Club Cricket Conference

Thursday, 21st June 2018

Umpires help D & B pavilion fund after blaze destruction

By Charles Randall

8 March 2017

Off season can be traumatic for recreational cricket - and this would not be a reference to the failure by St Albans CC to win top prize in Eggheads on BBC2. Winter vandalism and fire can rip the heart out of any club.

The brief passing of Storm Doris caused localised damage in February from flying debris to smashed sightscreens and roof damage, but fire dealt the harshest hand. For example, Downham & Bellingham CC had their homely pavilion in Bromley completely destroyed by arson in September.

Donations poured in from friendly clubs -- and umpires -- after the disaster. This gave 'D&B'  confidence to plan a new pavilion at Rangefield Road to replace the old one built by members in the 1930s, so that new walls soon began to rise out of the winter mud. The club circulated an apology - completely unnecessary, one would think - for "inconvenience" to visitors in the 2017 Kent League Division Four season during rebuilding work.

The club issued a statement, voicing their thanks:  "We are extremely grateful for the words of support, advice and donations from many clubs and their members, both within the Kent Cricket League and, perhaps surprisingly, much further afield. This includes a generous donation from the Association of Cricket Officials. This has been a very heart-warming and encouraging aspect, and it speaks volumes for this great game that we are involved in. Thank you on behalf of all at  D&B."

The community pavilion at Claygate CC, opened as recently as 2012, was ravaged by fire at the dead of night in November, probably caused by short circuits that followed vandalism on the roof. Little was salvaged from the blaze that was tackled by 40 firefighters from Surrey.

Vandalism hurt Boughton and Eastwell CC, the ancient venue near Ashford in Kent. Tyre tracks ruined their village green outfield and square -  repeatedly gouged, like muddy trenches in some places. ITV reported that the damage was so extensive that the club feared they would have to suspend cricket for the 2017 season for the first time in 300 years. They host cricket and coaching for some 60 children.

Long Sutton CC, in Lincolnshire, faced a £1,600 repair bill after intruders slashed their two cricket covers. Elsenham CC had their wooden pavilion in Essex completely destroyed by fire in October.

Storm Doris blew off the pavilion roof at Thatcham CC, in Berkshire, and Styal CC in Manchester had a sight screen shredded -  a serious concern when a replacement might cost more than a thousand pounds. Two massive trees fell  on to Nowton CC's ground in Bury St Edmunds, though the pavilion itself was not damaged. The club chairman Roy Howes said the winds had destroyed their score hut, a store shed and smokers’ shelter. A bigger setback was damage to their outfield mower.

St Albans CC, of the Hertfordshire League, competed in Eggheads under the name of Over And Out and acquitted themselves well in the January broadcast. Three of the team reached the final stage but could not quite land the £7,000 top prize, stumbling over a question about the pop singer Rihanna. The team was  Andy Saunders, captain,  Andy Knill-Jones, Toby Crisp, Nick Kirwan and Jonny Hall. Saunders said that what started as "a daft idea in a pub" eventually turned in a BBC appearance.

Melksham CC, in Wiltshire, are looking forward to opening a new £300,000 pavilion, due to be completed in August. The old wooden building was burnt down in a huge blaze last June, and planning permission has recently been granted for a larger stone-built structure. Club members are busy raising funds for thousands of pounds worth of equipment lost in the fire.