Cricket came to the area now known as Hampton Hill just 17 years into the reign of Queen Victoria. Though not particularly early in cricketing terms, the club was formed eight years before the Football Association and more than 40 years before the first modern Olympics.
Hampton Common was on the southernmost edge of Hounslow Heath when an 1811 Act of Enclosure formed an area of smallholdings and market gardens known as New Hampton. The area’s population swelled during the 1850s due to construction of the water works at Hampton and the extension of the railway line linking Teddington and Hampton.
Cricket had been played in surrounding areas for some time, most notably by Clarence Cricket Club, founded by the then Duke of Clarence. The Duke was a keen player who lived in Bushy House during his time as Ranger of Bushy Park. In 1830 on the death of his brother, George IV, he acceded to the throne as William IV.
Molesey, or Moulsey Hurst, just across the river from the Bell Inn was the venue for some of the most important early cricket matches. The first known incidence of LBW happened at Moulsey Hurst in 1795. The Hon John Tufton being the unfortunate batsman, whilst playing for England against Surrey.
Records show that New Hampton Cricket Club played its first matches at Canon Field in 1855. The village of New Hampton continued to expand and in 1863 the parish church of St James was completed. The first vicar, Rev Fitzroy John Fitzwygram became the cricket club’s first president and was a strong advocate of cricket and other healthy pursuits, largely to steer people away from the demon drink. Beer consumption peaked around this time at an average per person of almost a gallon a day. The proliferation of alehouses in the area was very much at odds with Fitzwygram’s puritanical beliefs.
In 1872 it was reported at the club’s AGM that a Mr Clutton had secured a piece of land in Windmill Road for New Hampton CC to play on. Fitzwygram’s tenure continued throughout the 1870’s, overseeing several extensions to the church, enlargement of both the boys and girls schools and the growth of New Hampton CC. This was largely achieved through mergers with other local clubs such as St James CC and the Working Men’s Club.
Fitzwygram died in 1881 and was replaced as vicar and cricket club president by Rev Henry Bligh. Henry came with impeccable credentials. He was the son of the Earl of Darnley and more importantly in cricketing terms, the brother of Ivo Bligh, the England captain responsible for bringing the Ashes urn back to England for the first time.
Following several failed attempts to gain permission to play there, a concert was held in 1887 to raise funds for the levelling of two acres in Bushy Park. In May 1890 the club played its first game at its present ground, watched by a large crowd, including the Park Ranger, who viewed the match from his horse. The same year, the Postmaster General sanctioned a change of name for the village from New Hampton to Hampton Hill. Averages from that first season suggest that pitches may not have been the best. The “leading” batsmen – the Cooper brothers – averaged less than 10, whilst B. Johnston took 83 wickets at an average of 2.6!!
In 1900 the club joined the Richmond and District League, reaching the final in the first season and by 1908 had added a Wednesday team, made up of local shopkeepers and tradesmen who closed their businesses for the afternoon. The club’s first Annual Dinner was held in 1909 at the Crown and Anchor.
1914 saw the onset of the First World War and many club members perished in the conflict. The club could not play during the war years as the outfield was planted with vegetables to aid the war effort. At the end of hostilities in 1919 the club was ready to start playing but the outfield would need time to recover. Teddington Town’s ground was used for two seasons and in return, Hampton Hill members looked after the ground and repaired the pavilion, damaged by vandals during the war.
Playing conditions improved steadily throughout the 1920s and according to former club secretary, Billy Grimes, Hampton Hill played against some strong opposition, ‘winning more than they lost’. Grimes mentions several notable characters from the period including captains Ralph Mote and Billy Hibbs, opening batsmen ‘Cut’ Rowbottom and Fred Kitchen, and the fearless Bert Bromham who fielded ‘very close indeed’. Kitchen’s claim to fame was that he played centre forward for Sheffield United in the 1915 FA Cup Final against Chelsea.
Arguably the best cricketer to join the club in the era between the World Wars was Tod Fidelman. His background, born of Jewish parents forced to flee Russia, and his slight frame conjured up an unlikely looking cricketer, but from the time his neighbour, Bromham, introduced him to the club in 1928 he set about opposition attacks with some prodigious hitting and run-scoring. Tod hit the ball very hard and legends abound. One six, hit from the Lensbury ground in Teddington came to rest on the top deck of a trolleybus bound for Kingston. Another hit, apparently reached the archway at the entrance to the mews houses at Upper Lodge. Measuring some 150 metres, it is unlikely that this could have been achieved without the ball bouncing or rolling a considerable distance after landing. Several balls ended up in Hampton Hill High Street when Fidelman batted.
Another arrival, in 1929, was a heavy roller for use on the pitches. The Metropolitan Water Board was replacing the iron drainage pipes in the High Street and a section was taken to Cadwell’s Steelworks in Windmill Road and adapted for use. It was then trundled all the way back through the streets to the club. A combination of horse and manpower operated the roller for over 60 years before it was replaced by a ride-on machine. The roller stood outside the club until it was scrapped in 2007.
Several influential members joined the club during the 1930s. Les Johnson, Bill Hauting, Wally de Winton and Sonny Rogers all went on to become Life Members for their outstanding service, on and off the field.
Arthur ‘Sonny’ Rogers became treasurer in 1938 and remained in the post for over 50 years. Les Johnson was the club’s secretary for a while before taking on the important role of Bar Steward for many years. His son Roger, later captained the 2nd XI whilst grandson Richard, though never playing for Hampton Hill, represented Middlesex, Somerset and England. Bill Hauting was 1st XI captain and later, Fixture Secretary, a post he held for 20 years. His son, David, also captained the 1st XI. The theme of family ties runs strongly throughout the club’s history.
It was feared that the outfield would once again be requisitioned for food production at the outbreak of World War II, but this proved unfounded. The club continued to play throughout the conflict, albeit with a reduced fixture list and a reliance on servicemen on leave playing as guests. A number of club members had reserved occupations and they took over the running of the club.
Bushy Park was a prime target for German bombs due to the proximity of the Admiralty Research Department and the National Physical Laboratory where Barnes Wallis carried out early tests on bouncing bombs. A number of bombs fell nearby. Just 150 metres from the boundary, a large crater, now filled with water and surrounded by willow trees, forms an attractive reminder of the regular air raids in the area.
Towards the end of the war large numbers of American troops were stationed in Bushy Park and groundsman Billy Grimes describes the day he turned up to find a baseball mound on the outfield.
A full set of fixtures was resumed almost immediately after the war in 1946 and the club started to attract some fine players. Maurice Coles achieved the feat of taking 100 wickets, six years in a row from 1948. He formed a very potent new ball attack with Gerry Udal, renowned as one of the quickest bowlers in local club cricket at that time. Eric Edwards joined in the Centenary season of 1955, promptly completing the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in his first season. He repeated the feat several times over the next ten years. Eric was, undoubtedly, one of the best players ever to represent Hampton Hill. His best years were at East Molesey Cricket Club, who regularly entertained international touring teams. He starred against West Indies, Australia and New Zealand. Only the war years prevented him from turning professional with Surrey.
Percy Holt’s twenty year tenure as President ended in 1947 when Surrey and England cricketer, Stan Squires took over. Squires owned the Duke of Wellington pub at the junction of Burtons Road and Wellington Road and constructed a cricket net in the garden of the pub for players to use.
In 1951, Councillor Freddie Edwards became President and another local councillor and businessman, Harry Hall soon took on the role of Chairman. These two men, both destined to be Mayor of Richmond-upon-Thames, were the driving force behind a new pavilion, to be built to commemorate the club’s centenary.
Another prominent member and future President, Tommy Raine was an architect who owned a demolition company. These seemingly contradictory business interests formed not only the basis for the new pavilion’s design but the means of procuring most of the materials required to construct it. Raine’s ingenious design incorporated features from buildings his company had knocked down all over London. Everything from bricks, roof girders, doors and windows were liberated from the demolition sites. The lounge floor came out of a cinema foyer in Kingston, the seating in the changing rooms were church pews. As a recycling project, it was years ahead of its time.
Most of the labour for the construction was provided by members and local tradesmen. Working evenings and weekends, on a voluntary basis, the membership built a pavilion which stood for over 50 years.
The club celebrated its Centenary and the opening of a new pavilion in 1955 by holding a Victorian cricket match in full period costume and playing to the laws of the day. This included getting the oldest ex-player, Harry Weedon, to demonstrate the art of underarm bowling. The late fifties and early 60’s were a time of relative prosperity in Britain and the club’s fortunes mirrored that of the nation. Harry Hall continued to be a driving force as the club went from strength to strength. After ten years as Chairman, he became President in 1965. Sonny Rogers returned from the Burma campaign to resume the role of treasurer and continued until 1996. A tenure of over 50 years! Several innovations at this time were to become regular fixtures in the club’s calendar. 1956 saw the first full cricket week, including several all-day matches. Colts fixtures were arranged for the first time in 1961 and the following year the club embarked on its first tour. Fixture Secretary, Bill Hauting arranged a week of fixtures in his native Gloucestershire. The club continued its association with the West Country for many years, switching to Worcestershire and Somerset before returning to Gloucestershire in the 1990’s. Several regular tourists were renowned practical jokers and stories abound and have been told and retold many times. None more so than when a fire engulfed the tour hotel, The White Swan in Tewkesbury, on the first night of the 1973 tour. This wasn’t a practical joke gone too far,however, rather a disgruntled former employee who set fire to a car in the basement garage.
On the field, Eric Edwards continued to amass runs and wickets until his retirement in 1965. That same season saw his son, Keith, play his first games for the club. Their careers only overlapped by a couple of games and they never batted together. Keith Edwards would go on to score more runs than anyone in the club’s history. Very few years went past without him scoring over 1,000 runs, winning the Hall Batting Trophy fifteen times. In later years, he developed into a useful off-spinner, claiming the Skim Carroll bowling trophy in 1990 and the Jack Hurst all-rounder trophy in 1987 and 1994. A conservative estimate puts Edwards career total in excess of 40,000 runs. He captained the 1st XI for many years and led them to the South West London League title in 1976. Derek Gillingwater and Chris Palmer also scored 1,000 runs in that glorious summer with Ray Thorpe and the Cullinan brothers, Mick and Martin among the wickets. Palmer also picked up 80 wickets, confirming him as one of the club’s finest all-rounders. Among the unsung heroes of 1976 were groundsman, Fred Harris and social member, Terry Tutt who arranged for containers of partially treated sewage water to be ferried to the ground and used on the square following the imposition of a hosepipe ban.
Success on the pitch was followed by growth, socially and economically. By the early 80’s the pavilion was open 365 days a year to cater for an expanding membership. Mike Crane began his 20-year tenure as President in1981. Having joined in 1954, he quickly became an integral part of the committee as well as 2nd XI captain. He also managed several of the tours with military precision. During the following two decades, continuity was a byword for the way the club operated. Sonny Rogers was still treasurer, Ian Greenaway as Chairman and Barry Smith as secretary, each served for 20 years.
Colts cricket was reborn in 1981 with several talented cricketers rising through the initial teams. Not only did many of them go on to play for the 1st XI but several would become senior officers of the club. The South-West London League merged with the Middlesex League in 1979 and the club remained members, until the constant travelling to North London started to have a detrimental effect on membership. The club took the brave decision to withdraw from league cricket altogether for several years. After lengthy negotiations, an opportunity arose to join the Lee 75 league in 1987. Several of the clubs in that league were very strong and would go on to be part of the ECB’s Premier League structure. For the first time, the 1st XI regularly found themselves pitted against overseas professionals. The club acquitted itself well, though never threatening the top of the table. Further restructuring saw the merger of the Lee League and The Three Counties League with the Thames Valley League and Hampton Hill settled in Division 4b, where they stayed until Jamie Sherry led them to promotion in 2001. The early years of the new millennium would see three promotions in 4 years, inspired by Sherry, South African Tony Gooding and several players from Hounslow Cricket Club following their demise.
It was a golden period for the club. Individual records were set. Most notably Warren Carr’s 224 not out against Merton in 1996 and James Allison’s 10 for 57 against Teddington Town in 2001. The 1st XI went unbeaten in the league for 30 games, culminating in promotion to Division 1 of the Thames Valley League in 2004. The club added the Nelson Trophy, The Stanley Cup and the inaugural Bushy Park League trophy to the cabinet that year. The club was now fielding four teams on a regular basis and on one occasion had five teams playing under the Hampton Hill banner (All five being victorious).
The club would start the 150th Anniversary season in Division 1 and finished it at Lords, with Sherry getting a century in a win against Cross Arrows on the Nursery Ground. The anniversary was also celebrated with a number of events including a Summer Ball, a cricket week and a major refurbishment of the pavilion. Tasmanian Myles Harry, among others, helped to consolidate the club’s place in the top tier for a further two seasons but an exodus of some of the better players, for a variety of reasons, saw three consecutive relegations.
A new era began in 2009, when the club joined the Fullers Brewery Surrey County League and all was going well until the fateful night of October 9th, 2010. A night that will live long in the memory of all Hampton Hill Cricket Club members.