As Saffron Walden Cricket Club prepares for another season, club historian, David Barrs, in another of his occasional articles to mark the club’s sesquicentennial year, traces the club’s historic connections with Cambridgeshire – and also reveals the origins of the club’s highly regarded youth policy.

Saffron Walden Cricket Club will be marking their 150th year with a return to the Cambridgeshire leagues.  For the first time in their history the club will have four senior teams and none of them will be playing in the Essex league.  The 1st XI will be looking to make their mark in the East Anglian Premier League for the first time; the 2nd XI will play in the Tucker Gardner League Division 2; the 3rd XI will be in Senior League Division 3 and the 4th XI will look to consolidate their position in Junior Division 4 after a successful first season last year.

The club are looking for a new challenge having been out of the top four only once in their 15 years in the Essex Premier League.  The return to Cambridgeshire is also a move back to the roots of cricket in Saffron Walden.  The Cambridge Chronicle has a record of a game against Cambridge Town in 1757.  Indeed, of the seven games known to have been played in the eighteenth century, four were against teams connected with Cambridgeshire.  Saffron Walden won five of these so they were obviously a force to be reckoned with – or bet on, which was usually the case in those days! Similarly, in the nineteenth century the vast majority of games played for which records are available involved Cambridgeshire teams, many of which involved the Cambridge Colleges as well as teams like Cambridge Hope, Cambridge Victoria, Cambridge Albion and Cambridge Castle as well as Linton and Balsham.

There are some suggestion that the club first became involved in league cricket in the early 1950s.  Certainly the Davis and Millman Cups provided competitive cricket in the 60s and 70s.  But it was not until 1988 that we entered the Beach Villas League which was predominantly a Cambridgeshire League.  This became the TP Associates and the Vardy Continental league at various points until the club decided to join the Essex Colour Assembly League in 1994. They were promoted from Division 2 and went on to win Division 1 in 1995.  In that time they have only been out of the top four on one occasion and have been champions on six occasions.  The East Anglian Premier League, the Tucker Gardner League, the CCA Senior and Junior Leagues will provide a new challenge for the club and provide an appropriate environment in which to continue to develop its increasing numbers of young players.  The Club will remain a member of the Essex County Cricket Board and play in their junior district leagues.

Registration Day

This Saturday, 25th April (2009) from 10am-2pm, is the annual registration day when members of all ages come to the ground and sign on for the year.  New members are very welcome.  The junior section will be fielding 17 teams this year (including two girls teams).  The cost for the summer programme has been held at £30 for the fifth year running.  Family membership is available.  Our member of Parliament, Sir Alan Haselhurst, will open our new outdoor net facility at 10.30am.  Do come along and have a bowl at him!  Sir Alan is Vice-President of the Club and has recently been elected as President of the West Essex District Cricket Board following a nomination from the club.  Cricket Stick of Burwell and United Sports will have items available for sale – all local clubs and cricketers are welcome to come along and get themselves kitted out for the new season.

Junior cricket at Walden has a history all of its own.  The first mention of junior cricket was in 1843 when under 17s and under 20s were playing, and losing, matches against Linton.  Walden Juveniles lost to Cambridge Juveniles in 1844.  The first official “junior organiser” was Olwyn Sparrow in 1985 and since then Simon Skingley, Jamie Sparrow, Richard Patston, Andrew MacKinlay, Adrian Brown and John Taylor have all done their bit.  Together with the current post holder, David Barrs,  they have laid the foundations for the highly regarded junior section we have today and which is the envy of many clubs.  Probably the most significant date in the history of junior cricket was 2004 when the club decided to invest significant resources in its youth policy by establishing the Saffron Walden Cricket Club Academy.  Whist it aspires to produce young cricketers of the highest quality capable of playing at County and Premier League standard it remains a highly inclusive programme.  It’s director, David Barrs, refers to it as a triple A academy – “an academy for all abilities”.  “We have a team of highly qualified coaches and over 50 volunteers who work together to provide a safe, friendly and successful junior programme” claims David.

If any reader has any recollection of cricket in Saffron Walden please email David Barrs [email protected] . For instance, when did we first play league cricket?