WIN, lose or draw, you take the result in your stride because it’s the taking part that counts. But when the tea-room burns down, the reverberations are such that the event is remembered for ever more in the design of the club crest.
Yes, anyone who wondered where the golden phoenix crest came from now knows. The rapid replacement of the old tea-room with a Nissen hut in 1948 spawned the club crest and ensures the episode remains firmly etched in the pages of the club’s history.
The pavilion, which survived the fire, still forms part of one of the country’s most quintessential English village cricket grounds, a ground which has been home to the club for all but five years of its history.
For those first five years, the newly-formed club from the then newly-created town played on the bottom end of the greensward. In 1909, local developer Sir Richard Powell Cooper gave the present ground, close to Ashlyns Road, to the club on trust subject to at least one game of cricket being played on it per year.
The continued existence of the club has rarely been in doubt, though the Second World War tested the ingenuity of the club to comply with this condition. As with most areas of land during the war, it was requisitioned for the growing of vegetables. Fortunately for cricket lovers, the only runners appearing on the pitch remained those dressed in white – thanks to the club’s most notable personality.
Tray Grinter, a director of Cockburn Port in London, became captain and, eventually, president of the club. Despite having a withered arm, he scored more than 200 centuries during his career. He brought some high profile sides down to play in Frinton. After the ground had been requisitioned he cleverly invited the CO of an army battalion billeted at the Frinton Lodge to play a match, ostensibly to keep up morale. Of course they seconded to restore the pitch to it’s former glory before the game could be played thus ensuring the continuation of cricket on the ground.
So whilst the club may not have become actively involved in the ‘dig for victory’ campaign, it did help the home-based troops maintain their fitness! The ground was not totally immune to the war, though. It was used as a firing range and, for some time after the war, it was not unusual to uncover the occasional spent cartridge. However, current member Tony Blake remembers well, when just a young lad, finding a hand grenade complete with pin and taking it to show his mother who was preparing teas. Tony, whose father Victor was president of the club between 1975 and 1995, said: “I remember the terrified look on my mother’s face.”
The end of the war saw the development of a mixed ability eleven which eventually played on Sundays (the tea hut was burnt down on the first Sunday match played at the club!!), to complement the existing first and second elevens, while youth development began – at least in a structured format – in the early ’50s led by another of the clubs great characters, Colonel Tony Balden.
The emergence of league cricket in in the late 60’s caused something of a rift in the club. Two camps, one in favour of joining the league and one against, formed. Tony explained: “Those who were against the league felt it challenged the traditions of the game, that the change in emphasis in the competition would undermine the sense of camaraderie for which cricket had always been renowned. Those in favour of joining felt the club just wouldn’t be able to maintain fixtures against top quality sides if they stayed out of the league.”
The club didn’t join the league immediately but its entry was only delayed by a few years “There’s no doubt that league cricket did change the game and opinions differ whether for better or worse. Of course the older members reminisce about the after match camaraderie with the opposition not to say the match wasn’t important, but visiting sides would always stay for a few drinks or so before returning home. The win or lose element – a draw not being a result meant that quite often the ‘result’ was established quite early in the game rather than hanging on for a draw – witness the excitement of the last two test matches between England and Sri Lanka!
The mid-70’s was in Tony’s eyes, the time when the club’s future was most in jeopardy. “Largely because of the change in the social structure in Frinton, we lost a number of members over a short period of time. Membership was dwindling and the youth section had all but ceased. It was only the efforts of a small band of people which managed to keep the club alive and eventually revitalise the club.
“Stuart Shaer did a marvellous job of developing the organised coaching of youngsters, girls as well as boys, and a membership recruitment drive brought in new blood. Looking, back, those years in the mid-70s were undoubtedly a watershed in the club’s history,” said Paul.
In 1980, an appeal was successfully launched to refurbish the club pavilion and outbuildings which shaped it into the building which now welcomes visitors and plays host to the highly successful Frinton Cricket Week.
As the club celebrates its 100th year, it is in good health. Its membership numbers 200 including a strong junior membership. Club president Jonathan Geldard, said: “We like to think the cricket club has always been, and remains, an integral part of Frinton’s social scene. It’s been an interesting 100 years and I am delighted to say the club is in such good health. We are always keen to welcome new members so if anybody would like to join us, we would very much look forward to hearing from them. After all, what better time to join than at the start of the club’s second century!”
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