We had the pleasure in the last week to speak to Kieran O'Keefe, who along with Lionel Dodd, spent a lot of time researching the history of the club, here is his findings:
Researched by Lionel Dodd
Edited by Kieran & Rorie O'Keeffe
Chertsey Cricket Club - History
Chertsey Cricket Club has a very colourful history. This page documents cricket at Chertsey and the influential role Chertsey players had in the game's development. It tells of Lumpy Stevens and the introduction of the third stump, the French revolution and the great Lord Tankerville as well as other information and characters from the early days of our beloved sport.
The 18th Century
The earliest reference that I have been able to find to the game of cricket being played in Chertsey is in September 1737. In that year, Chertsey played London at Molesey in a two innings game. London won by 5 wickets. As you can see from the list of old matches which I have compiled, Chertsey were certainly a force to be reckoned with in the third quarter of the 18th century. It is interesting to speculate on the reasons for this prominence.
It is quite possible that Charles Bennett, 4th Earl of Tankerville, played an important part in Chertsey's success. He was born in 1743 and was at school at Eton between 1753 and 1760. He succeeded to the Earldom in 1767.
In his younger days Tankerville seems to have enjoyed a rather dubious reputation. On one occasion he got into a fight with a coachman, and the press alluded to him as "the Rt Hon Earl of Tankerville renowned for nothing but cricket playing, bruising and keeping low company".
In 1771 Lord Tankerville married Emma, daughter of Sir James Colebrook of Gatton, and soon afterwards they settled at Walton on Thames. His residence was Mount Felix, which was a large house overlooking the River Thames, near Walton Bridge. This was not far from Laleham Burway, which was then within the parish of Chertsey.
In the 1770s and 1780s, Tankerville's butler at Mount Felix was William Bedster, one of the best known batsmen of his time. His gardener was an even more famous player, one "Lumpy" Stevens. Lumpy once won a £100 wager for Lord Tankerville by hitting a feather once in every four balls while bowling at the Burway.
For about 9 seasons, from 1773 to 1781, Lord Tankerville was a leading supporter of Surrey Cricket as well as a regular member of the Chertsey XI. He was one of the best amateur batsmen of his day.
Another prominent member of the Chertsey team at this time was William Yalden who kept the large riverside inn, the Walnut Tree in Chertsey. The Walnut Tree later became the Cricketers, which is now closed. Yalden also managed the Burway ground, which was not far from his home. For some more important matches, stands were erected at the ground and refreshments were provided at the Walnut Tree.
An anecdote which linked William Yalden with George Morland, the famous painter, appeared in F.S. Ashley Cooper's book of "Cricket's Highways 'n' Byways". One of Morland's well known cricket paintings is said to have been produced at the Cricketers in Chertsey, in interesting circumstances. The artist was presented with the bill at a decidedly unfortunate moment, when he was financially embarassed. He bolted himself in his bedroom and, on one of the sheets, he painted a scene of a cricket match in progress and in this manner he settled his account.
I was told, many years ago, that it was the inn sign that Morland had painted. In a letter, signed J.P.B. which is held in Chertsey Museum, the writer relates that he interviewed the landlord of the inn about forty five years after the sign had been painted. He was told that the sign had attracted a great deal of attention - so much so that the name of the inn was then changed to The Cricketers.
It is interesting to note that several of the names in the Chertsey side in the 1770s are still prominent names in the town today.
Without doubt Stevens, or Lumpy Stevens as he was generally known, was one of the most famous cricketers of his day. He was an accurate bowler, taking many wickets. He also scored many runs for Chertsey. He was born in Send and was brought to Chertsey by a Mr Porter when he was young.
The Third Stump
Lumpy's claim to cricketing fame comes from an incident which occurred during a match against Chertsey's rivals, the famous Hambledon Club, in 1772. Early cricket was played with two stumps and a single bail. While bowling to John Small, said to be the best bat for Hambledon, Lumpy's deadly accuracy sent the ball three times between the two stumps, without dislodging the bail, and each time the batsman, Small, was given not out.
As all of these matches were played for high stakes, there was something of an outcry. Two years later, in 1774, a committee comprising Lord Tankerville, the Duke of Dorset, Sir Francis Vincent, Sir Horace Mann and eight others, met at the Star and Garter tavern in Pall Mall to revise the laws of Cricket. This was, remember, 13 years before the formation of the MCC.
At that meeting the rules of cricket were changed to allow the introduction of a third stump and the cricket historian Haygarth records that the first match with three stumps was played at the Burway ground between Chertsey and Coulsden on September 6th 1776.
Lord Tankerville continued to play until about 1781. He retired from cricket and the following year embarked upon a political career becoming joint Postmaster General.
The Duke of Dorset
A contemporary of Lord Tankerville's was the Duke of Dorset. He was born at about the same time but was educated at Westminster School where he excelled at cricket and also, according to News Sheet reports, at billiards. He frequented the Ale House in Union Street. He is also reported to have played for Chertsey. The Whitehall Evening Post commented in 1783 "In the estimation of many people, the Duke of Dorset is the most extraordinarily accomplished nobleman we have at cricket, tennis and billiards. His Lordship has hardly any equal".
He was famed for his hospitality and entertainments at Knowle, and his convivial talents formed one of the chief qualifications for his appointment as Ambassador to the Court of France by his cricketing friend the Duke of Leeds, the Foreign Secretary at the time.
The French Revolution
On page 60 of the first volume of Haygarth's "Cricket Stories and Biographies", which was published in 1862, can be found the following note, concerning the Duke of Dorset. Though he gave up cricket when he went as Ambassador to France in 1784 and did not (it seems) resume playing on his return, he was instrumental in an attempt to send an England XI to Paris. In 1789, he wrote to Yalden who was captain of Chertsey asking him to get a team together to go over to France and show the art of the game, with the hope of improving relations between the two countries.
The team was chosen and the following players were selected: Yalden, Attfield, Edmeads, Lord Tankerville, Wood, Bedster, Stevens, Fry, Etheridge, Harding and the Duke of Dorset. This was virtually a Chertsey XI.
As the Duke of Dorset was in France, it is not clear how the travel arrangements were made. It is possible that they were left to Yalden as captain but, although a successful publican, as far as is known he had not travelled overseas previously. It is more likely that the Duke of Dorset contacted his old friend Lord Tankerville and asked him to arrange the journey. This is borne out by the fact that Tankerville, his butler and his gardener were all included in the team.
However the arrangements were made, the team arrived in Dover on either the 9th or 10th of August 1789, which was when the Duke of Dorset also arrived from France, having been compelled to leave Paris by the outbreak of the French Revolution. Thus ended the plan to send a Chertsey cricket team to France on a goodwill mission!
This is a simplified version of events, of which a detailed account is given in a limited edition book written by J. Gouldstone, and published in 1972. Gouldstone argues that the Duke of Dorset was hardly in a position to organise the event and that it is more likely that the tour was organised by the British Government through the then Foreign Secretary, the Duke of Leeds. This story was more recently recounted in the Daily Telegraph, 1/4/89.
It is interesting to speculate about where Haygarth, a compiler of cricket scores and biographies, could have obtained details of the tour. They may have come from a newspaper article but it is more likely that they were discovered in a document belonging to a member of the Yalden family, possibly William Yalden's son. Although he was a lad of 14 in 1789, he was still living in Chertsey in 1859, when it appears that he was interviewed by Haygarth.
It is fascinating to think that our Club at Chertsey was so very prominent in these formative years of cricket as we know it today.
The following are some of the early fixtures played by Chertsey Cricket Club and other games at the Burway in Chertsey...
Sept 1737 Chertsey V London at Moulsey
July 1761 Chertsey V Dartford at the Burway
Aug 1761 Old Ringers V College Youths at the Burway
Sept 1762 Chertsey V Middlesex (for £50) at Moulsey
Sept 1762 Chertsey V Surrey (for £50) at Ripley
Sept 1762 Chertsey V Middlesex (for £50) at Hampton Court
Sept 1764 Chertsey V Hambledon (for £20) at the Burway
Sept 1764 Chertsey V Hambledon ground unknown
Sept 1771 Chertsey V Hambledon (for £50) at the Burway
June 1773 Surrey V Kent at the Burway (The first fully recorded XI a side Surrey match)
June 1773 Surrey V Hambledon at the Burway
Aug 1775 Chertsey V London, Kent & Surrey (for £50) at the Artillery Ground
Sept 1775 Chertsey V Dartford at the Burway
Sept 1775 Chertsey V Coulsdon at the Burway
Sept 1775 Chertsey V London at the Burway
June 1776 Chertsey V Maidenhead at Maidenhead
June 1777 Chertsey V Coulsdon at Coulsdon
Sept 1778 Chertsey V Rest of England (Hampshire excepted) at the Burway
The 19th Century
Some of the club's history has been lost with the passage of time, in particular that relating to the first half of the 19th century. I have only found a small number of references to Chertsey cricket in this period. One is in the Rev R.S. Holmes' "Surrey Cricket and Cricketers" in which he relates that in 1838, Chertsey were one of the strongest sides in the county.
In Chertsey Museum there is a poster which gives details of a match on the 13th august 1827, when Chertsey played Englefield Green at the Green. There is also a reference to Chertsey in "Lillywhites Cricket Scores and Biographies in 1833".
A former secretary has provided me with very useful information about the club in the middle of the 1800s. The first item is a well preserved scorebook with the heading "1851" on the first page. This marks the commencement of the present Chertsey Cricket Club and lists four matches played, three of which were won and in the fourth, Chertsey needed just six runs to win with seven wickets in hand. A footnote at the bottom of the page states that the scores of the above matches have been lost.
This scorebook also contains a copy of a match between Surrey and Hampshire on the Burway on the 6th, 7th and 8th of July 1775, and another of a match played between Surrey and Hampshire on the 6th, 7th and 8th October 1778 on the same ground.
Of great importance, and interest to the club was a game between Chertsey and St. John's Wood, played at Lords Cricket Ground on 29th August 1855, a game which Chertsey won comfortably. On 6th September in the same year, Chertsey played a match with the Montpelier Club at the Kennington Oval.
The minutes of a meeting, which took place on Monday 4th August 1856, were also provided to me. This meeting, of several Chertsey inhabitants, took place in the King's Head Inn for the purpose of setting the accounts of the Recreation Committee. The chairman, Mr Bidwell, observed that the once flourishing Cricket Club had "ceased to exist" and recommended that those who were lovers of the game should try to revive it.
It would seem from this that no games had been played up to that point in the 1856 season. It seems odd to have such pessimistic statements being made when, in the previous season, some of those present at the meeting had been playing for Chertsey. After all, two of the games in 1855 were on the now famous test grounds of Lords and the Oval. We have a picture of the Chertsey Cricket Club in 1891 (see below).
Chertsey Cricket Club - 1891
Information for the rest of the 19th century is sketchy. The club is in possession of a print of a game in the late 1850s, and Chertsey played host to a game between Surrey and Bucks in September 1855, although the Oval was by then Surrey's ground. There is also an old photograph of a game played at Gogmore in the late 1870s. Members of the club during the inter-war period could point to fathers and other relatives playing in that game.
As far as I know, the club resumed playing on the Recreation Ground after the Great War. The year of 1921 was a momentous one for the club as we were given our own ground. Due to the generosity of the late Sir Edward Stern, and with the help of the players and followers of the club, sufficient money was raised to purchase the present club ground in Grove Road. The ground is held in trust for the members of Chertsey Cricket Club.
In the following year, Sir Edward gave the club a handsome wooden pavilion which served the members of the club for over 40 years. With the help of various organisations, including the Surrey and National Playing Fields Associations, funds were raised and a new pavilion was erected and opened in 1963.
(Editor's Note: On the August Bank Holiday, 1994, a large crowd of members and friends gathered at the club at lunchtime to see the refurbished pavilion named after the club's longest serving member and faithful servant Mr. Lionel C. Dodd. That season saw Lionel's 60th year at the club and typically, on the day, he was at the club helping to organise the Colts One-Day competition. He was taken completely by surprise by the ceremony which had been arranged by the club committee.)
During the 1920s, the club ran two Saturday sides and one side on Wednesday and, always willing to experiment, Chertsey was one of the first clubs to play Sunday cricket. This was, I am assured, much to the disapproval of the Vicar at the time. This side prospered and in 1931, the Sunday side or Premier side as they were called, played 17 matches, winning them all. The Photo of that great Chertsey side is below.
Chertsey Cricket Club 1st X1 - 1931 - played 17 won 17
The club was fortunate, during the Second World war, to have a number of older players and some in reserved occupations. These members kept the club going during the war, much to the delight of members of the Forces when they came home on leave.