Gentlemen of Aldermaston’ played at Thatcham Marsh on July 19th 1786. A report on the fixture includes the comment 'the experienced Thatcham club won with ease'. In the same year it is recorded that a 'match of cricket between 2 gentlemen for a considerable sum' also took place. How or what rules were played is unknown although the report surmises that the loser ran 25 miles and the winner 20 in the course of play!
Other references to early cricket matches also include details of a 'local derby' between Thatcham and Newbury, again for a 'considerable sum' on July 9th 1789.
Thatcham Cricket Club became Thatcham Victoria Cricket Club for most of the Queens reign but returned to just Thatcham Cricket Club in 1902 following the monarch’s death.
The Marshes, situated at Dunston Park, was Thatcham C.Cs home until 1921. A tent was set up for every home game for changing and the players frequented the nearby New Inn in Chapel Street for a ‘capital’ tea.
A donkey cart was hired to take the kit for away matches and the players rode alongside.
In 1925 the club relocated to a site on the west side of Park Lane, just 100 or so yards from where the ground is today. This ground was shared with Thatcham Football Club. The first purpose built pavilion was erected onto this site in 1934.
This was Thatchams home until the outbreak of World War II when the land was ploughed up for the growing of produce to aid the war effort.
After the war the cricket club re-established itself on the War Memorial Sports Ground, an area of land owned by a Mr A.R Brown, a former cricket club secretary and situated another 300 or so yards further west of its former site.
The playing area was purchased for the cricket clubs by its President of many years standing Mr A.S. B Tull, the Squire of Chamberhouse for approximately £500. Thatcham Cricket Club itself donated £125 towards the cost of laying and preparing the square for new season 1947. The old pavilion was physically moved by the players to its new home where it would remain for the duration of cricket on this site.
Led by a hardcore working party of Messrs C.P. Barr, L.R Austin, J.Wheeler, E.Lane and J.Brooks the members produced a first class playing area.
The entire sports ground was then generously sold by A.R Brown to the newly formed War Memorial Hall & Playing Field Association [WMHPF] soon after at a price well below market value in an effort to aid sport in Thatcham. In return the WMHPF Association would provide a full time groundsman and NO rent would be charged to clubs using the facility. Thatcham cricket flourished on this excellent ground and hosted full Berkshire County matches as well as prestigious benefit matches including a fixture on behalf of the Bedser twins in 1956 where a crowd estimated at over 1,000 witnessed an excellent day’s cricket.
The sixties continued to see Thatcham Cricket Club flourish. Leading members such as P.Holloway, A.Nix, J.A.H Wimbush, G.A Hartley, B.Spanswick and N.S Peel ensured the club maintained its high standing.
In the summer of 1966 Reading FC manager Roy Bentley brought a team down to Thatcham to play a charity match against the club. A crowd in excess of 500 gathered to watch a fine match in which Thatchams Cliff Fry scored 125 not out.
Another memorable match and testimony to the quality of the Memorial Grounds wicket was held in June 1969. Thatcham played hosts to their local rivals Newbury. Newbury scored 250 for 1, the only wicket taken in the last over before tea. In reply Thatcham totalled 205 for 0, an amazing match featuring three centuries and only one wicket falling all day.
In 1972 The WMPF Associations around the UK accepted an offer to transfer management of its grounds to Parish and Town councils. The result was that Thatcham Cricket Club then had to suddenly start paying rent for a facility they had once technically owned and in addition, had to provide any specialist assistance to the upkeep of the square!
On the field Thatcham entered the world of league cricket in 1973.
The club were placed into County Division 2 of the Hampshire League. The club managed to win its first ever league match beating Waterlooville.
With the building of a new housing estate to the north of the site in the early 70s and with the ground now open as a public park, the cricket clubs ground and fortunes rapidly went into decline. The pavilion was constantly vandalised, the fences wrecked, dog mess in abundance on the pitch and the public walking through the playing area on match days. As a consequence players left in droves and an EGM was called in May 1975 to determine if the club should continue or fold.
A rallying call was made and a new committee under the new name of Thatcham Town Cricket Club was formed. Driven by prominent members C.W.Fry and A.P Wimbush the club somehow survived the darkest days in the clubs history and slowly began to turn the corner. Work parties were set up to repair the damage and improve the pitch. Gradually fortunes changed, new players joined and others returned. C.Gourlay began the first Colts section in 1977 and B.L.S Way researched and wrote the first history of the club in 1978 including a cricket week.
In 1982 Thatcham Town Cricket Club moved to its current site adjacent to the old ground and named after the former land owner as Browns Sports Field. C.W Fry and A.P Wimbush continued to drive the club forward and now aided by such enthusiastic members as V. Pye, F.H.Bird,
D.G Eggbeer, G.A Tillen, G.Stewart, N.J. Cornish, P.Boyce, E.Denness, A.S Bright and S.L Vaughan the club began to grow and re-establish itself on the cricketing map.
For the first 16 years Thatcham Town Cricket Club shared Brownsfield with various social football clubs but took over the lease in 1998. With no football to contend with the club immediately set about a fervent programme of ground improvements and were rewarded in 2000 with its first full Berkshire County match in over 40 years with a fixture versus Wiltshire. Regular county matches followed including Minor County knock out cup games v Hertfordshire, Sussex Board, Wales and Oxfordshire which all drew large crowds.
Major alterations to the pavilion then took place during Easter 2002 providing Thatcham Town Cricket Club with an excellent playing area and impressive clubhouse.
Today the club operates four Saturday sides, a Sundays XI, a midweek Academy side, a girls team and colt’s sides for 11 years and upwards.
From its humble beginnings back in the 1760’s to providing cricket in Thatcham for over 150 members of all ages, Thatcham Town Cricket Club continues to thrive and rely on volunteers to provide a wonderful community facility to the people of the town.