Some Recollections of Breedon Cricket Club
By Maurice Harvey
Before 1939 Breedon and Cloud Hill Cricket Club had its headquarters at "The Poplars" a cricket ground adjacent to what was Tonge Station - now a family residence. I can just recall matches being played there since my father was a team member.
Because of the 1939-45 war years cricket was suspended and only began again in 1946. Since the Poplars field was well outside the village, cricket was resumed on the "Berryfield" situated on the corner of Tonge Lane and Breedon Main Street. As before, the local stone company sponsored the game and over a short period of time, the ground was levelled as much as possible and a beautiful square was made. Initially, the square did not wear well and cricket was played on a cocoa matting wicket. It was stated that rock from the hill was too near the surface. However, as a result of consultations with the Derbyshire C.C.'s Senior groundsman, eventually a superb grass square was laid and a first class wicket was produced. At the same time other ground improvements were made - seats all the way round for spectators, a grandstand pavilion with lounge facilities. All of this was due to Capt. C.F. Shields, Managing Director of B and C.H. Lime Works, and now our much respected President. He was fanatically devoted to the game of cricket and spared no expense on ground improvements. He never missed a Sunday game when the 1st XI performed and would drive on to the ground in his beautiful Rolls Royce, park and sit and watch the match. The ground was further enhanced when a large tea shop was built to provide refreshments for the players and crowd alike. For the welfare of the visitors, a tennis court was built together with swings and a paddling pool for the children. There was ample parking space for cars. The parking fee was a nominal 10p per car. Collections were made each Sunday and the money obtained was given to a worthwhile charity.
There were no membership fees to pay and all the players had to do was to provide his own whites. All other equipment was provided by the club. The Breedon Company even bought a bus to take teams and their guests to away matches - these were played on Saturdays. All Sunday matches were played at home, and why not, we could always expect a crowd of 2 to 3,000 spectators who supported the game of cricket - and Breedon in particular. People came from as far away as Nottingham, Tamworth, Derby and other nearby towns. The ground in fact became a miniature County Ground and dare I say was the envy of many local clubs. Because the ground was rather small, it was a regular occurrence to see 4 or 500 runs scored on a Sunday and I can say that Breedon won most of its matches. It was great entertainment and the crowds loved it - sixes on to the Hill, into the Vicarage grounds, over the pavilion, into adjoining fields and many into the spectators. Visiting teams had to be of a very high standard otherwise it would be "no contest". I will tell you why in the next issue of The Parish Times.
When cricket resumed in 1946, Mr Tom Carter, representative for Breedon Quarries, was appointed captain. Players were drawn basically from the parish and members of the Stone Company. I first played in 1947 whilst still at Ashby Grammar School. I had been coached by George Geary, a former England player, who was also a coach with Leicestershire C.C.C. Initially, Breedon played against local clubs in the area, and because of our great facilities, it wasn't long before clubs from a wider area of the Midlands wanted to visit Breedon. By this time, Mr John Shields, son of Capt. Charles Shields, became captain, and what a fine leader he proved to be! Mr Frank Wakefield was honorary secretary; the chairman was Robert Harvey with Albert Atkins as treasurer. Going into the 1950's there was not a better run cricket club in all of England!
Many 'local lads' became fine players, even verging on county standard. Names like the brothers John and Ken Danvers come to mind. Ken was a batsman of very high quality. He had time to play shots and time to alter his stroke when necessary - this is a natural instinct and a quality rare in a batsman. John, his brother, was an all-rounder who always merited his place in the side. Terrance Miller - initially from Tonge - was as good a fast bowler you could wish to see. He was ably supported by Baz Farmer - father of our Mandy Pearce, school secretary. Baz always kept the team alive with his repartee, especially in the pavilion and he was a great raconteur. At this time, Kevin Willmore played, Ken and Grenville Wright, David Jordan - whose father was the groundsman - Wally McMorran from Worthington, Dennis Mason, Jimmy Jones (a superb wicket keeper), Loll Wakefield, the Vicar 'Bill' Leader, Ralph Hallam, Headmaster of the School, Mick Wakefield who later became captain and Horace Chetwyn, opening batsman, who again could have been a county player. However, he chose to become the publican of 'The Holly Bush', in Breedon!
As time passed, players from far and wide were invited to play. Walter Watts, Bill Dawson, a first class wicket keeper, Chris and Peter Boardman and Richard Fowkes, known as 'The Beard' because of his big black bushy beard. At the same time Capt. Shields introduced Mr Arnold Townsend, former opening batsman for Derbyshire. Arnold came as coach as well as player. He was a lovely man who quietly gave guidance and advice and was much respected.
Later, more ex County players joined the club and now Breedon C.C. was becoming a very formidable outfit. Norman West, Alan Revill and George Dawkes came from the Derbyshire C.C. and Don Munden from Leicestershire. Another Derby player was Albert Mays who also Captained Derby County at football.
The playing strength was so enhanced by these men that Breedon C.C. became equivalent to a Minor Counties XI. Having said this, many locals still retained their places - the Danvers boys and yours truly for example. I must make mention of the local umpires, Jack Tivey and Alf Hicklin and of course the dedicated scorer David Makins, brother to John who had the T.V. business in Melbourne.
With such a strong playing membership, we played many combined XI's as well as some local teams. N.C.B. Sherwood Lodge always brought a side full of ex-county players like Geo and Harold Pope, Bill Voce and Cyril Poole.
Breedon 1st XI, playing at home on Sundays, became very professional. A player scoring 50 runs was given one pound and two pounds for scoring 100 runs. A bowler taking five wickets earned one pound and two pounds for taking seven wickets or more. A fielder taking three catches received a pound. At the same time, a barrel of beer was available to players in the pavilion - really for drinking at the close of play. You will thus appreciate that some players therefore, especially our imports, took too much advantage of these rewards!
I believe that this type of indulgence laid the foundation for the club to eventually fold up. There were many other more serious factors too, but it would not be appropriate for me to mention those!
I cannot complete my recollections without mentioning the Saturday XI and Second Team players. They in fact were the backbone of the club and indeed kept Sunday players on their toes! In the early 60's I ran the local youth club from the Community Centre and naturally formed a junior XI from my club. One player came to the fore, Colin Wakefield. He is still playing, creekingly, for Melbourne C.C.!
Other aspects must be mentioned like the many charities that enjoyed benefits from our donations.
There were musical players in the score box before matches and during intervals and during the many social events arranged by the club committee. Generous prizes were awarded at an annual supper in Breedon Café and during the winter months, Capt. Shield allowed the use of the 'Blue Room' for snooker and billiards.
What a sad time when the club eventually folded 1967-68. Wilfred Atkins, the then Secretary cried and privately so did many other members! Breedon cricket was the best advert Breedon Stone Company ever had.
In the 20 years when cricket was played on the 'Berry', the game, dare I say, almost became a religion. Members of the parish were such great supporters and literally lived for Saturdays and Sundays! They too were sad when it all ended.
Apologies for names omitted.