Bats of Willow and Balls of Leather

The History of Burbage Cricket Club

The Early Years

During the 18th century the popularity of cricket spread throughout the country and the county of Leicestershire was no exception. Lutterworth Cricket club was established in 1789 and Harwell in 1806 and there is no reason to suppose that the gentlemen of Burbage didn't play the game from those early days. Unfortunately no written record can be found of any game earlier than 1859 when a team from Burbage played the Hinckley 'Wideawakes' at the Havelock ground in Hinckley. We have not been able to discover where the Havelock ground might have been. We don't believe there was a club organisation at this time — teams came together to play each other and might have been made up of men from the same hosiery or boot and shoe factory local shopkeepers, or church congregations. The following report is from the Hinckley Journal & South Leicestershire & Midlands Advertiser of July 23rd 1859:

"These clubs played a match on the 'Havelock' ground on Tuesday last, which proved an easy victory for the wideawakes, who dealt most unmercifully with their opponents, allowing them to get but 19 in the first innings and 21 in the second — two innings for 40 notches — of these John Kirby got 12 (10 and 2), Jerry Robinson 9, Joseph Wood 6, James Moore 5, William Baker 2, C Baker 1, James Kirby 1, Joseph Gent 1, byes 1, wides 2. Hinckley made 31 in the first innings and 11 in the second with 7 wickets to go down — G Price 14, R Meyes 7, T Choice 5, T Baggott 8, John Moore 4, G Marshall 1, byes 3. The defeated bore their loss with much good humour, and a pleasant evening was spent and the hope expressed that when they met again victory might be awarded to best 11. A vote of thanks was given with enthusiasm to the gentlemen for the use of their ground."

There are further newspaper references to matches played in the late 19th century. In 1876 the final matches of the season were recorded in the Hinckley Journal. On September 9th Burbage played Wileman & Simpkins (hosiery manufacturers) at a ground in Hinckley. This was a return match with Wileman & Simpkins being victorious on both occasions. The winners had scored 41 and in return Burbage managed a score of 30 with F Bouair being top scorer with 16. This is not a familiar Burbage name, but there are several names that feature prominently in Burbage society — T Nichols, J Allsop, W Robinson, W Forryan, J Brightmore who only managed 7 runs between them. The newspaper report also records matches between Barkby and Quorndon, Packington and Ibstock, Measham and Bagworth and Groby and Shepshed — some still familiar teams.

T Nichols and W Robinson were still playing for Burbage in 1887, this time in a match against Cosby earlier in the season in July. The result was a draw in favour of Cosby who scored 91 with Burbage amassing 61 in the allotted time with two batsmen still to bat. In those days there were no fixed number of overs, rather the game had a set length of play usually from 2.30 in the afternoon until 7.30 at night. In this match Tom Nichols scored 11 runs and took 1 wicket.

The newspaper also reports a match around the middle of July between Hinckley Wesleyans and Burbage Wesleyans — church teams, especially non conformists, were frequent combatants alongside the factory teams and players often played in more than one team depending on where they worked. The above match was played in Burbage but Hinckley won with a very high score for those days of 117 and Burbage could only manage 32 in reply.

The Hinckley Times for 21 st May 1892 records 'Ducks' for eleven cricketers. "Hinckley Castle End participated in a tie, on Saturday, when in a match with Burbage Debating Society 2nd, each side scored 22 runs. For the Debating Society A Loomes took 6 wickets, while W Herbert, with 5 wickets was Castle End's most successful bowler. The top score in the match was by Mr Extras for Castle End (8 runs), eleven players having 'ducks' " We don't know who played for the Burbage Debating Society except for A Loomes, unfortunately that is not a name that features in other team results.

These are the only recorded matches involving a team from Burbage that we have been able to find. However, cricket was of such popularity that in 1896 an article appeared in the Hinckley Times and Bosworth Herald announcing the formation of a cricket league for the southern district of the county. Seventeen clubs were represented but Burbage was not one of them. Fourteen teams joined that first year and there were two divisions with established clubs such as Barwell and Earl Shilton fielding teams in each division.

In 1897 more teams, including Burbage, applied to join the League, altogether making 24 teams in two divisions. The debut season for Burbage opens with a match against Whetstone Temperance in late April 1897 and Burbage had an 'easy win'. Burbage scored 83 and Whetstone 38. The team consisted of R Smith, J Ghent, E Hadden, W Wightman, C Hands, A Foxon, G Hady R Wheelock, R Hames, R Forryan and H Taylor. The report doesn't say if the match was played at Whetstone or Burbage but as the headquarters of the Burbage team was the Cross Keys Inn, I don't think many of them would have been of a 'temperance' nature.

Despite losing to Sapcote in early May, Burbage were lying second in the League by mid June and were top by early July and they won the Division II championship in the first year of joining the South Leicestershire Cricket League. In those days there was no automatic promotion and a 'Test Match' was played between the bottom two clubs in Division I against the top two clubs in Division II. The match was played in late September 1897 between Burbage and Ibstock on neutral ground and was recorded as follows:

"The first of the test matches between the two clubs at the bottom of the first division of the league and the two at the head of the second division was played off at Barwell on Saturday. Burbage, the champions of the second division, met Ibstock, the 'wooden spoonists' of Division I, the rules of the League requiring the lowest in the first to meet the highest in the other section, and lowest but one to play the second highest. The second match will be between Wigston Ivanhoe and Huncote. The game at Barwell created great interest in the Burbage district, and despite the counter-attraction of football and the lateness of the season a good number of spectators were present. Burbage won choice of innings, and R Smith and J Robinson went in first, the bowlers being Poole and Beeson. A surprise of a disappointing nature was quickly experienced by Burbage, for before a run had been made off the bat Robinson was smartly caught in the slips by Bodle off Poole. Taylor followed, and each batsman got Beeson away for 3, and by cautious cricket the score was taken to 14 when Smith was bowled by Poole. Haddon came in next, but not to stay however, for after a bye had been scored, Edwards (who had displaced Beeson) bowled him with a 'yorker'. Knight was the next batsman, but he soon lost his partner, Taylor. C Hands joined Knight, and runs came freely, both playing with determination. After a spell of free hitting, play became slower, Poole bowling excellently. Up to this point, he had bowled 9 maiden overs, his 3 wickets not having cost a single run. Soon afterwards Cartwright went on vice Edwards and Hands was caught in the shps. Ghent followed, but before he had scored he sent the ball to Findleyin the slips, and the chance was taken. Wheelock was bowled first ball, and T Hill and Rice were both run out, W Wightman carrying out his bat for 6, obtained by capital cricket, the innings closing for 40.

Beeson and Henson opened the batting for Ibstock, against the bowling of Hill and Wheelock. Disaster seemed imminent, and five wickets fell for eleven runs. Everything pointed to a victory for Burbage, and the players and spectators were pretty sure of success. Poole and Edwards now became partners at the wickets, and a good stand followed. The score was taken up to 28, when Poole, who had batted well for his 15, somewhat foolishly ran himself out. Two other wickets were lost in a similar manner in the over-anxiety of the batsmen to make runs and the excitement which prevailed, Cartwright being run out when he had five and Edwards with his score at 4. With the fall of the ninth wicket Ibstock were only three runs behind. G Flamson was the last man in, and he and Findley batted very cautiously. Flamson scored two, and then Findley should have been caught by Smith (who had taken the gloves owing to Taylor being hurt), but the chance, which spelt victory for Burbage, was not accepted. Findley brought the scores level with a single, and then had the satisfaction of making the winning hit, sending Hill for three. The score was taken up to 48 when it was decided to draw stumps. Ibstock thus won by a wicket and eight runs and consequently retain their position in Division I".

Appended are the scores:

Ibstock   Burbage
A Beeson, C Robinson, B Hill 4   R Smith, B Poole 7
H Henson, B Hill 1 J Robinson, C Bodle, B Poole 0
W Bradford, run out 1 J Taylor, C Beeson, B Poole 5
T Elliott, C Rice, B Wheelock 0 C Hands, C Cartwright, B Poole 6
S Ottey, B Wheelock 2 E Haddon, B Edwards 0
T Poole, run out 15 I Knight, C Cartwright 6
W Bodle, B Wheelock 1 W Wightman, not out 6
G Edwards, run out 4 J Ghent, C Findley, B Poole 0
J Cartwright, run out 5 J R Wheelock, B Cartwright 0
A Findley, not out 4 J P Rice, run out 1
G Flamson, not out 7 T Hill, run out 0
Extras 4 Extras 9
  48   40

The irony was that Ibstock resigned from the League before the start of the 1898 season but Burbage still did not get promotion but they did have the consolation of winning the Division II Championship again in 1898. There do not appear to be any records of the Test Match played at the end of that season but we do not believe Burbage were promoted to Division I.

League titles were hard to come by — it would be another 30 years before Burbage headed a league table and that was in 1929 when Burbage 3rds won Division VI.

An extract from a handbook printed we believe in 1900 by Herbert & Hill, the proprietors of the Hinckley Free Press, gives some details of the Burbage Cricket Club. The President was Mr C H Aldridge who was a wealthy local landlord and lived at Sketchley Hall. Vice Presidents included Mr F Moore who lived at Burbage House, another landowner with large holdings, Mr C Higham, the Headmaster at the National School, Mr C C Hurst who lived at The Grove and was a notable geneticist and had a research station on land which is now Burbage CE Infant School. They also included the local MP for the area Mr C B McLaren. The Treasurer was Mr F Hall, the landlord at the Cross Keys Inn.

The rules for the club are set down as follows:

The two secretaries were Mr. Gent a local shopkeeper and Mr J R Wheelock, possibly a member of the brick making family. In total there were fifteen Vice Presidents and a committee of twelve. I'm sure today's committee wish there was so much commitment to the club by playing and non playing members.

Burbage Cricket Club 1900.
Burbage Cricket Club 1900.
L-R Back: T'Perkins, WHarding, JR Wheelock, I Knight, J Taylor, F Hall.
Middle: Wm Wightman, Wm Clough, R Smith, Wai Wightman, J Gent, C Hands, G Campion.
Front: P Smith, J P Rice.

The social life of the cricket club was most important. A newspaper report for 28th March 1914 detailed the Cricket Club Concert when an annual benefit concert was held at the Liberal Club. "An excellent programme was provided, the following artists contributing - Miss Ada Mawby (Leicester), Mi Stevenson (Leicester), Mi WHill, MrJack Robinson, comedian, and the Burbage Male Choir. Mi George Lea occupied the chair and Mr W E Payne presided at the piano. A collection was made during the evening on behalf of the cricket club."

This was in addition to the annual cricket club supper held at the Cross Keys Inn when "a fairly large number of the members, with their friends, sitting down to an excellent spread provided by Host and Hostess Hall. This was followed by a smoking concert, songs being rendered by members of the company, Mr Wilfrid Hall accompanying. During an interval in the programme the Hon. Secretary, Mr James Ghent, presented the balance sheet, which showed that the receipts totalled £55.15s.l0½d and the expenditure £52.14s.1½d leaving a balance in hand of £3.1s.9d. This was considered fairly satisfactory."

Perhaps this is the way all annual meetings should be conducted — having a 'smoking concert' before the annual general meeting and any club making a yearly profit of £3.09p by comparison in modern times would be a great result — I know Burbage Cricket Club would love to make a profit any year!

We have found a report of a match during 1914 between Burbage 2nd and Stapleton played at Burbage in May of that year. It was recorded as being "without doubt the most exciting encounter in the League.. .where the second eleven was entertaining Stapleton in the second division." Burbage batted first and scored 72 runs, 32 of which were provided by H Campton and Stapleton scored just one less run. H Campton was also the champion bowler of the day taking 7 wickets for 25 runs.

Of those pictured in the 1900 or the 1911 photos I Knight, W Clough and W Wightman are still playing in the 2nd team in 1914. Players such as W Hall, C Hands and J P Rice would probably be playing 1st team cricket.

There are some recognisable faces on the team picture taken around the same time, G Campton, C Hands and P Rice — perhaps the 1st and 2nd teams?

Burbage Cricket Club 1911 Burbage Cricket Club
Burbage Cricket Club 1911 - L-R Back: C Hands, R J Clark, A Smith, W Dawson, W Harding, J Bailey, J Robinson. Middle: JMawby, J B Perkins, J P Rice (Capt), T Turner. Front: W Hall, FA Rice. (left/top)
Burbage Cricket Club - year unknown, but some players are recognisable. G Campton back right, J P Rice seated right, C Hands seated second left and J Gent standing at left. (right/bottom)

The South Leicestershire Cricket League was suspended during the First World War from 1916 to 1918 and this momentous event in history must have had a devastating effect on village cricket teams all over the country, although we are not aware of any member of Burbage Cricket Club losing their life in the conflict.

There was a happy event during the war years — In August 1915 Frederick Rice married Annie Spencer. Frederick was a member of the well known Rice family, the son of Parker Rice, who lived at the house that is now the Sycamores public house. Gifts were received from the cricket club.

Sadly in 1916 Frederick Hall died. He had been landlord at the Cross Keys for 25 years and a keen supporter of the cricket club since its inception. His death was unexpected — he was 56 years of age. The licence at the Cross Keys Inn was taken over by his widow, Florence, and she very capably carried on that role for the next 26 years ensuring that cricket would continue to be played on the cricket field at the bottom of the Inn garden.

One of the original players for Burbage, before the formation of the League, was Tom Nicholls, known as Fubber'. Between the two wars he wrote about his experiences of playing in the late 19th century with William Robinson and how his team dismissed a Hinckley team for only 3 runs and he was known for his fast bowling which resulted in stumps being broken by the ball. (Fubbing is running down the wicket to meet the ball — something Tom was prone to do). William Robinson is recalled as a regular member of the cricket team during the 1870s. His obituary notice tells that his enthusiasm for cricket was such that the captain wouldn't start a home match, after his non playing years, until he had arrived at the pavilion. Both William and Tom died during the 1920s.