A brief history of Tilehurst Cricket Club by Brian Cooper


In its introductory piece in the 1991 Berkshire Cricket League handbook the following was said about the formation of Tilehurst CC:

“Tilehurst Cricket Club began life as a nomadic side, and so it is difficult to date when the club was actually formed, but in local history books there is reference to a drawn match with another local side way back in 1887.”

In fact Tilehurst CC was playing before 1887.  In his book “Bats, Balls and Biscuits” Martin Bishop records the fixtures for the Reading Biscuit Factory CC for the 1883 season; their opponents on 30th June were Tilehurst CC with the fixture being repeated on 17th May 1884.  Both of these games were scheduled to be played at the Reading Biscuits Factory CC ground which was likely to be Kings Meadow. Tilehurst CC’s first known home ground was in Church End Lane. However, the dates it played on this ground and its precise location are unclear although it seems likely the venue was the Moorlands Recreation Ground behind where Moorlands Primary School now is. In her book “Tilehurst” Sue Handscomb writes that Victoria Recreation Ground came into being in 1897 when the local Poor’s Land Charity took over what had been grazing land and created the recreation ground to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. How soon after this cricket was being played on the recreation ground or Tilehurst took up residence is unknown. In 1899 the Club was presented with a Challenge Cup by the Revered HB Wilder; what the challenge was and who against is unknown.  It seems that the Revered Wilder, the Rector of Sulham (one of a long lines of Wilders who were Rector at Sulham from 1823-1944), was a keen supporter of community activities and local sport.  The cup is still used by Theale and Tilehurst CC as the 1st XI batting cup.

Entry in to League Cricket

The Reading and District Cricket League had been formed in 1897 with Tilehurst CC joining the league for the 1900 season; there were 18 clubs in the league that season.  In its season preview on 12th May 1900 the Berkshire Chronicle said of Tilehurst CC: “The newcomers are untried, but they have done well in friendly games, and have a lot of locals to select from.”

The season didn’t start well with Tilehurst CC losing their first league game against Grovelands CC by an innings and 9 runs.  The Berkshire Chronicle report said of the game: “Tilehurst were but poorly represented, several of their best players not having signed the required fourteen days, and they had to play ten men only.”

It was not until the 11th August that league victory was tasted in what was their final league game of the season.  Playing at home they successfully defended 29 by bowling Henley out for 17.  Tilehurst finished the season losing nine and winning one of their ten league matches and they were relegated to division 2; quite why they had not started in division 2 is not explained.

The 1907 season, by when they certainly were playing at Victoria Recreation Ground, was a better year as Tilehurst finished runners-up in Reading and District League Division 2.  

The Berkshire Chronicle match Report reads:

The Play-off and a Surprise

“Hot favourites though the villagers were in Saturday’s play-off for the championship of the Second Division of the League Tilehurst were forced to admit defeat at the hands of Wesley Guild.  The YMCA ground at Liebenrood Road had been chosen for the venue, and an exciting struggle was witnessed by quite a big and enthusiastic set of partisans.  Winning the toss Tilehurst batted first on what might be described as a bumping wicket, and misfortune dogged their doings from the beginning.  Williams, one of their most valuable men, unluckily playing on before he had broken his duck.  Hetherington batted steadily for 17, and the only other member of the team was Miles (13), who owing to indisposition was allowed a substitute to run, while the Parsons trio could only muster a single between them. The innings closed for 61 and in effecting the favourites dismissal for such a comparatively low total the credit must be largely given to Miller, who claimed 5 wickets for 15.  To the old Wyman’s cricketer Wesley were in no small degree indebted for their victory, for he followed up his bowling by a capital performance with the bat.”  Miller scored 26no with the bat and was borne shoulder high from the field amid hearty congratulations.”

There are no details of Tilehurst CC for the years of the 1st World War but it seems likely that their history would have matched that of other clubs.  The 1914 season had started as normal but the outbreak of war in August 1914 meant that the season did not reach its normal conclusion as people’s attention turned to other matters.  There was some cricket played locally during the war but most of this seems to have been one off matches featuring representative forces teams.  It seems likely that after the curtailed 1914 season Tilehurst CC would not have been active in playing terms again until the 1919 season at the earliest.

Inter-war Years

In the inter-war years Tilehurst CC were still playing in the Reading and District Cricket League.  By the 1921 season they were in the bottom division (Division 2b) along with Old Wilsonians CC, CWS CC, British Workman’s Institute CC and Castle Street Institute CC.  More familiar names such as Woodley, Sulhamstead, Peppard and Woodcote were playing in other divisions. It is unlikely that there would have been a Sunday XI during this period (or before) as at this time club cricket was played almost exclusively on Saturdays with some mid-week cricket.(Information taken from ‘Bats, Balls and Biscuits’ by Martin Bishop).

Second World War and After

What effect the Second World War had on the club and its ground is unknown.  It seems that local cricket was played at a greater volume during the 2nd world war than it had been during the 1st world war but this was inevitably reduced compared to peace time years.

The resumption of league cricket after the Second World War seems to have been very slow with the Reading and District Cricket League only having seven member clubs in the 1947 season.  Tilehurst CC was not amongst them although league cricket was being played on the Victoria Recreation Ground by St Mary Magdalen CC.  Tilehurst CC continued playing friendly cricket and it seems that this continued in to the early 1970s. Whilst Tilehurst CC was not fielding teams in senior league cricket it was fielding teams in the Minor and Youth Divisions of the Reading Youth League from 1946.

Hampshire League Years 1973-1990

In 1973 the club joined the newly formed Hampshire League and success soon came with the winning of the North Division 2 Championship in 1975.  Of the fifteen league games played that season Tilehurst CC won 14 and lost one; there were two no results as well.  Leading the batting for the title winning team were G Deacon with 251 runs at 27.89 and Micky Hewitt with 362 runs at 27.85; leading the way with the ball was Graham Edge with 45 wickets at 10.02.  Mind you that was only good enough for Graham to finish sixth in the divisional bowling averages that season; it was a definitely more of a bowler’s era! Below is a team picture from the 1973 season taken from an edition of Tilehurst News.  A copy of the full article is available from here.

Success in the Hampshire League after 1975 was predominantly off the field as the club was the Hampshire Cricket League Sports Quiz champions six times between 1976 and 1984.  Unfortunately there were no other divisional titles on the field. For their final season in the Hampshire League Tilehurst 1sts were playing in North Hampshire Regional Division 1 with the 2nds in the division below. The decision to leave the Hampshire League was prompted by the League’s reorganisation and inclusion in the overall pyramid structure along with the Southern League.  This meant that there would have been significantly longer journeys to games so the decision was taken to join the Berkshire League.

Youth Success 

In the early and mid 1980s Tilehurst CC had a strong and successful youth section that was run by Mike Dixon, Alan Pyke and Chris Startup. (Details of the successful 1983 and 1984 seasons are available at: u13 County Champions 1983; u13 South of England Champions 1984.)

In addition to this success the Tilehurst juniors were also the Hampshire League u16 Colt’s Champions in 1981 and won the u13 Berkshire County Championship again in 1985 when they beat Windsor Victoria CC in the final. 1985 was also a good season for the u15s as Tilehurst CC won the local Sunlife of Canada Cup beating Theale in a low scoring final; Tilehurst CC scored 57 all out but Theale could only manage 39 all out in reply. In the same season the u15s also made the Berkshire Finals of the Harry Secombe Cup beating Compton by four runs in the semi final (Tilehurst 86-7, Compton 82-7). The result of the final is not available.

Attempts to Improve the Victoria Recreation Ground

The Victoria Recreation Ground since its creation has been owned by the Tilehurst Poor’s Land Charity and leased to Reading Borough Council. Initially the cricket club had its own pavilion but in 1982 this was demolished to be replaced by what at the time was intended to be a temporary measure of converting two metal containers into changing rooms. In the early 1990s the cricket club, along with Tilehurst FC and the Tilehurst Club FC, sought to take greater responsibility for the Victoria Recreation Ground to improve the facilities provided.  The redevelopment of the pavilion (metal containers) was perhaps unsurprisingly the intended first phase of the improvements.  Unfortunately these plans came to nothing; partly due to a lack of funds and partly due to a public outcry where concern was expressed over continuing public access to the recreation ground on match days. Throughout this period the pitch continued to be prepared by the council, with considerably varying results, and the pavilion continued to be the metal containers that remain there to this day.

Berkshire League Years 1991-1996

Tilehurst CC’s first season in the Berkshire League was in 1991 when it played in Division 3 of the 1st XI competition and Division 2 of the 2nd XI competition (the same divisions as the respective Theale sides that season). As with when Tilehurst CC joined the Hampshire League on field success soon followed as the 2nd XI won Division 2 in 1992. However, the combination of inadequate facilities and a lack of on-field playing success meant that the club struggled to retain some of its better players such as Tim Sant who had scored 526 league runs in 1991. In its final season in the Berkshire League Tilehurst CC finished mid table in 1st XI Division 3 and 2nd XI Division 1. In that final season for the 1sts it was Mo Iqbal who led the way with the ball with 48 wickets at 13.10; he was ably supported by John Vale who took 27 wickets at 13.59 and Dil Pazir who took 20 at 16.80.  To the fore with the bat was Naz Hussain with 367 runs at 28.23 and Nick Codd with 248 runs at 31.00.  For the 2nds Andy Johnson was the leading run scorer with 440 runs at 44.00.

Towards Merger

With the failure to progress plans to improve the facilities at Victoria Recreation Ground the club had to look at other options for improvement and development.  This was with the hope of retaining players and also to have a venue suitable for the re-introduction of youth cricket.

History of Merger of Tilehurst CC and Theale CC

The reasons for Theale CC and Tilehurst CC merging can be summed up very simply: Theale CC had insufficient players and good facilities; Tilehurst CC had a reasonable number of players but poor facilities.  There were obvious advantages in the two coming together.

During 1996 both Theale CC and Tilehurst CC were looking at various options to overcome the problems they faced. The Tilehurst CC Committee had agreed that the Club could never move forward unless something was done about the facilities at the Victoria Recreation Ground.  In essence the Club had four options it could pursue when it was considering its future in 1996.  The first was to do nothing which was not much of an option and the second was to ask the Council to upgrade the facilities at the Victoria Recreation Ground but this had been tried earlier in the 1990s without success.

A further option was to try and find an alternative venue in Tilehurst that the Club could use as its home ground.  This option was explored with local estate agents, builders and Councillor Moon who owned several plots of land around Tilehurst.  However, this option did not identify a suitable alternative venue. This left the option of looking at merging with another local club.  Contact was made with Sulhamstead and Ufton CC and Purley on Thames CC but neither of these clubs really considered the option of merging to be a move forward for them. However, when contact was made with Theale CC the Theale CC Secretary, Brian Barefoot, did not rule out the option and agreed to raise the matter with the Theale CC Chairman Derek Partridge. At the same time as Tilehurst CC were looking at options to merge Theale CC were also looking at merger options (see further details below) so were unsurprisingly open to the idea of a merger with Tilehurst CC.

A meeting was held at the Calcot Hotel (neutral territory between the two Clubs/parishes) between Brian Barefoot, Derek Partridge, Alan Pyke (Secretary of Tilehurst CC) and Tony Mundell (Chairman of Tilehurst CC).  The meeting went well with each recognising the respective strengths and weaknesses each had and further meetings were held.  This led to an agreement in principle that the two clubs should look to merge.

Theale CC Final Annual General Meeting

The final annual general meeting of Theale Cricket Club was held in the Peter Gooch Room on 20th November 1996.   In his Secretary’s Report Brian Barefoot set out the problems that faced the Theale Club at the time; these included: Neither of the 1st or 2nd XI winning a game in 1996 8 games being cancelled due to insufficient players in 1996 In June 1996 the Theale Committee had seriously considered withdrawing the 2nd XI from the league Later in the meeting Brian Barefoot set out the reasons as to why the Theale CC committee was proposing a merger with Tilehurst CC. He said:

“I referred earlier to the Committee’s serious concern for the future of the Club due to the lack of players.  May I just remind you again that in the 1995 season we failed to field a full side on 22% occasions and in 1996 failed to field a full side on 60% occasions.  In addition to this the lack of availability of players on Sundays over the past 4 or 5 years has gradually reduced the number of fixtures on Sundays to such an extent that no fixtures were arranged for last season and we no longer have any Colts teams.

The committee concluded that it couldn’t continue with the present situation and some serious re-structuring of the Club would need to be carried out before the 1997 season although the options were very limited, given that we had agreed it would not be possible to plan for the 1997 season on the basis of an influx of new players – as experience over the last few years has not been encouraging. Therefore it would be a matter of considering reducing the Club to 1 team playing on Saturdays. This was an option which would have considerable limitations particularly for the long term future of the Club.

However, during the year we were approached by Englefield CC to consider a merger as they were also experiencing some difficulties in fielding a full team on occasions. The negotiations were not protracted as both Theale and Englefield CC’s insisted on playing 1st XI fixtures on their respective grounds.

At a later date we were approached by Tilehurst CC to consider a merger as they were also experiencing some difficulties in fielding a full team on occasions but more importantly they were becoming increasingly concerned with the standard of the facilities at their home ground at Victoria Rec. Tilehurst.  The main problems were that the facilities would not meet the increasing standards required by the Berkshire League, particularly for playing in the Premier and 1st Division, and the consequential effect of retaining players and attracting new players, particularly Colts.

It was agreed to pursue the possibility of a merger with Tilehurst and on behalf of Theale CC Derek Partridge and myself [Brian Barefoot] had a number of meetings with representatives of Tilehurst CC. These meetings resulted in us agreeing that there were considerable advantages to be gained by the merger, including: The avoidance of a further decline of the Club; Providing Sunday cricket; Encouraging Colts cricket; A more successful club and hopefully encouraging new players; Full utilisation of the ground and facilities at Theale

Derek and I reported back to the Committee and Tilehurst representatives reported back to their Committee.  Both Committees agreed to the merger and therefore asked that it should be formalised through the Club’s AGMs. Agreement has also been obtained from Theale Parish Council for the merged clubs to continue to use the Recreation Ground and Pavilion at Theale as its ‘home ground’ and I would like to thank the Parish Council for their support in this merger.  I understand that Tilehurst Parish Council has also been very supportive of the merger.”

The Committee’s agreement to merge with another club was not taken lightly as it was very aware of the fact that the Club had been in existence for 167 years, but its main reasoning was to retain a major cricket presence in Theale which otherwise would probably disappear.

This meeting is being asked to agree to the merger of Theale CC and Tilehurst CC …

All the relevant votes required to agree to the merger were carried unanimously.

Tilehurst CC Final Annual General Meeting

The final annual general meeting of Tilehurst CC was held at the Royal’s Supporters Club on Wednesday 27th November 1996.    There were two proposals from the Tilehurst CC Committee put to the meeting; they were:

(1) That Tilehurst Cricket Club be wound up at the end of this meeting and its assets be transferred to a New Club to be formed together with what was formerly Theale Cricket Club along with its assets, and; (2) that the officers elected at the 1996 AGM be elected en bloc to represent the interests of the former Tilehurst Cricket Club in the setting up a New Club together with representatives from the former Theale Cricket Club.

The above proposals were agreed unanimously.  This is perhaps just as well as Alan Pyke in his role of Club Secretary had already written to Tilehurst Parish Council on 30th October 1996 stating:

“After much deliberation and discussion we have decided to amalgamate with Theale Cricket Club and play our home matches at Theale. This has been forced on us by a combination of events, the lack of facilities at the Victoria Recreation Ground and the raising of the minimum standards required to remain in the Berkshire Cricket League. With the club having played in Tilehurst for well over one hundred years, and over eighty per cent of our membership living in the parish, this decision has not been taken lightly. The cricket facilities at Theale are excellent, which gives us an opportunity to develop Youth Cricket, an area that has sadly been neglected in the past.”

Local Press

The local press quickly picked up on what was happening with the following article by David Wright appearing in the Evening Post on Friday 29th November 1996 under the heading “Tilehurst merge with Theale”

Cricket teams Theale and Tilehurst have amalgamated. Both the Hewlett-Packard Berkshire League clubs struggled last season, though for different reasons. Theale found it impossible at times to field full teams while near neighbours Tilehurst had trouble in keeping their wicket at Victoria Rec up to the standards required by the League. Tilehurst chairman Tony Mundell said:

“The council were unable to provide a full time groundsman for Victoria Rec and when they did make the wicket nice youngsters would come along and play on it and rough it up. Our wicket received some low marks from visiting clubs and the league were showing some concern about the state of it. We looked round for a possible alternative site in the Tilehurst area but could find nowhere suitable. So we then thought about amalgamating and sounded out two or three clubs before deciding to go in with Theale. The club will now be known as Theale and Tilehurst CC with the recreation ground in Englefield Road, Theale their home venue. The facilities there are very good.”

Theale finished bottom of the 1st XI Division 1 after a disastrous season which saw them fail to win a game. Tilehurst were mid-table in the 1st XI Division 3. They expect to be playing in Division 2 next season with their ‘reserves’ in the 2nd XI Division 1 and the Thirds in Division 4. There will also be a Sunday team and the new club, who are yet to elect their officers, are also keen to launch two colts teams, at under 15 and under 13 level.  They plan a recruitment drive at local schools. He paid tribute to the assistance both clubs had received from the two Theale and Tilehurst parish councils.  Both have indicated that they will assist with the maintenance of the ground.

Theale and Tilehurst CC Initial Annual General Meeting

With both clubs having agreed to a merger the first General Meeting of Theale and Tilehurst CC was held in the Peter Gooch Room on 19th February 1997.  The meeting was chaired by Derek Partridge (the ex-Chairman of Theale CC).   The Steering Group that had seen through the merger, Derek Partridge and Brian Barefoot from Theale CC and Alan Pyke and Tony Mundell from Tilehurst CC, had been tasked with nominating persons for the new committee.  As such the following were elected en bloc unanimously as the first Theale and Tilehurst CC post holders:

President – Eddie Ellis

Chairman – Derek Partridge

Secretary – Brian Barefoot

Treasurer – Ralph Jenkins

Club/1st XI Captain – James Codd

2nd XI Captain – Brian Cooper

3rd XI Captain – David Harvey

Sunday XI Captain – Edward Choules

Colts Manager – Alan Pyke

Fixtures Secretary – David Cumming

Tony Mundell, Alan Newman, Dermot Healy and Vic Hayter were also voted on to the general committee. The meeting was informed that the new Club had had its teams placed in the following divisions for the 1997 season: the 1sts in 1st XI Division 2, the 2nds in 2nd XI Division 1 and the 3rds in 1st XI Division 4.  It was also announced that the 3rd XI would be playing their homes games at Englefield CC. For the 1997 season the senior membership was set at £5 and senior match fees at £6.