As anyone who's ever snapped a few pictures with their phone will know, composing a well balanced picture is harder than it looks. Here's a few done by Jim Donohue, a WCC alumni who was in town recently.
I think it's from the Highmoor match and features two representatives each from the Williams and Chapman clans.
Jim hopes to use one or two for his upcoming Pangbourne and Whitchurch book.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Whitelock family.
Part One: Between The Wars
It has been suggested to me that the residents of Whitchurch might
be interested to read a short account of the history of Whitchurch
Cricket Club as I remember it. I was born at Underwood in Hardwick Road
Any story to be told must also include impressions of some of its
more active and colourful members. In writing this I have no wish to
appear anything but affectionate and loyal to those who have created a
The ground was acquired by my father, A.R. Whitelock, in 1921.
Originally it had been a lush meadow, seemingly much enjoyed by a
pedigree herd of Mr Aldridge's ruminating cows, but at the time no
longer required for their use. It will be appreciated that in 1921 the
country had hardly recovered from the awful consequences of the 1st
World War. The Cricket Club, though theoretically in existence, had no
ground and no equipment.
My father was a keen tennis player. It came to his attention that
the meadow to the south side of Hardwick Road was for sale. He already
had one tennis court in his garden on the north side and saw the
possibility of making another one and extending his garden. This project
was much encouraged by my mother, a keen tennis player herself and an
Accordingly, the pasture meadow was acquired and a quarter of it,
bordering Hardwick Road, was soon converted into a grass tennis court,
surrounded by netting and cherry trees, a substantial kitchen garden
with fruit cages and pretty herbaceous borders. This left three quarters
of the meadow unproductive. At this point my father became aware,
through consultation with his village friends, of the plight of a
Cricket Club with no ground, no wicket, no equipment and no facilities.
Having ascertained that there was, at the time, considerable local
interest, he decided that he would provide at least the bare essentials.
In his opinion no English village should be without a cricket pitch and
a thriving club.
It is, in fact, no small task to create a wicket and outfield,
suitable for batting, bowling and the fielding of cricket balls, from a
pasture meadow. It must be remembered too, that in 1921/22 motor mowing
and rolling equipment was primitive by today's standards. My father and
his gardener, Albert Higley, with part-time assistance, particularly
from Albert's brother, set to work with a will. The meadow was scythed,
at first by hand. A heavy horse drawn roller was acquired and a large
hand-mowing machine bought. In due time the outlines of a playing area
became visible, the plantains and other weeds treated, a square pitch or
wicket repeatedly rolled, grass seed sown. Nottingham marl was used to
top dress the wicket, canvas sight screens were erected, a small hut
representing the pavilion established and seats made from the fallen
boughs of the bordering elms put in place for spectators. It was,
indeed, by 1923 when I first, hazily,
remember it: an idyllic scene.
Thus, the village Cricket Club re-emerged from its paralysis. Stumps,
bails, balls, umpires' coats and score book were all organised. The
score board used today is the same one that was acquired at that time. A
fixture list was arranged and at last cricket was played again on
"England's green and pleasant land."
I was a very small boy at the time and matches against Pangbourne,
Goring, Streatley and Woodcote filled me with excitement. Gradually the
fixture list expanded to include Wallingford, Thatcham and Caversham -
clearly much larger and more prosperous clubs than ours. But Whitchurch
held its own and all the larger clubs wanted a fixture with us on our
In the early years of the nineteen twenties the side was led by
Captain Whitamore, a fast bowler and hard hitter. Our splendid wicket
keeper Mr Johnson, who lived in Whitchurch Hill, wore black trousers,
braces, white shirt with no collar and black boots. He refused,
politely, my father's offer of a present of white flannels, cricket
boots and shirt. He was a fearless keeper, a great slogger (at one
time, when he was batting, I stationed myself in the village allotments
to retrieve the balls he hit there) and a warm, cheerful personality. He
was ably supported by Mr Higley (the gardener) who bowled off cutters
to an impeccable length and by Mr Green, a solid opening batsman who
owned the garage in Pangbourne and ran the local taxi service. The club
owes much to him, his family and all his descendants.
In the early 1930s Mr Sykes took over the side. Harry taught Maths
and navigation at the Nautical College and was universally respected.
He was a Yorkshire man, a tricky left arm slow bowler with a
well-disguised faster ball and was a steady, middle-of-the-order
batsman. I well remember the jubilation and acclaim when he made a
century against Wallingford. Harry was an inspirational leader, widely
known throughout the County, who if he'd had the time could have played
Minor County Cricket for Oxfordshire. He was a founder member of the
South Oxfordshire Amateurs, a high performance club side which played
two matches on our ground just before the war.
In the early 1930s we were lucky to have as a member, Mr Tuffin. He
was a fast bowler, short, square chested with a good slinging action and
follow through. On his day he could bowl really quickly and became the
terror of our opposition. I believe that he had played Minor County
Cricket in East Anglia before setting down to live in and play for
Thatcham. But he loved our ground so much that he changed his allegiance
and joined Whitchurch - much to his own pleasure and our delight.
Another great asset at that time was Police constable Hatch. He was a
real character off and on the field. He modelled his batting on his
hero, Jack Hobbs. P.C. Hatch practised assiduously, he played a very
straight bat always on the line of the ball and never across it. Indeed,
if the war had not intervened, he could have played for Berkshire. I
last met him when I was myself playing for Whitchurch against Maidenhead
where he had been posted in the early 1950s.
He made 80 against us and batted beautifully, though at that time in
his sixties and nearing retirement age. He especially endeared himself
to my mother as he invariably stopped the busy traffic in Pangbourne for
her to cross the road - much to the indignation of the frustrated
motorists because my mother took her time! He also had the unfortunate
duty to deliver the telegram from the War Office to my parents to say
that I had been wounded in North Africa. All three of those involved in
reading the contents recovered from the shock with suitably laced cups
of tea in the Underwood kitchen!
From 1935 to 1939 I was fortunate enough to play a few games under
Harry Sykes' leadership. I well remember one fearsome encounter with the
village of Nettlebed. In the words of Sir Henry Newbolt:
"There's a breathless hush in the Close tonight -
Ten to make and the match to win -
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in."
I was the last man!
I was also able to arrange, much to my delight, a match between the
Old Rugbeians (my old school) and the S.O.A on our ground. It was a
perfect summer's day, the ground looked a picture, the game was keenly
contested and hospitality flowed.
Then came the 2nd World War and paralysis, alas, again took over.
Part Two: 1947 - 1960
So the lovely cricket field once more reverted to a
barren meadow, lush only with dandelions, cowslips, thistles and buttercups.
For a description of Underwood and its gardens at that time I quote an extract
from a book entitled "Down to Earth" written by my friend and army
colleague, Arthur Kellas. Arthur had been with me in N. Africa and had kindly
visited my parents on his return to the U.K.
"I spent a tranquil weekend at Miles' home near
Pangbourne where I played croquet with his father, mowed the lawn, helped to
build a frame for the beans and inspected the cricket pitch, which was
grievously threatened by Canadian tanks lurching through the hedges on
On returning from the Army in September 1946, I had a
discussion with my father about the future of the field. Though he was now in
his late seventies, he told me that he would be prepared to remake the outfield
and the wicket and ensure therefore that the village had access to cricket
again, provided he could be certain that there would be sufficient interest and
Accordingly, we arranged for a public meeting in the
village hall - at that time the Scouts hall in Eastfield Lane. We had little
idea whether anyone would turn up. In the event the hall was packed to
overflowing and the offer made by my father, to reinstate the playing area at
his expense, was greeted with overwhelming approval. The newly arrived GP - Dr
Tony Spafford - made an impassioned and most articulate speech in favour of the
idea and many others offered physical and moral support.
Thus, once more, and for the second time in his life, my
father set to work to make a cricket field. By this time equipment had become
motorised and he had unstinting and sustained support from Percy Green and his
brother-in-law Reg Baker. Percy, who lived in Eastfield Lane, concentrated on
the wicket while Reg, who lived in Pangbourne, worked on the outfield. Both
spent hours of their free time, mowing, rolling, seeding and generally
preparing their precious cricket ground for use again. During the winter and
spring of 1946/47 the ground took shape and began to look in prime condition
Tony Spafford was elected Captain of the Club and
enthusiastically recruited new and former members and not least the vice Presidents,
to help pay for bats, pads etc., all lost during the war years.
In June 1947 the ground was ready and the opening match
was arranged. My father decided that it would be appropriate for me to assemble
a side made up from my own friends and colleagues to play the village side led
by its inspirational doctor captain. It was also decided that a ceremonial
opening ball should be bowled! Captain Short, who was then about 70, had been
born in the village and had been a distinguished harbour master in Cape Town,
was invited to perform this honour. Capt. Short had retired and at the time
also lived in Eastfield Lane. The afternoon was sunny and with a slightly
rounded arm the first ball was bowled and greeted with great applause by both
teams and many spectators. I do not recall the details of the match itself but
after it was over both teams were entertained in the garden at Underwood. All
were suitably refreshed and the party lasted well into the night. Photographs
of the occasion are in my family album.
Thus, during the summer of 1947, cricket was again
established on this beautiful ground. Tony was himself a hard hitting, exciting
batsman and he gathered together a very useful team of cricketers. Indeed,
during the late 1940s and in the 1950s we were a strong side by village
standards. I was able to play only occasionally, but I remember vividly some
memorable matches. For example there was, at that time, a match at the end of
August against the Reading football club. This always created excitement in the
village and more spectators than usual would turn up to watch not so much the
cricket as, I suspect, the footballers. It was usual for the Reading
professional footballers to be cricketers as well. One or two who came were,
indeed, first class players. One match stands out because Reading brought with
them a Northamptonshire fast bowler. One or two of our faint hearted members
were "out before they went in." Not so our undaunted Captain, Tony.
The faster the Northants bowler delivered the ball the further and higher Tony
hit him. He made about 70 and after the applause had died down he told me that
he had been aiming to hit the ball into my father's tennis court - he did not,
in fact, quite reach the target!
On another occasion, Whitchurch was batting, a birth was
imminent at Boazedown Farm House on Hardwick Road. A little boy arrived on his
bicycle to fetch the doctor, who took off his pads and hurried away. It so
happened that one of our other members playing in the match was a consultant
obstetrician at the Royal Berks Hospital. About half an hour elapsed and the
little boy reappeared on his bike to request the presence of Mr Wheeler. He
too, took off his pads and rushed off to Boazedown farm. A little later Tony
and Peter Wheeler returned, grinning contentedly - all was well, baby safely
delivered. They padded up again, resumed their innings and made a century stand
At the end of the 1940s and early 1950s our fixture list
grew to such an extent that, at one time, it became embarrassing. Visiting sides
loved to play on our ground and we were, after all, only a small Oxfordshire
village with, inevitably, a small playing membership. It became quite a job to
meet our commitments. This was accentuated because of the excellent and
sustained work carried out by Percy and Reg who acted as our unpaid, entirely
voluntary groundsmen. The club in general owes much to these two sterling
individuals and they are both remembered with great affection.
Another important factor of the enjoyment of any cricket
match is the tea interval. During the years 1923 to 1939 tea was served in the
Scouts hall. The club has always been greatly indebted to the devoted band of
mothers, wives and girlfriends who play such an important role in the
background. We always enjoyed excellent teas - good solid sandwiches, home made
cakes, jam rolls etc. The game cannot be played without the support and
sympathetic understanding of the fair sex and we were lucky to have it in full
measure. I am sure the present generation continue the tradition.
During the 1950s the old green pre-war shed, acting as a
pavilion and erected by my father, was replaced by the present pavilion.
Gradually, and over time, services - water, drainage, and electricity - were
connected. The club received a welcome grant from South Oxfordshire District
Council and I was able to match this with an interest free loan, which I
subsequently wrote off. Nearly all the development work and part of the cost
was willingly undertaken by the members, who not only provided their own labour
but also defrayed some expenditure through subscription. A little later when
the Scout's hall became redundant and demolished we were able to obtain part of
its remains to erect as a tea shed. Today (even if in need of urgent
refurbishment) we have a shower, running water and 2 loos: facilities unheard
of in the pre-war days.
Some readers might be interested to know that golf, as
well as cricket, became part of my life on this field. In the early 1930s, my
interest in golf originated in a visit to my parents by the then secretary of
the Goring and Streatly Golf Club. He taught me the art of the golf approach
shot and it has to be said that the expertise I learned from him did not,
wholly, correspond to the teaching of the off drive coached me by the senior
member of the cricket club. But I persevered with this particular game and I
made a 5 hole short golf course on the field. After the war, during our family
caravan holidays on the field, I was able in my turn to encourage my sons to
learn to play a game that can be enjoyed by all ages. Our family holidays
ensured continuous respect and affection by all of us, not only for the field,
but also for the beautiful village of Whitchurch. Happy days indeed.
The 1940s turned into the 1950s. Various characters
emerged; great, exciting matches were arranged. One of Tony Spafford's most
endearing abilities, as a captain, was that somehow he could ensure an exciting
finish to practically any game, however one-sided it became. It is an art that
requires not only an understanding of the game but of human nature as well.
Tony perfected this art in full measure.
Every year during the 1950s I was able to bring a side to
play the village and a number of photographs of the period remain in my
possession. But Anno Domini eventually takes over and in 1960 I was fielding at
mid-off and jumped to take what I hoped would be an athletic catch, only to
fall over, ignominiously, and wrench my ankle. My wife ordered me never to play
again and in the words of Rumpole of the Bailey 'She who must be obeyed was
obeyed.' So I took to the golf course instead.
Since 1960 therefore, I have not had the pleasure of
actually playing cricket on this wonderful ground. During the last 15 years,
due to the prolonged and very sad terminal illness of my wife, I have been
prevented from taking an active interest in the affairs of the club. However, I
have retained a keen passive interest. I was enormously encouraged to visit the
ground again on Sept 10th  this summer. Arrangements had been made for
the revival of the President's match and this year, I was able to attend. My
grandson, Tom, led the President's side, which also included his brother Ben
with their mother and father, Jane and Hugh, in support. So it was a familiar
and family affair.
Whitchurch Cricket Club gave us all a warm welcome and a
most enjoyable day was experienced by everyone - despite a cloudburst which put
an end to the cricket at about 4pm. Yet again, we had a delicious tea and an
excellent (if rather damp) barbecue to follow. To quote Tom's words, "I
thoroughly enjoyed it and particularly the bonding with the members of the
Whitchurch Cricket Club side." I personally hope, and I'm sure I speak for
the rest of the family too, that the President's match will again become an annual
No account, however, of the Whitchurch Cricket Club by
me, its President, must omit to mention the enormous and continuing debt we all
owe to its current Chairman and Captain. Tim Brickhill, the chairman, started
playing for the club at the tender age of 15. For years he kept wicket, opened
the batting, took over the captaincy and quietly and in an unassuming manner
orchestrated matters behind the scenes. For years his family, including his
mother, stepfather, wife, her parents, children and their friends were
involved, doing the teas, umpiring and scoring; all giving of their time for
the enjoyment of others. Tim was captain for 17 years. I don't know how many
runs he made or how many stumpings and catches he took behind the wicket. But I
do know that in his first match as captain (and he was very young at the time)
he asked Harold Hearne, our steady medium paced bowler, who normally bowled the
entire innings from one end exclusively, to come off after bowling six overs.
Crisis indeed! But he rode out the storm and became much respected as a result.
I also know how much the club enjoyed the Brickhills' hospitality in their
lovely homes. We are indeed lucky to have him and to be able to benefit, now,
from his wise counsel.
Last, but by no means least, mention must be made of our
current captain Mike Butt. Mike must surely have entered the Guinness Book of
Records. The fact that he has been captain of a village cricket club for 25
years reflects his enormous popularity and the affectionate esteem in which he
is held. In his time, he opened our batting, was a fine stroke player and very
difficult to dislodge. We could always rely on a firm foundation if we knew
that Mike and Tim were our openers. But Mike was more than an opening bat. He
was also a tricky and often successful googly and leg break spinner. Perhaps
our wicket suited him. Cynics might say that when he was responsible for
rolling and cutting the wicket himself, he did so to suit the way he bowled -
not so in my view. He was a natural spinner and gave the ball a real tweak,
needing no assistance from the pitch. But above all his ebullient, cheerful
personality, which he gives out unstintingly for the enjoyment of his team and
our visitors, makes him the respected captain who holds down the job today. The
club is indeed fortunate to have a Chairman and Captain of the calibre of
As to the future: the ownership of the field has now
passed to a trust, the beneficiaries of which are my son, Hugh, and his family.
They all agree with their predecessors that no English village should be
without a thriving cricket club. Two world wars were fought to preserve
Britain's National Heritage and all the family believe that cricket is part of
this concept. I hope that the sensible and equitable plan to ensure continuity
of tenure for the Club and the village, now under consideration, will meet with
approval. The pavilion needs refurbishment, the wicket and outfield need
continuing and sustained attention. We have one more, and possibly final,
opportunity to settle this matter for the lasting benefit of those who love the
game and love Whitchurch.
(President of the Club for many years until his death in 2011)
We field two weekend teams, one on Saturday and one Sunday side drawn from one squad of about 50 players. Some players are regular, some occasional. We're a diverse lot, ranging in age from 14 to about 60; some players are drawn from Whitchurch itself, others from the local area and several commuting players from London, Hampshire and further afield.
We play friendly matches against local clubs and touring sides and usually go on tour ourselves. Most games are 35 or 40-over matches, though we do play some "time" games for a change. If you'd like an enjoyable game of cricket, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, come down to the club one afternoon when we have a fixture, or call Dave Mattimoe, the club secretary on 0118 984 3347.
We're delighted to welcome spectators to our cricket matches. The scenery's beautiful, the atmosphere's relaxed and the cricket's usually entertaining. We often have families enjoying a picnic in front of the pavilion and children can often use the nets for a knockabout.
I didn't realise until last night that the Pangbourne & Whitchurch Juniors Cricket Club have their own website (and I don't mean the old one on play-cricket). It's at pwjcc.co.uk and very impressive it is too.