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Hethersett Cricket Club - A History

The Interval

By A.J.R. Harris

There are two kinds for our purposes; the interlude between innings when tea is taken and the intervals between matches (and particularly just after one!), when stronger beverages are consumed. The talk, however, cricket-wise, is much the same whether in pavilion or local pub, save that in the latter it can be more relaxed and less inhibited.

There are three pubs at Hethersett, one of which the Queen’s Head was so closely adjacent to the old cricket ground that as was said “next to being right beside the pavilion, it couldn’t have been nearer.” It was there, according to a report (for the item is now missing) that the first photograph ever taken of Hethersett cricketers, some time in the 1890s, used to hang. 

But the club’s taste for its locals has always been catholic. The King’s Head also got its full share of patronage, its old walls absorbing echoes of cricket-chat, whilst the Greyhound .. whose rear windows had witnessed that rain-drenched “battle” with Wymondham long ago … was still a place to resort to for a celebratory session. 

It is in the shelter and atmosphere of such a place that the folklore of village cricket everywhere is sustained and added to. It was there that older men would (and as some still do) comb their memories for stories to prove “well we were not so bad in those days either!” There are stories too, which amusingly serve to show that village cricket has always been attended by its own share of characters… as please heaven it always will! But time speeds on to take the “oldies” with it, one by one, leaving only echoes to linger a while before they, likewise finally fade away. 

A few such echoes have helped enliven the text of this history so far. Here are one or two more which, though not sensational, reflect something of the character of men who once played for Hethersett. 

One story echoing into the early years of this century, concerned one of the Bloomfields. There are two of them A and H, both good bats, playing for Hethersett in the 1860s. In some match or other (thought to have been played at Easton) one of the Bloomfields was so much on his mettle and in such command of his bowling that, at whichever end he was batting, he perched a half sovereign (a lot of beer money in those days) between the bails promising that the bowler who dislodged it could have it. Story does not relate who pocketed the coin, though presumably Bloomfield did. But that didn’t matter. What lodged in the memory was the confident gesture! 

Time was not so long since, when every Norfolk man, no matter who he was, had a nickname, a tradition harking back, so it is said, to Viking days. 

As on opening bat a certain young man who had no small reputation for getting runs in a hurry. When Hethersett went into the field, Pa Read asked to be held in reserve as a bowler. Meanwhile in the field, he studied the young man who, true to his reputation, began to hook and cut the ball to the tune of some runs. Finally, Pa Read asked to be put on to bowl. The story goes: “Pa put one ball down on the leg and the feller got two off it. But the next ball had him. Pa just went down the pitch after the ball and caught it just two or three yards off the bat. Just like that.” And this is what Pa dryly offered as explanation of the matter. “Well I watched him, then I reckoned that his eyes were too wide apart. He could see very well what was coming on two sides, but I reckoned he’d have to go cross eyed to see what was coming slow-like down the middle. So he prodded out his bat and the spin on the ball did the rest.” Simple if you know how! 

During one season in the first decade of this century, a “special” had been arranged with a scratch eleven calling itself Forehoe and Henstead. The venue of the match was at Wicklewood, a parish which, though not far from Wymondham, Hethersett players had never hitherto visited to play cricket. It was either Herbert Moore or Herbert Childs who drove there in a trap accompanied by Fred Dodman. Uncertain of where precisely the match was to be played, upon seeing a local man, Herbert pulled up to enquire: “Where do they play cricket here?” 

“Play cricket” snorted the man, glaring up in the hot sunshine. “Blast that ain’t play, chasing after a ball on a day like this! No, bor, they don’t play cricket, they work at it, damn me if they don’t!” 

“All right then” said Herbert good-humouredly. “Where is it they work at cricket then?” 

“Why at the bluddy workhouse of course,” came the reply. 

And that was so. The match was played on a meadow close to the Workhouse of Forehoe and Henstead Union situated at Wicklewood. 

In a similar vein, was the story of the afternoon when the Hethersett team arrived on the outskirts of Attleborough in a brake, were accosted by a native who asked a curious question. 

“Are you the Hethersett lot come here to play cricket against Attleborough?” the man asked. 

“Yes that’s right.” 

“Ah!” the man nodded, apparently surveying the brake load of cricketers with sympathetic scorn. 

“How many have you got out of sick bed to come and play here?” 

“None of us, why?” 

“Then do you make the best of it. Cause that’s where you’ll wanta be by the time we’ve finished with you here at Attleborough.” 

Cricket to Fred Dodman was – and it should be obvious by now! – part of the joy of living. A good bat and excellent fieldsman, he was known as “a good little un” and one of his ambitions in life was to score a hundred. The nearest he came to doing so, however, was when, as previously noted, he scored 86 in a match at Old Buckenham. Now Fred was a poor hand at hooking a ball, and he knew it. As his score mounted in that match and as he recalled Teddy Dann said “For God’s sake don’t try any hook shots now Fred.” But let Fred finish the story himself: “There I was wanting 14 runs and set on getting ‘em. Then down came this ball on the leg, but nice and easy and I let fly at it. And there just at square stood this fellow with hands as big as sight screens. And that was it, bor… But d’you know, as I walked off that feller came across and shook hands with me, apologising. I thought that right gentlemanly of him. But he’d no cause to apologise. It was my own fault.” 

And as his final comment upon that incident, Fred would offer this as a golden rule. “The right time for practice is when you’re practising not when you’re playing.” Silly stories? Well yes, perhaps. But then to some people cricket is a “silly game”. It was Kipling, to whom – since no man can know everything – cricket was a closed book. Otherwise he might just conceivably have been moved to pen something vaguely like the following. 

If you can lose your wicket, without railing,

Or bowling, see the catch you planned for, missed,

Yet not indulge in anger or bewailing,

Nor threaten umpires with a tight-clenched fist:

 

If you can play and so enjoy the playing,

A laugh will bridge the gulf twixt Lost and Won

Then by those very tokens you’re displaying

What lends such grace to cricketing, my son! 

And with similar grace: we apologise to the shade of Rudyard Kipling, although he once dismissed all cricketers as “flannelled fools.” 

This interval also gives cause to salute the memory of the Late Mr. F. H. Bainbridge, who, in addition to playing for Hethersett, also greatly encouraged village cricket in Norfolk. He presented the Bainbridge Cup, a trophy which Hethersett itself has won. 

Last, but far from least, now let us raise a toast to the Ladies who, though they do not feature in this story, have over many long years, made and served the tea, cut the sandwiches and lent the charm of their own presence to many a summer’s afternoon of cricket. Nor is that all; for more than one of those ladies has been known to keep the score … very accurately too.