Stop - Start in the Post War Years

The Cricket Club that re-emerged in the early fifties contained several survivors of the pre-war side notably Jack Bareham, but in many ways it looked markedly different to its predecessor. There were significant changes at Cowley Park itself. The Parish Council now managed the ground, having taken charge in 1940, not because of the wartime emergency but as a result of a rather more parochial dispute over an accident on the children's playground !

Now with the cricket and football clubs back in business they re-organised the ground establishing football pitches either side of the cricket square. This remained the club's responsibility and very soon it appears the cricketers were taking on the mowing of the outfield as well, ensuring regular cutting for the first time.

Another more radical change came when the club secretary, John Scrutton wrote to the Parish Council seeking permission to play matches on Sundays. In her centenary history of the council published in 1994, Phyll Hendy records this was granted but matches were;

"to end thirty minutes clear before the 6.30pm. Church Service."

There is no record when this restriction was lifted but matches every Saturday and Sunday quickly became the norm as did midweek games in the Clacton and District Cricket League, which the club won in 1953. The accounts maintained by the treasurer Jimmy Woodford suggest a thriving club with 57 members ( including Vice-Presidents ) on the books for the 1954 season. There were also sufficient spectators to justify fundraising collections at most home games !

One of the feature matches of this time was the annual encounter with the Tendring Hundred Farmers, whose side sometimes included local luminaries such as the MP and village resident Julian Ridsdale, a good enough cricketer to have played for Sussex Young Amateurs, and the colourful owner of the Priory, Captain Somerset de Chair. Captain de Chair also turned out for St. Osyth on a number of occasions without unduly troubling the scorers.

The summer of 1959 was a particularly successful one with 40 members registered and the club winning 12 of its last 14 games. One of these was against Wivenhoe when the East Essex Gazette recorded:

" St. Osyth made club history by scoring more than 200 runs in an innings."


St. Osyth C.C. 1952: (back row from left) Michael Norman, John Knott, Reg Seaman, Stan Clark, Jack Bareham, Sid Morphew, Brian Newman,
W.Ross (umpire) Front row from left) Harold Stanley, Dave Ellingham, Albert Simpson, Jimmy Woodford.

Among the players forming the backbone of the side at this time were opening batsmen Jimmy Woodford and Ron Lord, all-rounders Bill Kettle and John Scrutton, wicketkeeper/batsman Sid Morphew and opening bowler John Knott, who had taken 93 wickets in the 1958 season.

Prospects initially looked bright in the 1960s with the emergence of Peter Bareham and Colin Bennett, who quickly began to make their mark with bat and ball, and the arrival of another accomplished batsman in Ron Woodward.

Relations with the parish council had been uneasy for some years with the state of the pavilion a source of lingering dissatisfaction. All this changed dramatically for a few months in 1964 when the council suddenly ditched its plans to convert the Johnson Institute into a village hall and proposed instead to build a new hall on Cowley Park which would also serve as an upgraded pavilion. Cricket Club members backed this enthusiastically at the annual parish meeting where the plan was supported despite some vocal opposition, but those who claimed the project was designed purely to appease the sports clubs were to find an unlikely ally in Somerset de Chair.

Under the trust deed the owner of the Priory has a right of veto on any new structural development on Cowley Park. Mr. de Chair duly exercised this with regard to the proposed building which would have extended from the existing site towards the war memorial. He was flexible enough to accept a new building at the opposite end of the ground, but although this would doubtless have found favour with the cricketers, the parish council felt it too far from the centre of the village and hastily beat a retreat. By way of compensation the sports clubs were promised improvements to the original pavilion, but little was to be accomplished on this until the 1990s.



St. Osyth Cricketers pictured at a barn dance at Park Farm c. 1965: (from left)
John Neave, John Scrutton, Bob Andrews, Peter Bareham, Mick Weston, Colin
Bennett, J.K Bond, Tom Lonsdale, Ron Woodward, Ron Lord.

Back on the field of play, St. Osyth had joined the Tendring District League on its formation in 1961. The club was still strong enough to win a rather diminished Clacton section of the league in 1966, but in other respects this was not a happy season. Membership was down, there were problems fulfilling fixtures and above all increasing difficulty in finding members to help with ground preparation. Matters came to a head at the 1967 AGM, which was given top billing in the East Essex Gazette sports section of 24th. February.

CRICKETING CRISIS HITS ST. OSYTH

" Crisis at St. Osyth ! Has the last over been bowled in the history of the local cricket club ! One is tempted to ask in view of the decision taken at the recent annual meeting at which, in spite of written notices to all members and posters in the village only 10 attended. Now each member is to be canvassed as to whether he wishes the club to continue to function."

The club president Andrew Faulds agreed to take the lead and write to every member. The Gazette went on:

" Prospects of cricket at Cowley Park next summer certainly look bleak. Messrs. Faulds and club chairman A.J. Bayley are hoping that the action taken will act as a challenge to all members and may well result in a stronger effort being made to get the club back on its feet."

This optimism was to prove completely misplaced. One month later Gazette sports editor Eric Rice was again devoting his lead story to the club's plight which now looked terminal.

NOT ENOUGH PLAYERS SO ST. OSYTH HAVE TO DRAW STUMPS

" St. Osyth C.C. have been bowled out by insufficient playing members. With no improvement apparent since the AGM, and considering the previous season's problems, the club secretary G.J. Yule announced that;

' the club have reluctantly decided that they must temporarily cease playing activities.' "

This meant the club would not be dissolved, and its officers and committee would remain in place. Eric Rice, worried
that too often such temporary closures became permanent, reflected sadly:

" Cowley Park has long been a centre of village cricket and some sturdy, friendly, league and cup battles have been waged there over the years."

There were in spite of these fears to be many more 'battles' to come. The prospects of an early resumption were immediately realistic because St. Osyth was undergoing the biggest expansion in its history. The population of the parish would almost double in the space of a few years with considerable development at Point Clear as well as the creation of the Longfields and Manfield estates.

As on a number of occasions much earlier in the club's history important impetus was now provided by the church. Canon Philip Palmer ( grandfather of our school's current headteacher ) became vicar of St. Osyth in 1968 having been a keen supporter of the cricket club in his previous parish, Great Oakley. In November of this year he joined forces with Jimmy Woodford to organise an open meeting to explore the prospects for a resumption. The incumbent secretary of the club ( which was of course still technically in existence ) G.J. Yule gave his support to the venture, although in a letter to Canon Palmer he does express considerable scepticism, especially with regard to ground maintenance.

" I am afraid that this may still be the main problem. In the past the club felt that they, somewhat unfairly, were carrying the burden of maintaining a 'square' on Cowley Park, and also cutting the outfield, providing and using their own equipment.

You may succeed in persuading the Parish Council to take a larger share of the financial burden. It is my belief that there would be little difficulty in raising a team if players could come to an already prepared ground, but that youngsters today will not perform the duties of a Groundsman. "

Variations on this latter theme continue to be heard at countless cricket clubs to this day, but the meeting was a success and with Canon Palmer and Jimmy Woodford installed as President and Chairman respectively, the club was brought back to life in time for the 1969 season.

Players were still required to perform the "groundsman's" duties, and Alan Rolfe who took on the captaincy recalls spending an immense amount of time trying to bring the pitches up to a satisfactory standard.

The reborn club did manage to attract some interesting recruits. Ian Cleverley scored heavily in his one year with the club before going on to enjoy many successful years at Clacton where he captained the 1st. XI. Another newcomer was the youthful Michael McEvoy, who impressed everyone with his immaculately straight bat if not his actual run scoring. This was bound to follow and it did as he progressed rapidly via Colchester Royal Grammar School and Colchester and East Essex to a career in county cricket firstly with Essex and then Worcestershire, for whom he made a first class century.

The flow of new recruits dried up in the seventies leaving the club almost exclusively reliant on Peter Bareham and Colin Bennett for wickets and runs. In hitting 116 against East Bergholt in 1973 Colin Bennett did achieve the distinction of becoming St. Osyth's first century maker, but victories were few and far between, and with other clubs beginning to embrace league cricket the fixture list declined appreciably.

The future looked particularly bleak in 1975 when with membership at an all time low, the club lost consecutive matches against Wivenhoe and Copford by margins of 252 and 246 runs respectively. Urgent action was clearly required to avert another closure and it came the following year when Digby Shuttleworth, who was shortly to take over as chairman, set up the club's first colts team for many years. The initiative was a great success; the colts competed creditably against opponents from much larger clubs, and soon a new supply of players was available to fill places in the senior side.


Another who played a big role in keeping the club afloat at this testing time was Norman Hazell. Although not the greatest of cricketers himself, he took on the captaincy in 1976 and was soon adding to this a whole host of other functions, not least the preparation of pitches and teas which he discharged virtually single handedly. He also gave a lot of time to the colts, including ferrying them en masse to matches, and remained a member of the club up until his untimely death in 1988.

 


The St. Osyth and Little Clacton teams pictured before the "Diamond Jubilee' match
to celebrate sixty years of cricket at Cowley Park, April 1982.

Real evidence of revival at senior level was a long time coming but it began to be apparent in 1982, when Mark Shuttleworth, now installed as secretary a post he continues to hold today, organised a special match to celebrate the 60th anniversary of cricket at Cowley Park. The opponents were Little Clacton exactly as in the original game in 1922, and although the visitors won comfortably the event helped put St. Osyth back on the cricketing map. The "Diamond Jubilee Match" as it was styled, marked the first appearance of John Hill as a St. Osyth player. Over the next decade he was to play an important role in the club's development, not only as a player but as captain for much of the 1980s.

The fixture list was now totally overhauled , results began to improve steadily and membership was growing apace, but still the condition of Cowley Park hung like a shadow over the club. After particular problems and not a few complaints about the pitches, the club announced that it would not arrange any matches on the ground for the 1985 season. Most matches would be played away with a limited number of 'home' games staged at Vista Road in Clacton. Once this became known and after some further wrangling the Parish Council stepped in and agreed to fund and organise a major programme of repairs to the 'table' ( more modern terminology for the cricket square ).

Cricket did return to the village on a limited basis in 1986, but it was to be another four years before the club felt confident enough to schedule its entire home programme at Cowley Park.

The 1986 season provided irrefutable evidence of the club's progress, with two players making outstanding individual contributions. Opening batsman Colin Dixon hit four centuries en route to becoming the first ever St. Osyth batsman to score 1,000 runs in the season. Dave Warner in only his second season with the club, matched this on the bowling front by taking in excess of 100 wickets, the first bowler to achieve this landmark since Jack Bareham almost fifty years before. The side which lost only eight of its 39 weekend matches was now ready for a greater challenge and accordingly applied successfully to join the Lancaster Garages League for the 1987 season.