The Somerset Cricket Museum is very grateful to Mr Richard Twort for the donation of the book 100 Years of Uphill Castle Cricket Club and for permission to publish extracts from the book in the following article, also to Mr Ade Gardener for the photographs.
Uphill Castle Cricket Club has been inextricably linked with the Graves-Knyfton family ever since its first tenuous steps in 1893.
It was a great social occasion when the family took up residence in the Uphill Manor a year earlier in 1892 and they celebrated their arrival by inviting the whole village including 150 children to a tea and concert at the Castle.
Photograph- The cricket ground today.
THE EARLY YEARS
1893 – 1920
Until 1893, cricket at Uphill was played by a team known as the Boulevard Club and coincidentally, was made up mainly of the male staff of Uphill Manor. However, on June 5th 1893 some local village stalwarts put their heads together and decided to form a cricket club which would really be properly representative of the whole village. It would be called Uphill Castle Cricket Club.
The manor put its full support behind the idea and actually paid for each mans full set of kit including his club tie, an article without which a cricketer of that era was not considered properly dressed.
A Cricket ground had been prepared in front of the Castle called the Manor Field and for a short time this became the home of Uphill Castle cricket club. Although early matches were recorded as “successful” the very first game, an away fixture at Mark was a disaster, as the Castle were dismissed for 4 runs and two of those were byes.
For reasons lost in the mists of time Uphill Castle moved after a few years to St John’s Playing Fields (then called Fifty Acres) and later still moving to a ground known as Hocker’s Field where Stanhope Road and Totterdown Road are now situated. A sombre report in the 1st May 1915 Edition of the Mercury states that at the annual meeting, Mr A Hobbs suggested that the club should disband for the season on account of the war.
Although the club had arranged a few fixtures, these were mostly against schools. Mr Hobbs observed that it was a question of finding time to play and personally he did not desire to continue under the circumstances. Mr Parker thought that if the officers were not elected the club might disappear altogether. After what appears to have been a lengthy meeting, it was agreed to continue the club and
Major Reginald Graves-Anyton was re-elected as president with Col. Whitting, Captain Sandys and Mr B H Hill being Vice Presidents. The club captain was Mr Morgan Whitting. Old local names such as Hicks, Masters, Williams, Minife and Clarke were also elected to the committee. George Masters was in fact the clubs first Hon. Secretary.
With the Great War finally behind them, a meeting was held on May 1st 1919 at the village school to consider restarting cricket which had been suspended like all other similar clubs.
Cricket eventually got underway towards the end of May with a match between the married men and single men. History does not record the result, but more serious cricket started the following week with an away match against Worle which the Castle lost by 29 runs.
However matters improved considerably after this, in fact they never lost another match during the 1919 season, beating teams like Brent Knoll (three times!), Weston A and Weston 2nds, Highbridge, Hunstpill and district and Banwell. The latter being dismissed for a mere 9 on the 13th September. Banwell were obviously keen to avenge this embarrassment but were quickly bowled out for 22 the following week!. The Castle also turned the tables on Worle, beating them at the home ground by 98 runs.
At the end of this particular match both teams were entertained to tea at the manor by Mrs & Miss Graves-Knyfton. Uphill Castle Cricket Club ended the decade on a high note and looked forward to thrilling encounters in the new era which was to follow.
Cricket at Uphill was always played in the proper spirit and on balance the Castle won more than they lost. However it must be said that from the sparse records available it appears that the bowlers always seemed to have the upper hand as the following averages for the 1923 season will testify.
Matches played, 28: 13 won: 10 lost: 3 drawn: 2 abandoned through rain.
Much discussion took place at the annual general meeting that year about plans for a new pavilion – a topic which was to become very familiar over the years!
Although the country was in the depths of a depression, Uphill Castle flourished modestly and because of the motor coach were able to travel in relative comfort to away matches. Matches were arranged against Midsomer Norton, Chipping Sodbury and even Cardiff City Corporation.
A report from the 11th March 1933 edition of the Weston Gazette again pays tribute to the remarkable work of the Hon. Secretary, George Masters. By his sterling efforts he had secured an incredible 84 Vice Presidents, 59 Honorary members and even 26 lady members. Not surprisingly, laughter broke out when it was announced there were only 15 playing members!
Under threatening skies from Germany, the 1940 season got underway with a reduced number of hastily arranged fixtures for just one team (a second XI having been formed a couple of years earlier). It was unanimously agreed that in order to save raw materials, as well as much needed cash, no fixture cards would be printed during the war. The committee had also recently decided to purchase a quantity of new caps in the club colours – green with a red stripe and with a white castle over the peak – so the team must have looked good even though they were only to play in a limited number of games.
Club matters in 1940 were still dominated by lack of funds with the treasurer, Mr Savill, working miracles trying to balance the books. Before the war regular whist drives in the village provided a valuable source of income but these had had to be suspended because of the very strict blackout laws. Loyalties were divided as to whether any new funds from Vice Presidents should be used to pay off the debt still owing on the pavilion or go towards an even more urgent need – that of collecting for the Weston Spitfire fund (which did eventually reach it’s target of £5000 in 1942).
In 1940 farmer George Edwards from Wick St. Lawrence took over the lease on Manor Farm and leased a parcel of land in the village which included the Uphill Cricket ground.
Rent was fixed at a peppercorn rate and in return Mr. Edwards (who was no mean cricketer himself) was allowed to graze his sheep over the winter months. An amicable arrangement which lasted into the early fifties when the lease reverted back to an agreement direct with Miss Graves-Knyfton.
During the war years the cricket pavilion was used as unofficial base for the local home guard and there was always keen attendance particularly when special manoeuvres were arranged.
It was certainly a different club in the 50’s compared to today. At the ground, the existing pavilion was there, but no garage, or flush toilets and no mechanical roller. Meals were provided in the front of the pavilion with the ladies working wonders in cramped conditions.
At the start of the decade Uphill were already running a successful youth side winning the Junior League Championship in 1949 and 1950 and which provided the senior sides with a host of talent.
Most of the youngsters soon left the district, the youth team eventually folded and hasn’t been revised at the time of publishing the book. Nevertheless, Uphill ran two sides with many outstanding players, capable of challenging most local clubs.
Bill Andrews played for Uphill Castle in the late forties and early fifties, after one of the numerous times he had been discarded by Somerset. Mike Farr who was then a young and impressionable fast bowler from Weston Grammar School reminisces about his experience with the legendary local hero.
“Bill Andrews was the guru of us youngsters, and when coaching, to encourage our bowling he would put a half-crown on the off stump, take guard and ‘arrange to miss a straight one. I’m fairly sure it was claimed on a rota!
When doing groundsman duties one year, he got us collecting the droppings from the sheep which had been grazing on the ground in winter and we put the whole mess in a large metal drum. Bill then prepared a slurry which was spread over the square and rolled level. For some time the square was brownish, shone in the sun and no ball ever turned or bounced…. until it got wet! then it was devastating. I have never come across this practice since, probably for a very good reason!”
THE SIXTIES AND SEVENTIES
In the late 50’s and early 60’s many of the immediate post war team such as Chris Smith, Ernie Bateman, Cyril Thomas and Dick Bucknell were coming to the end of their long playing days.
Later in the decade new cricketers arrived such as Mike Hughes, Tony Slocombe, Mike Turnbull and Derek Brown and all were to play a significant part in successfully leading the club through the difficult transition from playing all friendly matches to a regular league programme.
To an outsider, the early 60’s at Uphill Castle must have portrayed the image of a rather select and austere association, reminiscent of a rather elite gentleman’s society. Anyone wishing to join the club really had to make themselves known to an official and then had to complete a written application form with probing questions, such as details of career structure, as well as cricketing experience and ability. This document was submitted to the executive committee headed by Joe Cossens for scrutiny who then decided if the applicant had suitable credentials!
In 1968 the club celebrated it’s 75th anniversary, and to mark the occasion a special match was arranged against an invitation XI, drawing players from all the local clubs in the district. It turned out to be an excellent afternoon’s cricket with many former players and club officials amongst the spectators.
The 1970’s marked the introduction of a major change in cricket at Uphill. The Somerset cricket league was founded in 1973 and after a lively players meeting later that year it was agreed that Uphill Castle should apply to join.
Although there had been some earlier opposition, it was generally felt that the club would actually have difficulty in finding reasonable fixtures as most other teams in the area were also joining with the league.
It was obvious that, like it or not, competitive league cricket was here to stay and clubs not participating would eventually lose their most talented players and would therefore no longer be able to field an effective team.
So in 1974, Uphill Castle, together with approximately 25 other clubs, played in an enlarged division to determine who would form the 2nd and 3rd divisions which were to commence in 1975. Fixtures for this year were made by participating clubs and a minimum amount of matches had to be arranged between them. Final positions were based on percentage points per game and those who finished in the top twelve, which included Uphill, formed division 2.
In the long hot summer of 1976 under the expert guidance of Mike Hughes, Uphill won the division and gained deserved promotion to division 1 and this status was easily retained for many years with the club occupying a comfortable mid-table position each year.
The 1980’s were a roller coaster for the fortunes of Uphill Castle, both on and off the field and culminating at the end of the decade with the emergence of a powerful first XI which percolated success and enthusiasm right down to the newly formed 4th XI.
Emulating Somerset from a decade earlier, a tactical declaration in September 1986 incurred the wrath of the Somerset League Committee and they withheld the First’s promotion to division one in favour of Winscombe. An artificial situation that righted itself on merit a mere twelve months later.
Sadly, 1992 saw the end of an incredible innings. It is quite phenomenal to record that Miss Graves-Knyfton was elected President of Uphill Castle in May 1919 and remained in office until her death in September 1992. Although few people within the club today had been acquainted with Miss Graves-Knyfton one always felt a sense of security and well-being with her name as a figure-head of the club.
The future of the club is assured, with the benefit of a long term lease agreement for the ground instead of the year to year arrangement which had operated since the club moved there 70 years ago.
Photo – Uphill Castle CC Somerset Cup Champions 2023