The Early Days

                Brentwood High Street_1981 Centenary Season

Brentwood High Street – 1900.  The White Hart Hotel (left) is where the Club transferred its headquarters sometime during its first decade.  On the same site now sits the Sugar Hut.

"PROPOSED FORMATION OF A CRICKET CLUB AT BRENTWOOD: On Monday evening last a public meeting was held at the town hall, for the purpose of considering the best steps to be taken for forming a Town Cricket Club. The meeting was convened at the late hour of 9:15 p.m., but it was nearly 9:30 before the proceedings commenced. Mr. J. Earle was elected to preside; about 20 persons were present" (Essex Weekly News, Friday 4th February, 1881).

And so it all began, or at least the Club, as we know it began. The game itself was already well- established. By the middle of the 18th century, not only had games been played and documented, but a code of laws, published in 1744, was well into use. It is interesting to note that the basics of the game are the same now as they were all those years ago - despite various storms in various teacups, aluminium bats and all!

The M.C.C. was founded in 1787, Eton first met Harrow in 1805, and Oxford played Cambridge in 1827. The game then was flourishing and yet Brentwood had no Club! They had cricket, of course, but the organisation, not to mention their own ground, was lacking. It is difficult to say exactly when cricket was first PLAYED in the area, but there is a volume of evidence to support the view that it was fairly early. The Chelmsford Chronicle (1777): "A cricket match was played at the Chequers, Brentwood, in the forenoon, with a genteel dinner provided at one o'clock". An advertisement which appeared in the town on the 27th of May 1785 talked of the "New Articles of Cricket" published in High Street, Colchester that very day, price 3d. By the second half of the nineteenth century, then, cricket, along with racing was the summer sport. The sentiments expressed that January night by Earle, and others came from the heart: "Many present will remember 25 years ago when Brentwood was noted for its cricket, when we had the Silcocks, Martin and Wallis. Surely we all agree that the town should have a cricket club, all the villages around have got one!" The discussion amongst the 20 was long and earnest, and the outcome was a provisional committee: Messrs. Landon, Growse, Haynes, Brown, Poston, Larkin and H. Earle (Hon. Sec.). The major problem was a ground. The only possible site appeared to be a piece of land "next to the Robin Hood", since formerly the "local teams" had always played on "a ground through which Alfred Road was cut".

Once it had been agreed that night to form a Brentwood C.C., things developed rather rapidly. Membership was recruited in good numbers, as had optimistically been forecast, and initial worries that the originally suggested subscription, 10/6, would not be enough when facing minimum ground rent of £25 p.a., were soon allayed. Amongst those worries, however, was the one which will surely bring a smile of recognition to many a committee man then and since: on the 10th February, in reply to the Secretary's announcement that he had circularised some 300 possible members and had received little or no response, the Chairman made the observation that "Brentwood people want everything done for them. They want the promoters to find the money - if that is so, the Club will have a short life".

No-one had really considered the idea of approaching the County Cricket Club about using its beautiful ground on the Shenfield Road. When the offer came, announced to a meeting on 24th March, 1881, it was enthusiastically received, despite what appear to be severe regulations, including the proviso that whilst Brentwood players were forbidden to practice whilst the County were playing, the County could practice on the outfield during any Brentwood match! At the same meeting, the Secretary announced that challenges had been received from the clubs at Ongar, Forest Gate, Barking and Ilford. Subscriptions amounted to £100, of which half had been paid in. Things were looking up!

It was all too smooth of course, and a month later came a major row with the County. Certain remarks had come to light, remarks which indicated that had the attendance at a County C.C. meeting been higher, then no offer would ever have been made to Brentwood. The new club's members were slighted, and strongly resented the inference that they were in any way 2nd class. The Weekly News of 29th April, devotes over 2 columns to the transcript of a stormy, hastily convened general meeting, which resulted in the recent agreement concerning the Old County Ground being annulled, and the Club reverting to 'another field', kindly let by a Mr. Burgess. (It was 2 years later, when agreement had been reached again with the County, that Brentwood C.C. moved its pavilion to the Old County Ground, and agreed that a "portion be allocated for Lawn Tennis").

And so, at last, to the cricket. A "scratch match", under the name of Brentwood C.C. was played on Wednesday, 4th May, and then on Tuesday 24th, the first officially recorded match, vs Barking. The game was lost, Brentwood scoring 34 and 41, in reply to the opposition's 63 and 66, but the season, the Club, was on its way.

The first results were moderate, but that was of less importance than the fact that the Brentwood Cricket Club was a going concern, and was growing by the month, and certainly by the season. Regular evenings were held in the Chequers, under the watchful eye of a Mr. Elkington, landlord and Cricket Club member. Forty arrived in October 1882 to celebrate the season gone by (only 3 wins for the 1st XI, 8 for the 2nd). The singing went on late into the night. Certain people worked very hard in those early years, as committee people always will, and clearly the Earle family, 3 of whom were regular attenders of meetings and no mean cricketers if we believe the statistics, deserve much praise.

Sometime during the first decade, the Club transferred its headquarters to the White Hart Hotel in the High Street, where it was to remain until very modern times. In the "Official Handbook of the Cricket, Cycling, Football, Athletics and Lawn Tennis Clubs of Essex 1892" we read: "The Chelmsford and Brentwood Cricket Clubs, two of the strongest combinations in the county, have greatly improved their respective grounds by building spacious and ornamental pavilions". The Brentwood C.C. entry itself reads: "Formed 1881. Annual Subscription £l.ls and 10/6; Pres. C. J. H. Tower; Capt. J. J. Read; Sec. C. Edgar Lewis. HQ. The White Hart Hotel, membership 160.

By the turn of the century, the Club was a force in the county, and had produced a crop of very promising players. The county side had achieved first-class status in 1894, and cricket had never been more popular. Hambledon's influence had spread far and wide, and no more was Brentwood to be left behind. In 1907, the Victoria County History was published, and in an analysis of the Cricket Clubs, the local one is described thus: "... Brentwood C.C., is fortunate in having the Old County Ground at Brentwood. A couple of years ago it was feared that the ground would be lost, but thanks to the energy of several members, chiefly D. Womersley, R. T. Thornton and J. J. Read, this was averted, and cricket will now be played there for many years to come. It would have been a thousand pities if it had been given over to the builder, as the wickets here are among the best in the county. The club is in a flourishing condition, and can place a very strong eleven in the field. In addition to the three gentlemen mentioned above, who play regularly, there are C.J. Kortright, F.L. Fane, M. Berkeley, A.E. Heatley, D. Crossman, C.H.S. Escott, C. Edgar Lewis, and several other prominent players to choose from. President, C.J.H. Tower, Esq., J.P.; Captain, J. J. Read; Hen. Sec. C. Edgar Lewis. Number of members, 150. It may be noted that in 1894, D. Womersley for the Club against the Norfolk regiment scored 216 in 135 minutes."

The hard work then was over, or so they thought. But the only thing that was really over, was the Club's foundation. If Dr. Earle and his loyal band were able to survey their handiwork 100 years later, one would hope that they would feel a hint of satisfaction, or at least pleasure. That night of Wednesday 4th May, 1881, they all went back to the Chequers, where host Elkington provided a "cold collation". There was a great deal of celebration and singing, and finally the President and captain, Dr. Earle called for silence and after praising the considerable efforts of his deputy, both on and off the field, one Mr. Saunders, he talked of the "good state of the new club," and finally proposed a toast. "Let's drink", he said, "to the success of Brentwood Cricket Club". And so it all began.

PAUL ADAMS joined Brentwood C.C. in 1978 after playing (and virtually running) Ilford Catholics C.C. - whose major claim to fame is a somewhat disparaging reference in Mr. I. T. Botham's recent book - for a number of years. He displays remarkably few Catholic traits when playing for Brentwood, but in his relatively brief career with us he has already become one of the lynch-pins of the Club; one of those priceless members that all clubs hope for who will gladly undertake any task. He has been Team Secretary for three years (a thankless job); he is vice-captain of both the Saturday 2nd and Sunday 1st XIs and he has played a major part in our Centenary events, particularly in the production of this brochure.

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