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Cricket

Cricket 11 of 1904Cricket has been played in Chewton Mendip for over a hundred years but now it is Litton Cricket Club using the ground on Puppy Lane where the football team also played for a while. The first recorded match was when Evercreech played Chewton Mendip at the turn of the last century.  A picture of the Cricket Eleven of 1904 was published in a ‘The History of Chewton Mendip’ published by the Women’s Institute in 1954. A copy of the photograph is on display in the Cricket pavilion and copies are held by several people. The people in this picture are listed below, starting with the back row from left to right.
 Person  Comment
 Stanley Dudden  The Dudden family could be traced back to the early 17th century and the last Dudden left Chewton Mendip a few years ago
Charles Tucker He is described in the list of contributors to the restoration of the church tower in 1890.
 Hugh McMutrie  He was the Waldagrave estate manager and one of six sons of James McMcMutrie who was the influential manager of the Waldegrave Estates in the 19th century. Hugh McMutrie was living in what was then called Navestock Cottage, now known as the Old Vicarage.
George Watts  He may have been related to one of the trustees of the Methodist chapel.
Reg Middle Reg Middle was a ‘star’ Cricket player and he was presented with a shield by Viscount Chewton in 1910 for his bowling performance. The family kept a cricket ball engraved with that shield as a memento.  The Middle family are a featured family.
 Tom Baldwin  Tom Baldwin appears in other photographs with sporting connections from the time. He may have been involved with Mendip Motors which was Chewton Mendip’s brief involvement with vehicle manufacturing
 Front row, from left to right.
Person Comment
 Austin Hewish He was the son of George and lived in Bathway when he was admitted to Chewton Mendip school in 1890. He may have been one of the returning heroes of 1918.
 (William) Reasey Curtis He used to live in ‘Homedene’ and appears in several other photographs and stories about Chewton Mendip. His background is described in the ‘Curtis’ website maintained by Mike Matthews.
 Seward Heal  The third man with the bat is Seward Heal  and is one of the ‘characters’ who appears in stories about Chewton Mendip
Ninth Earl Waldegrave  The Waldegraves had ben lords of the manor since Tudor times but they had only been fulltime residents for six years when this picture was taken.
 Mr Cox He was probably the teacher of the local school and may have been part of the long-established Cox family.
George Hall  George Hall may have been a gamekeeper’s son and he may have later served in WW1.
Lewis Curtis  The Lewis Curtis sitting on the floor may have been related to Lewis Edward Curtis who died in 1975 and was the last in the line of that family living in Chewton Mendip that can be traced back to the 16th century.
Ground change in 1928
The cricket ground is now squeezed into a small field on the right of Puppy Lane as you leave the village from The Folly. It used to be in the larger field on the left hand side and that is where the 1904 picture would have been taken. Bill Denning rented the current ground in 1928 and offered it for use by the Cricket Club which became its permanent home. There was also an indoor school at Cutlers Green Farm so Cricket must have been popular. There were 44 members in 1929 who paid the 2/6 (two shillings and sixpence or half a crown) subscription. In 1931 the club took over the ground and rented it direct.
Captain Wilson was then the leading light in the club, being both captain and chairman, and he installed a properly laid wicket. Regular players at the time were Reg Middle, Les Gardiner, Seward Heal, Charlie Ford, Bob Freeman, Charlie Wilkins and schoolmaster Bob Pullin. Austin Wookey and Stanley Jones  (who ran the shop) joined later, the latter beginning an involvement that would last for the next half century, the last 16 years as Chairman. Arthur Ricketts was a fine slow bowler who left to join the Somerset staff in 1932 but he was unable to break into the first team.
There were a number of non-playing benefactors who helped the club survive through the difficult years of the 1930’s and 1940’s. The Rev Cromwell Bush, who was the vicar from 1931 to 1948, Ernie Habgood a local farmer and Walter St John the baker also contributed. Everyone joined in when village dances and fetes were held to boost funds.
The Chewton Mendip club amalgamated with Green Ore Green Ore Cricket Club in early 1939 just before the outbreak of World War 2 which meant the club had to close.
World War 2
Arthur Ricketts joined the Royal Air Force at the beginning of World War Two and lost his life over Europe. A number of other club members also served in the forces but thankfully they returned.
There was no money to pay the rent on the Cricket Ground so Stanley Jones, who ran the local co-op,  advanced the rent himself whilst persuading four other members to join him in lending the club £2 each. The home guard commandeered the pavilion and the kit was loaned to the Welsh Guards then stationed in Chewton Priory. Unfortunately the kit was never seen again.
Fay Speed in her ATS uniform.One Chewton Mendip resident made news in the Cricket world when Corporal Fay Speed of the ATS was the first women scorer at Lords Cricket Ground in 1944. She married and lived in London after the war.  Her brother, Mervyn, later played Cricket for Chewton Mendip despite not being able to bat, bowl or field!
Post World War 2
The club was reformed in 1946 but no matches were played until 1948. The Rev Cromwell Bush was chairman in the post war years and the committee met in his study in what is now the Old Rectory.  Jack Furze and Roy St John had returned from active service and the Fishers had taken over the garage. Les Fisher negotiated a partnership between the Cricket Club and his newly formed football team to share the field. Less ParryLes and Ivor Chappell, Dennis Young, George Golledge, Stan Young and Wilf Randall were members from about that time.  Some of these people can be seen in pictures taken in the village hall at the time. Chewton Mendip used to be full of members of the Chapell and Church families for many centuries. The story used to be that the Chapells when to church whilst the Churches went to chapel.
WW2 club members  were gradually replaced by the next generation of players, and for the following ten years Norman and Eric Gillard carried the club along, organising whist drives and dances to bolster funds. The ycan be seen in the picture of the victorious skittles team. Jeff Ford joined the club to continue an unbroken link with the ford family that extended to  include his son Alan Ford.
The Cricket 11 of 1953
Cricket 11 1953A team photograph from 1953 shows Norman Gillard, Brian Green, B Hooper, Mike Speed of Litton, D Thompson, S Norris, Jeff Ford in the back row from left to right. He is one of the main contributers to this article. The front row consists of J Burrows, S Young, L Fisher (capt) and Gilbert Prior. It was probably about this time that Mervyn Speed was showing that a willingness to participate was more important than Cricket ability. A number of the Cricket 11 of 1953 and other members of the Cricket Club appear in a photograph of the skittles team from 1950 and other photographs of that period.
Gilbert Prior spent many years organising the fixture list, then handed over to Ivor Ponting who set up a youth team in the seventies was still managing fixtures at the turn of the millennium. The Ponting family is another relative newcomer to the village first appearing in 1890 at Swallows Pit Farm.
Brian Hooper spent 20 years as secretary before succeeding Ernest Wright as chairman in 1989. Mike Sanders, Chris Miles, Sid Thompson and John Burrows, Dennis Thompson’s student, all added strength to the batting in the early fifties, whilst David Hellard added depth to the bowling.
Matches until the mid sixties were all friendlies and the opposition included East Harptree, Oakhill, Pensford, Farrington Gurney, Chilcompton, Kilmesdon, Camely and the greatest rival of all, Ston Easton. Fixtures against Ston Easton were suspended more than once through ‘differences of opinion’.
Dinder Cricket Club Another club Chewton Mendip played against at the time was Dinder and Croscombe shown on the left. Their ground was in a field in Home Farm Dinder. The farmer there, Jim Loxton was a keen Cricketer and famous for having a large family. I am the seventh of that tribe but I did not inherit my father’s love of cricket or the desire to pursue a career in farming. I remember the ‘men in white’ and the small green corrugated iron shed that served as a pavilion. I also remember that some of the players were not too happy that my father still used the field for its primary purpose of grazing cows which meant that fielders had long grass and fresh cow dung to deal with. The names suggested by Jeff Ford are as follows.
 Back row, left to right. Denis Dyke, Frank? Lusby, Ra thorne, Cyril Ollis, Alan Vinning, not known
 Front row. Not known, ‘the eductaed one!’, Ron Francis, not known, not known. Jim Loxton is on the far right.
All rural Cricket clubs had a problem raising a side during haymaking so anyone who wanted a game could get one. Mervyn Speed’s brother in-law (who had married Fay) was a grounds man at Lords and would sometimes play for Chewton Mendip. Ernest Wright, who was married to Lady Sally Waldegrave, might bring along his brother-in-law. The problem this created was that as soon as the dinner bell at Chewton House rang the team would be short of two players. Ernest later became an excellent and benevolent chairman for many years.
Dick Croker, then Dennis Thompson, followed the farming tradition of pacey bowling and a natural ability to play the ‘haymaker’ over square leg into the next field. These gentlemen may be seen in some of the farming related pictures. Dennis, always the philanthropist, donated a set of gang mowers and along with Royston Uphill constructed a sightscreen which can still be seen rusting away quietly in the corner.
Mowing the outfield at the time relied upon two 18inch mowers and a lot of man and boy hours being put in – ask Eric Gillard and Tim Denning.  This method may have taken more effort but resulted in a better playing field than the surface provided by a herd of milking cows as was the case at Home Farm Dinder. By the 1960’s Chewton Mendip club had aspired to a set of gang mowers, which were promptly destroyed by a fire while in repair at Waldegrave Garage.
 1960s
 The mid 1960s introduced a league system and Chewton Mendip joined the newly formed  midweek and weekend leagues. This provide new fixtures against Midsomer Norton Methodists, Peasdown, Leigh on Mendip, Mells and Beckington. One casualty of the league system was the loss of fixtures against local villages. This may have been one of the reasons my father stopped hosting the Dinder and Croscombe Cricket Club. The league requirements for the standard of the pitch may have precluded cow pat hazards. Matches against Bristol and Bath teams filled the place of the local matches which increased travel and reduced the contact with near neighbours
Chewton Mendip was one of the best village teams with Simon Denning, Tom and Brian Speed and Steve St John in their prime. A succession of captains included Brian Hooper, Jeff Ford, Simon Denning, Brian Speed and Dave Memory. The next ten year stint included the third talented Speed, Bob, though it was after he relinquished his duties that he hit 124 runs in an afternoon. This was a club record until Jeremy Veal, younger brother of stalwart Martin, made 137 in the summer of 1990.
The team of  1968 included Jeff Ford, Simon Denning, Brian Hooper, Erick Gillard, Steve St John and Dennis Thompson.
Tom Denning was a gifted Cricketer as well as one of the local butchers. He joined the larger clubs of Chewton Mendip and Keynsham. Two of his sons were keen Cricketers and one, Peter was to achieve national fame. Simon stayed playing for Chewton Mendip and was one of their key players.
Tim Peppard is no cricketer but he has two claims to fame linked to Cricket. The first is that he was born on the same day as Peter Denning. The second is he caught Peter ‘out’ during a match but it has to be pointed out they were playing rounders at Chewton Mendip Primary Schoolat the time.
Peter Denning played a few times for Chewton Mendip whilst he was still at school but he probably did more ‘scoring’ than playing.
 1970s
The state of the Chewton Mendip pitch was improved by the efforts of Tom and Brian Speed, and was further enhanced by a concrete and matting practice wicket installed by staunch Cricket enthusiast Major Buller-Popham, newly arrived at Folly House.
Traditionally most players did not just turn up and play, they also had to help at fund raising, ground preparation or organising wives and girlfriends to do the teas. Umpiring usually fell to players to take turns but Dick Croker spent many happy hours wagging his finger when he retired from playing, as did his son Dave many years later. The panama hat and shooting stick of old Estonian Anthony Rossiter could be seen positioned behind the stumps on sunny afternoons.  Reg Middle and Bob Freeman helped maintain the field and supported the club for as long as their legs would take them up the Folly slope.
Peter Denning testimonial book coverThe 1970’s saw Peter Denning’s rise to fame in the most successful Somerset team in history. He made his first class debut in 1969 and continued playing county cricketuntil 1984. He was known as ‘Dasher Denning’ because of his speed between the stumps and in the field. He was an opening batsman but his style was considered unconventional and is best known for something called ‘the butcher’s cut’. His testimonial year was in 1981 and the book produced to record that is full of stories about him from people such as Brian Close, his first club captain and a former England Captain, Ian Botham one of England’s most famous Cricketers, Alan Gibson a radio Cricket commentator, Vic Marks another team mate and England Cricketer, Jack Fingleton an Australian batsman, Brian Rose his second Club captain, Ken Palmer a former Somerset player and a Test Umpire at the time, Viv Richards on of the West Indian star players and several others, including Jeff Ford.The picture and most of the information about Peter is taken from a booklet published by Somerset Cricket Club as part of his testimonial year in 1981. Pictures from his testimonial can be seen in the Social Club.
His testimonial book understandably concentrates on his Cricketing skills but he was gifted in several sports. All of the testimonials mention his strong character and the term ‘worzel’ was used frequently. David Gower remembered him fondly although he had to admit he had difficulty understanding what he said. When I told Tim Peppard this he replied “ I thought ee talked posh!”.Peter died of cancer in 2007 and one sign of his popularity is that Joel Garner the other West Indian star from the 1970s flew in from Barbados to attend his funeral.
 1980s
The club struggled in the late 1980s but survived largely due to the efforts of Ray and Lenny Rogers, Steve McConnell and Dave Memory. Peter Perrin, a survivor from the youth team, was also a key player.
 1990s
Schoolmaster Dave Ogden appeared in the early 1990s and took over the captaincy and held the club together until dying tragically young. The club was able to buy a redundant classroom under his auspices. The Club continued to struggle and this article was originally researched by Jeff Ford and others as part of a millennium project. Cricket continues to be played in Chewton Mendip but now it is Litton Cricket Club that is in control.
 The information in the page was mainly compiled by Jeff Ford  and Brian Hooper with additional information supplied by myself, Richard Loxton in 2012.
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