History

A Brief History of Shoreham Cricket Club

Shoreham has one of the earliest mentions in the annals of recorded cricket, when a court case in 1668 involved four Shoreham men who were charged with ‘profaninge the Lords Day by playing Crickett and Strokebase’ [1]. During the 17th century, numerous records indicate the growth of cricket in the south-east of England. Although records of the late Lord Mildmay of Flete show that cricket has been played continuously on the present ground since 1796, the Cricket Club was not formally established until 1868.

The ground is located in beautiful surroundings in what was originally the paddock of Shoreham Place, which was home to the Mildmay family from the 1830s until they left Shoreham in 1939. Henry Bingham Mildmay showed a keen interest in cricket and secured the new Club’s interests by making the ground exclusively available to it. The Club was happily linked with the Mildmay family for over a hundred years, with the connection sadly terminated through the tragic death of the second Lord Mildmay in 1950. The name however lives on, for the family gifted the cricket ground to the Parish Council for the sole use of the Cricket Club, the Club’s light blue colours are those of the Mildmay racing stables, and the new pavilion completed in 2001 is called the Mildmay Pavilion.

The late 19th Century was a period when leisure time was becoming more available to ordinary people and sporting clubs and societies were steadily spreading. Although records are sketchy it is probable that there was a mix of local farm-workers and artisans who would be called on to make up numbers for one of the Mildmay’s ‘country-house’ matches. Scorebooks of matches played during the early years are no longer in existence. However it is known that a few members of the club were County players, and a Mr Cornwallis of Twitton once scored five centuries in successive innings [2].

Cricket Club Committee Records exist from February 1928 and offer a fascinating insight into the administration of the Club and the issues it faced. These issues, which typically featured the pavilion, player availability and selection, and ground preparation, are no different today.

The pavilion has had a chequered history. In 1900 Sir Herbert Cohen (of Highfield) donated a timber-built pavilion to the Club which lasted into the late 1970s, when it finally blew down in a gale. Its replacement, built largely by Jake Moxham, was seriously vandalised in 1989 and in 1999 destroyed by arsonists. Throughout the nineties it was clear that a new pavilion was needed, to match the splendour of the ground and environment, and a fund raising campaign was launched. The campaign had limited success and the objective of a new building remained a distant dream. The arson attack in 1999 proved to be a blessing, and gave the Club just the stimulus it needed. A Project Phoenix appeal for funds was launched under Nigel Britten’s stewardship, and attracted wide support from individuals and societies in the Shoreham community, from Kent Cricket Clubs, and from the Shoreham Parish and Sevenoaks District Councils. A total approaching £100,000 was raised, and allowed the Club, with Peter Walker as architect to design and build in 2001, an elegant and substantial replacement building, with a new water supply and first-time installation of electricity.

Although facilities are important to a sports club, success is ultimately dependent on the availability and capabilities of the players. In the 1920s committee meetings were held weekly with the prime objective of selecting a team for the following Saturday. There were usually more players available than spaces, and the challenge was to give everybody a game. This did not always find favour and the committee minutes give examples of member complaints on the fairness of selection and a member leaving the club to secure a regular match. At this time the club’s playing strength was drawn from the village, and outsiders debarred. This remained policy until 1959 when honorary membership for players of merit who reside outside of the parish was introduced. How different it is today! Club scouts scour the countryside looking for talent, with the advertising attracting offers from players from as a far afield as Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Club results are reported through history to be mostly average to good, with room for improvement. The occasional individual star performer shines through, but success has been achieved through good teamwork and endeavour. One consistent theme – as relevant today as it was in the 19th Century – is the friendliness of the club and the desire to uphold the best traditions and spirit of the game of cricket. An active youth policy has been a crucial to the Club. In 1957 it was reported that the team spirit and enthusiasm displayed by the Shoreham Colts in their games was reflected in the Club’s cricket. Today youth cricket thrives as never before, with some 50 youngsters regularly participating.

Well known people have patronised the Cricket Club throughout its history. From club correspondence, we find in addition to Mildmay and Cohen, the names of Dunsany, Amherst, Plunkett, Lubbock, Gregory and Hart-Dyke. There are many examples of dedicated and selfless support from members in all aspects of the administration and running of the club. In 1945 it was reported that the Club was indebted to Messrs Dinnis, Herrington, Hillier and Hitchcock for the work they did to restore the ground following the war years. PC Reuben Mannering, renowned for his humour and dedication as Shoreham’s village ‘bobby’ prior to and during the Second World War, was a club stalwart serving in a number of capacities. In 1953 the club presented Percy Taylor with a Coronation Tankard in celebration of fifty years service to the club including many years as Captain. The Club’s last President, Peter Walker, who died in 2007, served previously as Captain, Sevretary and Chairman over an association of fifty one years. Peter recalls his first annual dinner in 1956 when he was given the honour of sitting next to the then President, Lord Dunsany, completely unaware that this seat was unpopular and reserved for the new boy. Other names much in evidence in the Club records are Summerfield, Scully, Ritchie, Whitworth, Fischel, Skelton, Breden, Hopkins, Herridge, Brown and Trick.

Today Shoreham is the quintessentially English Village Cricket Club blessed with superb facilities, and playing in the beautiful environment of the Darent Valley captured on canvas by so many Shoreham artists including Samuel Palmer. Throughout our history we have been indebted to our patrons and the dedication and support from so many people. We look to the future with relish and enthusiasm, and with hope of continuing support from the Shoreham community.

Shoreham Cricket Club
1 January 2006

[1] Shoreham – A Village in Kent
[2] Club Records