Brentwood County Ground Club
This article was kindly contributed by Mike Christmas Chairman Brentwood County Ground Club Chairman and originally published in the 2011 Lashings World XI Match Day Programme - also available on the Club website.
The Brentwood County Ground is the home of the Brentwood Cricket Club, the Brentwood Tennis Club, and the Brentwood Hockey Club and is managed by the County Ground Committee with equal representation from each of the three clubs.
Sport has been played at The Old County Ground for 130 year and all the clubs are themselves over 100 years old. In 1876 Essex County Cricket Club was formed and the ground at Brentwood was rented from Countess Tasker at £4 an acre as the home of Essex County Cricket Club. In 1881 the County agreed that the newly formed Brentwood Cricket Club could make the ground its home whilst tennis started at the ground on or around the start of the 20th Century and in 1910 Brentwood Hockey Club joined the party.
The County Ground Club was formed in 1955 when the cricket, tennis, and hockey clubs agreed to amalgamate whilst retaining their separate identities. Since that time there has been a substantial investment in the facilities and The Old County Ground can rightly be regarded as one of the finest sporting arenas in Essex offering a range of sporting, social and other facilities to the people of Brentwood. It is a community sports club offering sport for all and has a long-standing commitment to the development of youth sport.
The ground has great natural beauty with Trevor Bailey the former Essex and England cricketer likening it to 'a Barbie Doll, pretty, but petite', and Robin Hobbs, another of Essex's England players, thinking Brentwood was 'a lovely place to play, so peaceful.'
The ground was featured in The Wisden Cricketers' Almanac, 1969 which concluded that 'of all the Essex grounds the tree surrounded acres of Brentwood is one of the most beautiful…to play at Brentwood is to feel that one is playing in the grounds of some vast country mansion.' This is, of course, virtually true as over 90 years ago a leading executive of the Canadian National Railway, Mr. Horne-Payne, brought his bride to Brentwood and purchased 80 acres of land including the Old County Ground where he built Merrymeade, a magnificent country house. Mr. And Mrs. Horne-Payne were great supporters of the cricket club and used to watch games under the shade of a great oak tree which was once part of the playing area in the same way as its more famous counterpart at the county ground in Canterbury.
Our ground continues to be the envy of most clubs in the County and in 2010 Brentwood Cricket Club was voted ‘Best Cricket Ground’ by the Essex Playing Field’s Association.
Across the three clubs the County Ground now has over 1,000 members including 350 junior members. Key investments in the club that you can see today are the club bar built in 1975, the tennis club pavilion (1976), new changing rooms (1986), and the floodlit all weather tennis courts completed in 2002. In 1996 the cricket club re-laid its square and added two, new artificial nets in 2008 and in 1998 the hockey club secured a lottery grant of £387,000 in conjunction with the nearby Sawyers Hall College and the Great Danes Youth Football Clubto build an Astroturf pitch.
However, the biggest achievement of recent years has been the purchase of the ground from Essex County Council in 2003. All three clubs worked closely together in conjunction with Brentwood Borough Council to gain ownership of the ground and secure its future as a sports ground. Since then all three clubs have been registered as Community Amateur Sports Clubs and have worked hard to complete repayment of the loans secured for the original purchase.
At the time of the ground purchase the County Ground Committee identified the next big project as being a major refurbishment of its pavilion and after two years of fund raising, consultation with architects, builders and planners a £500,000 refurbishment project is planned for later this year. The Clubs are contributing £150,000 towards the costs with Nat West providing the balance by way of a loan repayable over 20 years.
The County Ground Club has identified its sports goals and lists these as:
- a place where the youth of Brentwood can gain their first experience of the three sports;
- a base where members have the use of top rate facilities for their sport;
- a centre with access to first class coaching for all levels of ability;
- a club where sportsmen and sportswomen of all levels can play and improve their sporting skills;
- a club where our most talented players and teams aspire to play at as high a level as possible.
Above all it is a community sports club offering sport for all.