Prelude - Clive Townsend
According to the book Cricket in Hertfordshire by R. G. Simons (first published in 1996) Arkley had its period of glory at the turn of the 19th century. The book tells us that the side was sometimes transformed by the presence of former England players Gilbert Jessop (18 Test matches), Vernon Royle (1), and A.O. Jones (12). In a twelve a side game against West Herts in 1900 Jessop took all eleven wickets and scored 43 runs, and in the same week he scored 213 against Hornsey. However by 1905 the “apparently buoyant club had ceased to exist”.
1932 to the present - a potted history, with thanks to Brian Andrews
Arkley Cricket Club as we know it was founded in 1932 at Arkley Working Men’s Club. The club building although somewhat altered, and now known as “The Arkley Club”, still exists today on the corner of Barnet Road and Field End.
The home ground in those days was at the junction of Rowley Lane and Rowley Green Road in Arkley. A feature of the ground was a miniature railway which circled the field, run by local enthusiasts. Following the acquisition of the land by the London Water Board and the building of a large water tower the club was forced to find a new home.
The club moved to Grange Playing Fields off Mays Lane until 1956, and then in 1957 moved again to Barnet Playing Fields adjoining the old Barnet Football and Cricket Club grounds. There were several squares on the sloping ground and there was a healthy rivalry between the clubs who played there with regular fixtures against each other.
Arkley’s square was officially “Pitch 101”. The wooden pavilion (later destroyed by fire and never replaced) provided separate changing areas for each team, with basic facilities, and a single door for ventilation. A small kitchen on the end of the building served all clubs using the venue.
The club played here for 18 seasons until 1974 when it moved to Brunswick Park between Oakleigh Road South and Brunswick Park Road. The tea room was bigger here and enabled the team to break bread with the opposition. The playing area had one very large square on which two games could be played at the same time, albeit that the boundary on one side of each pitch was often short whilst the other quite long. It was not unknown for a six to stay below waist height.
During the eight years at Brunswick Park (1975-1982) the club also played some home games at Grovelands Park in Southgate. An unusual feature of this ground was a large tree close to the square, so a well placed shot or mishit was equally rewarded with four runs when the tree was struck.
The club celebrated its Golden Anniversary in 1982 with a very enjoyable Dinner Dance at the Crest Hotel, South Mimms with cricket statistician, the late, Bill Frindall (who later played one game for Arkley) as the guest of honour who entertained us with tales from the Test Match Special commentary box as well as presenting trophies for the Golden Jubilee season. It was a memorable evening with further speeches by club chairman Arthur Brown, club captain Clive Townsend, and (Professor) Bob Purnell on behalf of past members.
In 1983 the club moved to its present “home” the Dame Alice Owen’s Sports Ground in Chandos Avenue, Whetstone, which had been acquired by Barnet Council. Initially the two “squares” were of a good standard but with the Council cutting back spending on the maintenance of sports pitches the quality has lapsed. The purchase of a motorised roller by the club in 2008 has helped iron out some vagaries in the wicket, but the low bounce has baffled many batsmen. The characterful pavilion, which provides generously sized changing rooms, and low level showers, has now seen better days and is in need of a makeover. It is hard to believe that the ground was at one time used by the England football team for training prior to international matches.
Unfortunately the Arkley players and performances from the early years are unknown as we do not possess a full set of scorecards, however since the late sixties the club has maintained a very high standard of scoring and statistical records. Also from 1972 to 1988 there was a club newsletter, the “Arkley Herald” (as in “Arkley Herald Angels Sing”).
The former ground of Old Owens CC (later developed), located on the opposite side of Chandos Avenue to our present ground behind the old “Black Bull” public house on the High Road, was the scene of Arkley’s lowest recorded score. In 1974 in an evening 15 x eight ball over cup tie Arkley were bundled out for just 15 runs. Owens completed victory in 3.3 overs (although we did take two wickets). We were also bowled out for 14 in 1967 but with only eight men in the team that doesn’t count! There have been several team scores in the
Arkley’s highest recorded score of 264-5 was in 1994 at the compact Langley Wanderers ground at Kings Langley, where scores of 200 + were almost the norm.
Over the years average team scores have risen remarkably. In the 1950’s & 60’s a team score of 70 was par for the course. If you made 80 you would feel hard done by to lose, and scores of 100 or more were almost unheard of. Now a total of at least 150 is usually required for a competitive game.
During the 1960’s and 70’s tours of Cornwall (based in St Mawgan) and South Wales (based in Star, Pembrokeshire, now the home of former player Brian Andrews) were part of the Club’s itinerary. On the first tour of Cornwall David Halfyard and Norman Graham, both of Kent CCC, played for Gorran against Arkley.
Since the early 1970’s the club has held an Annual General Meeting during the winter months when club officials are elected, the past seasons performances recalled, and cricket matters discussed.
Regular finance for the club is raised in the form of annual subscriptions and match fees, but over the years extra funds have been raised in other ways. There was a duck club which charged sixpence (later 5p) for each duck scored, and in the early seventies raffles were held at home matches with some rather dodgy prizes! Also around that time there were jumble sales in February or March. These involved hard work for a few days, collecting, sorting, displaying and selling, but nevertheless they brought club members together in a non-cricket environment and were financially worthwhile. More recently there have been successful quiz evenings to raise funds, with former player Jon Holland acting as quiz master.
The club also participates in the pre-season “Cricket Force” initiative, which encourages club members to undertake various jobs to the ground / facilities. Our most ambitious project to date was in 2007 when new sightscreens were constructed.
The Arkley players would have originally been drawn from the members of the Working Men’s Club and their friends but any links here have long been lost. Since the late 1960’s the club has survived due to the introduction of the sons of players and connections with such as Barnet College, Chipping Barnet Youth Club, Barnet Church, Christ Church Friern Barnet, Finchley County School, Tollington School, Simms Motors / Lucas/CAV Rotax, Barclays Bank, Barnet Council, Manor Drive CC, and more recently Barnet CC. We now look to our current players to encourage the involvement of their friends and family, and to find new players from untappedsources to enable the club to continue for many years to come.