Bats of Willow and Balls of Leather

The History of Burbage Cricket Club

The War Years and Afterwards

The South Leicestershire Cricket League was suspended with the outbreak of war in 1939 and did not resume until 1946 but Burbage along with several other local clubs helped to keep up morale by playing as much cricket as possible with those older players who were not on active service. Harold Alsop and Herbert (Dickie) Moore were two stalwarts at this time and the team had some great successes. Matches were played against Earl Shilton, Stoney Stanton, Hinckley PSA (Pleasant Saturday or Sunday Afternoon) and Harwell. There were inter club matches against W A Hall's XI, matches against the Army the 2nd Training Battalion RAOC and the Home Guard.

In 1940 the 2nd team won the Division C championship and in 1944 and 1945 there were cup successes. The 1945 match is noted as being the Norton Cup Final against Earl Shilton and played at Kirkby Road, Harwell but perhaps it was another cup competition because according to the centenary booklet, the A J Norton Cup competition didn't begin until 1952. Nevertheless, whatever the cup success, Frank Petcher recalls the euphoria felt everywhere with the ceasing of hostilities and the reunion of old friendships.

Harold Alsop receiving the winner's trophy in 1945 at Kirkby Road, Barwell. The winning 1945 team.
Harold Alsop receiving the winner's trophy in 1945 at Kirkby Road, Barwell. (left/top)
The winning 1945 team. L-R Back: Bernard Taylor, Ron Robertshaw, Frank Petcher, Herbert Hall, Jack Kent, Alf Nelson, Norman Uffe, Wilfrid Hall. Front: Ken Morris, Shirley Moore, Harold Alsop, Dickie Moore, Reg Burton. (right/bottom)

In 1945 the biggest hit ever known was recorded by Harold Alsop in a match against Barwell. The ball landed in Hinckley Road apparently in the gutter in front of St Catherine's Church and we actually won that match against Barwell, a feat not often achieved.

The school teams continued during the war years — "Sapcote Juniors won a low scoring cricket match with Burbage Juniors dismissing them for 19 after only scoring 31 themselves." Top scorer for Burbage on this occasion in 1945 was A Hollingworth with 10 runs.

Burbage won the 2nd Division Championship in 1949 and the A J Norton Cup in 1955, but trophies and championships were hard to come by in the early years after the Second World War. The Minutes Book records the decision in 1951 to start running a Youth Team with the youngsters paying 2/- per week. They quickly made their mark with Minor Division Championship success in 1953 and 1957. Throughout the early years and into the 1960s Mick Hurst had responsibility for the youth team.

The Minutes Books reveal that match fees and subscriptions were not always paid and jumble sales were held to bolster the club funds at the end of a season. The Cross Keys was still the headquarters and all meetings held there and teams would meet there to travel to away games. Travel was usually by taxi with the odd private car. Weekly subscriptions for senior players were 2/6d with 1/6d being put towards travelling expenses. Those on ground duty would cut the square on a Saturday morning and mark out the boundary. The players involved at this time were Harold Alsop, Jack Attenborough, Fred Pearson Dickie Moore, Basil Higgot and Alf Charlton (son of Big Spoff) and Frank Petcher. Teas were a club routine with the wives and mothers taking turns at producing sandwiches and home made cakes — quite an achievement with post war time rationing. The tea urn would be taken to Ernie Foster's to be filled with hot water - the garden backed onto the ground — one of the new houses on Hinckley Road that had been built just prior to the war.

Burbage cricketers in 1955 at Hinckley Road.
Burbage cricketers in 1955 at Hinckley Road - L-R Back: Frank Petcher, Tom Heward, Tom Osborne, Mick Osborne, Francis Vaughan-Dale. Middle: Bob Denning, Harold Alsop, Basil Higgott, Dickie Moore, Harry Powers. Front: Jack Attenborough, Bill Millington.

In 1952 an advertisement was placed in the local paper to try to get more spectators along to matches — the club was still charging members of the public to come and watch! The matches were, however, not always very entertaining. In 1953 in a match against Dunton Bassett played at Burbage, Burbage were responding to a score of 157 for 4 declared which had "occupied Dunton Bassett from the start of the match until five minutes to six" (matches commenced at 2.30 pm). "This had proved decidedly unpopular with the spectators and raised all over again the vexed question in one-day matches of how long a team can continue to bat before it kills the match both as a game for the players and as a spectacle for that very important individual, the club supporter." There were calls from the spectators for the umpires to "pull up the stumps" when Burbage decided to "walk their runs" to the point that one Dunton Bassett fielder reclined full length on the ground whilst a ball was retrieved from the outfield and Burbage walked one run. The match was drawn when stumps were pulled at 7.30 pm. No doubt incidents such as this eventually led the League to introduce limited overs to the matches to give an incentive for the teams to make a decent score in as short a time as possible.

The gate money from the opening match in 1953 was donated to the Coronation Committee and the club received many requests for the use of kit and the ground from factory sides and the British Legion. These were usually accommodated as many of the players were Burbage men themselves.

In the photo (Burbage cricketers in 1955 at Hinckley Road), the shed on the right at the rear was the away team changing room and the benches are still in use at the clubhouse. Is this the team that won the A J Norton Cup in 1955, ten years since the previous win? One memorable occasion was the 100 not out scored by Jack Attenborough in a match against Enderby at the beginning of the 1950s — it was noted as being the first century scored by a Burbage batsman for 'a great many years' and enabled Burbage to record a rare victory over Enderby. Enderby batted first and scored 132 and then Burbage went into bat. The first three batsmen were out for 29 runs and Enderby probably thought there would be a favourable outcome, but Jack went in and carried his bat until stumps were drawn by which time Burbage had amassed 172 and the innings included fourteen fours — outfields were improving and higher scores were being recorded more regularly.

A wicket was laid at the newly built Hastings High School in 1956 by En Tout Cas of Syston.
A wicket was laid at the newly built Hastings High School in 1956 by En Tout Cas of Syston.

As mentioned before many Burbage players not only played for the club but for factory or church teams that were active at the time and Burbage British Legion scored a victory in their championship in 1956 with a win over Humberstone to win the Humberstone Cup. Ron Payne, Fred Pearson, Basil Higgott were among the Burbage players. The Leicester team were skittled for 38 runs and Ron Payne scored 35 of the Burbage total of 74 to clinch the title.

Around this time Arthur Cross recalls a match played against Broughton Astley when that team had amongst its players Derek Hines and Arthur Rowley both Leicester City Football players. Enthusiastic Burbage supporters made audible adverse comments about the opposition bowling and Arthur Rowley's bowling action in particular. Arthur Rowley marched up to the spectator, who was considerably smaller than him, and threatened to 'do him some damage' if he didn't stop the barracking!

Another amusing incident Arthur recalls is when a batsman missed a ball and it hit his leg with such force that it ignited a box of matches in his trouser pocket. Unable to get his pads off quickly, his team-mates ripped his trousers off in an effort to put out the flames!

Mr Hubbard, the first PE teacher at Hastings High School in 1956.
Mr Hubbard, the first PE teacher at Hastings High School in 1956.

In 1956 a new secondary school had been built on land that had once been Boffey's farm off the Lash Hill path — Hastings. John McNaughton recalls as a lad helping the men from En-tout-Cas at Syston laying out a cricket square on the playing field and this was first used in the summer of 1957. Occasionally the school has used the club ground on Hinckley Road for some games, as has John Cleveland College.

Alf Malkin was a player who joined the club during the late 1950s after playing for the Gas Board. He became a committee member and Chairman and helped shape the club over the next twenty years playing principally for the second team. He was one of the members instrumental in persuading the Urban District Council that the club deserved a new pavilion on the ground and that was opened in 1966. It was Alf who introduced Keith Towers to the club in 1959 to begin an association that still continues today. Alf recalls an incident when the second team used to use John Cooper's mini bus to travel to away matches. On the return from Dunton Bassett they would call at the Plough & Horses at Frolesworth and some players were apt to get somewhat merry. When the landlord asked where these men had come from Alf said they were on a day out from Carlton Hayes (a mental institution) and their boisterous behaviour was accepted! Alf says his proudest moment was selling the old man powered roller to the Open University at Milton Keynes, he says for an undisclosed sum (The 1974 accounts show the roller was sold for £150).

Keith Towers was a nine year old living on Hinckley Road and he enjoyed watching the cricket matches from his garden. One day early in the 1959 season he was approached by Alf Malkin and asked if he would score for them and Keith agreed. Keith recalls he was offered 2/- to do the job, Alf thinks he paid him 2/6d! The third match of the season was away at Barton in the Beans; the team were short of players and Keith was asked to play. He hadn't come prepared to play just to score and he was only wearing open sandals. As the outfield hadn't been cut and the grass was long, Alf placed him within the square to field and the inevitable happened, he was hit on the toe by a cricket ball. He carried on playing and went into bat at no. 8 and scored 7 runs. It was not until two weeks later when his toenail turned black and fell off that his parents were aware that he had played. Keith's dad went up to the Keys to 'have words with Alf but that didn't stop him playing. Years later though the nail was still troublesome and it was surgically removed! Keith continued to score and play and joined the Ul 8 when he was 14. By 1967 he was a regular in the second team and the next year he also joined the committee and became secretary/treasurer — a big responsibility for an 18 year old. Keith was usually a batsman but he eventually found his true position, behind the wicket and he continued in that role for the rest of his playing days. Keith's cricketing days came to an end in 1987 when his knees began to give him trouble and he took to umpiring, something he continues to this day, principally in the Coventry area where he now lives. Keith was awarded the Ernest Wright Trophy in 1992 for services to Burbage and umpiring on the South Leicestershire League circuit and he was appointed Club President in 2004.

Fred being congratulated by Keith Towers when he was awarded the Ernest Wright Trophy in 1998
Fred being congratulated by Keith Towers when he was awarded the Ernest Wright Trophy in 1998.

In 1961 Burbage won the Division II championship and were promoted to Division I for the 1962 season. However their results were not always of the highest calibre. In a match against Dunton Bassett, Burbage were all out for 35 and Dunton Bassett managed to reach 36 without loss of wicket and the 2nd team were not faring much better. In the same awarded the Ernest Wright week they played Sapcote who Trophy in 1998. were all out for 42, but Burbage were all out for 25! This was in May at the beginning of the season but, once into their stride, better results followed. By June the 1st team had beaten Countesthorpe by 56 runs with the visitors being all out for 59 and Burbage scoring 115. The second team also were improving; the same week they beat the College by 7 wickets in an away match. The College were all out for 48 and Burbage scored 50 for the loss of three wickets. The first team also scored a memorable victory over Broughton Astley who had spent over 10 years among the top three teams of the 1st Division. Burbage were all out for 49 runs and Broughton must have thought this would be an easy win but they had not considered Knight's demon bowling and he took 7 wickets for 14 runs.

During 1962 several meetings took place with the Football Club and Burbage Old Boys about pooling resources to form a Burbage Sports and Social Club with private premises somewhere in Burbage. No details are available about where the ground might be, the Burbage Old Boys keeping details secret. However the cricket club, along with the football club, decided that they didn't want to lose their independence and voted at the AGM in March 1963 10 for and 19 against the proposal to move towards merging the clubs.

Burbage 2nd's cricket team in 1964. Burbage cricket team in 1966 outside the newly constructed pavilion.
Burbage 2nd's cricket team in 1964 - L-R Back: M Porter, R Mason, R Grove, F Ellis, M Henton, T Smith. Front: G Lucas, J Campion, A Malkin, A Grant, S Spencer. (left/top)
Burbage cricket team in 1966 outside the newly constructed pavilion - L-R Back: Umpire, Rodney Grove, Ewan Hall, Harry Powers, Don Finlay, Michael Hurst, John Cooper, Michael Smith, Umpire. Front: Albert Wright, John Campion, Bernard Langham, Alan Grant, Terry Smith. (right/bottom)