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Remembering the good old days at West Acre Cricket Club

Visiting teams used to complain about the cattle. They said they were moving about behind the bowler’s arm.

The cattle were at one end. Until the seventies a large electricity pylon stood just outside one corner.

At the next corner was the sewage works; they jutted on to the pitch making a 20 yard boundary.

West Acre Cricket team in 1969. (36395371)
West Acre Cricket team in 1969. (36395371)

At the other end was the Methodist chapel. Robert (Bonnie) Taylor once hit a ball over the boundary, over the fence, over the road and into the window of the chapel.

A couple of decades earlier, Derek Curl hit one into the chapel grounds. As we went to look for it they restarted play with another ball.

Suddenly someone shouted “Look up” Derek hit the next one into the chapel as well.

Taylor’s grandfather Bill opened the batting. He always liked to hit the first ball of the match for six. Then he settled down.

The fourth side of the ground led down to the river. Mark Osborne of Bircham once hit a ball into the river and it is still floating somewhere but that was a long way.

More hazardous was the wetland leading to the river. The ball went with regularity into this wetland which was basically a bog with holes. If the ball went into a hole it was more or less impossible to find.

Fortunately we seldom played with a new ball in those days.

In the 19th century, cricket teams in the villages were generally started and financed by the landowner. The great houses had vast areas in front where they could put a cricket pitch.

The landowner, who financed the team, the vicar, the publican, the blacksmith and all the rest played.

No rent was paid for the ground and maintenance was usually done in house. The team bag, a cast off, had the landowner’s name on the side.

This was the smallest ground in the league; it may have been the smallest ground in the world. The success of the club meant a bigger ground and it was expanded in the seventies, but it was still small.

In the early days everyone worked on the farms. On Saturday mornings they worked until noon, had their dinner and came to the match.

For midweek night matches they worked until four. For away matches, you biked. Not until the fifties did anyone have a car and very few had a telephone.

On Saturday, the captain would announce: “Right, we’ve got games on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.” The season ran from the beginning of May until the end of July.

Everyone would be needed for the harvest, which in those days began in the last week of July..

Families played. Three generations of Thaxtons: Bill, Bob, Geoff, John, Andy, Simon, Claire.

Three generations of Taylors: Bill, Roger, Bonnie, Chris. Father and sons: Albert and Brian Reynolds, Tom and Tony Abel, Peter and Graham Wright and many more.

A thriving youth club run by Joe Bly and then Chris Durrant led naturally into the cricket team.

In later years some welcome outsiders enhanced the team. (the three Whitwoods, Ottaway, Walker). Standards were high and the team was successful.

At one time in the late 19th century West Acre school had 84 pupils.

Now you would struggle to find 84 people of all ages in he village.

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