The History of Forest Green Cricket Club
There is little known about the early history of the club but it is a fact that cricket was first played in the village in 1895 in the grounds of Pratsham Grange, an estate half a mile north of the village green.
In the early years of the 20th century the present ground was formed on the green. It was even smaller than today! Surviving players from the 1930s tell of how two sides could be formed on Saturdays from residents of the village. Early changing facilities came in the form of a marquee erected before each game in the top corner of the ground and the square had to be fenced off during the week to protect it from the villagers’ grazing animals.
The pitch was enlarged to its present size in the 1930s with the erection of the boundary fence that still exists today.
Stories tell of how Mr. Arch Carnell’s father hit a six from the bottom end that hit the Forge door some 200 yards distant. The team of the Thirties was captained by H. K. Longman (former Middlesex and Surrey player) who, from all accounts, passed on his skill and experience to the local lads to create a formidable side. A newspaper article by A. E. Gilligan in 1934 reports on the exploits of Frank Overington (a painter) and Frank Brady (gardener) who were the regular opening bats, scoring freely and in fine style. Overington and Charlie Baker (the village blacksmith for many years) opened the bowling and skittled out the opposition for 42 in reply to the Green’s score of 154. Harold Creasey was noted for a fine wicket-keeping performance and Les Short for his agility in the field. Les Short, now 86 years of age, still takes an interest in the club’s performances.
The present pavilion was donated to the club in 1947 by Mr. Harman, a resident of the village. It was transported from its original location. At North Holmwood C. C. on a cart and erected by members. Over the years changing rooms have been added together with a bar and scorebox.
In the early 1950s Ken Cuthbert moved to the village and soon made his mark on the club, both on and off the field. Ken captained the team for many years and those fortunate enough to have played with or against him have many a story to tell.
Ken was keen to see the club progress and was one of the main instigators in introducing the bar in 1962 making Forest Green one of the first village cricket clubs in the area to provide this facility. With the introduction of Sunday matches, Ken placed an advertisement in The Times in an attempt to encourage more players:
“WANTED: drinking cricketers and cricket clubs to play on Saturdays and Sundays in a picturesque Surrey village”
This aroused the interest of the media and Ken appeared on television to explain the advertisement resulting in many new fixtures from wandering sides and new playing members from the surrounding area. The threat to the club of dwindling numbers of cricketers within the village (still a very real threat today) diminished and, in the last 45 years, playing members have come from Leatherhead, Dorking, Horsham, Cranleigh and London.
For many years The Marylebone Grammar School from central London brought pupils to Forest Green to stay in the Old Mill which had been converted for their use. Evening games were played throughout the annual summer holidays between pupils of the school and the local village boys. Many of the Marylebone pupils had pleasant memories of their early years at Forest Green and returned to play as seniors with the Old Boys team, The Old Philogians.
In the early Fifties, Lord Brook of Cumnor (then Home Secretary) played for the club and his sons Henry (now Sir Henry) and the Rt. Hon Peter Brook MP turned out for Forest Green.
Over the years many cricketing feats have been achieved on the Green. In particular, Ken Stevens of Shamley Green scored 175 in under two hours (most of the runs coming in sixes) and, in 1976, Richard Smart scored 147 in a Captain’s innings that stood as a record for a Forest Green players for many years until surpassed by David Buckley’s 163.
Forest Green Cricket Club has struggled to survive on one or two occasions and in recent years has dropped its Saturday fixture list. However, thanks to a recent merger with Estonia (a touring side which has enjoyed a long association with the village) the tradition of playing friendly cricket on summer weekends continues to enhance the tranquil setting of this Surrey village at the foot of Leith Hill.