Newdigate Cricket Club – A History

We always thought that the first recorded cricket match by a team from Newdigate was against Beare Green and was played at Beare Green on Easter Monday in 1886, just one year after England played the first series of test matches in Australia. However, local historian Dave Boorman, has found an article in the Sussex Agricultural Express of September 1849 which covers an encounter between Newdigate and Rusper:

“played at Newdigate on Thursday the 13th inst between the above elevens when some excellent play was exhibited by both sides. The match was not played out but was decidedly in favour of Newdigate.”

It was a two innings match in which Rusper scored 35 and 62, whilst Newdigate amassed 65 and were 15-1 at stumps. The Rusper opening bat is just described as Gore Esq. – this could be the Rev. Henry Gore, curate and later rector of St Mary Magdalene at Rusper. He was an old fashioned hunting and shooting parson and Lucy Broadwood wrote that ‘ he had stepped straight out of the 18th century’. We do not know where the game might have been played in Newdigate.

Cricket had been played in Surrey for many years and there is a document relating to a dispute in 1598 concerning a plot of land in Guildford where cricket is mentioned.

Newdigate, however, had become a backwater for some two hundred years following the closure of the ironworks at Ewood to the north of the parish. Farming was difficult and the tracks would have been impassable in winter and deeply rutted in summer. It was only when the railway came to Holmwood in the mid nineteenth century that the village awoke from its slumber as new, wealthy people set up estates in the Surrey countryside.

Cricket team arriving at Coldharbour in Edwardian times

William Farnell-Watson, the owner of the Isleworth Brewery, purchased the Henfold estate and maintained his own cricket ground, playing matches against Surrey Club and Ground and other guest teams, for which he employed a professional bowler, Frank Golding.
Newdigate & Parkgate Cricket Club in the 1920s

Newdigate & Parkgate Cricket Club in the 1920s

The Victorians were great community builders and around the country in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, cricket clubs, football clubs, temperance societies, bands, horticultural societies etc were established so it comes as no surprise that similar organisations also appeared in Newdigate.

In a parish magazine of the early 1880s it was written that ‘we have many promising young cricketers in this parish but no ‘ground’. Now as ordinary farming is admitted by the farmers themselves to be hardly a paying business, why not try a crop of cricket; it might pay better than wheat!’

In the Surrey Association of Cricket Clubs Handbook for 1948 it states that although records of a Newdigate Club are in existence as far back as 1886, the club was formed in 1903, but we have no record of this.

Sidney John Burberry, aged 90, in 1955

A flavour of cricket at the time can be found from the parish magazine of August 1905 written by a visiting team from Wandsworth.

‘Through the kindness of Captain Palmer we went to Newdigate on Saturday, July 1st, to play a picked team at cricket. Mr Botham, our trainer, told us on Friday to meet at Clapham Junction at 7.55am and we were to turn up wet or dry.. We turned up to time but it was raining hard when we started our journey to Holmwood. After travelling for about half an hour the rain ceased and we all looked brighter, for after all there was the prospect of a fine day. When we arrived at Holmwood we turned our steps towards Leith Hill. The walk was beautiful. The hedges were crowded with wild roses and honeysuckle which gave forth a sweet smell. The hills before us were clothed in purple heather which added to the beauty of the scene. On arriving at Leith hill we went up the tower, and we were told that we were 1000 feet above the level of the sea. After having a little refreshment we retraced our steps to Holmwood Station, where we found a brake waiting to convey us to Newdigate. Little time was wasted in getting ready and our boys were soon on the field. We dismissed the village XI for 26 before we had to retire to lunch. There were such niceties as veal and ham, beef and ham with salad, and mutton with mint sauce for us to suffice our hunger, and for the ‘finishing touch’ there were gooseberry and cherry tarts, stewed cherries, blanc mange, and jelly. To quench our thirst we had lemonade and ginger beer, which disappeared down the throats of thirsty cricketers. The food was spread over a large space, but we managed to put it into a much smaller one. We were compelled to leave the table, for had we eaten more the consequence would have been disastrous. As it was, upon resuming, we could only reply with 13 runs, our lowest score this season. The second innings of Newdigate realized 47 for 5, declared, to which we made 4 for 1 before time was up. Tea was the next thing we had to fight; it was comprised of bread and butter, lettuce and cake. Some speeches were made and three hearty cheers were given to Captain Palmer for his great kindness in inviting us to so charming a corner ‘beside Surrey’s pleasant hills,’ and supplying all our wants in so generous a fashion. We caught the train from Holmwood at 7 o’clock and arrived home about 9 o’clock. This is the end of a very pleasant outing and we are greatly indebted to Mr Hackwood for the way in which he entertained us on behalf of Captain Palmer.’

We know that regular matches were played right up to the Second World War on a pitch opposite the Surrey Oaks at Parkgate when the club was known as the Newdigate & Parkgate Cricket Club.

Wilfred Bird, the son of the Rector, who kept wicket for Middlesex and the MCC prior to the First World War regularly brought sides to play at Parkgate and the match was always followed by a sumptuous meal courtesy of the landlord at the Surrey Oaks. Wilfred Bird was amongst the thirty two Newdigate casualties of that war.

Wilfred S. Bird

Just before he died, Charles Smith, a very good cricketer who also played for Horsham Cricket Club recalled early times:

‘The green opposite the Surrey Oaks was designated by the owner (the Broadwoods of Lyne who were the famous piano manufacturing family) and the brewery to be used especially for sports at the discretion of the landlord. In 1928 the landlord was Owen Blackstone and his son Jack arranged the cricket that was played at that time. There was no official cricket club but teams were chosen from clientele who regularly visited the pub and any other players required were invited from the village. Fred Corroyer, the owner of Newdigate brickworks, was probably the most prominent Newdigate participant, he also knew players from a club called the Surrey Sevens from a farm between Betchworth and Buckland so there was never a shortage of players. Additional games were played by visiting teams on Wednesdays and occasionally at weekends. Younger members of the village were always welcomed on practice nights which were held regularly.’

The club’s activities were discontinued during the wars and it was re-formed as an entirely new organisation in 1947 and took as their colours black and white. The President was Captain Conrad. D. Schermuly, D.C.M., the Chairman was Mr. J.C.Downs, the Captain was Mr. R.Rusbridge, and the Hon. Secretary was Mr. C.C. Wilson of ‘Woods Hill’. The club continued playing at Parkgate until at least 1950.

A fixture card from 1950

After the Second World War the village purchased the Brocus Field as a memorial to the fallen of both wars, and when the ground was ready, the cricket club moved to its present home, renaming itself Newdigate Cricket Club.

Newdigate CC – c. 1954

back row: Bill Wilson, Henry Pescud, Bert Mills, ? , ? front row: John Birch, John Bettesworth, Peter Bettesworth, Frank Wright, Mike Smith, Audrey Boorman, William Chouler (head master)

Friendly matches were played at the weekends and in 1975 the club played against the England Women’s team as part of the 800th anniversary celebrations of Newdigate church and also played an ‘old style’ match..

In the 1980s a midweek evening side was formed and as weekend cricket declined the financial status of the club was maintained thanks to the input from this group
Its Wednesday night barbecues have become a magnet for villagers seeking a friendly and convivial evening.

Following the initiative of Don and Annette Jones a junior section was founded in 1993. This grew rapidly and the following year two new nets were opened by Derek Underwood (Kent CCC and England).

Derek Underwood (Kent CCC & England) opens the nets in 1994

Junior lunches have been a popular event with prizes being presented by such luminaries as Darren Bicknell (Surrey & Notts CCC), Mike Edwards (Surrey CCC), Pat Pocock (Surrey CCC & England), John Hurst (‘Umpire to the Stars’) and Dr John Dew MBE (President of Horsham CC). Graham Gooch (Essex CCC & England), Joey Benjamin (Surrey CCC & England) and Angus Fraser (Middlesex CCC & England) have also assisted with coaching at various times.

Another welcome visitor on a number of occasions has been an under 13 team from VRA Amsterdam.

Today the juniors play in the East Surrey Colts League at various age levels and on a Friday nights boys and girls (since 2011) are taught by ECB qualified coaches.

In 1995 Newdigate took part in an amazing game at Coldharbour. In their scheduled fifty overs the home side amassed the mammoth score of 436 runs. By close of play Newdigate had scored over 270, which under normal circumstances would have signified a substantial victory, but in the event they lost this match by 160 runs!! Tim Heald, in his book entitled ‘Village Cricket’, recalls the melancholy event.

With new players coming through, a second XI was formed to play on Sundays in 1996 but young, emerging players wanted to play more competitive cricket so the club entered the Surrey Downs League in 1999 recording their first and only win that year against Kingswood & Reigate CC on the 21st August. A memorable day!

Up until this time the club was running two Sunday XIs, the Midweek XI and one Saturday XI but in 2001 enough players were coming through to enter a second team in the league. In that year the First XI became runners-up so the club had really ‘come of age’.

Cricket tours have been an enjoyable feature of the season. Traditionally the club had toured Devon but more recently Yorkshire, Somerset and Minorca have been favoured destinations and in 2007 the club entered the World Ice Cricket championships in Estonia!

For several years the club has played on August Bank Holiday at Hambledon but the two biggest events of the club’s history came in 1997 and 1999, when Surrey County Cricket Club brought sides to Newdigate as part of the benefit years of Martin and Darren Bicknell. The ground looked immaculate and visitors in marquees around the ground watched international players such as Alec Stewart, the Bicknell brothers, Alex Tudor, Joey Benjamin, Rikki Clarke etc. perform on the Brocus.

In 2005 the other clubs within the Surrey Downs League awarded Newdigate with the Lords Sportsmanship Trophy.

2006 was also a significant year when the club was featured on Cricket AM on Sky television. They also reached the finals of the first 20/20 championship when they lost in the semi final at Uxbridge Cricket Club. There was a kind of symmetry about the occasion because in the Uxbridge club house there was a memorial to those who died during World War One and one of the names on the board was Wilfred Bird. He had been a teacher nearby and must have played for the club.

2007 was a busy year. The nets were refurbished and Derek Underwood came back to Newdigate to formally open them and present the junior prizes. In July the club was named by Wisden Cricketer Magazine as the Gray-Nicholls Club of the Month. Not only was the club featured in the magazine but it was also awarded a bag of junior equipment. 2007 saw another landmark for the club when it achieved the Active Surrey Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards and the ECB Clubmark Accreditation. By following basic guidelines, laid down by the ECB, the club strives to create a safe environment in the village for social and competitive cricket, played in a fun and enjoyable way, for all people regardless of age, religion, disability or colour.

In 2008 five milestones were passed. On the 28th June two junior matches were played simultaneously on the Brocus. The under 13s played a Surrey area cup semi final against Wimbledon and the under 9s played on the Flicx wicket on the specially prepared football pitch against Oxted and Limpsfield. On the 5th July the club fielded a third eleven on a Saturday for the first time in its history when they played and beat Oakwood Hill in an away match, and on the 20th July a Sunday 3rd XI played and beat Habgood CC. On the 27th August the club entertained a touring team called Garware House Club who had travelled from Mumbai in India.

The under 13s won the East Surrey Colts League Cup and narrowly lost to Wimbledon in the Surrey area semi-final.

The club has been accepted by Surrey Cricket and the ECB as a fully fledged FOCUS club and they were also awarded the Surrey Downs League Sportsmanship Trophy for the second time.

On the 3rd May 2009 Alec Stewart revisited the club following our successful entry into the Scrumpy Jack Master Class Competition. He supervised a net session for our young players whilst the older members were entertained by the nPower girls.

From 2009 – 2010 Newdigate played in the Surrey Trust Development League. The team consisted of at least six players under the age of 18 with four being under 16. They wore coloured clothing which was sponsored by Kuoni Travel and later by Bob’s Shop. In 2009 the under 14s became joint champions of the East Surrey Colts League which was the first time that a Newdigate junior team has achieved this honour and the juniors played the Centurion Cricket Academy from Mumbai on two occasions. To round off a successful year the club was named as ‘Sports Club of the Year’ by the Mole Valley Sports Council at a special ceremony in Dorking Halls on the 13th November and shared the Surrey Downs League Sportsmanship Award with Netherne Cricket Club. Richard Callcut winning the first division award for scoring most runs.

In 2010 the first XI were runners-up in the Surrey Downs League and the Saturday 3rd XI played their first full season of cricket and learnt that they had been accepted to play in the Surrey Downs League in 2011. Richard Callcut again won the league batting award in a season that saw a record 13 centuries being scored by Newdigate batsmen. The club was nominated as Surrey Sports Club of the Year and in a ceremony held at Denbies Wine Estate in November 2010 we were runners-up.

On the 26th June the first ever girls team represented Newdigate. They took part in the Surrey u11 Girls Cricket Festival at Epsom CC and came 5th out of 9 teams. They later played in a similar competition at Horsley & Send and won.

A film was made by Martin Clabby and John Callcut describing the history of the club to aid the Pavilion Appeal.

2013 was a big year for the club.

A film crew from Russia came to the club headed by the veteran broadcaster Vladimir Pozner. The resulting film was broadcast throughout the Russian Federation.

In 2012 the club applied and was accepted to participate in the 2013 season in the Fuller’s Brewery Surrey County League. In November 2013 the Newdigate Pavilion and Scouthut Appeal was launched.

The 2nd June 2013 saw the visit of the famous Lashings Cricket Club. On a glorious summers day the Brocus was filled with hundreds of spectators who came to see the star studded team of international cricketers. The team consisted of Phil DeFreitas (capt), John Emburey, Chris Schofield, Courtney Walsh, Gordon Greenidge, Wasim Jaffer, Ed Giddins, Correy Collymore, Saqlain Mushtaq, Yasser Arafat and Ian Harvey. The manager was J.K. Lever and Henry Blofeld commentated.

Gordon Greenidge

Chris Schofield, Correy Collymore and Wasim Jaffer

Two months later two more former international cricketers paid us a visit. Richie Benaud and Pat Pocock formally opened the new artificial pitch and promoted the pavilion appeal.

The club had its first overseas player in 2015 when Tom O’Malley from Brisbane, Australia arrived. He played regularly in the first team and was an inspirational coach for young and old alike. He encouraged the entire first team and everyone raised their game. As a result the Ist XI won the Fuller’s Brewery Surrey County League Division 2 in what was a great, collective team effort. To complete an excellent season the u9s and u13s won their respective divisions in the East Surrey Colts League.

For three years the club and indeed the entire village were involved in fund raising towards the new Brocus Pavilion and Hall to replace the existing cricket pavilion and scout hut. The guidelines were set out at an early stage with the aim of building a multi-purpose building for the entire community. In the autumn of 2015 the building was completed.

2017 saw the 1st XI win the first division of the Fuller’s Brewery Surrey County League but a worrying under current was the fact that at times we struggled to field a 2nd XI.

Graham Gooch presents Allan Cooper with the First Division Winners Trophy

A really encouraging development has been the emergence of a ladies team in 2019 spearheaded by Karen Fordree.

In 2022 our new twin lane nets were installed by Slatters. Richard Thompson (CEO of Surrey County Cricket Club and now CEO of the ECB) formally opened them.