Reigate Pilgrims Cricket Club
Many Buckland villagers must wonder why a cricket club that has been in the village for nearly 70 years is named after a local town and is not called the Buckland Cricket Club.
The answer dates back to the formation of the Reigate Pilgrims Cricket Club immediately after World War II. However, that was not the first mention of cricket having been played in Buckland.
Cricket was played at the Red Lion ground from at least 31 July 1869. A match between Betchworth & Buckland United and Croydon Workmen’s Club – the details being recorded in the Sussex Agricultural Express – was played at the Red Lion ground.
In a match between Betchworth & Buckland United and Beare Green on 27 June 1871 – that was almost certainly played at the Red Lion ground – a 15-year old Walter Read (who was born in Reigate) played for Betchworth & Buckland. After W G Grace, Walter Read was the most prolific amateur of his day. He was a fluent right hand bat and occasional bowler who played for Surrey from 1873 to 1897, and was a member of the side that won the County Championship in 1890-2, 1894 and 1895. Read was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1893.
Read took part in the original Ashes series of 1882-3 and is commemorated in the poem inscribed on the side of the urn:
When Ivo goes back with the urn, the urn,
Studds, Steel, Read and Tylecote return, return,
The welkin will ring loud,
The great crowd will feel proud,
Seeing Barlow and Bates with the urn, the urn,
And the rest coming home with the urn.
Walter Read captained England in two test matches, winning them both. Read became the first No. 10 to make a hundred in Test cricket when he made 117 against Australia at The Oval in 1884. His match-saving innings remains the highest score by a No. 10 in Tests. He reached his century in 113 minutes with 36 scoring strokes, and his partnership of 151 with William Scotton remains England’s highest for the ninth wicket against Australia.
More recent history records that during the war years no cricket was played at the ground behind the Red Lion, although there is evidence that a club called the “Surrey Sevens” played there in the years immediately before the war started. During the war, the land behind the Red Lion was used as a lorry park by the Canadian Army who had little knowledge of, nor respect for, “the square”! In 1945, the Headquarters Staff of the South Eastern Army Command were stationed near Reigate and a mixed bunch of Army personnel, members of the home guard and civilians met to form a cricket club to play on Sundays. It was perhaps because of the army connection that this site in Buckland was eventually chosen as the home of the new Reigate Pilgrims club and work began to clear the ground, push back the scrub at the boundaries and create a playing area. The first matches were played in 1947. The standard of cricket was very high in those days and enjoyed immensely by everyone, as were the long evenings in the bar, ending with a mass exodus to catch the last number 414 bus to Reigate, as few players owned cars and petrol was rationed.
Many of the original Pilgrims players played for Reigate Priory on Saturdays. One of the reasons for forming their own club was so they could also play on Sundays, which the Priory didn’t. Anecdotally, the name “Reigate Pilgrims” is thought to have originated from these players at the inaugural meeting in 1945 before they acquired the Buckland cricket field. It’s not difficult to see the association between a group of players wandering away from the Priory to form a new club and how the name might have originated, but we shall never know for sure. Suffice it to say that the links between the two clubs remain strong and Priory still use the Pilgrims’ ground for some of their fixtures.
What of today? No longer do the Pilgrims play such prestigious sides as Worcester County Cricket Club as they did for three successive years in the 1960s holding their own against teams which included test match players, amongst them the England players, Norman Gifford, Basil D’Oliviera, Don Keynon, Derek Richardson and Tom Graveney and the West Indian player, Ron Headley, all of whom have played at Buckland. Three Pilgrim cricketers who played with great distinction in that era are commemorated by trees planted in their memories at the top (north east corner) of the ground.
Today’s Pilgrims play a more sedate game as the average age of the playing membership creeps up! However, some traditions don’t change, the Pilgrims have not followed the trend towards limited over cricket favoured by local leagues but prefer friendly “timed” cricket played with a competitive edge. We are also pleased that we continue to welcome many opposition clubs whose names figure in the earliest of the club’s fixture lists, notably Ipswich CC who still bring a side to Buckland every year. Today, as ever, the Red Lion continues to play an important part in any fixture.
Despite its name, Reigate Pilgrims Cricket Club is very much part of Buckland, and has been for nearly 70 years. We are always seeking new members from the local villages, so why not come and join us? Alternatively visit Reigate Pilgrims’ website.