Cricket on the Common

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Mary Russell Mitford’s journal about Three Mile Cross is noted that on August 15th in some unknown year was wet in comparison to the previous year when it was very hot and dusty.  So much so that Mary’s garden suffered greatly and the usual evening walk up the hill to Spencers Wood Common was described thus: “No foot could make three plunges into that abyss of pulverised gravel, which had the impudence to call itself a hard road, without being clothed with a coat of a quarter of an inch, of thick dust. Woe to white gowns!  Woe to black!  Drab was the only wear.  Should one meet a carriage, what a sandy whirlwind it was!  What choking! What suffocation! “

Mary met a coach which was an hour late and the steeds, driver, carriage and passengers, all one, dust!

Mary goes on to say that she liked the current year’s wet season as it kept one in but they were more alive.  Everything was doing well.  The corn ripened, the grass grew, the fruit was plentiful and fewer wasps.  There was no need to water the flowers which flourished.  Sometimes the weather cleared and Mary was able to merrily walk up the hill to the common in the evening, enticed by the gay shouts of a dozen, clear, young voices to linger awhile and see the boys play cricket.  Half a dozen of the boys would run away to bring chairs from their homes.  Mary describes these ‘urchins’, as she calls them and their prowess at cricket, with affection.  There was Joe Kirby, aged twelve who led the boys, much older than him, at fifteen and sixteen with a merry and happy disposition. She also mentions Joel Brent and Jem Eusden.  All the people that she mentions by name are real people with their proper names – it is only the place names that she disguises.  Her reason was that people would be proud to have their names in print in Our Village.

The sun sets and to delay getting home she walks back via Mr Welles cottage and its’ spring on the corner of the common to the green lane called Woodcock Lane where the elms grow overhead.  It was getting late but she wasn’t undeterred because she had the glow worms to guide her.  Mary was concerned that the boys didn’t follow her because they so loved to stick them in their hats.

Cricket on the common
Cricket on the common

One hundred years later, cricket was still being played at Hill House on the edge of the common, according to Alan Best who lived here in Spencers Wood then.

Margaret Bampton

2 Responses

  1. Roger Merry

    Really good to see this picture. Takes me back when I played a little for the club. I have a copy of it and several others of the cricket team over the years. My father (Ray Merry) is in the second row (6th from the left, I think). I am pretty sure it is him but the picture is quite small. He may even have been captain that year. He is certainly there somewhere. I know the names of a lot of the team members . Cricket was very much part of the social scene in those days with coaches taking all the family to games, with picnics and all of the kids playing ‘matches’ at the edge of the ground. memories of the coach stopping off at pubs for beer on the way home. Very much a way of life for me in my youth. My mother Lorna used to do the cricket teas. She is now 102 bur still talks about those days even though at the time there was a lot of friction about the amount of time dad spent playing, doing the pitch, picking them and getting it together etc. Many happy memories
    I have quite a lot of postcards and many memories of Spencers Wood. If you are interested in more information please contact me.

    • Jeannie

      Thanks for your response Roger (if you click on the picture you can blow it up & see everyone full screen). We have all the members names, but would love to see other photographs that you have. We would love to see your postcards and any other old information that you have about Spencers Wood.