Chislehurst and West Kent Cricket Club Bicentenary

OldprintAt its bicentenniel dinner on 22 March 2012,The Chislehurst & West Kent Cricket Club celebrated its long and distinguished history.

The Club, as its name implies, is an amalgam of the former Chislehurst Club and the West Kent Club. The latter was originally the Prince's Plain Cricket Club, founded in 1812 with its headquarters on Bromley Common. As a result of an Act of Parliament in 1821 enclosing Bromley Common, the Club was forced to move.

Viscount Sidney, Lord of the Manor of Chislehurst, was a member of the Prince's Plain Club and, when asked, agreed to give a piece of Chislehurst common to the Club for a new ground. Eight acres were "grubbed, burnt, leveled and sowed with grass seed and a debt of £191 was incurred".

The Club moved to this new ground in the summer of 1822 and changed its name to West Kent Cricket Club.

To celebrate the opening of the new ground, a match was played between Kent and the M.C.C. on 25 and 26 July 1822, which Kent won by 149 runs. Apparently 5,000 spectators were present! Lord Frederick Beauclerk of the M.C.C., reputedly one of the best batsmen of his day, played and when asked how he liked the ground said "it was very fair for a Goose Common".

Throughout this period one or more local Chislehurst teams played cricket on the common but not on the exclusive West Kent ground except by invitation when West Kent played "The Neighbours", chiefly local tradesmen, who were guests for the day. In the 1870's West Kent was approached by local clubs for permission to use their ground. This was agreed, provided these clubs amalgamated to form one club to be called Chislehurst Club. West Kent provided one of their own members, Mr. C. C. Parr, to be the first president. A committee was formed of three gentlemen and three tradesmen and Mr. Parr brokered the arrangements for ground sharing from April 1876. For more than a century this sharing arrangement continued until the two clubs amalgamated in 1980.

In 1885 a committee of local residents applied to the Land Commissioner's office to take the management and control of the commons out of the hands of the Lord of the Manor and substitute locally elected Conservators under the Commons Preservation Acts. Despite opposition at the public hearing to West Kent's exclusive use of the cricket ground the Commissioners were persuaded that the status quo should prevail.

BowlerWest Kent drafted their own clause for approval, which became clause 18 of the 1886 Act expressly directing the Conservators to "allow the West Kent Cricket Club sole and exclusive management and control of the ground so long as the said Club shall maintain the same in good order and condition". In return for these privileges they had to agree "to allow other local cricket clubs the like reasonable enjoyment of the said ground when it is not required for matches by the said Club". In the Supplemental Act of 1888, when Chislehurst and St Paul's Cray commons were combined, this clause was retained.

The "Old Tents" for dressing and dining were replaced by a permanent wooden pavilion at a cost of £357 plus £59 for drainage and water services in time for the start of the 1899 season. A flat roofed changing room extension was added in 1956 and a double garage for machinery in 1983.

Note: Quotes taken from the Club minutes book. Colour images by Michael Philpot, print courtesy of Bromley Library.

Click here to view old photographs from the Club's archives (and watch out for more to come)