Chalfont St Peter CC History

The Clubhouse and Pavilion
It is believed that Gold Hill Common remained our 'home' ground until the early 1920s, when we moved to our current home at Chalfont Park, which has been described by cricket historian, Clive Rouse, as 'one of the finest small grounds in the country'. We have one photograph from 1910, and two more undated ones, which are probably pre World War One, but it is not clear where any of them were taken. We know that the ground at Chalfont Park was created by Lady Edgar, for the recreational activities of her staff from the manor house, and that the golf club was formed in 1922. It is believed that the cricket club started playing at Chalfont Park in 1925, but we have no proof of this. We have a scorebook from 1927; this is the earliest record we have of cricket being played at Chalfont Park.  The first clubhouse at Chalfont Park was built in 1935. Lady Edgar retained ownership of the Chalfont Park ground until her death in 1955.

The first clubhouse at Chalfont Park was built in 1934 and opened the following year, but only contained very basic facilities, and by the mid 1950s it was clear that a new clubhouse was required. Furthermore, after Lady Edgar died in 1955, the freehold for the Chalfont Park ground was put up for sale.  This was arguably the critical moment in the club's history, because we had to raise enough money to both build a new clubhouse and purchase the freehold of the ground. A major fund raising project was started, and we managed to raise enough money to buy the ground and start work on a new clubhouse. Most of the building work for the latter was done by members, at weekends and on summer evenings, and it was opened at the start of the 1957 season. A significant amount of debt was incurred in the completion of the clubhouse but, over a period of time, more funds were raised and the debt was cleared.

The 1990s were a difficult decade for the club. We had serious financial problems and the second clubhouse was deteriorating by the day. There were seldom hot showers, the roof leaked, the kitchen facilities were poor, and the bar was a soft target for burglars, because it could not be properly secured. In the mid 1990s, we started to prepare an application for a grant, from the Sports Council, to build a new clubhouse, and we were still exploring this possibility in June, 2000, when the clubhouse was raised to the ground by a fire. The squash court building, which was made from brick, and consequently more resilient than the wooden clubhouse, survived the fire. The squash section itself had folded in 1999, so it was decided to use the money from the insurance claim to convert the squash courts into a new clubhouse, the third one at Chalfont Park. Fifteen months after the fire, the new clubhouse was opened in September, 2001.
The early years
The Club Cricket Conference yearbook records that Chalfont St. Peter Cricket Club was founded in 1850. This may or may not be accurate, but the earliest record we have is of a match, between a combined Chalfont St. Peter and Gerrards Cross XI, against Beaconsfield, played in 1855. The next record we have, and the first involving a genuine Chalfont St. Peter XI, is of a match played on 6th July, 1859 at Hand Meadows, in Amersham, and we lost 66 to 62. A return match was played later in the same year, on Gold Hill Common, on 2nd August, and we won 81 to 74. For these details, and many other items of memorabilia, such as photographs, fixture booklets, scorecards and letters, we are greatly indebted to Bevan Whitney senior, who had the foresight to place these items in the county records archive at Aylesbury.

It is believed that Gold Hill Common remained our 'home' ground until the early 1920s, when we moved to our current home at Chalfont Park, which has been described by cricket historian, Clive Rouse, as 'one of the finest small grounds in the country'. We have one photograph from 1910, and two more undated ones, which are probably pre World War One, but it is not clear where any of them were taken. We know that the ground at Chalfont Park was created by Lady Edgar, for the recreational activities of her staff from the manor house, and that the golf club was formed in 1922. It is believed that the cricket club started playing at Chalfont Park in 1925, but we have no proof of this. We have a scorebook from 1927; this is the earliest record we have of cricket being played at Chalfont Park.  The first clubhouse at Chalfont Park was built in 1935. Lady Edgar retained ownership of the Chalfont Park ground until her death in 1955.
Pre-WW2

The outstanding players from the 1920s were Frank Graver and A. Cocks (batsmen) and Billy Weir and H. Elderfield (bowlers). In the 1930s, Bevan Whitney senior was the outstanding player, a spin bowler who could possibly have played a higher standard of cricket. Also prominent in this decade were W. Osborne, L.G. Blair and Charles Bruce (batsmen), and R.S. White (all rounder). A complete set of scorebooks, for the period between 1927 and 1943, and other memorabilia, are stored in the county records archive.   Interestingly, the club continued to play a reasonably full set of fixtures during the Second World War.

Jack Rickard, who was to become one of the great stalwarts of the club in later years, first started to play for the club in the 1930s.   Initially, because he did not come from the right social background, he was not selected for the 1st XI.  However, times changed, and in later years he was elected to the positions of club captain and president.  Jack subsequently emigrated to Australia.

The Norfolk tour, which took place five years running from 1934, and then again in 1946 (and possibly again in subsequent years, but we have no record of this), was a major event. One photograph shows a Chalfont St. Peter XI in front of the newly opened Norfolk County Cricket Club pavilion at Lakenham. During the 1930s, the club fielded three XIs on Saturdays and one on Sundays.

1940s and 50s

The club continued to play a reasonably full fixture list during World War Two, with one XI on both Saturday and Sunday.  By 1949, we were fielding two XIs again on a Sunday.  Indeed, from the post war period, right up to the advent of league cricket in 1975, Sunday cricket was the highest standard played at the club.  Before the new clubhouse was opened in 1957, committee meetings took place in local pubs, or at members' homes.

In the 1950s, when he was then the Ambassador to London for Trinidad & Tobago, the former West Indian all rounder, Sir Learie Constantine, played for the club and was indeed club captain for a short period. He is very fondly remembered by everyone who played at the club during this period.  In one famous match against Gerrards Cross, our opponents were delighted to have bowled us out for 60 and were confident of victory; however, they had reckoned without the veteran Constantine, who took 6-15 and helped skittle them out for 50, leaving us the victors by 10 runs.  Denis Compton, the famous Middlesex and England batsman, also played intermittently for the club during the 1950s, while recuperating from a knee injury.

Ronnie Cornwell was an influential figure in the club in the post war period, a generous benefactor and dedicated committee man, but he was eventually declared bankrupt and sent to prison.  There is a photograph, taken at Cornwell's home at Tunmers, Chalfont St. Peter, which shows him shaking hands with Sir Donald Bradman, the legendary Australian batsman.  Before his downfall, Cornwell regularly hosted overseas touring XIs at Tunmers.

1960s, 70s and 80s

The club probably had its golden period in the 1960s and 1970s, when we regularly fielded three XIs on both Saturdays and Sundays, in addition to midweek fixtures.  In the days before the Sunday league began in the professional game, various benefit and social matches were staged at the Chalfont Park ground. There are several photographs, clearly taken at the Chalfont Park ground, which feature international cricketers, such as Jim Laker, Micky Stewart and Raymond Illingworth.  The outstanding player at the club during this period was Brian Bradley, a prolific batsman.

In 1971 we won the Uxbridge Knockout Cup for the first time, and our playing strength remained strong throughout the decade. David Osborne was the outstanding batsman of this period, an opening batsman with a fantastic eye and sublime timing, and Martin Stevens the outstanding bowler, a seam bowler of metronomic accuracy and a more than useful batsman, too. Other outstanding players from this era were Len Devonshire (batsman and shrewd captain),  Graham Lewis, Frank Howard and Richard Cavendish (batsmen), Ken Gardner, Eric Stevenson and Bob Wheldon (all rounders), Rex Butcher and Bill Clarke (seam bowlers), and Robert Mills (spin bowler).  Brian Bradley was still a regular player in this period, too.

Also during this period, a number of outstanding young players made their mark, including Kevin Barry, Paul Dolphin and Oliver Ash, all very talented batsmen. These players were the first products of our new youth system, and Adrian Cornish and Peter France senior, especially, and many others, did sterling work with the juniors in this era. Other club stalwarts of the 2nd and 3rd XIs during the 1970s included Ernie Bunce, Tom Dodd, John James, and Ken and Derek Hewston.

By the mid 1970s, league cricket was starting to take root in the south of England, and we decided to be one of the founder members of the Lee 75 League.  Initially, a lot of the better players chose to carry on playing friendly cricket on Sundays, because this was thought to be the best standard of cricket available at the club. However, before long, league cricket became the top priority for all club players, and Sunday cricket began its steady decline.  The hockey section started in 1970, and the squash courts were built in 1972. Initially, the revenue from the squash courts was very lucrative but, unfortunately, the club soon started to become lazy with regard to fund raising and financial planning. Thus, when the squash revenues started to decline, the club found itself in financial difficulties. The clubhouse started to fall into a state of disrepair, and there were no financial resources to do anything about it.

The playing side remained reasonably strong during the 1980s, and we continued to field three XIs on Saturdays.  However, by this time, the steady decline in Sunday cricket had begun.  The 1988 season was arguably our best ever.  Under the captaincy of David Banner, we won both the Lee 75 League and also the Uxbridge Knockout Cup. The outstanding bowler of this era was Ashley Barnes, a match winning seam bowler, who produced some phenomenal performances for the club during the mid to late 1980s, most notably during the hugely successful 1988 season. The outstanding batsmen in the early 1980s were Frank Howard and Oliver Ash. Later on in the decade, some outstanding young players started to make their mark, most notably David Banner (wicket keeper batsman), Stuart Dalrymple and Robert Jones (batsman), Giles Payne (off spinning all rounder), Tim Barry, Conrad Gamble and Peter J. France (seam bowling all rounders) and David O'Connor and Andrew Cornish (seam bowlers).  Sam Machin also began a long career with the club as wicket keeper.  During the mid 1980s, the first influx of Asian players, from the Sir Ali club, started to play for us on Saturdays, with great success, most notably Zamir Khan, Satish Sharma, Shahid Din, Nasir Ahmed, Shabir Ahmed, Bashir Ahmed and Abdul Sattaur.



1990s
However, the problems off the field eventually began to have an effect on our playing strength, and standards began to fall during the 1990s. At the end of the 1992 season, the club merged with Chalfont Saints Cricket Club. This meant that, in addition to an influx of new players, for the first time the club now had a reasonable standard 3rd XI ground; previously, the British Alcan ground down the road had been used for 3rd XI matches, but this was really too small for serious cricket matches. However, with the benefit of hindsight, the merger with the Saints was a missed opportunity, because many of the Saints players drifted away from the merged club, and the ongoing financial problems of the club led to the inevitable decision to give up the Saints ground at the end of the 1996 season.

Generally speaking, we struggled on the field of play during the 1990s. When the Lee 75 League was disbanded in 1992, and merged into the Thames Valley League, we were initially placed in Division 2 but, within two years, had been relegated to Division 3. The 2nd XI also struggled and times were hard. However, the 1st XI won promotion back to Division 2 in 1997, and our fortunes took a turn for the better.

The outstanding players during the 1990s were Stuart Dalrymple (batsman / off break bowler) and Zamir Khan (off break bowler / batsman). The Statistics section does full justice to their achievements. Also worthy of mention are Simon Seabrook, James Mallinder, Gavin Mander and Satish Sharma (batsmen), John Franks (seam bowling all rounder), Jason Nagle (all rounder), Mohammad Hanif (miserly off break bowler and batsman), and David Ridley and Saqib Ahmed (seam bowlers). We also had a number of outstanding overseas players during this period, with Graham Curnow (1996) standing out for his elegant batting, and Safi Ahmed (1998 and 2003) for his consistent run scoring. The colts section also fell into decline during the 1990s, but it has gradually been revived, thanks mainly to the efforts of Phil Noot and more recently, Keith Neave.

2000s
At the end of the 2000 season, the club merged with Sir Ali Cricket Club, which considerably improved our playing strength, especially on Sundays. The 2002 season was a momentous and very successful one for the club. We had our new clubhouse open for the first time, and enjoyed great success on the field of play. The 1st XI finished third out of ten in Division 2B of the Thames Valley League, and the 2nd XI second, also out of ten, in Division 5A, winning promotion to Division 4B. Our overseas players in the 2002 season made an outstanding contribution, Nouman Habib (fast bowler and destructive batsman) in the 1st XI and Adnan Khan (left arm spinner and batsman) in the 2nd XI.

The 2003 season was a disappointing one for the 1st XI, as they slipped back down the league table and only narrowly, and rather fortuitously, avoided relegation from Division 2B. By contrast, the 2nd XI had a good season, finishing in mid table of Division 4B and consolidating its promotion of the previous year. We also fielded two teams throughout the season on Sundays and the Saturday 3rd XI played its first matches for seven years.