From Wisden's Cricketers' Almanack 1969


Merrymeade Brentwood.

Few towns where county cricket is played go further back into history than Brentwood.  Of all the Essex grounds the tree surrounded acres of Brentwood are, the most beautiful.  The ground is situated at the top of the town, 21 miles from London's teeming East End, where the A12 road heads for Chelmsford 11 miles distant.  To play cricket at Brentwood is to feel that one is playing in th grounds of some vast country mansion - which is virtually true.  Yet neither cricket ground, nor town itself would have existed but for the murder of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral on December 29th, 1170.  His tomb became a shrine which drew people from all over the country and to reach it a staging point was needed for those travelling from the Midlands and East Anglia.

The accepted route to the Tilbury Ferry in those times rans through a clearing in the forest and soon houses and inns sprang up on this spot.  Brentwood had been born.  The new half-way house on the route to Canterbury got its historical records as early as 1177 when the goods and chattels of a notorious outlaw, one Reginals Brentwood, became forfeit to the Crown.  THe late headmaster of the famous Brentwood School, Mr. James Foster Hough, purchased much of the surrounding land for playing fields, but he made no attempt to acquire one of England's loveliest cricket grounds. 

Some sixty years ago a leading executive of the Canadian National Railway, a Mr. Horne-Payne brought his bride to Essex.  Merrymeade, their home at Brentwood, with its tall, graceful chimneys and 80 acres of land, became a gathering place for cricket lovers.  Before World War One and under the patronage of Mrs Horne-Payne, Brentwood Cricket Club made their headquarters in idyllic surroundings.  The great oak tree on the north side, square with the wickets, dominates the ground and hides the house from the too inquisitive.  Until modern times this tree, like its better known counterpart of the St. Lawrence Ground, Canterbury, was included in the playing area but it has now been fenced off and is officially part of the Merrymeade Gardens.  A few years ago the local council purchased the entire estate, leaving Mrs. Horne-Payne in residence until her death at the age of 90.  Her will revealed her intention to leave the ground to Brentwood Cricket Club.

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