Bats of Willow and Balls of Leather

The History of Burbage Cricket Club

Between the Wars

The National School was built in 1870; the gift of Baroness Cowper and most of the village children attended this school or the Wesleyan School on Windsor Street. Because cricket had become an important aspect of village life it is likely that the boys would be encouraged to play both football and cricket - sorry girls, females didn't really feature in any sporting activity. We have received several references to the fact that Wilf Hall coached the school team and that in the years until his departure in 1925 the teams had a good level of success. The team of 1922 were the District Champions. We are fortunate to have received some wonderful photographs of the school teams looking extremely smart. Of the players noted in the pictures, Reg Asbury (98th year) and Reg Powers (97th year) are still living in Burbage and able to recall the old days.

Burbage Cricket Club 1911 Burbage National School team 1922 outside the pavilion.
Burbage National School team 1921 - L-R Back: Reg Wightman, Ted Lawrence, George Charlton, Stan Higham (headteacher), BobMakin, BillKirkham, Roy Huddlestone. Front: Roy Foxon, Reg Powers, Herbert Moore (Capt), Les Mason, Arthur Jones, Tom Howkins — coached by Wilf Hall, the team won 11 matches and topped the school league. (left/top)
Burbage National School team 1922 outside the pavilion - Back: Stan Higham (headteacher), George Goodwin, Ted Lawrence, Wilfred Paul, unknown, Arthur Bottrill, Stanley Crofts, Jack Wightman, Wilfrid Hall (coach). On Steps: Wilfred Moore, Leslie Mason. Front: Clive Farmer, Norman Iliffe, Aubrey Farmer, Reg Asbury. (right/bottom)

Matches were regularly played between teams from Barwell and Earl Shilton as well as those from Wolvey and Coton. In 1927 a new school was built on Grove Road (now Burbage CE Infant School) as a new Secondary School and children were transferred from the National School. In the school log book an entry states 'January 30th 1928, Mr Blake levelled a piece ofgroimd and turfed it for boys' cricket matches. Money had been raised for his work. The cricket season started on 20th April and the first inter-school match was held on 11th June on the new pitch, an evening match against Hinckley RC School. Burbage won with 51 runs against 11 scored by Hinckley. The record shows that Burbage reached the final of the McLaren Shield that year but were beaten by Coton Council School — obviously missing the coaching of Wilf Hall. The Churches also organised Sunday School cricket leagues for the youngsters to enjoy.

A match was played in the early 1920s between the then current Burbage team and a team of Veterans. Was this a commemorative match following the First World War? The reason is not known but there was a very large gathering of players of all ages and friends at the cricket ground and the story is related that the Veterans won.

Albert Haddon also features in another picture of Burbage cricketers in the early 1920s — sitting with his cricket bat.

Also in the picture is Harold Waring standing 2nd left. Harold joined the club about 1922 and became a stalwart over the next 10/15 years. He was a great footballer as well as cricketer and spent twenty two years as secretary for the South Leicestershire Football League. Harold was secretary/treasurer at Burbage Cricket Club for ten years from 1925 and he toured North Wales with other club members at the invitation of Wilfrid Hall and, judging from the photographs at the time, it proved a very enjoyable holiday Harold was playing with Jack Dobson at the time of their 1st wicket record stand of 131 in the match against Narborough; Harold scored 60 and Jack 69 with only 2 runs being counted as extras and in 1930 he was the recipient of a bat for the best batting average in the season. Jack Dobson received the bat for the best batting average of 19 from 10 innings in 1931.

Campion and Arthur Haddon, Wilf Hall at the rear in striped blazer. Burbage National School team 1922 outside the pavilion.
Campion and Arthur Haddon, Wilf Hall at the rear in striped blazer. (left/top)
The Veterans' opponents — apparently losers on this occasion including the Rice brothers and Wilfrid Hall. (right/bottom)

The 1920s and 1930s appeared to be a golden time for Burbage cricket; they were running three teams — the 3rd team playing matches on land at the top of Sunnyhill. Annual dinners and social events were very popular. At the annual dinner in 1925 held at the Co-operative Hall, Charles Hands presiding, eighty members and friends 'did full justice to the repast ably served by the Burbage Co-operative Society'. At this event Wilfrid Hall relinquished the post of secretary as he was taking up a professional position in North Wales, but he remarked on the excellent financial position of the club although they were £15 short on the previous year's total. This deficiency was due to poor gate receipts of £11.3s.11d when season tickets sold amounted to £10.12s.6d. (Perhaps we could charge the odd spectator who graces the Hinckley Road ground these days!).

The League had 56 teams playing in 6 divisions. At the annual meeting of the League in 1924 Wilf Hall proposed that each club should have sight screens and we have reminiscences from old players that a set of sight screens were provided fitted with enormous lorry wheels. As well as village teams, there were many factory teams and church teams, especially strong were the Wesleyan teams from Burbage, Sapcote and Earl Shilton. There was an annual factory competition with the likes of Sketchley Dyeworks, Atkins, Robinson Bros, so that many Burbage players would often be playing in more than one team — for their local church, place of employment and the community. In 1924 a new pavilion was built on the Rugby Road playing fields for Sketchley Dye Works which provided for football, cricket, tennis and bowls and annual gala days were held in the summer with cricket and tennis matches being held between departments. In 1925 Fred Rice scored 77 in helping the hosiery department beat the garment section who only managed to score 40.

Jack Dobson (left) and Harold Waring celebrate their opening stand of 131 against Narborough in August 1930.
Jack Dobson (left) and Harold Waring celebrate their opening stand of 131 against Narborough in August 1930.

In June 1926 Tom Godfrey recorded a hat trick in a match against Blaby 2nds when that team was dismissed for 27 runs. Burbage had batted first and scored 49 runs - not a formidable task for Blaby to overcome. However Godfrey's 6 wickets for 6 runs soon sent Blaby back to the pavilion in a total of 14 overs. Tom's hat trick was performed with the last three balls of the innings. On another occasion however in 1927 Tom and his team members could only muster 22 in a match against Newbold Verdon who had scored 44. Only five Burbage batsmen managed to score any runs at all, the highest number being 11 from Jack Campton and six were out for ducks.

Matches at this time were generally very low scoring with innings rarely reaching 100. It has to be remembered that outfields were not cut as they are today and unless a ball cleared the boundary it was unlikely that any ball would run far in the long grass. Cow pats were another problem to overcome — and we make complaints about dog mess! Innings were of about two hours duration with tea taken between each innings and matches usually finished by 7.30 pm.

By the end of the decade; Ernie Riley was playing regularly with Fred Rice, Jack Dobson, Harold Waring and Herbert Moore. Ernie came from a very well known Stoney Stanton sporting family; his father; Edwin, had been a professional cricketer in Cheshire. Two of Ernie's brothers had been killed in the First World War and his other brothers were cricketers, Harold playing for Leicestershire. Two of Harold's children, Howard and Bob played football for Leicester City. At the end of the 1931 season, Ernie is shown as having the poorest batting average with 1.5 runs from 7 innings. But Ernie is not remembered for his batting but for his bowling and the 10 wickets he took for 13 runs in the match against Ratby on 3rd September 1932.

The newspaper report tells the story as follows: "One of the best bowling perform-ances of the season, and one which is probably unique to the League's long history, was achieved by E Riley of Burbage CC when playing against Ratby on the Burbage enclosure on Saturday. Riley took all ten Ratby wickets for 13 runs, no less than seven of his victims being clean bowled. His wonderful average was 18.4 overs, 8 maidens, 13 runs, 10 wickets."

The ball was mounted and presented to him by his colleagues. Not only did he take all the wickets but he was top scorer for Burbage on that occasion with 21 runs. Burbage won the match with 88 runs to 57. Unfortunately this magnificent feat was overlooked when the South Leicestershire League Centenary Handbook was published in 1996 and the first person to take 10 wickets was noted as H Smith of Stoney Stanton in 1940. We know Ernie — also from Stoney Stanton — achieved this feat in 1932.

The end of the decade also saw League success for Burbage. The third team won Division 6 in 1929 and Division 5 in 1930 a year after promotion and the same year the 2nds also won the Division 3 Championship.

The team about 1939—houses have replaced the prefabs on Hinckley Road.
The team about 1939—houses have replaced the prefabs on Hinckley Road. L-R Back: Mr Hill Norman Iliffe, Tom Heward, Geoff Rice, Roy Huddlestone, Walter Clough. Front: Harold Waring, Eric Hoden, Dickie Moore, Jack Attenborough, Basil Higgott, Roy Barton, Gordon Meats.

Geoff Rice, son of Fred and nephew of J Parker and J Palmer Rice joined the RAF early in the war and, following training in America, joined the 57 Squadron in February 1943 as a bomber pilot and flew in the Dambuster raids. Geoff's great friend, Gordon Meats, is noted in 1936 as breaking his nose when playing in a factory competition. "Fielding at square leg he tried to stop a fast ball, was hit in the face and a broken nose resulted".

1936 was the year that Fred Pearson joined Burbage Cricket Club after moving to Burbage from Stoke Golding. In short he remained a member of the club for the next 66 years. There are not many records of Fred's prowess as a player — he did score 55 in a match against Earl Shilton in 1941 — incidentally in the same match that Geoff Rice took 7 wickets for 19 runs, but he was undoubtedly a 'club' man. After his main playing days were over by the 1960s he took to umpiring and became a well respected figure on the South Leicestershire League circuit. He served on the committee in various positions culminating in 22 years as Chairman from 1958-1980. In 1982 he became President, a position he held until his death in 2002 at the age of 94. Fund raising by means of a tote became an important aspect of club life during the 1950s and 1960s and Fred organised this, travelling round the village on his bike and ensuring that he had returned to the Cross Keys in time for opening on a Sunday for the weekly payout. This money proved invaluable in later years when the Friends of Burbage Cricket Club opened a bank account and they were able to make a gift to the club when the motorised roller was purchased in 1972.

The Ernest Wright Trophy is presented to a player for continuous special services to a club or to the league and Fred received this Trophy on two occasions, in 1984 and again in 1998, the only person to receive the award twice. Other members of the club to receive the trophy were Keith Towers in 1992 now president of the club, 1990 Peter Caddy and 1989 Matthew Leech. Peter Caddy was another stalwart of the club and in conjunction with Fred ran the tote. He was also a committee member of the South Leicestershire League. He served the club as chairman and treasurer and as a reminder we have the immaculate accounts records highlighted in colour. Peter also left the club the Scoreboard and a set of boundary markers which he made himself and are still in use today.

In 2005, Tony Martin presented the Fred Pearson Memorial Shield to the club, to be awarded annually for the Most Outstanding Performance by any member of the club.

Fred Pearson with the first of his two Ernest Wright Trophies in 1984. Fred's seat at the Cross Keys Inn.
Fred Pearson with the first of his two Ernest Wright Trophies in 1984. (left/top)
Fred's seat at the Cross Keys Inn. (right/bottom)