Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cricket history Tilbury Essex

Currently I've got two photographic projects on the go that are kind of based around cricket. One of them relates to recording cricket pitches as they are now, so I'm travelling around the country as and when I get the opportunity and I photograph pavilions and the grounds, along with some of the other features. But at the moment the key aspect of it is the pavilions as a record of their architecture... see here. This project is trundling along nicely and is the easier of the two.

The other project is a little different and requires a lot more research. The other project is a landscape project focusing on cricket pitches that were. So for this I have to find out the locations of old cricket pitches and establish where the club house/pavilion was. I then take a shot from a position that would have been directly opposite the pavilion/clubhouse approximately from what would have been the other side of the cricket pitch. So what I'll end up with is a set of odd landscapes where cricket pitches used to be.

I've started in my own locality and I've quite quickly discovered that there is a rich cricket history which is on the cusp of disappearing without any sign of it at all. In my own lifetime in my own town - Tilbury, I'm aware that I've witnessed the demise of two cricket grounds and their associated teams. Tilbury CC who used play on the Daisy Field in Tilbury town folded sometime in the 1980's and the players moved to other clubs in the area. A bloke I played with at Grays and Chadwell (Alan Fulbrook AKA "Fozzy") had played on the Daisy field in Tilbury during the 1970's and 80's as a Tilbury player and had knowledge of the West Tilbury cricket pitch at Condovers. My research so far has indicated that cricket has been played in the following areas...

1. Condovers West Tilbury
2. The Daisy Field - St Chads Road.
3. The Dockers Field?
4. Tilbury Fort - (See below)

There may also be another field outside Tilbury along Dock Road, but as yet there's no indication that cricket was played there... "Hedley's ground". *See update on 17/10/16 below.

Tilbury is quite famous when it comes to cricket as it's one of the only places where cricket players have killed each other over a game of cricket. In a match against Kent played at Tilbury fort a number of blokes killed each other having got into a punch up and then picking up guns (It was an active fort at the time) and shooting each other. See the account here

On the SEDCB's website there's a piece on cricket in Tilbury.

In the SEDCB's article there's the mention of the Interknit Siley Weir cricket team that was based in Tilbury Docks. In the article it's identified that they played on a ground in Tilbury...

They first played on a ground at Dock Road, Tilbury.  The pitch preparation on the ground was done by the club’s own members in their spare time, as this was a time before the days when the local council began maintaining pitches.
The ground was let to them by a Mr. Bill Stickings, who, in order to avoid paying higher rates on a developed field, let cattle graze on it!  Mr. Bannister recalled: “The outfield was a bit rough, but we enjoyed ourselves, both clearing it and playing on it!”
This was around 1918. The same article says that they moved to Blackshots in 1936, so it seems that this ground then disappears from sight as such and it's difficult to ascertain where in Tilbury it was. Recently though via a Tilbury memories page on Facebook one of the blokes commenting on the subject of playing fields mentioned a field in Tilbury along 'The Broadway' where cricket was being played in the 1950's. The Broadway road back in the 1950's prior to Dunlop road being built went pretty much straight towards the Go-Cart track adjacent to Gaylor Road.
The end of the Broadway nee Dunlop Road, Tilbury. (Approx 2014) This view here is the gate entrance to the Go-Kart track looking towards Little Thurrock.
During the Facebook conversation the bloke Ron pointed out that the Broadway originally ran from Dock Road all the way up to this point here where it stops at the Go Cart track. He also mentions the impressive gate entrance and suggested that there may have been a big house here and this was the original gateway, but wasn't sure and had no evidence. I can remember that if you went through the gates, the ground between Gaylor rd and the Go-Kart track was strewn with slabs of concrete and bits of metal suggesting possibly that the site may have been used for industrial activities? Or it may have been left over stuff from the construction of the estate. But all around the Go-Kart track there was evidence of industrial activity and it had that 'Brown-field' feel about it.
Another interesting feature of Dunlop Road nee 'The Broadway' was that there was further evidence of a different past because just at the Adelaide road turn off on what was the Broadway you'll find a number of pre-1970's houses that still exist and must have been in the location when this area was playing fields (Siley's playing field)? or as we called them 'The Dockers Fields'.
Old pre-1960's houses along 'The Broadway' nee Dunlop Road, Tilbury.
These are the houses above and from what I can make out prior to the 1960's these houses just stood in the middle of what was basically countryside and a set of Playing fields as described by Ron and confirmed by maps of the time.
This is the current map of the area. The red line shows the original 1950's road 'The Broadway' running from Dock road right up to the Go Kart track - now Gaylor Road. In Ron's descriptions and my own very vague memory a road ran from the old Broadway - possibly now Adelaide Road onto Siley's fields ringed approximately in blue. In this area, there were tennis courts, rugby fields, football fields and a cricket pitch and at least one changing room building/pavilion? At the current moment I'm still in conversation with Ron and a few other blokes trying figure out exactly what was where.

This is an approximation from 1960-66 based on my memory and Ron's information.


The blue line heading north in the image is the route of the old 'Broadway' which went all the way through to the border between field A and F. My own recollection from the late 1960's is that E was an established allotment, which once the tower blocks were built was moved to the space between the green block D and the school (St Chads secondary school). My Dad had allotment over there which was flanked by the multi-storey car park to the south of it and to the east St Chads school the other-side of the manor.

D - was a farm of sorts, I don't remember there being any houses, possibly caravans, but it did have pigs on it which you could smell and hear. As kids we were always a little wary of it for some reason - it may have had signs up saying private? To the left of D where on the map it says FP there was a thicket of hawthorn bushes.

B - Is where the football pitches were when I was kid and we called this area 'The Dockers Fields'. At that point the road indicated by the bigger blue dots was built and it had new houses on it with conventional roofs, Dunlop road and 'John's' corner shop was being built. I had a mate Ricky Ellingford who lived in the houses opposite 'John's' shop as soon as they were finished. John's shop was at the junction of Dunlop Rd and Adelaide Rd in the 1970's and 80's.

The field A appears to be broken up on this map into sections which may be borders (Fences) indication private land and you can see that the houses which are almost certainly the old houses mentioned above on the map have their boundary lines indicated too. So I'm guessing this isn't a playing field, I need to have this confirmed by Ron.

Field C (grey) is as far as I know St Chads school playing fields.

Much of this is speculation and I'm hoping to get access to more detailed maps in the next few weeks at Grays Library and see if I can dig anything up from the books they have there. My main objective is to figure where the Interknit Siley Weir cricket teams Dock Road cricket pitch was.

17/10/16 Update - Ron on the Internet (Face Book) contacted me having seen the post here and said that the pitch was definitely nowhere near the gates at the end of Dunlop Road/Gaylor Road, looking through the gates where the Go-Kart track used to be was marshes in the 1950's. He then said that pitch that was mentioned as being on Dock Road on the SEDBC website "Interknit Cricket Club" might have been one that Ron says was up near the Rookery at the corner where the Dock Road turns into Little Thurrock. Ron's mentioned it previously and has said that it was known as Hedley's ground or field. Apparently it was there until the mid 1950's and was flooded in the late 1950's. This potentially fits the description on the SEDCB's website...

"Interknit cricket club was formed in 1918 by William Bannister with his friends from the firm of R. N. H. Green and Silley Weir.  They first played on a ground at Dock Road, Tilbury.  The pitch preparation on the ground was done by the club’s own members in their spare time, as this was a time before the days when the local council began maintaining pitches.

The ground was let to them by a Mr. Bill Stickings, who, in order to avoid paying higher rates on a developed field, let cattle graze on it!  Mr. Bannister recalled: “The outfield was a bit rough, but we enjoyed ourselves, both clearing it and playing on it!”

Once they had their ground, players began to think of what to call themselves when writing away for fixtures.  They wanted to maintain their connection with the firms for whom the majority of the team worked, but also wanted to remain independent.  They finally chose the name “Interknit” for this was the telegraphic address of R. N. H. Green and Silley Weir.  This encouraged the firm to help the club and a hut, chairs and table were provided for changing and for tea.  But after this initial aid and interest, no real notice was taken of the club, except for the annual Firm v Club match".
 Looking further using Old maps online I've found a 1947 map of Little Thurrock with the lay-out of the fields and roads. I'm going to show Ron this and see if he pin-point where the Headley's ground/field was.
The green line coming from the bottom of the map is Dock Road and Tilbury is just off the map at the bottom. You can see the Rookery just right of the Little Thurrock. The orange road as far as I can make out is Marshfoot Road. Looking at the map I've noticed something, but I'm not going to say anything till Ron has a look at it and gets back to me. But Ron's field is probably on here somewhere and hopefully he can identify where it is?

17/10/16 Further research - I've also dug this out which is really interesting. Somewhere near the Bull Pub off Dock Road, there seems to have been a football ground, which later was a Greyhound racing track before being built on. This football ground was known as 'The Lawn'.

"Located off Dock Road, close to the Bull Inn, The Lawn was just over half a mile from the Recreation Ground and, fearful that their new rivals would steal a march on them, Grays Athletic resigned from the London League and joined Grays Thurrock in the Kent League, which comprised both professional and amateur clubs.   Despite a lack of spectator facilities, an encouraging crowd of 3,000 made their way to The Lawn on September 4th 1924 to see Grays Thurrock take on Sheppey United in their first match in the Kent League. A couple of old army huts were converted into changing rooms and club offices and, as the months went by, the ground was gradually improved, with a post and rail replacing the original rope around the pitch, and a wooden grandstand coming into use in early 1925.  The first local derby between the two Grays clubs took place in December 1924, an eagerly awaited event which saw an attendance of 4,000–5,000, with some spectators using the skeleton of the not yet completed stand as a vantage point".

Surely this ground, must have been relatively close to the cricket ground we're calling Headley's? I've tried to contact the bloke who wrote the above and see if he can shed some light on the missing 'Interknit' cricket ground.
Tilbury's Interknit gets mentioned here along with 'Hedley's' right at the end of the article there's a mention of the Co-op cricket club having a cricket ground in Bridge Road Grays!!!! I've go to try and find whoever wrote this as they seem to have a wealth of cricket knowledge.