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Cricket games past – and a Flannel Dance at the Town Hall

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: February 26, 2014

By Terry Church

Programme from the Flannel Dance

Programme from the Flannel Dance

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IT IS good to witness the encouraging revival of Stourbridge Cricket Club in the last couple of years.

Having been members of The Birmingham League in the days when membership was an automatic right it was sad to see their demise, season by season, to play in the Worcestershire County League.

Prior to 1981, county cricket had been a regular feature at The War Memorial ground with Worcestershire playing host to most, if not all, of the other sixteen counties. The last County Championship game to be played at Stourbridge was in July 1982 when Northamptonshire were the visitors. The game was notable for several reasons – Glenn Turner made a century before lunch on the first day, going on to make a century in both innings. The only Worcestershire-born player appearing was Jim Yardley and he was in the Northants side. Oh, and the first day coincided with the wedding day of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Incidentally the game petered out to a draw.

The scores were:

Worcs: 376-5 declared (Glenn Turner 161: Phil Neale 125) and 317-6 declared (Glenn Turner 101).

Northants: 359-6 declared and 199-8 (Jim Yardley 65 not out).

In Worcestershire's first innings Turner and Mark Scott featured in a second wicket partnership of one hundred and ninety eight.

In earlier years the club hosted a Cricket Festival week that took the form of two 3-day games played consecutively. David Perks of Lye Cricket Club has kindly loaned to me, from the collection of his late father, the Souvenir Handbook of one such Festival that took place in 1937.

Yorkshire were the visitors on June 2, 3, and 4 with Glamorgan travelling from Wales for the fixture on 5, 7 and 8 (no Sunday play in those days). For many years when Glamorgan played Worcestershire if the fixture was over a weekend as this one was, traditionally the team would travel to play against Claverley with money being raised for the Beneficiary of that year.

Pen pictures of all the players were included in the Handbook, noting that Worcestershire's captain was Hon. Chas. John Lyttleton "the son and heir of Viscount Cobham, who was educated at Eton and Cambridge. The skipper belongs to a great cricketing family, whose name will live forever in the annals of the game. In August of this year he will captain the MCC side which is to tour Canada"

Also included in the Worcestershire side were Dick Howarth and Reg Perks, both of whom played for England. Following retirement from the first class game Howarth became Professional at Stourbridge, with Howarth taking a similar role at Dudley.

The Yorkshire list of players reads like a Celebrity Who's Who, with several England players included, of whom at least five were legends of the game: Bill Bowes, Len Hutton, Maurice Leyland and Herbert Sutcliffe as well as Hedley Verity. Sadly Verity was not to survive the war; after being captured by the Germans he died in a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy in 1943.

Hutton's pen picture reads "when in the year of his debut (1934) Hutton scored 196 v Worcs at Worcester, Sutcliffe predicted that the youngster was destined to play for England"

He was also to become England's first professional captain.

The game resulted in a resounding win for Yorkshire by an innings and eighty-one runs. The scores were:

Yorkshire 460 (L Hutton 101:M Leyland 167)

Worcestershire 190 (H Verity 5-53) and 189 (H Verity 5-60).

The Glamorgan side was, in comparison, much more modest. It is, hopefully, not too unkind to refer to them as journeymen county cricketers. The notable exception was Wilf Wooller who in the post war years virtually ran the club both on and off the field, as captain and secretary, in the process earning himself a fearful reputation. The Handbook reads "W Wooller (Rydal and Cambridge) The old Cambridge Cricket and Rugby Blue and Welsh rugby international played in Varsity cricket matches of 1935-36". For whatever reason Wooller did not play in this game.

The scores were:

Glamorgan 224 (R. Howorth 4-52) and 211 (D Davies 104: R Perks 4-48)

Worcestershire 391 (H Gibbons 139, E Cooper 96) and 47-1.

Eddie Cooper and the unusually forenamed Harold Harry Ian Haywood Gibbons shared a partnership of one hundred and ninety eight (by a strange coincidence Turner and Scott were involved in a partnership of the same number of runs some forty four years later)

On the Monday of the 1937 Festival a 'Flannel Dance' was held at The Town Hall Stourbridge, tickets 3/- (15p) each. I wonder if the players actually attended? Certainly I would have thought that twenty-two young men would have found many admirers amongst the young female population of the town.

The Souvenir Handbook was well supported by local tradesmen, who took advertising space, namelyBorough of Stourbridge Gas Department Showroom; Brierley Hill and Stourbridge (inc) Building Society; HP Jones (Eagle House) Ltd; Guy Pitt & Co Ltd.; Frank Cooper & Co.; Midland Electric Corporation; Stourbridge, Lye and District Permanent Building Society; Mitchells and Butlers; The Ducatt Heating Co.; The Talbot Hotel; Richard Taylor (Garages) Ltd.; Joseph Wright & Sons; South Staffordshire Associated Collieries and Robert Matthews & Sons.

Sadly, like county cricket, most of these companies have long since disappeared from the town.

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