Wivenhoe Town Cricket Club � a brief history of time well spent.
By Mark Britton
The first recorded cricket in Wivenhoe was on Wednesday, 3rd July 1765, during the first great blooming of cricket, and before the MCC took control. There is no record of where this, or subsequent games were played, although around the time of the club�s formation � circa 1840 � it is known that the game was played on the heath & fields near the Flag.
The club�s first regular pitch was in the grounds of Wivenhoe Hall, on a field called, I recall, ten acres, between the Avenue and the woods. There�s a picture of a scoreboard nailed to a tree behind a group of players from the turn of the last century. The nail is rumoured to still be in the tree, in a garden in Parkwood Avenue. When the estate was broken up for building in the mid-twenties, the club was exiled to the marshes by the Brightlingsea line until Mr Loveless, of the hall fame, sold his land for mineral extraction.
As a sportsman, he offered what is now the Rectory Road ground & allotments to the cricket & football clubs for �500. The cricketers, deeply annoyed by mosquito bites, noise and from the trains, and wet feet, took up the offer and by 1930 had built a small pavilion and started the square we know and love today, and where Denis Compton is claimed to have played in his pre-war youth. The football club did not come up with their share, so the club persuaded an elderly lady to cover the balance and took out a mortgage to repay her. When another world war came, Mr Loveless hurriedly fenced off the ground and put sheep on to stop the pitch being cultivated for food, while the rest of the land became the allotments.
The pavilion built in 1930 still exists � it is the section with the main doors, going back to the pillars, and from the kitchen door to the change of ceiling level. After the war, two changing rooms were added, extending the building to the moveable door. The second set of double doors used to be the changing room access. The toilets were in a block outside. The tractor shed was a real old shed in the same corner, and the eastern boundary was a line of elms along a ditch that bowed in towards the square from the existing corners.
Into the 1960�s, the club ran one or two teams, depending on depth, playing only on Saturdays, and the first team – except for the fast bowlers – were, as befits a village with pretensions, professionals – doctors, teachers, etc., few of whom actually lived in the town. (Compare with today – all city commuters, except the fast bowlers, of course).
The club had begun to grow a little. A bar and kitchen were added to the back � the bay nearest the bar, and the Sunday XI was born to keep the Colts interested, and the Wednesday night games against village pubs & clubs were established. However, the club delayed entering league cricket, as shortsightedness proved by almost immediate success in the Greene King league (now Lancaster Garages).
Suddenly, in the early 80�s, the club blossomed. For a few, unusual, years, the great majority of players actually lived in Wivenhoe. The 2nd XI joined the �Garages league, we had to form a 3rd XI, and within a few years, all three teams had moved up to the Two Counties. The Social XI took over the evening matches and the Ladies XI became founder members of one of the first ladies leagues in the country. From one Colts XI � U17�s, we now have three, plus the Kwik Kricketers.
The pavilion doubled in size again, with new changing rooms, indoor toilets, a new kitchen & bar, and then a new toilet block at the back. The tractor sheds were replaced – using one of the pre-fabs from beside the gates, which then blew down in the gale of �87, and was rebuilt. And, after forty or more years, the old grey tractor was put out to grass.