Belhus Cricket Club: History
A Brief History
Belhus Cricket Club was established in 1960. We played our home matches in Belhus Park, sharing the ground with Aveley CC, a fine club whose roots dated back to around 1880 but who sadly disbanded in 1970. The earliest match played at Belhus Park reputedly took place in 1803 between the 'Eleven Gentlemen of Essex' and the 'Eleven Gentlemen of Kent' for a wager of 100 guineas (£105). And on 22nd June 1815, just four days after the Battle of Waterloo, a match took place between 'Eleven Gentlemen of Aveley' and 'Eleven Gentlemen of the Liberty Club', also for a sum of 100 guineas. The first known match played under the Belhus name was on 26th May, 1888 when Canon Whittington of Orsett brought a team of players to Belhus Park, where they were hospitably entertained by a country house eleven captained by a Mr Hiley. Belhus won by 33 runs.
The name 'Belhus' derived from the 14th century owner of the mansion, Nicholas de Belhus, who was of Norman ancestry. In 1618 Sir Edward Barrett was granted a licence to create a park ('English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest') around the Belhus mansion ('One of the most important and beautiful seats in the county'. 'Seats in Essex', by Joseph Rush 1897).
Belhus Park and Mansion
An engraving by W. Wallis 1819
On 27th August 1879, Field Marshall Sir Evelyn Wood VC, GCB, GCMG, sailed home with Lord Chelmsford from the Anglo-Zulu War having commanded the Left Column of the army that crossed the Zulu frontier and subsequently led the victorious battle at Khambula. He was met at Plymouth by his family and immediately came to Belhus to stay with his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Barrett-Lennard. As one of Britain's greatest and most decorated military figures, Sir Evelyn received a tremendous welcome by the staff of the grand Belhus estate and the inhabitants of Aveley, and an address was made at the entrance gates to Belhus Park (see picture below from the 'The Graphic' of 30th August 1879). The following month, Sir Evelyn left Belhus to stay at Balmoral at the invitation of Queen Victoria ('Evelyn Wood' Stephen Manning 2007).
Field Marshall Sir Evelyn Wood at Belhus Park gates
Famous for its deer and heronry and boasting the finest pack of foxhounds in Essex, the mansion subsequently became the home of the Barrett-Lennard family until its demolition in 1957. Some interesting remains and photos of the mansion can be seen in the Thurrock Museum. Edward Barrett-Lennard emigrated to Western Australia in the 19th century and his grandson, George, established an award-winning winery in the Swan Valley in Northern Perth.
Belhus Park was utilised in the First World War as an army training camp and was the site for the operations centre of the Army Postal Service which, by 1916, was handling 1.5 million letters a day - including 1.1 million postings to the Western Front ('The Quick and The Dead', Richard Van Emden 2011). And in the Second World War, Belhus Park was a Marshalling Area Camp (S4) for our brave troops prior to their departure for the D-Day landings.
Belhus CC 1st XI 1962
Back (left to right): John Lewis Snr, Mike Willett, Danny Carroll, Andrew Merton, Frank Peters, Mick Patrick
Front (left to right): Dick Bignell, George Dow, Major Patrick Pooler-Williams, Graham Cunliffe, Roger Dalby
The First Weekend
The 1st XI's inaugural match was against South Ockendon Hospital CC (at the time, one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in the UK) on 30th April 1960. We batted first and were dismissed for just 52 in 22 overs, but our bowlers proceeded to skittle out the opposition for just 25. Only one batsman reached double figures in the entire match - George Arendse of Belhus who scored 17. The following day, against Beltonians CC, our 1st XI batsmen performed only marginally better when they amassed 55 (Major Patrick Pooler-Williams top-scored with 17). Sadly, we lost by 6 wickets.
The 2nd XI made their debut on Sunday, 1st May and their opponents, London Graving Dock CC, batted first and declared at 103 for 5. In reply, we were coasting to victory when perched comfortably on 80 for 3. But we then proceeded to lose our next 7 wickets for just 10 runs to be dismissed for 90! This match, on the club's very first weekend, marked the origin of the famous 'Belhus Collapse' and provided much food for thought for the selection committee the following week.
Grounds and Facilities
Apart from a pitch that was considered to be one of the best in South Essex, the changing and catering facilities at Belhus Park were primitive. The 'little old green hut' served its purpose but, recognising the increasing popularity of cricket in the borough, the local council built a new pavilion in 1965 and an additional cricket square was laid to provide the club with the luxury of two adjacent 'home' pitches, sparking the resurrection of a regular Belhus CC 2nd XI.
North Stifford Village Green - Headquarters of Belhus CC
With an age-old ambition to buy our own ground and provide better facilities for members, we moved from Belhus Park in 1997 to North Stifford Village Green (where cricket was first played in 1949), and subsequently finalised negotiations for security of tenure in 2004. This development was undoubtedly the most significant in the club's history.
North Stifford Village
North Stifford village is a traditional English village with a pub (the 'Dog & Partridge'), a 12th century church (St Mary's - Grade 2 listed) and the excellent Stifford Hall Hotel, an elegant 18th century Georgian mansion. The name 'Stifford' derives from the Anglo-Saxon, stig ford - a ford where a path crosses a stream.
Development of League Cricket
With the exception of the local District Knock-Out Cup (which Belhus CC won in 1978), all of the club's matches prior to the early 1970s were 'friendlies'. With both national and county cricket bodies keen to improve the standard of play at club level, league cricket was introduced in 1973 and the larger clubs in Essex, including Belhus CC, were invited to participate. Since then, the greater competitive nature of club cricket has been a contributing factor to the improvement in standards of play, but success on the field of play is no substitute for a club which boasts a culture that stimulates camaraderie and a spirit of fun. The club played in various leagues up until 2009 when it joined the the ECB Accredited Shepherd Neame Essex League.
In 1966, the club undertook its first overseas tour - to Northern Ireland and the success of that first tour prompted demand for a return visit in 1967. However, it is still not known why it was decided to travel by boat and train on the second trip (in preference to the Aer Lingus flight the previous year). The party of young Belhus players experienced what was reported as being the worst ferry crossing over the Irish Sea for some 20 years!
The club didn't venture on another overseas tour until 1976. This time the destination was the West Indies - to the island of Barbados. Being the first club side in the UK to undertake a tour of Barbados, much interest was generated at both local and national level. Written congratulations were received from HRH the Duke of Edinburgh as well as the captain of England (Tony Greig) and the captain of the West Indies (Clive Lloyd).
Local cricketing and diplomatic dignitaries in
Barbados acknowledged the importance of our groundbreaking visit by inviting the tour party to a Reception at the official residence of the British High Commissioner. In addition, a match was arranged at the Test ground, the Kensington Oval. But with opposition players including test stars such as Wes Hall, Joel Garner and Wayne Daniel, it wasn't surprising that we didn't excel on the field of play. However, the club's pioneering visit paved the way for many future tours to the island by a great number of UK clubs.
Queen's Park Oval, Barbados 1976
Belhus CC v British High Commissioner's XI
Back (L to R): B Hoyos, M Finn, R Young, A Clarke, P Garrud, J Williams, C Cansdale, C Francis, J Donovan, D Guthrie, L Unsworth, B Line
Front (L to R): L Nadal, D Bignell, T Pope, N Fisher, J Bacon (Tour Captain), D Reed (Tour Organiser), G Morrant, R Young, R Anderson, R Howkins
It was to be fifteen years before we toured Barbados again. Having already achieved pathfinder status among the cricketing fraternity on the island, the club's visit in 1991 was warmly received and old friendships renewed. But despite our very best efforts, we again came home without a victory.
Kensington Oval, Barbados 1991
Belhus CC v Pickwick CC
Back (L to R): Jim Banner, Jim Robertson, Mathew Lewis Snr, Derek Etchells, Chris Adams, Robert Waters, Gary Plane, Doug Harding, Ali Nagir
Front (L to R) : Wayne Read, Steve Liddiard, Richard Waters, Mark Winter, Richard Wakely, Colin Adams, David Cayless
And we returned to Barbados yet again in March 2018 - this time with a 35-strong party comprising players, umpires scorers and supporters. A programme of seven matches was arranged - against North Stars CC, Isolation Cavaliers, Wanderers CC, St Catherine CC, Windward CC, Empire CC and the Barbados Defence Forces XI. Unhappily, we failed to return home with a win to our credit - but a thoroughly enjoyable time was had by all.
Belhus CC v Isolation Cavaliers CC 2018
Back (L to R): Roy Heffernan, John Wilson, Cliff Cansdale, Sam Hall, Barry Ruck, Imran Mohammed
Front (L to R): Zak Wilson, Braydon Scarlett, Martin Guilbert, Matthew Williams, Mark Sansom
The club's first senior domestic tour was to Hampshire in 1981 since when numerous other tours have been organised to Devon, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Norfolk. No other club in Essex has undertaken such an ambitious programme of tours (see the side menu on this website entitled Tours - UK and Overseas). This degree of activity is testament to the spirit of fun and adventure that underpins the culture of Belhus Cricket Club.
Lancashire Tour 1994
Back (Left to right): Robert Waters, Peter Clark, Tony Lincoln, Mark Winter, Martin Dix, David Stone, Cliff Cansdale
Front (Left to right): Wayne Read, Richard Wakely, Jim Banner, Jim Robertson, Kelvin Carter
A key feature of Belhus CC has been its vibrant youth section. Having established a Youth Section in 1975, we today organise coaching and arrange an extensive programme of matches for Under 9, Under 11, Under 13 and Under 15 age groups within an environment that is considered to be one of the friendliest in Essex. There have been numerous achievements in various league and cup competitions, but the Belhus CC youth section is perhaps best known for its long history of tours, the first being arranged in 1977.
Mini-Matchplay, Essex County Ground 2015
Left to right: Alex Blake, Lewis Blake, Alex Winder, Robert Healy, Tyler Robertson, Teddy Waters
ECB National Indoor Championship
The club has won a good number of league titles and trophies over the years, but its most outstanding achievement came in March 2016 when we lifted the ECB National Indoor Championship in the Final at the MCC Indoor Academy at Lord's - a 40-years old prestigious competition in which 800 clubs from 32 counties across the country competed (see Photo Galleries on this website) .
Champions of England and Wales 2016
Left to right: Dan Norris, Dan Dreher, Martin Guilbert, Michael Fogg, Joe Joyce, Danny Joyce
In 2016, our 1st, 3rd and 4th XIs each won their respective divisions in the Shepherd Neame Essex League and the 1st and 4th XIs led their divisions throughout the entire season - a remarkable achievement.
Graham Napier of Essex CCC and
Jim Robertson, President of Belhus CC 2016
And in 2018, each of our 4 SNEL Saturday XIs
gained promotion with our 1st XI being elevated to the Premier Division
for the first time. And the season also saw the club reach the final of the Dukes Essex League Cup - for the second successive year. It was the most successful season in the club's history.
At the Essex League Presentation Dinner in 2018,
Belhus CC collected an unprecedented number of Awards
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A Brief History
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