A full history of South Weald Cricket Club
An extract from the '1972 Club Appeal' article by John Lowe
Village cricket has been traditionally strong in Essex, and particularly so in the Brentwood and central part of the county. Although some clubs already existed in the Brentwood area, prominent members of the village community recognised the need for local opportunities and in February 1927, a public meeting was convened at which South Weald CC was formed. 13 matches were subsequently arranged for the first season. Local support was enthusiastic and helpful. The Tower Arms loaned one of the fields at the rear of the public house for games - although chasing the ball on such a hilly terrain must have added considerably to the early difficulties of the club. The subscription was set at half-a-crown, and 29 members were attracted in the first year. With such special assistance as a borrowed roller from Noak Hill, and arrangements to buy hats at fifteen shillings each, the accounts balanced at £8.17.6, showing a "profit" of £2.9.6. for the first year.
Early Club records make fascinating reading as a background to local history. The club prospered from the outset. Annual dinners were arranged, the fixture list grew steadily, and even though it became necessary by 1935 to pay a groundsman 6/- a week for maintenance of the pitch, and subscriptions had risen to 5/- a head, membership was strong and village support in terms of direct assistance and a lengthening list of Vice-Presidents, continued to grow. In traditional fashion, the club seemed to center around the Tower Arms, South Weald's principal Public House. Mrs. Towers, from the family at Weald Hall, was for many years the Club's President up to her death in 1935. By the outbreak of war in 1939, when South Weald Cricket Club was forced to dissolve, it had established itself as a leading local team, with a stabilised membership of something under 30 regular players, and subscriptions still at 5/- a head!
After the war, in 1946, the Club reformed, took stock, and found that its most urgent need was for a more suitable ground on which to play. A number of possibilities were explored before the club accepted an offer from the London Hospital, then resident at Rochetts, South Weald, to play at Front Park. Suitable sites were already difficult to find in the area, particularly with the Armed Services' use of Weald Park in the National interest. Equipment was short, but members are recorded in the minutes of the general meeting held in May 1946 as having offered equipment from their own resources, and games were underway the same summer. South Weald recognised the need for the focus to be on youth very early on after the war, and the first scheme for encouraging youngsters from 12 years old onwards was proposed by then vicar, the Reverend Donald Rooke, at the end of the first post-war season. The London hospital agreed early the following year to indefinite use of Front Park, Rochetts, while they were in residence, and with subscription set at 7/6 for men, 5/- for youths, and 2/6 for boys, the future seemed assured. But in 1950, the question of the ground again emerged as the critical factor following a change of ownership at Rochetts.
Once again, sites in Weald Park were examined, and even the possibility of sharing a ground with the village football team was reviewed. However, by April 1951, the agreement had been reached for the club to continue at Rochetts, and alternatives - which would have involved considerable expenditure in terms of preparation of a ground, were dropped. Shortly after this, the opportunity for South Weald to move to the park was lost when the ground earmarked was committed for in other ways, and investment at Rochetts was stepped up to bring facilities in line with rising standards.
By 1953, the club had bought its first mower for cutting the outfield - a 5-hour task with a 30" cut Atco bought for £140. The club began to become more formally active socially - in 1953, for example, it ran a dance to raise money for the Lord Mayors East Coat Flood Disaster fund, but with costs rising all round, dances soon became a necessity, along with rummage sales and increased subscriptions, if South Weald was to remain solvent.
In 1955, the club owed £140 - primarily because of the purchase of the motor mower, but by the following year, the debt was cleared. In 1957, the crisis of the ground had returned, with the sale of Rochetts and its parks and building yet again the cause, left the clubs fortunes hanging on the hoped-for good wishes of the new owners. But with the arrival of Col. A J G Mohring the club was promised continuing use and it set about improving itself again. A new pavilion was acquired, with the kind support of one of the Club's vice presidents, and was erected by the club's own members. "Elsan" toilets and a kitchen were added, ground equipment was realistically overhauled and replaced, very principally following the gift from Col. Mohring of a replacement mower for the 30" Atco which had begun to consume an impossible amount of club funds, maintenance of the site was stepped up and by 1930, the club was facing the future with renewed confidence and a parallel injection of new players. The club strengthened its position socially with dances, rummage sales, and fundraising activities now an essential part of its life.