From W.G.Grace to Jack Russell
Moreton’s Famous Cricket Ground
“I enjoyed the friendly atmosphere during our matches at Moreton-in-Marsh Cricket Club, and they were always well supported. Great Days. I can’t think of anything more delightful than playing cricket in the heart of the Cotswolds. Magic!”
In 1856 a Meeting took place at The White Hart Hotel in Moreton when the decision was made to form Moreton in Marsh Cricket Club and land for the pitch was donated by the Batsford Estate on Batsford Road where cricket has been played for the past One Hundred and Fifty Eight Years. The first ever fixture took place against Wellsbourne which ended in a Draw.
The facility obviously was developed to a standard that in 1884 Gloucestershire County Cricket Club led by legendary father of cricket W.G.Grace chose to play county matches at the ground. The first game was against Yorkshire and was a low scoring affair with W.G. only scoring 18 runs in two innings. Gloucestershire were skittled out for 43 in the second innings to give Yorkshire the win by 41 runs.
Further county games took place until 1888 and then returned for one game in June 1914 against
Local rivals Worcestershire who won comfortably by 180 runs.
In the excellent book by local historian Ken Fowler on the role of honour of those who fell in the war records that George Thomas Handy of Croxdale Terrace Moreton who was killed at the Battle of Doirain in 1917 was a player and grounds man at Moreton Cricket Club prior to the war. One suspects many of the local men who served were involved in the team. Cricket continued at the ground post war and in 1925 a new pavilion was opened and marked with a picture.
With the advent of the One Day Cricket in the late 1960’s Moreton again became a venue for Gloucestershire County Team to play games. On Saturday the 6th of May 1972 Gloucestershire hosted Hampshire in a Benson and Hedges Cup match. The legendary Hampshire opening partnership of Gordon Greenidge and Barry Richards were on hand to set Hampshire on the way to a comfortable win with despite the presence of Gloucestershire’s own hero Mike Proctor. The following day Essex visited in a John Player League game and despite the presence of England players Keith Fletcher and John Lever in their side they were thumped by 6 wickets by Gloucestershire with Procter and David Shepered both hitting over 50. Shepered went on to be a much loved umpire famous for his lifting his one foot off the ground on the score one hundred and eleven which deemed to be an unlucky number and known as Nelson in the cricket world.
The Sunday league game then became an Annual fixture at Moreton with visits from Surrey and Sussex before those doing the fixtures obviously looked at a Map and scheduled games against either Warwickshire or Worcestershire for the rest of the 1970’s.So the Moreton crowd boosted by their county neighbours were able to watch the talents of both England players of the time and the
overseas legends Alvin Kallicharran, Zaheer Abbas and Clive Lloyd. Former England Captain and now anchor of Sky Sports Cricket David Gower along with BBC Test Match Special’s Jonathan Agnew both visited in the Leicestershire side of 1981. Unfortunately the game was washed out by rain and was more famous for the Team bus getting stuck in the mud behind the pavilion. I’m sure this was the subject of much merriment in the Bar that day.
Question of Sports Phil “tuffers” Tuffnell turned his arm over at Moreton taking 4 for 43 when visiting with Middlesex in 1993.This game was abandoned after the first innings due to a rain leading to a ungentlemanly rant at the umpires and anyone within range by England and Middlesex captain Mike Gatting who’s team could have won the league with a victory that day. His face was very red and the air very blue for 5 minutes after the game was called off.
I recall watching a game against Nottinghamshire in 1989 when the ground was graced by New Zealand Legend Sir Richard Hadlee and South Africa’s Clive Rice for Nott’s and Courtney Walsh and Jack Russell in the Gloucestershire line up.
The scorecards of these games threw up some unusual records. Alleyne Bowled Alleyne. In 1988 in a game against Kent we had two players of the same unusual name in the same match. This would be a coincidence enough but for one to bowl the other must have had the scorers laughing. Gloucestershire and England one day legend Mark Alleyne is the player known to most but he fell bowled for one by Hartley Leroy Alleyne who was Kent’s overseas player from Barbados.
Alan Lamb Caught Graveney bowled Twizell . I suspect England’s Alan Lamb would not have expected to have been one of only 8 wickets taken by Peter Twizell in his 6 game one day career for Gloucestershire when he played at Batsford Road in 1986 for Northamptonshire
Sadly the last game took place on 14th July 1996 against a Kent side containing West Indies Carl Hooper and England’s Graham Cowdrey and Mark Ealham. Gloucestershire who at this time were building towards a period when they were to become one of the top one day sides in the country won the game by 22 runs. Gloucestershire County stated that Commercial and Financial reasons the game at Moreton was no longer viable but it was noted that the Kent game at Moreton was the largest one day crowd for a Sunday League match Gloucestershire had that season with hordes of Kent fans using the train to visit Moreton and enjoy cricket at a unique ground.
The star of that day in my mind having taken my two young sons was Jack Russell. He was then at the height of his powers as England’s wicket keeper and a hero to many present. After the game finished he stood on the outfield for nearly an hour signing autographs for spectators and the odd photo, this being the days before a selfie! The rest of the team were already changed and were off in their sponsored cars back to Bristol before he got changed.
Jack Russell was often described as an eccentric with his legendary hat that he wore for most of his career shunning the sponsor’s caps and drinking 20 cups of tea a day supplemented with biscuits certainly made him different to the other players in the dressing room. He was also a talented artist and is famous for painting all the cricket grounds he played at and now has a gallery in Chipping Sodbury. His Picture of the Batsford Road Ground at Moreton is one of these treasures.
Moreton Cricket Ground remains one of the most picturesque of grounds in the Cotswolds with its views over to Batsford. In a recent book on Britain’s Lost Cricket Festivals by Chris Arnot there is an excellent section on Batsford Road in which he speaks to our current guardians of the ground Richard Henshaw and John Currill. To take us back to the days of W.G.Grace Richard Henshaw tells the story of a recent visit to the ground of a very by elderly man in fading health who had made the pilgrimage to the wicket where his great grandfather had dismissed W.G .Grace while playing for Somerset in 1885. The records show that C.E.Winter trapped the great man LBW for 16 which in view of W.G’S reputation for intimidating umpires and players alike was no mean feat.
Those of you who find yourself at the ground will be well aware of how well it is kept and I am sure if Gloucestershire County Team chose to return they would not play on a better surface. The Ground also hosts Moreton Tennis Club and Moreton Rangers Junior Football Team.
As for the future we are in an exciting partnership with North Cotswold Young Cricketers to make Moreton a centre of excellence for cricket in the North Cotswold with ambitious plans to build a first class net facility for all to use. With the excitement of an Ashes series against the Aussies in the summer what better place to come and enjoy some Cricket at this iconic location on your doorstep. You are welcome play in one of our teams as we are always happy to welcome players of any
standard or just come and watch and take in the views. We have a well-appointed Pavilion and Bar which can be hired for functions.