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Club history

The Past

Cricket was played in the village long before we came on the scene, and - God willing - will continue to be played long after we have departed. There is an authentic record of a match being staged between villagers and the tenants of the local landlord in the early 1790's, and certainly by the 1870's regular matches were being played at a selection of venues.

The modern history of the club can be said to have begun with the purchase by the village of the King George V Recreation Field, off the old Bath Road. Cricket was played there on a regular basis from the early 1930's onward, the changing rooms, kitchen and tea-room being contained in a very small, but characterful wooden pavilion at the top end of the ground. Of course, in those distant days all the matches were so-called "friendlies", a label under which fierce rivalries - with nearby villages such as Hurst and Wargrave - flourished and occasionally got out of control.

Twyford and Ruscombe were very strong through the 1950's and early 1960's, winning the very first Berkshire evening cricket cup - the Evening Post Cup Cup - in 1966. By 1968 the strength had diminished somewhat, due to defections and the ageing process. But we were still an effective and on occasions formidable side, and generally remained so over the next twenty years.

By the early 1990's a hunger was making itself felt in Berkshire, for a more competitive form of cricket. The club were somewhat cautious in taking the plunge into the new league set-up - I can remember the heated debates at annual meetings over whether we really wanted to get involved in all that striving for points, and the attendant gamesmanship. But eventually the plunge was indeed taken. First, we joined the newly-formed midweek league, and very soon afterwards the Saturday League side came into being.

The story of the mid-week side has been one of almost uninterrupted success. Twyford won the Parkas Business League in both 1995 and 1997 - being runners-up in 1996 - before switching to the Reading Business League in 1998. In that year we won division three, to be followed the next year by the second division title, and this year the First Division.

The Saturday side entered the Berkshire Cricket League in 1995, finishing runners up in Division Three that year. This was followed by a period of enhancement, culminating in the taking of the Division Two title this year, and with it promotion to Division One. It is also worth noting - to reassure those conservative spirits concerned that sporting traditions could not survive in the aggressive atmosphere of the league - that Twyford have won the Berkshire League Fair Play award for the past three years in a row.

We have also - for twenty years or so - organised a summer tour. We began in Bournemouth, played in and around Bristol for several years with considerable success, and have subsequently travelled to the Isle of Wight and - most recently - to the Brighton area.

This is a snapshot of the history of a club which has been part of village life for more than 200 years - much like many other venerable institutions dotted around the country. But in June 1999 there occurred an event which created a crisis for Twyford and Ruscombe, and which might well have sunk less robust cricket clubs. The little wooden pavilion which had served successive cricket teams for so many years - earning a honoured place in the affections of old-timers like myself - was set on fire and utterly destroyed. With it was lost all the club's playing gear, stumps, scoreboard, umpires'coats, balls, boundary markers - all the 101 things necessary to the playing of the game.

Like the proverbial Phoenix, we have risen - and what seemed on that appalling June night such a devastating blow to everything we stood for has, through the help of our many friends and the resilience of the club's members, been transformed into something approaching a new beginning.

The Future

The club is extremely proud of the fact that our playing programme was unaffected by the destruction of the old pavilion. We fulfilled our commitments then, and have continued to do so. Nevertheless, it impossible to disguise the problems that have faced us. During the past season, our Saturday league side was forced to play its "home" games on a rented ground, in effect depriving the players of all the advantages of playing on home territory. The Sunday side also became largely nomadic, since the facilities available at the King George Playing Field - known affectionately as The Rec - were so unappropriate (we were able to make use of the changing facilities in the youth centre - which is far away from the cricket ground - and were forced to offer a somewhat limited tea out in the open).

Without the incentive of playing regular games, our cricket square - as ever vulnerable to the tramplings of assorted golfers, dog-walkers, cyclists and footballers - began to deteriorate. We all knew perfectly well that this situation could only be temporary; that without a proper home of our own the club would wither and die. There were two alternatives: either to attempt to achieve funding for a new, vandal-proof brick-built pavilion on The Rec; or to move to a new ground. I will not endeavour to go through the arguments that raged over this dilemma, because they belong now to history. Suffice it to say that at this year's AGM, club members unanimously endorsed a course of action which I - as club chairman - firmly believe is the best guarantor of a sound and successful future for Twyford and Ruscombe.

In essence, it involves transferring the club playing facilities from the Rec to Stanlake Meadow, a sports ground owned by the parish council next to the Binfield road out of the village. The ground - currently used for football - is generally flat, but extensive work would be required, in laying a cricket square and levelling the outfield. There is a secure brick building with changing rooms, showers and a kitchen which could be adapted for cricket use. The council have ring-fenced the insurance payout from the destruction of the old pavilion for club use. This should cover the cost of a square and outfield improvements, adaptations to the pavilion, and the construction of a secure storage shed for mowers, rollers and other equipment. But these are no more than the essentials, and it will be up to the club to provide the additional facilities necessary to satisfy the requirements of the Berkshire League AND to recruit and retain players of the right standard and attitude. We need to have a playing surface comparable with the best in the league, which will demand professional maintenance on a continuing basis. We will need nets. We will need sight screens. We will need a range of mowing and other equipment capable of ensuring the highest standards.

The club has ambitious plans to develop the youth potential in Twyford and Ruscombe, which in the past has always been a rather haphazard business. It is our intention to begin running - over the next three years - under-11 and under-16 colt sides, which will provide a ready stream of maturing talent for future years. Links will be established with local schools and youth organisations to advertise the club. In addition, we plan to develop a Saturday Second XI to play in the Berkshire League.

To assist this expansion we recognise the need to put the club on a sound financial footing. We see this being achieved through strong internal financial management and the involvement of all club members allied with external contacts including potential sponsors. Having recovered from the blow of losing its long-cherished home base, Twyford and Ruscombe Cricket Club is now ready to embrace a new future. I and the other members of the committee are convinced that the changes of venue, and the development of new and improved facilities, which will come with that change, represent a golden opportunity. Having been associated with the club for well over quarter of a century, I am aware of a new mood, a determination to build success, to reach out to the community, to move ahead. We regard a warm and strong partnership with a local sponsor as an essential aspect of this mission. Without it, we will inevitably be restricted in the scope of our ambitions. With it, we can achieve something of which club members, sponsors, and the village as a whole should be proud.

Taken from a document written by:
Tom Fort,
Club Chairman.

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Paul Hackett,
29 Feb 2008, 07:36
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