Sidmouth Cricket Clu's 'golden day' revisited

THE gentlemen of Sidmouth certainly knew what they were doing when, in 1823, they selected the Fort Field as the site of their new cricket pitch.

THE gentlemen of Sidmouth certainly knew what they were doing when, in 1823, they selected the Fort Field as the site of their new cricket pitch.

What is now the Sidmouth Cricket, Tennis, Croquet and Hockey Club, has a rich history fitting of its idyllic setting and status as the West Country's oldest cricket club.

While gentlemen would gather every Tuesday for an all-day game in its early days, today there are queues of clubs wanting to play at Sidmouth, with its sea view and landmark thatched roof pavilion.

The venue of the Fort Field's famous pavilion was where Somerset County Cricket Club was formed on an August evening in 1875 as the gentlemen of Somerset celebrated their victory over the gentlemen of Devon.

Scorebooks which date back to 1862 are still in existence but records stretch back as far as a match between Sidmouth and Exeter in 1924. Photographs of Sidmouth cricketers date back to the 1860s when the town had fixtures against summer visitors.

In a commemorative magazine marking 175 years of the town's famous sports venue in 1998, it is said: "The latter part of the 19th century was a boom time for Sidmouth. In 1881 the tennis club was formed. The Fort Field was used for athletics events in connection with Sidmouth Regatta and in 1886 even staged a rugby match between Sidmouth and Newton Abbott. Croquet courts were added in 1907."

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The turn of the century is described as the "halcyon days" from a cricket playing point of view. The Reverend E B Brutton, who was rector of Aylesbeare, scored 24 centuries for the club.

As well as local talent, Sidmouth sides were bolstered by great players from the first class game. A regular was the former Surrey captain C T A Wilkinson, who played alongside the great Sir Jack Hobbs. Sir Jack, along with Frank Woolley, played at Sidmouth in 1926.Acrowd of more than 2,000 saw them both hit centuries in what has been dubbed "the golden day of Sidmouth cricket."

At least six other test-match captains have graced the ground including West Indian legends Viv Richards and Richie Richardson.

World War Two saw cricket make way for baseball when the ground was given to Canadian air crews for their recreation.

The end of hostilities marked a significant change for the club. For the first time Sunday cricket became established meaning the fixture list was extended to some 80 matches.

To this day touring teams, some of whom have been visitors for more than 100 years, clamour to play at the famous ground, ensuring it is fully booked in the summer months.

Current day members of the club last week embarked on a �40,000 fundraising bid to re-thatch the pavilion roof. The project was last carried out in 1979 at a cost of just �8,500.

To find out more about the club's bid, contact the clubhouse on (01395) 513229.