Wittersham in Kent Village Guide

Wittersham Cricket Match of the Century

Here is a transcript from the Kentish Express 1936. The members at the luncheon are missing, but I have details.


Extract from the Kentish Express, 11th September 1936.


Looked forward to for several months – ever since Major Neve and others in the Isle of Oxney conceived the idea – the great tussle between Ashdown and Wensley and an Isle of Oxney Eleven was played at Wittersham last Saturday.
Enormous energy had been put into the making of a good pitch and outfield, and the addition of marquees and tents and side-shows, the presence of a B.B.C. commentator’s van, hundreds of chairs and other seats and a ring surrounded by motor-cars made a spectacle that was intense in its cricketing atmosphere of the present day.
How different from what the little ground nearer the church must have looked when Wenman and Mills defeated eleven men of the Isle a hundred and two years ago! And at that time there were no mowing machines; the grass on the pitch was cut by the scythe, while pairs of scissors sometimes came into play. It was no billiard-table surface to bat upon, high kickers and shooters coming along incessantly. Yet Wenman and Mills, under these difficulties, won.
The London papers have made a capital story out of this match and, as usual, an incorrect one. They tell us that cricketers of the Isle of Oxney have resented their defeat over a hundred years and sent a challenge to Ashdown and Wensley so that they could take their revenge. All rubbish! The match was arranged by a few enthusiasts to revive the memories of the historic match of last century.
Anyway, it was a truly sporting match and will be recorded as a bright spot in Kent cricket history, remembered a hundred years hence, and longer still.
Many a visitor came to the ground expecting a rustic match, ardent but crude cricket, and with some of the eleven wearing waistcoats and maybe their Sunday-best trousers. Not a bit of it.
This was a smartly-dressed eleven, flannels as white as any seen in a ‘Varsity match, white caps with red initials, made specially for the occasion; every man on his toes and fielding well, batting in good style, against bowlers who have taken the wickets of the best batsmen in the world. Yes, that is what impressed one most – the sterling all-round cricket of the Isle of Oxney Eleven.
The first pair, Pridham, the skipper, and Chubber Catt, not only made a good start but played the early overs with confidence and skill. Many of those balls would have beaten county batsmen. And others who followed showed that this was no yokel team. Runs were easy to get, of course, but they had to stop jolly good balls. “Chunbber’s” was an innings to be remembered.
And then the wicket-keeping of G. Gooke was really splendid, not only in the way he took the bowling but in the clean way he gathered the ball when thrown in from the field. The bowling was never ragged.
Alfred Bush is fast and was once tried at the county nursery, but they only want youngsters there and he is 26. I liked his natural delivery and he is certainly fast. He might have been bowled more often.
Of the other bowlers F. Bromham, tall, with a high delivery in his spell of 18 overs, often bowled short, but when he kept a length was effective. C. Bush only had one over from which Ashdown hit 3 consecutive fours and a single and Wensley a six! Catt bowled 5 overs, and ought to have bowled more, for he had the batsmen guessing at times. A. Bush, in his second spell, took the only wicket.
Ashdown and Wensley won by clever tactics. Ordinary medium bowling was too expensive if the batsmen could keep up their wickets. With no fieldsmen against them they could get a run from almost every ball so a change became necessary: Wicket-keeping gloves were discarded, the bowlers sent down slows, and at times Ashdown fielded at short square leg, while Wenslet bowled leg breaks.
Roars of laughter, in which Ashdown joined, went up when Ashdown, after placing himself in the exact spot, fumbled a catch from Pridham.
The men of Oxney found slow bowling more difficult than fast, and that was their undoing.
I would back the Isle of Oxney eleven against most of the town elevens in Kent .
When batting, the two professionals were very careful at first – the loss of one wicket meant the end. But both punished every loose ball, especially on the off side. Glorious cuts from Ashdown. Once they slowed down considerably, especially when A. Bush got his length, but runs always came at a good pace. It was a fine display of confident batting under trying conditions.
I watched the play and left the ground – even the thunderstorm did not damp my admiration – as a Man of Kent proud of the display made by the Men of Oxney, and equally proud to know that Kent and Sussex possess such a sporting pair of professionals as Ashdown and Wensley, two fine all-rounders.
And then there was the setting, pastoral and lovely, typically Kentish. Facing us from one side of the ground was the white stone tower of the church, five centuries old, peering just above the tall trees that wreath the churchyard; the red roofs of the houses in the village street; and a nest of oast-house cowls that remind us of the hops athat once grew in such profusion close by.
And then, from another side of the ground, the range of hills in the distance, the summits of which formed a strong defence when Danish pirates attacked the Isle of Oxney and the sea surrounded it. Across the level land leading to the back-ground of hills are rich pastures, bright green from the rains of summer, and patches of woodland dotted here and there: red cattle and white sheep browsing. A beauty sopt of beautiful Kent .

The early morning of Saturday promised none too well and overnight rain made the pitch soft and easy. A shower fell during lunch time, but the two innings were completed soon after four o’clock when a heavy thunderstorm which had been threatening for a long time burst over the ground and stumps were drawn. Over 3,000 people were present, as against 2,000 when the Wenman match was played in 1834. Then it was horses and walks of many miles; this year they came in motor-cars which lined the ground, and instead of walking, many villagers came in ‘buses.
The little pavilion of the Wittersham club had been freshly painted, and up-to-date scoring boards each end of the ground recorded run by run, and were manipulated by scouts. Mrs. Bligh, wife of the Ashford Cricket Club skipper, kindly scored.
The arrangements for the match were made by Major R. neve and a committee, who were congratulated on every hand. The proceeds of the match went to charities in the Isle of Oxney. Messrs. J. A. Jennings, of Canterbury , printed a souvenir illustrated programme and score cards. The head of the firm, Mr. J. A. Jennings, who is nearing his 90th year, came over from Canterbury to witness the match.
Pridham had won the toss and he opened the innings with Catt, locally known as “Chubber”, and they took the score to 39, when the captain was stumped.
With only 3 runs added rain stopped play for fifteen minutes, but the players did not wait for the grass to dry and despite the slippery state of the ground the game proceeded. A. Bromham and Catt took more risks in running. 50 was on the board in 40 minutes. Another 50 came in 45 minutes!
Much cheering and a chorus of motor horns greeted two hefty fours and the hundred went up. Two runs later, Catt edged one, Wensley fielded it and threw down the wicket and Bromham was given out. 102 for 2. Catt’s innings came to an end when, in trying to hit the ball out of the ground, he was bowled. He hit 11 fours.
Ashdown and Wensley quickly dismantled six men for 49 runs, and at lunch the score was 152 for 9. Shanbrook and A. Bush, “Charcoal”, as he is dubbed, being the only batsmen to make any stand. The last wicket fell in Wensley’s first over after lunch for the addition of one run.
The Eleven’s score, to most of their supporters, looked good enough but in two hours Ashdown and Wensley had passed it. As soon as they had got the pace of the wicket they gave a brilliant display.
The first 50 cam in 45 minutes. Ashdown reached his 50 in as many minutes, and Wensley in 75 minutes. At 58 the Sussex cricketer was nearly caught at second slip, A. Bromham just touching the ball with uplifted hands. Runs came afterwards at a great pace – 50 in twenty minutes.
Several changes in the bowling had the effect of keeping the rate of scoring down, but Wensley, after a slow spell, hit out with a couple of sixes. To the accompaniment of much applause and many motor horns hooting, Ashdown made the scores level, and from a bye their opponents’ total was passed. Wensley was 89 and Ashdown 82.
Five bowlers had tried. Wensley had most of the bowling and when 96 he was cleverly caught by the wicket-keeper standing back, who took the fast-travelling ball low down on the leg side. In his sparkling knock Wensley hit 3 sixe and 13 fours, and Ashdown 14 fours. The two players had a lead of 33.
Both Ashdown and Wensley said they had thoroughly enjoyed the game and were “quite ready for another”.
Isle of Oxney
F. G. H. Pridham, st. Wensley, b. Ashdown 11
W. Catt, b. Ashdown 68
A. Bromham, run out 20
G. Cooke, b. Wensley 0
C. Gorham, b. Ashdown 0
A. Gush, b. Wensley 14
C. Bush, c. Ashdown, b. Wensley 2
P. J. Shanbroke, lbw, b. Ashdown 28
F. Jenner, b. Wensley 0
F. Bromham, not out 5
F. Burt, b. Wensley 0
Extras 5
Total 153
Bowling:- Ashdown, 12 overs, 0 maiden, 82 runs, 4 wickets;
Wensley, 12.4 – 0 – 66 – 5
Two Players
W. Ashdown ( Kent ), not out 83
A. F. Wensley ( Sussex ), c Cooke, b. A. Bush 96
Extras 7
Total 186
Bowling:- A. Bush, 12.4 – 2 – 39 – 1; F. Bromham, 18 – 0 – 92 – 0;
C. Bush, 1 – 0 – 19 – 0; W. Catt, 5 – 0 – 29 – 0.


Menu of the centenary luncheon consisted of baron of English beef, prime York ham, saddle of mutton and roast stuffed cygnet, salads, national pudding and brandy sauce, fruit salad, old English cheddar and Kentish ale.
Colonel Body presided – he had taken great interest in the arrangements for the match – and gave the toast of the King. He then offered a hearty welcome to the large assembly who had come to watch the match. It was not likely that any of them would see the next centenary match, but their grandsons might do so.
Sir William Jowitt proposed the health of Ashdown and Wensley and said that what the “visiting team” lost in quantity they made up in quality. This centenary match was two years late, but that was nothing, for Wittersham being two years behind the times! (laughter). The next match would probably be played in the Elysian fields! He noticed that the nickname of one of the players was “Charcoal”, he would be a useful bowler there. The wicket would be a fast one, and Major Neve would be there to organise it as, without him, a match on the Elysian fields would be nothing, but he did not know how the “ticket of leave” operated there, but he would do his best for him (laughter).

Wittersham, he went on to say, had a population of 1,000 or more, when the last
centenary match was played …
numbered about 600 and
time the next match
would only the two men
wishing the two players a
Sir William said he would
as a judge would a case
down. He was a fine son
years had taken a very
cricket. He made a hundred
innings of a match at Lords
do it at Wittersham, although
catches at square leg.
Wensley of Sussex, he
ton. No doubt the
Wittersham ground would
the Sussex Downs . He
at Lords, but not at Wittersham
conclusion, Sir William said,
were pre-eminent in the
winter went to the colonies
young generation how to
of taking wickets and in
Wittersham were grateful
Those present at the b
Sir Reginald Ashburnham
glesden , Sir William and
Charles Kirkpatrick. Colonel
Body, Lieut. Col. R.
Neve, the Rev. W. L. V.
Watson, the Rev. R. C.
Mr. and Mrs. B. R.
Cheeseman (vice-president
Mr. and Mrs. M. Cleland
Mr. C. Kenwood (committee
and Mrs. Kenwood, Mrs.
V. Rendel, Mr. J. Rendel
and Mrs. E. P. Smith
J. Stevens, Mr. G. J.
Leslie Wilson, Mr. H. J.
Hemmings and Mr. E.
grandsons of the late Mr.
and Mr. Tutt (41 years on
at Hastings.

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