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Oct 13 2012

All About… Harrow Cricket Club

A Harrow Club was in existence in the early 1820’s, playing on a ground apparently on the Roxeth side of Harrow Hill. Uxbridge CC has a score sheet of a game played between Uxbridge and the Harrow side of this period. Some time in the 1860’s this club either disbanded or renamed itself. Which is not now clear, but quite definitely it has not been possible to establish any connection between that club and the present Harrow Cricket Club, which was formed in 1888.

The club formed in 1888 was initially known as Harrow Town Cricket Club and played at West Harrow Recreation Ground. For reasons now lost to posterity it dropped the word “Town” from its title around 1893 for at least one season and perhaps slightly longer. The club continued to use West Harrow Recreation Ground as its home.

What prompted the move from West Harrow is now lost in the mists of time, but clearly there must have been one of those upheavals, which periodically take place in all long-lived clubs. With the move from West Harrow, the club changed its name to that of “The Moochers”. In a number of contemporary newspaper items the title was given as “The Mouchers”, but this may have been a misprint or a misunderstanding by the sports writer of the day. The new home venue was the “Trust Ground” adjoining the Pinner Road Recreation Ground, where the club was to remain until 1959. By 1909, the club had become known as the Harrow Moochers, though whether or not the title was officially adopted is still a matter of doubt. The final change of name took place between 1909 and 1914, for by the latter date the Club was definitely playing as Harrow Cricket Club.  In the period leading up to the outbreak of the First World War the Club prospered and for a period regularly fielded three elevens.

During the years 1914-1918 the club continued in existence, but like many other institutions, on a much reduced scale. Cricket continued to take place irregularly on Saturdays. In 1911 a breakaway club, known for a time as the Derelicks, started to play on the pitch alongside that used by Harrow. The relationship was a friendly one and together the two clubs fielded cricket sides (sometimes of rather elderly vintage) throughout the war period.

By 1929 the playing membership had risen to the point where, for the first time since the war, a third eleven could be permanently re-instituted. It is interesting to note that this event ultimately led to the creation of the post of Team Secretary in the following season, the Club Secretary finding the additional burden too onerous. The increase in membership enabled a successful tour in the Tunbridge Wells area to be undertaken, but at the same time made it more urgent to obtain a suitable ground.

In 1938 the Club became fifty years of age and celebrated with an appropriate dinner at The Headstone Hotel. The event was apparently an outstanding success, being attended by a large number of past and present members. Significantly for the future, it was the first major event arranged by the newly appointed Social Secretary, Geoff Birkett, who latter attained the rare honour of being made a life member. The final season before the outbreak of the Second World War was not a notable one so far as playing results were concerned. One of the newer members, Jack Payne, however, was already making his mark in the area of non-playing office. Having assumed the duties of Fixture Secretary in 1938, he took on the post of Social Secretary from 1939 when Geoff Birkett left to join the army.

At the start of the 1940 season the club amalgamated with West Harrow Cricket Club for the duration of the war. A full fixture list was assembled, and F.W.Fuller, a prolific opening batsman, led the side. Similar arrangements continued throughout 1941, though by now the numbers of players available was small, most people of cricketing age being in His Majesty’s Forces. Another difficulty was the traveling involved in playing away matches.

The close season of 1946-1947 was one of intense activity in the club. Much work was carried out in the interior of the pavilion. Further improvements continued through the 1947 season. The search for a private ground was on again, but this time there seemed little hope of obtaining anything suitable. Even the possibility of amalgamating with a tennis club and becoming a sports and social club was canvassed, but did not meet with acclaim.

In common with many other clubs, Harrow did not, in pre-war years, have a licensed bar. It had been traditional for some years to adjourn to a nearby public house for refreshments after the match. At on time the Royal Oak was favoured, but finally for many years the Kingsfield Arms was the choice, and indeed it was referred to at one time in official club literature as the Clubs Headquarters. Now the decision was taken to have a bar in the pavilion and this was formally opened on 24th April 1948.

Although the club continued to attract many new young members throughout the early 50s, all too often their stay was a short one, as many did not rejoin after their National Service. Electric lighting was installed in the pavilion; a long overdue improvement and the possibility of Sunday play looked likely.

A major turning point in the history of the club occurred in January 1958, when Jack Payne, by now a successful jeweller and optician, offered to finance the purchase of a new ground. Initially the prospect of owning so large a plot of land caused some consternation within the management committee of the day. There was a fear on the part of some that so large an area might prove to be beyond that so large an area might prove to be beyond the resources of the Club when it came to maintaining and running it. A positive decision was taken in May, and by October 1958 contracts were exchanged and the Club became the owner of the ground now known as Payne’s Folly off Wood End Road.

In the close season of 1959-60 the club moved premises, the bulk of the removal being accomplished one Saturday. Jack Payne, who searched for, located, bought and arranged for the transportation of an old RAF hut which, when re-assembled, became the new pavilion. By the start of 1960 there was little about the appearance of the building to suggest its origin.

It was not long before the club began to expand in numbers, and by 1962 the provision of 3rd X1 games as a permanent feature of the fixture list had become a necessity. Expansion of the membership continued steadily, and slowly the Club started to change from being a small, two-side family club to a powerful multi-side organisation.

The plan for the new pavilion involved provision of three new changing rooms, a new kitchen and new ablutions in one wing, whilst the other was given over principally to provide an enlarged bar and lounge, but also a small garage for ground maintenance equipment. This arrangement released almost the entire old pavilion, now the centre between the two wings, for use as an area for the serving of teas and lunches and for general recreation. At the same time the remaining unused half of the ground was laid out as a second playing area. The Mayor of Harrow, Alderman O.G.Collins, formally opened all the new facilities at a ceremony on July 9th 1967.

Construction of a pair of wicket covers was put in hand and these were completed in time for the 1969 season. In the same year Middlesex 2nd XI and the MCC each used the ground for one game, clearly a tribute to the excellent state in which the ground was kept by the untiring efforts of Jack Payne. In 1970 the question of league cricket arose and arrangements were formally made for the Thames Valley League to commence in 1972, Harrow being one of the founder members. 1972 was another notable year: the Thames Valley League came into being and Harrow acquitted themselves well in the first year, the first eleven finishing in third place. A new venture – a cricket tour of Israel – was arranged. This was a success cricket-wise and socially and was subsequently repeated at regular four-year intervals.

The remainder of the 1970’s contained a number of significant events in the life of the club. In 1975 Dutch Elm disease necessitated the removal of the row of trees bordering the western side of the second field, completely altering the view of the ground as seen from the pavilion. Andy Stewart scored 155 against Shepherds Bush, the highest by a club member since pre war days. Another successful and enjoyable tour to Israel in 1976 and Steve Taylor managed to acquire just over 100 wickets in the season.

Our Colt’s section started in 1960 and our U17s won the first County Colts Cup competition. In 1980 the club organised a “Colts Cricket Week”. This event proved to be highly popular and has continued to this day. In 1983 plans were being laid for the reconstruction and enlargement of the centre section of the pavilion, together with appropriate work to the newer wings. Before the rebuilding got underway the Club had to raise large sums of money for the project. Club members ran car boot sales, jumble sales and dress sales but the major event was The Firework Extravaganza. This attracted 1000 people in the first year and was a great success and is now a regular event on the calendar.

Work commenced on the reconstruction of the pavilion in 1985, during which cricket carried on despite the inconveniences imposed by the building works. The Mayor of Harrow, Councillor Peter Pitt, opened the new pavilion formally at the Annual Ladies Night Dinner on 12th October 1985.

The club has continued to grow through out the 90s. Our Firework Extravaganza attracts 3 to 4000 people every year. We are now members of the Middlesex County Cricket League and the Chess Valley League and play over 30 friendly matches throughout the season. Our colt’s section has 75 members and we are developing links with local schools.

We joined forces with Orley Farm School in 2005 to secure our future as they took over the day to day running costs of the club. This proved a major step forward for the club as a new scoreboard, outdoor nets and a perimeter fence all appeared across 2006/07. In 2006 we became a Chance To Shine club working with seven local state schools for 20 hours a week during the summer term. We also achieved ECB FOCUS Club and ClubMark status in September 2007.

We enjoyed a remarkable season in 2008 with our U11s picking up the North Area League & Cup winning 14 out of 15 matches played.. They also beat Ealing to become Middlesex County Cup winners. Our Saturday 2nd XI clinched promotion from division 3 as they took the runners up spot and both our Sunday teams won promotion with our 1st XI going up as champions. 2011 was another successful year as our Saturday 3rd XI gained promotion as champions to division one. Our Saturday 2nd XI also gained promotion as runners up as they also will play in division one next season.

Cricket is alive in the community providing sport and social development for the people of Harrow. You can find out more about the club on their website, here.

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