The Perfect Place for Cricket – Episode 2

This story is a partly imagined version of the events which took place over sixty years ago, leading to the purchase of the land which became the ground of Long Marston Cricket Club. It is largely based on a conversation with Don Winfield last year, as contained in the detailed transcript and audio already posted on our website.

Preface: This version of events is in different format, intended to bring the events even more to life. It is told through the eyes of Len Dean, Chairman of the Club at the time and long term benefactor and supporter of the local villages. We appreciate the help of the Dean family in approving and adding to the text.

Len Dean’s Story – 1961. The dream is realised

Yesterday was the day when it finally happened; we had our first match on our beautiful new cricket ground; such a wonderful feeling to see the results of three years hard work. And we had quite a wild session afterwards to celebrate what we had achieved.

I was certainly right three years ago when I said that there would be trouble ahead. The first problem was raising the £400. This is about the same amount of money that it takes the average farm worker to earn in a year so was never going to be easy. Some of us wondered how the Church came to own all this land and what it was going to do with the money but we had no choice but to pay up.

It was fortunate that Chris Procter, our Treasurer, was able to make contact with the Reverend at an early stage before any other buyers came in. He was able to quickly confirm the price and the period over which the money was paid. The Reverend insisted on a £40 deposit and a quick whip round of the members enabled us to raise this amount and seal the deal. We used every possible way to raise the rest of the funds; players, members and friends gave donations based on what each could afford and we raised a lot of money through whist drives. Somehow we did it.

The other problem was handling the reactions of the allotment holders. It wasn’t everyone who complained, just some awkward customers who were very unhappy and wouldn’t speak to us for a while; Sid Stevens was the worst, he went really mad when he heard the news. But most of them accepted that there was not much they could do; they were only renters after all. And those that wanted to were able to find new allotments to rent at Potash Lane or Puttenham or Wilstone Road.

Another factor was that we had much village opinion on our side. At the first meeting when we decided to bid for the ground, I told everyone that it was vital for everyone to stand together against likely opposition. And many of our players come from the families that do much for the village – Bignalls, Chapmans, Chandlers – and they were obviously all in favour; good job the village is so crazy about cricket. Also there were various friends and supporters of the club who knew how important it was to have this unique opportunity of a new ground.

We told everyone who would listen that there was nowhere else in the village that would ever have the same perfect condition. We gradually won people over to our side built up the number of supporters of our plans. There was, in the end, little the opponents could do. Poor old Sid was not pleased!

I hope that everyone who came to see our first match today appreciates how much hard work has gone into creating this cricket ground over the last three years. As usual, when I want things done, I go to Don Winfield who also works for us at Deans. He led the major task of flattening the field with horse drawn ploughs and we only saw a tractor appear in the final stages when it was too late.

And the work is not over yet. Don has agreed to take over the maintenance of the ground and the next stage is to build a pavilion; some provisional plans were discussed at last Monday’s committee meeting. I expect I’ll be asked to lead that project too; I sometimes think that most of my spare time is taken up with cricket club work. Good job that I love the game.

Editors Notes:

  • The Pavilion was completed in 1965 and officially opened in 1966.
  • In the late 1980s, extra land was purchased from the estate of Little Farm, which enabled increased boundaries to be established, bringing the ground up to county standard.
  • The club began to host National Minor Counties matches in 1994.

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