To me girls cricket brings cricket back to its roots...they know the ethics and the ethos of cricket Sarah Fisher - Spondon CC
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Cricket, Lovely Cricket – A Tale Of Wrotham (St.George’s) Cricket Club

Wrotham’s cricket team is one of the oldest in England, with early reference to matches against Ightham in 1750 and against Bourne in 1766. Originally, we believe, known as Wrotham Cricket Society it became Wrotham (St George’s) Cricket Club around 1794.

 
Important coverage of the club relates to a match played on 31st August 1769 at Sevenoaks Vine when a piece of history was made and, although Wrotham was on the receiving end, they played their part! The occasion saw the first ever century recorded in England. That’s not to say that no-one had ever made 100 runs in one innings before (as the game started being played in one guise or another centuries before), but this was the first time that such an event had appeared in a stroke-by- stroke record of a match. The gentleman concerned was one John Minshull who hit 107 for the Duke of Dorset’s X1.
 
By this time the club was playing at a ground in Wrotham (St George’s) parish called Wrotham Napps (variably spelt with one p or two). The Napps is an area of common land – now wooded – dividing the village of Platt from the hamlet of Crouch and during WW2 housed an anti- aircraft gun battery. This is an interesting variation on an ‘opening attack’! Although the Napps ground ceased to be part of the Wrotham (St. George’s ) ecclesiastical parish in 1843, Wrotham cricket continued to be played there for some time.
 
18th century records show that Wrotham played a number of matches, including those with East Malling (1788); Lingfield (1789); Hadlow (1789); Barming (1790); Duke of Dorset’s club (1791); Penenden Heath (1792,93,94,98) and West Malling (1798). Wrotham sometimes joined forces with Ightham Cricket Club, for example when playing matches against Sevenoaks (1772) and East Peckham and East Malling (1797).
 
It was at the Napps ground in July 1815 that Kent played England in the only ‘first class’ match recorded there. Perhaps there is a question mark over the state of the pitch, given the illustrious teams involved, as the 4 innings ranged from 44 all out to a top score of just 85 all out. This is the benchmark for our current Sunday team! The following year records show that a Kent X1 again played at the Napps ground – this time against Hawkhurst – but unfortunately there are no details of the match.
 
Between 1792 to 1798 various matches were supported with dinners and ‘ordinaries’ provided by the landlords of The Chequers Inn in Crouch and The Bull in Wrotham. On this theme a June 1846 newspaper report recorded the events of a match held at the Napps with the Rochester and Stroud Union. It sounds like it was a perfect day!
 
The away players assembled at an early hour in the nearby Chequers Inn in Basted Lane, Crouch. Breakfast was provided by the landlord, Mr William Batey, after which the Wrotham lads arrived, together what seems to have been a good crowd of local worthies, including the “venerable patriarch of Plaxtol, Mr Thomas Martin, sen, in tolerable health and excellent spirits”. Whether this was before or after his visit to the Chequers is unknown!
 
The match was supposed to be for 2 innings each but, due to a protracted lunch, time ran out at 9 o’clock before Rochester had much time for their second knock. It is quite surprising the game got that far as the 3 o’clock lunch comprised: “ roast and boiled beef; mutton; lamb; veal; ham; green peas; tarts and custards in a rich variety, regardless of expense.”
 
The gentlemen of Rochester sounded very splendid, clothed as they were “in white serge trousers and Guernsey frocks, encircled by a belt round the waist, white cricketing shoes, gloves, pads and hats”. So much so that they appeared, “like so many fawns skipping about the green sward.” Unfortunately, there is no reference to Wrotham’s sartorial elegance, nor to their light-footedness in the field.
 
The following year the Wrotham Napps team enjoyed a match at Meopham where their total of 22 all out (of which 12 were byes and wides) compared unfavourably with the home team’s 162 all out. Unfortunately, this seemed to be something of a pattern, as The Sevenoaks Chronicle of 1881 reported a home match against St Clere where Wrotham scores totalled 40 in the first innings and 45 in the 2nd . Yet another example was Wrotham’s home match against Darenth in May 1885 where scores of 39 and 19 all out were recorded! In fairness, it does seem that most matches of the era were very low scoring – had bats been invented by then, or did they just use another stump?!
 
August 1885 saw another home game for Wrotham, this time against Sevenoaks Town, where a distinct improvement was noted – 62 and 30 all out. This became a regular fixture in the late 1880’s and ‘90’s, with results being pretty evenly spread. The June 1899 match was notable for respective openers being the Reverends Wall and Boyd. Sevenoaks claimed a greater divine right and won the match!
 
Records then get rather sparse, although we do have note of a batting trophy being won by one of our members in 1904.
 
From 1905 Great Comp and Platt Woods were owned by Patrick Heron Maxwell. His wife Frances took on and managed the estate after his merciful release by death, until her own demise in the 50’s. Frances was described as “redoubtable” in one newspaper. She was a leading suffragette, a friend of Vita Sackville-West (Sissinghurst) and, more importantly for us, the chairman of the first English Women’s Cricket Association which was formed in 1926. She laid out her own cricket grounds, including one described as ‘The Oval’ at Great Comp, which hosted a number of international touring women’s teams, including Australia in 1917. The ground was also sometimes used by “the men of Platt village” who we assume were members of the team that played at Wrotham Napps for Wrotham (St George’s).
 
The current recreation ground in Wrotham village was gifted to the people of Wrotham in 1881. In 1926/27 the A20 was constructed and to make way for this the northern part of the ground was made subject to a compulsory purchase order from Kent County Council as was a neighbouring meadow which was owned by the industrialist Archie Nettlefold of Wrotham Park.
 
Subsequently the majority of the meadow was sold to Wrotham Urban District Council for £5 and is currently owned by the Parish Council under a Deed of Trust. As part of a shrewd negotiation, Kent County Council agreed that labourers from the road- building would level out the meadow for a cricket ground and create the necessary banking around the ground. Mr Terry of Offham was then contracted to plant the surrounding trees in 1927.
 
It is believed that early ground maintenance was left to a flock of sheep!
 
Cravats and top hats appeared the order of the day in a 1943 photograph. Needless to say, the team does not seem to have contained any youngsters, although given that right handers had to bat and bowl left-handed and vice- versa, this probably wasn’t too much of a disadvantage! Other photographs show a 1947 team and a ladies’ team from the 50’s. The existing pavilion was built post-war in 1948-51 in memory of those parishioners who perished and was later extended in 1986/87; a new one is due to be opened in 2013.
 
Club successes in more recent times include winning Division 1 of the Courier league for 3 successive years in the mid 80’s. Subsequent league results have been less consistent, although of particular note is the record club score of 170 made by Daryl Clemett in 1995. In recent years people associated with the club have been affectionately known as ‘Grumpy’, ‘Ginge’, ‘Chinny’, ‘Chuffer’ and the like.
 
We are now looking forward to the 2013 season and to keeping this wonderful historic and friendly club thriving.
Please come and join us.
 
Any corrections or additions to this piece would be most welcome.
 
John Humphreys, April 2013
 
My thanks to the many who have helped me with pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, but in particular to Clive Thomas of the Wrotham Historical Society and to Harry Raynor (ex chairman of WPC)

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