A brief History of Stony Stratford Cricket Club
Stony Stratford Cricket Club is the sole ECB Premier Division club in Milton Keynes, North Bucks and South Northants. ECB Premier Divisions are recognised as the highest form of non-minor county cricket across the England.
Where did it all begin, we have alleged dates ranging from the late 1890’s to even earlier mentions of the club in the mid 1870’s.
Stony Stratford Cricket Club’s “Big Bang” was going to need the Higgs Bosun to date its definitive birth date, it seemed. Fortunately technology in the form of a laptop, membership to the National Newspaper Archive and some long hours searching phrases like “cricket” and “Stony Stratford” have borne fruit.
The Windsor and Eton Journal -Saturday 18th September 1841
“On Wednesday, the 15 instance of September, a match was played between eleven single and eleven married members of the Stony Stratford Cricket Club. The married scored 66 in the two innings, which was beat by the single in one innings, they scoring 89. After the game was concluded they sat down to an excellent dinner at the Cock Hotel.”
And so we had the first recorded instance of cricket being played in the name of Stony Stratford, from this starting point we have been able to identify further games that took place between other team from this date. Matches were against Buckingham, Towcester, Walton Park, Hardwick and Whittlebury.
All these games would have involved travel by the Stony Stratford team, or the visitors and horse and cart would have been the chosen method, only 2 horse-power, but fuel was free and readily available at the verges of roads managed by turnpikes and tolls. However the risk of being robbed remained and Highway men were the latter day “Little Chefs” of the time. Queen Victoria was enthroned just 4 years before the game mentioned above took place and life in Stony Stratford would be unrecognisable to today, save for the ever present Cock and Bull Hotels as well as the market square and other public houses.
It was a further cutting from a local Northampton paper that identified the clubs true formation;
Northampton mercury Saturday the 8th of May 1869
"A meeting of the young men connected with the various places of business in the town, was held at the Bull Hotel, Stony Stratford, on Tuesday Evening last, to consider the propriety of forming a Cricket Club for morning practice. After a secretary, treasurer and committee had been elected, the subscriptions for ordinary and honorary members fixed, and a few rules for the guidance of the members laid down, the name of the club was enrolled as the “Excelsior.” There are on the list of members upwards of 30 names, including honorary names”
How grand a name to be christened, “Excelsior”, a Latin translation brings us “Ever Upward”.
Matches that took place following the clubs formation expanded to include not only other local teams, but also invitational eleven’s representing land owners and wealthy dignitaries. In some instances talented cricketers, that would normally have had to work a weekday, would be called up to play in the teams, they would be fed and watered and have their pay “made up” for missing a days’ work. These working men can be recognised as the first “paid” sportsmen, during a period of time where Gentlemen and Players were two completely different breeds.
By the turn of the century cricket had been played at numerous locations in Stony Stratford, the field behind what was the Barley Mow public house (end of the high street), or on land where St Mary and St Giles middle school is now located.
In 1921 a donation from the recently formed Ancell Trust enabled the town to have a permanent ground, which is where we play to this day on the Ostlers lane.
A donated railway carriage from Wolverton Works was the original Pavilion, and remained so until a development in 1937 to build the pavilion as it is seen now, sympathetically, the original railway carriage was incorporated into the build and its panels and domed ceiling can still be seen in the kitchen and bar area. Further extensions have occurred in the intervening years, however the character and history of the building remains at the forefront of all works, and its traditional wood and veranda frontage remains, most recent renovations took place in 2012 following a grant from Sports Council which has ensured the building and cricket will remain in Stony Stratford for a 100 years more.
The cricket club became a focal point of town life in the first half of the 20th century and generations of local families have played and still play, or have been involved with the club ever since. Horse and carts would take the early Stony Stratford Cricket teams to away matches in the surrounding villages of Passenham and Deanshanger and like many clubs at that time, ours was built on a tradition of playing friendly cricket, though local bragging rights ensured they were extremely competitive.
Through the 1940’s and 50’s the club would continue with a busy schedule of these friendly games, and with the advent of roads and accessible alternative forms of transport (Cars and Coaches) Stony were able to play their cricket further afield, entering the wilds of Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire. Still in the throes of the end of the Second World War money was tight and fund raising would be carried out in the form of “Whist Drives” and raffles, as well as an annual dance. Whist prizes would 2 packets of cigarettes and a small bottle of whiskey for the men, and a joint of meat and Turkish delight for the ladies.
Throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, we established a reputation for being one of the most competitive sides in the area, despite not playing any league cricket we boasted some of the most talented cricketers in the area. The main reason for cricket during this time was as much for the social side of things as the playing side. The baby boom of the swinging sixties sore a plethora of well attended parties, tramp suppers, Barbecues and dinner dances some of which gained press coverage in their own rite.
A strong relationship with Northamptonshire cricket club also began and regular “benefit” games were played against teams featuring famous cricketers of the time, Mushtaq Mohammed, Peter Willey, George Sharp and Yorkshires Geoffrey Boycott to name but a few and over the years players for Northampton have presented awards to the trophy winners at the annual cricket dinner and dance, amongst them Allan Lamb and Frank Tyson. This strong bond with the county resulted in the cricket clubs new showers being opened by England and Northants opening batsmen Colin Milburn in the spring of 1968.
First successes on the pitch were also seen as Stony won 4 midweek knockout cups during this time.
It was the great sides of this era that established ‘Stony’ as one of the stronger teams in the Milton Keynes / North Bucks area.
As the 70’s ended and the city of Milton Keynes expanded a new influx of quality players began to crave for a greater challenge and by 1981, the lure of league cricket had become impossible to ignore. Though there was healthy competition in the friendly games that were being played, and slight trepidation of what League cricket could do to the fabric of the club, the members chose to vote on entering the 1st and 2nd XI into the Northants County League, and this was carried. This resulted in not only the playing membership expanding as families moved into the ever expanding Milton Keynes but also the junior section growing, as aspiring “colts” challenged for places in the senior team (now the Northants Cricket League structure).
The cricket club firmly established itself in the league during the 1980’s. Success came in the form of a trophy or two from Wolverton Knockout Cup which was largely due to the under 18’s cricket that was providing a steady stream of young talent to supplement the experience. Equally important during this time, the social aspect of the club continued to bring new members and supporters to the club with summer pig roasts and Vice Presidents games added to the annual calendar of events.
The 1990’s saw the much awaited league success on the field of play with both sides promoted through the divisions. The ever expanding playing membership was such that a 3rd XI was added to the 2 other teams playing league cricket on a Saturday, joining the Northants Alliance (which latterly merged with the NCL). In 1997, the 1st XI were promoted to the Premier Division of the County League going the whole season unbeaten, after a couple of near misses. The 1998 season also saw Stony Stratford recruit their first of many overseas players, 17 year old Shannon Tubb from Tasmania.
Fresh from being the youngest Australian to enter the Australian cricket academy Shannon was quickly recognised as the leading overseas player in the league and his presence enhanced Stony Stratford credentials and as a result recruiting top players in the area was not a problem.
The “00’s” saw the clubs finest moment as Stony were crowned Premier Division champions for the first time in its history in 2001, with a team that, it is argued, was the finest yet. As a result, the club were promoted to the Northants Cricket Championship, which held ECB Premier Division status and was home to some very strong sides from Northants, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, with most featuring recently retired first class players.
Whilst the First XI were conquering all before them the 2nd XI saw glory of their own with promotions through Division 4, to 3 and recently to Division 2. More impressive than this was the 3rd XI who saw 3 successive promotions and a leap from Division 9 through to Division 5 in 2012.
Throughout these “00’s” until today Stony’s knack of attracting the best overseas players continued, Test Capped Dwight Washington from Barbados, Abongile Sodumo of South Africa who was understudy to Mark Boucher at the time, Simon Harmer also of South Africa who now plays 1st class cricket in South Africa and perhaps the much heralded Dion Ibrahim form Zimbabwe Test and One Day Vice captain. All these players donated time and experience to developing the senior and junior talent at the club ensuring the clubs quality of cricket increased year on year.
The last 10 years at Stony Stratford have been dominated by two words, “Junior Cricket”, first there were a few, then there were more, then we need more coaches, then more equipment, then more grounds and we now boast a junior membership of fast approaching 200. Under 7’s through to under 16’s, a girls cricket section and this season sees the launch of a Ladies team, Summer camps, bowling machines, Junior six a side tournaments and county representation in various age groups for boys and girls. All this shows that Stony Stratford is in very good health. We have a reputation for playing competitive cricket but within the spirit of the game across the leagues we play in, we are committed to our junior development and recently began making donations to charities following fund raising events. Local businesses in Milton Keynes have been keen to partner with us for Advertising opportunities and we were invited to replace the Northants Cricket Academy as the team in residence at Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, a pitch that was recently recognised as the finest in the Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire. The season 2016 will see the 1st and 2nd teams playing their league matches at Ostlers Lane and the 3rd and 4th teams playing home games at Campbell Park.
The story of Stony Stratford cricket club has been a journey through the ages, and the future looks positive for the club to continue making history for years to come.