Stock Cricket Club History

Unfortunately the date of the Club's foundation is unknown. A match is recorded as having taken place on Stock Common (then a much larger area of land) in 1769 and other matches followed in that century. In common with a number of local Clubs (Writtle for example) Stock Cricket Club registered with the Club Cricket Conference in 1850 but was probably established before then. Certainly the first pavilion, or rather a shed from Mr Low, was erected on the Common in 1854 by Mr Plume (one of whose descendants still played in 1974) for the princely sum of 12 shillings. That original building gave sterling service, remaining basically unchanged until 1959, when it was extended by the addition of two separate changing rooms (with single, cold showers that were mainly used to store deck chairs!) toilets and score-box. A kitchen of sorts was added, enabling teas to be provided in the pavilion rather than at the nearby Bakers Arms as had hitherto been the case. The rapidly changing pace of society meant that this old, wooden pavilion was considered too archaic by the mid-seventies, despite the installation of a bar in the late-sixties and, following some extensive fund raising, donations and grant aid, the current pavilion was opened in 1979 . Even then the old building was not finished as it was sold to a horse owner who demolished it carefully with a view to rebuilding it as stables.

The ground is on Stock Common, actually Village Green, since the 1960's legislation - owned by Lord Petre and leased from him for a peppercorn rent, so there has to be free access to the public and there have always been problems as a result: the elderly who insisted on walking across the ground directly to the bowls club or other destinations, whether a game was in progress or not, vandalism by a few, local youngsters and once - our only link with Headingley - as part of the free George Davis campaign in the Seventies.

And what of the Cricket? The setting is a classic one for the traditional village game. The outfield, surrounded by trees that are largely backed by houses, undulates, while the wicket, which is now of excellent quality, sits slightly off centre to give very short boundaries in different directions depending upon where the wicket is set. Thus with a better wicket and bigger bats there are occasional conflicts with some of the neighbours as balls soar into gardens or onto houses. Fortunately the cricket was probably there before any of the houses!

The earliest surviving scorebooks date from the 1870's, initially with five-ball overs. Games were not confined to weekends - in a predominantly farming community availability would have depended on the demands of the land so games could be played on any day of the week (except sunday until 1970). Matches set out to be two innings affairs but the conventions seem less than fair to the modern eye. If the side batting first could do so it was accepted that they could keep on batting until stumps were drawn and the unfortunate, mis-matched fielding team would go home without having had a chance to wield the willow! Such occurrences were rare on wickets that were bowler friendly but it was common for a side to be bowled out twice and then have to continue bowling at the already victorious team until the agreed finish time.

Elderly ex-players, now all sadly deceased, told me tales of travelling to the closer away matches on push-bikes that were festooned with Club pads, bats etc. Otherwise the village charabanc owner conveyed the team to further destinations - a practice that continued for a while after the Second World War. Before the advent of the motor car/bicycle it would have been horse drawn transport or shank's pony, of course. Between the wars a fixture with Laindon was timed to coincide with an East End shirt factory's annual outing to Southend so that the players could meet up with the girls in the Fortune-of-War! Surprisingly even in the 19th century matches were played against teams from quite far afield - from East London for instance - whether they were a kind of weekend tour is not recorded but it must have been a pretty time consuming journey by train and whatever horse-drawn transport was available.

Until the advent of gang-mowers volunteers cut the outfield with scythes and I have been assured that skylarks nested in the outfield - certainly fours are rarer than sixes in the 19th century scorebooks. Many of the surnames in those old books appeared on the scorecards until the 1970's and the gentleman who preserved many of those books, Charles Cottee, would be delighted to know that his great grandson is carrying on the family tradition into the 21st Century.

The First World War was particularly devastating for Stock, not only were many of the pre-war team killed but The Common was commandeered as a Royal Horse Artillery depot and one can only guess at the rutted mess that was left when they withdrew. Undaunted a delegation went to the War Office and secured a grant of £10.11s to help with the restoration of the ground. That may not seem much but the 1913 accounts reveal that the annual Club income was only £9.18s.0d with expenditure of £8.9.7d, leaving an enhanced balance of £2.16s1d! The expenditure included the purchase of bats, gloves, balls etc for £4.1s.9d! Today three noughts have to be added to the income/expenditure pounds and the resulting figures virtually doubled.

New players are always welcome (contact us through the email links below if you are interested). Village residency is certainly not a pre-requisite in these days of motorised transport - indeed one of the problematic changes is that rising house prices in Stock make it unusual for people young enough to play cricket to be able to purchase a house in the village, whereas even 20 years ago we seemed to pick up new players regularly from such newcomers; while village youngsters invariably have to move away to find affordable housing. It is now about 25 years since village sides in Mid-Essex could claim that they truly drew most of their players from within the parish.