The `Woodford Wells Junior Cricket Club’ was founded on the salubrious afternoon of 13th May, 1865, by nine young men, fresh out of school. The Club’s total membership in the first year reached twelve, each paying a fee of a shilling. A captain, H. D. Carter, and a sub-captain, H. B. Hooper, were duly appointed and the first historic challenge match was played against Chigwell Grammar School on 15 July, 1865.
Youthful bashfulness, and not desiring to be confused with the then existing Woodford Green Cricket Club, the name of the Club was changed to `Whitehall Shrimps Cricket Club’ in 1867. Subscriptions dropped 25% as members began to be referred to as `Prawns.’ Fortunately, sanity prevailed and in 1870, the name was changed again to `Woodford Wells Cricket Club’.
The Club initially played its matches on the green opposite where Bancroft’s School now stands, with the `Horse and Well’ public house serving as the changing room. Mr. Sykes, a local farmer, agreed to lease his field to the Club in 1866-67, where the first dressing room and score-box were built in 1872. The Club then moved to Mornington Road in 1874. The current grounds in Monkhams Lane were leased in 1881 for twenty years; the first pavilion built the year after; the lease extended to cover what are now the tennis courts in 1897, until the generosity of the landowner, E. N. Buxton, enabled the membership to purchase the grounds in 1924.
The evolution of the Club is steeped in tradition and wonderful anecdotes, achievements and characters abound its path down history. While cricket has been central to the Club’s formation and progression, other sports facilities were added in due course – Lawn Tennis (1877), Crostyx (1920-amalgamated with WWC in 1968), Squash (1972), Table Tennis, Short Mat Bowls (1993) and Netball (2013).
Sporting achievements since inception have been many. The Club introduced the Parish Cup in 1878, one of the world’s oldest tennis tournaments, donated jointly by H. F. Barclay, the banker, and Mr. Andrew Johnston, a local M.P., then the club’s President. Some 16 club members have played for the County’s cricket team and two for England A, not to mention over a hundred colts who have donned county caps in various sports. Several internationals have played at the Club, including the legendary Jack Hobbs, W. W. Wakefield, Sunil Gavaskar and G Gooch. The Australian express and ex-selector, Mervyn Hughes, spent a season here. Cricket week in June has been a well-established fixture since the 1900s, with the playing presence of cricketing greats such as Warwick Armstrong, captain of Australia, and England internationals Walter Brearley, Rev. F.H. Gillingham, David Sheppard, Trevor Bailey and Douglas Insole. No fewer than five past members were Knights of the British Empire, including Sir S.S. Mallinson, Sir. G. F. Stedman and Sir A. E. Cutforth. Mr. I.M.E. Jeffery, the First XI captain in the club’s centenary year, was the captain of the Cambridge University Athletic Club in 1955.
The Club’s cricket grounds are considered, but for a short blip, one of the best in the county since the 1920s. Indeed, Jack Hobbs said of groundsman H.D. Tremlin’s wicket in 1937, `This is as good a wicket as I have played on in club cricket.’ In keeping with the steady progress of the facilities, the Club now serves as a neutral venue for several competitions at club and county levels not only for cricket but also for tennis and squash. To recognise and honour the contributions of the several sporting disciplines added in later years, the name of the Club was changed from `The Woodford Wells Cricket & Lawn Tennis Club’ (1920) to `The Woodford Wells Club’ in 1982.
The Club reached its zenith in tennis in the 1950s when the entire First team of the Club played at Wimbledon and for the county – Peter Moys, Humphrey Truman, Keith Collar, Noel Rowland, Christine Truman, Zena Lusty and Joan Spearing. Miss Christine Truman went on to represent England in the Wightman Cup for several years, won the French, Italian and Swiss Open titles (1959), won the doubles title of the Australian Open (1960) and reached the finals of the U.S. Open (1959) and Wimbledon (1961). The Club has produced another world champion in our current President Mrs. Averil Murphy who has won several world titles in squash. There are numerous other sporting achievements which unfortunately cannot be mentioned here for lack of space, but we will endeavour to redress this omission in the book being published next year – `Minding the Magic: A Sesquicentennial History of the Woodford Wells Club’.
We have done well with the sports disciplines we foster, even given their vicissitudes. Equally, the Club has been a local social institution since the late 19th century, where teas were legendary, with joint hostesses helped by a parlour maid, the ambience that of a private party, set against a ring of tall forest trees of laburnum, willow and silver birch. But essentially, what has made the Club so successful is having the good fortune of very able members at its helm – administrators, umpires, mentors, coaches, groundsmen, to name a few, so that it continues to play out its social role effectively as a centre for the local community.
There are ambitious plans to take the club forward, both in terms of premises and membership, and we hope that all our efforts will bear fruition to encourage, facilitate and promote several sporting disciplines in the years to come.
The Club has continued to prosper through the vagaries of the last two centuries, and long may it continue to do so as a premier club in the Home Counties – a success undreamed of by the original twelve members 150 years ago. The maxim for the sesquicentennial year is `Amiticia et Fidem’ and rightly so. The robust bonds of friendship and loyalty that created the Club 150 years ago are those very same bonds that continue to draw and bind us together through generations since. For 150 years, the Club has been a stage not just for sports but also all those things which make it an integral part of a vibrant, flourishing community. It invokes, for the reason of the life values it engenders, a deep sense of belonging.