Somerset Stragglers – Club History

Somerset Stragglers Cricket Club are a long established Nomadic cricket club playing on perfect Somerset & Devon pitches. This year (2022) will see us playing 15 midweek friendly fixtures, including a short tour to North Devon/Cornwall!

In 1900, at the age of 36, Rev. E.P. Spurway, the Rector of the small Parish of Heathfield was asked by ‘several Gentlemen’ to form an amateur cricket club for the County of Somerset. There was already a Somerset County Cricket Club and had been since it was accepted by the grandees at Lords in 1890, but there were a growing number of amateur clubs throughout the country and it was obvious that a county side would be, or maybe in the case of Somerset, should be, too strong for such opposition due to the influx of professional cricketers. Accordingly Reverend Spurway made an appointment and went into Taunton by pony trap, to have a word with the county secretary, the powerful and well respected Mr Murray Anderton of Henlade House. He felt that before he commenced his task, he should receive the blessing of the county authority so that no misunderstanding might arise in the future as to the necessity for the new club and to show that it was not intended to deprive the county of any of its amateurs who, after all comprised the greater majority of the Somerset team, but several of whom had already indicated their interest in joining this new venture.

A meeting was held in what was known as ‘The Ladies Pavilion’ on the County Ground in Taunton on Monday 27th August, 1900. The meeting unanimously carried Rev Spurway’s suggestion that ‘an amateur cricket club for the County of Somerset be founded’. The first proposal that the club’s title should be ‘The Somerset Nomads’ was rejected, and the meeting agreed to the name ‘The Somerset Stragglers’. Mr Anderton agreed that the new club could consider that the County Ground was its headquarters, and that it would share the use of the ground with the Taunton and Taunton Deane clubs, as well as the County team itself. The Committee set the annual subscription for playing and non-playing members at 10/6d.

At this time the Boer War was still active. Messrs Fox of Wellington were asked to produce a suitable coloured cloth with which to make new uniforms that the Boer marksmen would find difficult to pick off. They came up with khaki. Rev Spurway visited the factory and saw great bales of red and blue cloth, together with the new fabric for the Army in South Africa. Rev Spurway’s favoured design using these three colours was selected by the Club Committee. Over the years the khaki band has been replaced by golden yellow.

Arguably, the happiest years of Straggler cricket were those played at Taunton on what is now known as The County Cricket Ground, but at the start of the twentieth century this ground was known as the Rack Field. For many years, the Stragglers used the same facilities when they played at Taunton as provided for the County players.

At the end of the 1923 season the County needed financial support, so Stragglers CC agreed to assist with the cost of a new ‘model’ score board on the ground and to donate £25 to assist in reducing debt incurred by the County Club. The final bill was for £94. This score board dominated the North East corner of the ground until a quite recent date. Col. W.E. Ridley was elected Vice-President of Stragglers in 1924. He seconded a motion at a Committee Meeting that year when the suggestion was made that the Club should arrange to have its own enclosure on the County Ground. The Colonel had paid for a new long stand erected between the Ladies Pavilion and the Main Pavilion after the old building, known as the Hen Coop, had been removed. Hence the Ridley Stand was constructed. In 1924 Capt. Davey, the County Secretary, attended a Stragglers Committee Meeting and suggested that rather than spending money erecting a special pavilion, the Stragglers could rent a part of the Ladies Pavilion and take in the area of grass in front. Thus began the long period when the South West corner of the Rack Field became ‘The Stragglers’. During County match days, the wandering crowds on the ground seats would stroll around in the lunch and tea breaks and gaze at the loungers in the enclosure, and small boys would attempt to get their autograph books signed by any of the amateurs who might be there. The Ridley Stand and the Stragglers Pavilion existed until very recently, when they succumbed to the ambitious ground developments.

In 1904, the fixtures included Clifton College, Blundells, Kings School, Bruton and the Old Boys of St Edward’s School, Oxford. There were two matches against the Devon Dumplings, both over two days. There were two days at both Seaton and Sidmouth, two at Knightshayes Court and two against North Devon, played at Taunton. In all, 21 matches with 24 days of cricket. The following year, Seaton, Sidmouth and the United Services at Plymouth, together with a match against the Dumplings at Taunton, provided eight days of cricket and then two days against Wiltshire Wanderers at Trowbridge, two more. There were also matches against Weston-super-Mare, and Glamorgan Gypsies (played in Cardiff), both fixtures over two days. The 1912 yearbook recorded that G.W. Hodgkinson averaged 54.8 with the bat in 1911, with a top score of 229 not out. Hodgkinson’s double century is all part of Straggler history for it was made in the on 11th July 1911 against the Somerset Clergy, a match which will stand for many years as an example of hard hitting and rapid scoring. In about three hours the parsons ran up a total of 453 runs, Rev. E. Reid hitting a century and his partner Rev. J Turner, 137, with Rev. H.G. Barnes adding 70 in quick time further down the order. Stragglers went for the runs from the start. The second innings total of 458 for 1 took just 2 hours and 20 minutes to bludgeon. Riddell compiled 183 not out, not to be overshadowed by Hodgkinson’s double century. Overall, 911 runs were made in under six hours.

Jack White, from Escott Farm, Stogumber, in the shadow of the curving Brendon Hills, became a member of the Stragglers in July 1908, a year before he started his Somerset career, a career that spanned 28 years. For England he played a total of 15 matches, all after he was 37 years old, in 1921, 1928, 1929 – in Australia 1928-29 – and in 1930 he captained the team. For the County he hit six centuries and scored over 11,000 runs, and he took over 2,000 wickets at around 18 runs apiece. White relinquished his four-year captaincy of Somerset at the end of the 1931 season, and thus was able to play Straggler cricket. He hit two Stragglers centuries in 1932, 1936. In 1938 he took nine wickets for nine runs against Queens College, Taunton, and the same year, against the Stragglers of Asia he took 14 wickets in the two-day game and nine for 43 against Bridgwater. He achieved a hat-trick against Kings College, Taunton in 1936. A very potent cricketer, but a quiet man, enigmatic, perhaps rather cold in his attitude to his colleagues. However he was a good friend, a man of the soil and true son of Somerset.

The 1913 membership list contained 233 names. Sadly there is no list of members who died during or as a consequence of the Great War. As to the Rack Field during the War, the Army took over the ground and its facilities and it seems that training took place on its hallowed green turf. Tents were erected, drills and general training undertaken, but the ground was not dug up nor the buildings altered.

A major contribution to the Stragglers for many years came from E.R. Nesfield, who was a land agent, managing a large estate near Dulverton. His keenness and great support of the Club throughout the years until his death, marked him out as one of the most reliable and consistent of players. He was a very useful man to have in any side, both for his batting – he hit four centuries in the 1930s – and his bowling, taking a hat-trick against Devon Dumplings in 1930. He managed many games, participated in the tours and, when his cricketing days were practically over, helped with the management of the Junior Stragglers in the 1960s. The first Junior Stragglers match was played at Bridgetown in 1936. The Junior Stragglers, were ‘conceived’ in 1935, when their rules were agreed and the County, for the Juniors’ purposes, was divided into three areas, North, East and West with a District Manager for each area. With the outbreak of the Second World War official cricket ended. After the War, liability for service in the Forces arrived, the number of boys available dropped and junior cricket in general ceased. It was not until 1956 that the Juniors once again commenced operations due to the efforts of John Palmer, then school-mastering in Sussex, but who had a holiday cottage near Taunton. In the 1970s Peter Roebuck and Victor Marks became members of the Junior Club whilst at school, and then made considerable names for themselves, Peter for Somerset and Victor for Somerset and England. Thus, in a small way, the Junior Stragglers fulfilled one of their appointed tasks, to further the course of Somerset cricket. Other future Somerset County players to turn out for the Stragglers in this era were Jeremy Lloyds and Kevin Parsons. Latterly, prior to becoming the County’s bright new star, Jack Leach has made appearances for Stragglers.

West Buckland School in North Devon was a fixture for Somerset Stragglers from the early 1920s. In 1930 a boy named Harold Gimblett took three wickets for 48 for the School in the match. Gimblett appeared for Stragglers in 1932, striking 142 runs in 75 minutes. This feat by a boy of 16 was soon common knowledge in the neighbourhood, and can be considered as the first step on his way to a place in the English Test team many months later. The next year, after Gimblett had left West Buckland, he hit 168 in a total of 272 versus W.G. Penny’s Somerset XI. In 1935 Gimblett cemented his place in Somerset folklore. Upon selection Gimblett completed a tortuous journey to the match, borrowed Arthur Wellard’s heavy bat to bat at number seven, and created a sensation to hit the fastest recorded century.

In more recent years, the County Cricket Club continually expanded, with schemes for new buildings and extra seating around the ground County Ground, while more and more cricket was being played there. Thus, rent of the ground increased until it had reached a level which Stragglers could not afford and in 1980, the last regular game on the County Ground was played against the Strollers. Thereafter, apart from matches sponsored from outside the Club, all games would be played on pitches rented from cricket clubs around the County. The Club’s appearances on the County Ground after this were limited to contests with Somerset Representative XIs and County sponsors teams. Stragglers secured the County Ground for the centenary match on 18th July 2000 against M.C.C. This match ended in an honourable draw, with Stragglers’ innings concluding just short of the target set by M.C.C., thanks to an unbeaten century from Andrew Clark, then of Bishops Lydeard.

From Assyrians and Asterisks, to Woodpeckers and Wye Rustics, Stragglers have faced over 230 different opposing teams in their history. There were 17 matches on the Somerset Stragglers fixture card in 2011, including the century old fixtures versus Devon Dumplings, North Devon and Sidmouth.

With the establishment of the Stragglers Coffee House in the new Somerset Pavilion long-standing Stragglers President Hugh Duder and Vice-President Michael Giles arranged for a print of the Sturgeon painting of the Ground to be hung in that venue to mark the Club’s continued association with the County Club.

A sypnosis based on ‘The History of the Somerset Stragglers Cricket Club’ compiled by P.C. Lennard-Payne and provided by Mr. Keith Templeman.

Somerset County Cricket Club

Somerset County Cricket Club is one of eighteen first-class county clubs within the domestic cricket structure of England and Wales. It represents the historic county of Somerset. Founded in 1875, Somerset was initially regarded as a minor county until official first-class status was acquired in 1895. Somerset has competed in the County Championship since 1891 and has subsequently played in every top-level domestic cricket competition in England. The club’s limited overs team was formerly named the Somerset Sabres, but is now known only as Somerset.

Ian Botham on his 22nd birthday

A distinctly underwhelmed Ian Botham being presented with a cake on his 22nd birthday by England tour manager Ken Barrington. Botham was at the airport ready to leave for that winter’s tour of Pakistan and New Zealand

A response to the article on Bill Andrews by Mike Tarr from his great nephew, Gary Andrews.

I just saw your memory of Bill Andrews, who was my Great Uncle, by Mr. Mike Tarr, and thought I would drop you a line.

I have heard many stories about him and read his book about being a Professional Cricketer.

He played Cricket with me in about 1958 in Highbridge, I think. It was in his back garden and I was a 5 year old. He told me that if I wanted to play cricket I would have to face his type of bowling. He gave me his bat that was over the Fire Place and practiced with me. I was scared stiff and it felt real when he bowled. Then he put the bat away and got some bottles in his wall and started shooting at them with a pellet gun. 

I did not realise that he was showing me an important lesson in life and even at 5 years of age I remember thinking what a great bloke. My Dad never did anything like that with me?

I never saw him play but, my Dad told me about him and I read his book. I heard in latter life that he was influential in Ian Botham’s development at Millfield School

As a Cricketer, not as a Scholar, Ahhhhhh

Is that true, or just wishful thinking. I remember he had huge hands and was a big guy.

We lived in Wiltshire so I did not see him too often. His brother was my Grandad who moved to Wiltshire to work in the Railways.

Gary later added: His book was interesting because, I think, Cricket was a bit of a Gentleman’s game and he was a rough diamond.

He had to fight to become a Professional Cricketer and then the Second World War probably stopped him from playing for England. There was another cricketer at Somerset who was very good but my Uncle Bill clashed with due to his background. This may be sour grapes, but my dad told me he was a tough cookie and could be argumentative and confrontational.

Ian Botham had a strong character, maybe Uncle Bill instilled that into him Ahhh.

New donations 18th April 2022

We are very grateful to Brigid Riddell for two donations from her fathers cricket collection. An autographed salver commemorating the SCCC wins in the Gillette Cup and John Player League in 1979 and tankard presented to her father for his role as President of the Somerset Wyverns between 1984 and 1986.

John Challen 1884-99

John Challen was a classic schoomaster amateur who popularised the game, playing most of his 52 matches for Somerset in the summer holidays when the professionals had to step to one side. He scored 1656 runs at 19.71 as well as taking 16 wickets

He played between 1884 and 1899 but never more than 11 times in any season. A good footballer, he turned out four times for the Wales national side.

The successes of the Somerset Academy (the last 5-6 years) – Part 2

by Harry Everett (Journalist and Broadcaster)

I had the privilege to commentate on Sonny Baker’s first ball and first over in professional cricket, v Derbyshire in July 2021 and I cannot remember being more impressed by an 18-year-old on debut. I had already heard lots about this young man from Devon Dumplings teammates who played with him at Kings College and how he ripped through school cricket with in-swinging yorkers. Of course, many had seen the clip that went viral of him doing just that. But there is more to his game than that super strength. It is a travesty injury ceased him from showcasing his skills on the World Stage at the U19 World Cup alongside James Rew and George Thomas. But that 3-46 on debut is one I have watched back on the Somerset YouTube Channel multiple times since-time very well spent. Ned Leonard and Kasey Aldridge will both get further chances in the 2022 season, having been mostly used in the Royal London Cup (RLC) last summer.

Continue reading “The successes of the Somerset Academy (the last 5-6 years) – Part 2”

Middlesex v Somerset June 1928

A lovely shot of Somerset’s Wally Luckes running out Middlesex’s Tom Enthoven at Lord’s in June 1928. Luckes was Somerset’s keeper either side of WW2, playing 365 times for them between 1924 and 1949.

Somerset in Print by Martin Chandler

By Martin Chandler first published August 2021

Somerset County Cricket Club was formed in 1875, and first competed in the County Championship in 1891, the second summer of the formally organised competition. There have been a number of histories of the club, the first being Ron Roberts’ Sixty Years of Somerset Cricket, a comprehensive look back at the county’s years in the Championship, published in 1952.

Continue reading “Somerset in Print by Martin Chandler”

On this day 26th March 1980

On this day in 1980…

Cricketing legend Ian Botham made his debut as a footballer for Scunthorpe United, coming on as a sub in the Division 4 match at Bournemouth.

So good to be back – says Annie Chave

On the 26 September 2019 I stood bereft on a damp outfield watching Marcus Trescothick, cap in hand, leaving the field for the very last time.  An emotional crowd aware that a departing wave saw the end of a 26 year playing career that had embedded itself in the very fabric of the Somerset stands. Not only was there no fairy tale end but Somerset had to once again watch as the trophy, fingertip width from their grasp, was presented to a jubilant Essex and to add insult to injury it looked likely that the quality of the pitch would be called into question. This, I thought, was as difficult a day to stomach as I was likely to have to face in my Somerset support.  

Continue reading “So good to be back – says Annie Chave”

The successes of the Somerset Academy (the last 5-6 years) – Part 1.

By Harry Everett (Journalist and Broadcaster)

In a two-part article I will review the great success of some key names who have come through the Somerset Academy into the first team to play county cricket.

First team regulars for a while now: Ben Green, Tom Lammonby, Lewis Goldsworthy, George Bartlett, Max Waller, Craig Overton, Lewis Gregory, Jack Leach.

More recently: Ned Leonard, Kasey Aldridge and even the much-maligned-by-injury Ollie Sale. And the three current England U19 lads get a mention later on and those who have moved on: Nathan Gilchrist, Eddie Byrom, Dom Bess, Jamie Overton

Continue reading “The successes of the Somerset Academy (the last 5-6 years) – Part 1.”

Bill Andrews (1908-1989)

by Mike Tarr (Artist and Museum Trustee)

This is a story about Bill Andrews, the great Somerset bowler (all-rounder?) who was the manager of the Somerset 2nd XI when I played for the club.

I was very fond of Bill and regret that through no fault of his own, he comes out of this on the wrong side of events, which I am sure may have happened a few times in his working days for Somerset CCC.

Continue reading “Bill Andrews (1908-1989)”

The view from the commentary box 2021 (by A.Gibson)

By Anthony Gibson (Broadcaster, Writer and Museum Trustee)

Picture courtesy of Somerset CCC
Picture courtesy of Steve Tancock

When I look back on Somerset’s season from the commentary box of my mind, I see Tom Abell standing defiant, like the boy on the burning deck, amidst the wreckage of the top order batting; I see Craig Overton pounding in for over after relentless over; I see Ben Green leading out his young team in the One Day Cup; and I see all three of our captains explaining honestly, manfully and sometimes almost tearfully what, in the final analysis, went wrong.

Continue reading “The view from the commentary box 2021 (by A.Gibson)”

Being back at the CACG

Words echoed around the stand ‘I can hardly believe it!’, ‘ Great to be back’, ‘It’s been a long time!’, ‘It’s nice to be here again’. There’s a buzz around the ground again and it is palpable.

10:30 and the Toss is being held – Tom Abell and James Vince shake hands – Hampshire win the toss and elect to have a bowl.

Josh Davey, Lewis Gregory, Jack Brooks and Marchand de Langer are warming up in front of us after the traditional game of football, the anticipation of play is starting to rise amongst the assembled members.

11:00 Play Commences – Cricket and the Somerset Supporters are back at the CACG.

Hampshire 1895

Hampshire were admitted to the County Championship for the first time in 1895. Just like this year, their first match of the season was against Somerset (although unlike 2022 it was at Taunton). Here is the 1895 side, with Russell Bencraft (centre) captain.

Derbyshire v Somerset 1947

The scorecard from one of the most remarkable Derbyshire CCC games at the Queen’s Park in 1947. All over in a day, Derbyshire win by an innings, George Pope 13-50.

Photo and stats courtesy of @dgriffinpix

September 2019 v Essex

I was lucky enough to be at the Cooper Associates County Ground for the last game of the 2019 season. Memories of Tom Abell scoring 45, Roelof van der Merwe 60 and, on that pulsating final day, Jack Leach’s 5 wickets  fleetingly giving Somerset an outside chance of beating both Essex and the weather and as a consequence clinching the first-ever Championship for my county. 

A bittersweet day in so many ways. Not just the sight of Essex lifting the trophy on our hallowed turf but a day that belonged in so many ways to Marcus Trescothick. Yes, I was there when Marcus joined the slip cordon for the final overs with it seemed, every Somerset fielder clustered around the bat and I was there when Tom Abell realised it was to no avail and offered Essex the draw. I stood there, drained of emotion, politely clapping the 2019 champions.

As I slowly left the County Ground that evening I said to the gentleman in the ticket office ‘See you next Year’ to which he replied ‘Winter Well’. Prophetic? Such memories, such poignant moments.

The Forgotten Final – Somerset V Kent at Lord’s, September 1967

by Richard Walsh (Journalist and Museum Trustee)

Whenever people talk about Somerset’s success in one day cricket most refer to the period in the club’s history known as the `Glory Years, when between 1979 and 1983 the team won five one day trophies- four of which came in finals at Lord’s.

Many folk overlook the fact that Somerset had played in two finals before they enjoyed success – in 1978 when they lost to Sussex in what was the precursor to their run of success, and in 1967 when they lost to Kent. The match against Kent in 1967 is often the forgotten final because it was only the fifth year of the  Gillette Cup and one day cricket was very much still in its infancy.

This summer marks the 55th anniversary of the match against Kent and recently I was lucky enough to be able to spend time in the company of Somerset stalwarts Ken Palmer and Peter Robinson who were members of the team on that long ago early autumn day.

Continue reading “The Forgotten Final – Somerset V Kent at Lord’s, September 1967”

My reflections on the 2022 Under 19 World Cup

By Chris Rew (Father of James Rew)

The 2022 Under 19 World Cup was eagerly anticipated after nearly two years of disruption to youth international cricket fixtures caused by the  pandemic. Luckily, the tournament, held in the West Indies in January / February 2022 was relatively unaffected by Covid, although several teams lost a few players to isolation and Canada had to leave the plate tournament early when nine of their squad tested positive. The ICC, however, did a magnificent job of organisation in testing circumstances.

Continue reading “My reflections on the 2022 Under 19 World Cup”