Extracts from ‘A Club History 1907-1999’ prepared by Arthur Hands and published in the year 2000

Early days 1907-1914

It is not known why another club was felt to be necessary in Leigh in 1907 when a Leigh-on-Sea cricket club already existed, but it is clear that the new club which took the name of Chalkwell Park Cricket Club (CPCC) considered itself a Leigh club and had ambitions to reach a higher standard of cricket. The guiding spirit was undoubtedly Dr. C. F. Day who was the first captain and became Life Chairman of the Club holding that position until his death in 1939. The Southend Borough Council had acquired Chalkwell Park in 1903 and cricket pitches laid out, but judging by the scores of those early matches the pitches must have been of uncertain quality. The Club’s first match took place in Chalkwell Park on 11th May 1907 against South Benfleet when the visitors scored 86 and the Club replied with 63.

The following week saw CPCC at Southchurch Park (known in those days as Southchurch Hall Park) against Southend ‘B’, but the scores are not known. However, low scores were the order of the day during that first season and many teams failed to reach a total of 40. An exception was the return match with South Benfleet played on Canvey Island when the Club scored 147 and had the opposition 22-8. It was the custom in those days and, indeed up to the 1930s, for a side dismissing their opponents for a small score to continue batting after the game was won until the time scheduled for close of play, any such runs counting towards the players’ averages. The scores for 1907-1914 show many examples of this, but the prime instance must be that quoted in the history of Westcliff-on-Sea CC, when on a Bank Holiday Westcliff dismissed their opponents for 29 and then went on to score 505-9.

The names of twenty-one players are known who represented the Club in that first year. It is believed that the AGM was held at the house of the Captain, when it was reported that 27 matches had been played. Five members were named as having been the most successful players.  L. W. Shorter was appointed Secretary and a balance of £1-1s-7d was carried forward to the next season,

Alter the 1908 season, the first Annual Dinner was held at the Grand Hotel with 60 people attending. Mr. F. W. Senier (later Sir Frederic) was elected President of the Club. a position he held until his death in 1951. Also in this season, the first century by a Club member was recorded, but it was made in the circumstances mentioned above when South Benfleet scored 31 and the Club replied with 230-2 (H .P. McKenzie 117).

A number of players of the old Leigh Club were playing for Chalkwell Wednesday XI by 1909, so there was clearly some sort of association between the two clubs. It is interesting to note that, at their AGM in 1910, the Leigh club proposed a Leigh & District Cricket League.

The start of the 1910 season was delayed by the death of King Edward VII.

By 1911, the Club had expressed its aim to be the best in the district, but was still only playing Westcliff and Southend at their Second Xl level. In order to compare their strength with those two clubs, a match was arranged with Devon & Somerset Wanderers who unaccountably scratched the fixture the day before it was due. At the Annual Dinner of that year, Dr. Day remarked that the Club was “…. noted for the ability and sobriety of its members on all occasions”.

By 1912, Shoebury Garrison was on the fixture list and a match was arranged against Essex Club & Ground at Leyton. The Club scored a respectable 171, but the C&G replied with a massive 324. In December of that year, a report appeared in the local press of a Social evening held by the Club which ended, “These players by their sterling play and great sportsmanship and their business like methods have succeeded where other older clubs have failed”.

In 1913, the Club achieved one ambition by meeting Westcliff on equal terms and winning by 14 runs. They again played Essex C&G which the local paper described as going to Leyton for their “annual instruction”. On this occasion, the Club arrived with 12 men and asked to play 12-a-side. The C&G said they would be delighted, brought in W. Maed when their score was 185-10 and added another 138 runs before declaring. CPCC replied with 109 and the fixture was renewed for the following year when the Club made a rather better showing. The outbreak of War in August 1914 brought the season to an abrupt end and so ends the first phase of our Club’s history. There is no record of any Club members who lost their lives in the conflict of 1914-18, but there must have been some. In Appendix E, I have listed the names of those who played for the Club both before and after the War and also those who played before and became Patrons of the Club afterwards.


Between the Wars 1919-1939 ~ A period of stability

Cricket resumed in 1919, but it was reported that the ground had had rough treatment during the War. A number of pre-war players were available but the Captain was still in the Army. At the AGM of that year, the Club changed its name to the now available Leigh-on-Sea.

 The following season at last saw Southend played at 1st XI level and a number of new members who remained to play until World War II brought cricket to a halt again. Freddie Harrison started his long association with the Club and others like Arthur Built, Frank Burrill and Percy Newbury lent strength to the playing side as well as taking on some of the administration. During this period, the Club played at Chalkwell Park on alternate Saturdays, sharing the pitch with Westcliff Endeavour CC who soon adopted our discarded name of Chalkwell Park CC. In addition to being an all-round cricketer, Frank Burrill was a useful footballer who played for Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 1921 FA Cup Final and had to seek permission from the Wolves to play for the Club in the Bank Holiday match against Westcliff the following year.

In the next few years, clubs such as Lensbury, Wickford, South Woodford, Brentwood, Tufnell Park, Ilford, Walthamstow and Hoffmans Athletic strengthened the fixture list. It was against this latter club that we had the only instance of a Leigh bowler taking all ten wickets in a 1st XI match, when Arthur Cheeseman took all ten on 30th July 1921. The ball, suitably mounted and inscribed, was presented to him at the next annual dinner and his widow returned this trophy to the Club in 1982.

A Pavilion Fund was started and our President, who had been Mayor of Southend in 1920, opened the new wooden building on the first day of the 1922 season. On the same day, Vic Jarvis made a modest debut for the Club, but the following week demolished Wickford with 7-19. Until Ken Wallace joined the Club in the 1960s, Vic was the only Leigh player to have played first class cricket when he played for Essex against both Glamorgan and Yorkshire in 1925. He also played for the Club Cricket Conference against the 1930 Australian Touring side at Lords.

1922 was a good season for the Club, beating Southend once and getting the better of the draw in the return fixture. Westcliff were beaten twice in the traditional Bank Holiday fixtures after which the “Southend Standard” reported, “this is certainly Leigh’s season and they are entitled to be regarded as the champion club of the Borough”.

For the 1923 season, the Club fielded a 2nd XI which played on one of the newly laid out pitches at Belfairs, which has remained the Club’s second ground ever since. It is interesting to note that the pitch rent for Belfairs was identical to that of Chalkwell Park - £12 for the season.

In 1924, Vic Jarvis scored 726 runs and took 70 wickets — an all-round performance that was unmatched by any Leigh player between the Wars. Cricket in Chalkwell Park attracted sizeable crowds in those days with seats all round the ground. At the Bank Holiday match against Westcliff in 1924, a collection was taken and £57-10s was raised for St. Dunstans and the local hospital, a sum that would equate to over £4,000 today.

The Club’s Annual Dinner was an important social event in the Town and, in 1928, was held at the Palace Hotel with both the Mayor and Deputy-Mayor and their Ladies as guests.

In 1930, E. Barber took 77 wickets at an average of 10.7 including 8-57 against Ilford at Valentines Park. County Cricket came to Chalkwell Park in 1934 and three strips on the east side of the Leigh square were used. To accommodate the County, the boundary on the south side had to be extended by building up the outfield and moving the footpath, which accounts for the odd shape of the path today. The last County Championship game to be played in Chalkwell Park took place in 1976.

 Against Shoebury Garrison in 1935, Vic Jarvis (122) and Freddie Harrison (146*) shared a record partnership of 284 but this was another occasion when the opposition had been dismissed first — this time for 168.

When the 1939 season started, there was concern that several young players would not be available owing to the introduction of National Service. In the event, the cricket season ended prematurely on the outbreak of war.

Post War 1946-1953 ~ Rebuilding years

Owing to the evacuation of the Town during World War II, no cricket was played for six seasons. In September 1945, a meeting of players of the Leigh-on-Sea and Chalkwell Park clubs was convened and it was decided to join forces for the 1946 season under the name of both clubs. A strong fixture list was arranged. The number of players coming forward made it necessary to field two teams and a second set of fixtures was obtained.

The ground itself seems to have been well maintained during the war years and County Cricket was resumed in 1946. Not so the wooden Leigh pavilion which had, perforce, suffered six years of disuse and neglect. A builder estimated a price of £100 to put the place to rights if licenses for the necessary materials could be obtained. In the event, Club members spent some £7 in making the place useable. Facilities, which were tolerated in tile 1920s and 1930s, could no longer be accepted as the 1950s approached and the Club found that many of its cherished fixtures were being lost. Most of the next seven or eight years were spent in trying to put the matter right.

The old pavilion was the Club’s own property and members were prepared to contribute towards a replacement to which the Southend Council agreed. They then changed their minds, ruling that no private buildings could be allowed on Council property. The Council then decided that they would build a pavilion themselves but considerable prevarication ensued and the Club had to exert an enormous amount of pressure. The Council came up with a proposal to build a new pavilion on the north side of the Park between the Leigh and Westcliff pitches to be used by both clubs. Westcliff strongly objected to this proposal as their own pavilion was meeting their needs and the Council finally decided to erect a building on the Leigh side which forms the core of the present pavilion.

Ralph Wheatley was Secretary of the Club for two years, being succeeded by Jack Rowe who held the post for the next quarter-century. Arthur Kennard who was the sole survivor from tile pre-First World War era became Treasurer and his efforts during this period ensured that the Club’s finances were on a sound footing.

On the playing front, Freddie Harrison resumed the captaincy in 1946 and continued until his retirement in 1948. Vic Jarvis rejoined the Club after a short absence and had two years at the helm, before handing over to Edgar Ward. In this period, Vic headed both the 1st XI batting and bowling averages in the same season on two occasions, something he had first accomplished in 1924.

A 3rd XI was formed for 1947. A Cricket Week, which continues to this day, was inaugurated in 1949 and a small Sunday fixture list of away matches was played. No Sunday cricket being permitted in Southend parks in those days.

1954-1968 ~ Pavilion and progress

The new pavilion was in use for the start of the 1954 season. It was not palatial, but vastly better than the old one. There was now a room to prepare and consume teas on the premises and each dressing room had a wash basin; showers had to wait another fifteen years, but the 3rd XI at Belfairs did have such a luxury much earlier. Flush toilets were not provided at first arid older members will still have memories of having to dispose of the contents of the Elsan closets.

The new pavilion did not herald an immediate improvement on the playing front and, in 1954, the 1st XI won only three games and the weather was reported as one of the worst that could be recalled. This was soon to change. 1955 provided marvelous cricket weather and two new players in Jack Carr and Norman Sammons came to the Club and became, in due course, the most prolific run-scorer and wicket-taker respectively. A number of other very good players also joined the Club among them Ron Burville, Don Turner, Ken Illingworth, David Daniels and that exceptionally fine wicket keeper, Arthur Hill. Not only did these members add to the playing strength but many went on to serve the Club in other capacities.

Edgar Ward continued to captain the 1st XI until 1963 and eventually completed an unprecedented 13 years in that office. Those who played under him or against him regarded Edgar as a very fine skipper and a great sportsman. Under his leadership, the Club was able to regain many of the fixtures lost in the 1940s and by 1970 we were playing all but three of the other original eighteen clubs who formed the Truman’s Essex League in 1972.

Arthur Kennard had to relinquish the reins of Treasurer in 1964 and those duties were taken over by Paul Mills who held the post until 1998. His very capable handling of the finances has made possible the extensions to the original pavilion that we all enjoy today. In addition, Paul was Captain of the 3rd XI for eleven years and, in 1961, led the side to a record of no fewer than 17 wins out of 23 matches played.

The statistics for Sunday matches were included for the time in the annual report for 1959 and those for Cricket Week were added in 1963. Sunday games were still all being played away from home, but in 1966 the Southend Council permitted four Sunday matches to be played in Chalkwell Park, this being increased to six matches in 1969. In 1966 also, the Club introduced a weekly team sheet which was sent to all players – an innovation in those days, but one adopted now by most clubs.

Nevertheless, despite the progress, the Club was still mainly a collection of three teams who seldom managed to get together. The Chalkwell Park sides would foregather at the “Grand Hotel” or the “Gables”, while the 3rd XI could be found at the “Woodcutters”. Sunday socialising was, of course, at away grounds.

The modern era 1969-1999

All this was to change when, in 1969, permission was granted by Southend Council for a small extension to the Pavilion which was to include a licensed bar. This required a Special General Meeting to amend the Club Rules. For a sum just short of £1,000, raised mainly by Members’ loans, the extension was built and included a kitchen and a bar. The bar was small - about the size of a large cupboard and was referred to affectionately (or otherwise!) by those who can remember it, as the ‘Hole in the Wall’. But at least, it brought all the Club members together and the financial results put a smile on the face of the Treasurer, indeed, the Members’ loans had been repaid by 1971.

At the same time, the Council installed one shower in each dressing room, but for the next 7 years the Club had summer use only of the building and had to surrender winter occupancy to the hockey players and the footballers.

On the playing front, Ken Wallace joined the Club for the 1969 season and was a prolific run-scorer, forming with Jack Carr a formidable opening pair for the next 10 years. In 1971, Ken had the remarkable figures for the season of 1.207 runs in addition to 51 wickets and, in 1973, again exceeded 1,100 runs. Permission was given for Sunday matches to be played in Chalkwell Park every weekend, a second Sunday side being fielded as well as a fourth Saturday side. In the mid-1970s, the Club took over what had originally been the Southend Doctors CC, later Chalkwell Wednesday and ran a Wednesday side. Youth cricket became an important part of the Club’s activities and has increased over the years as schools’ cricket declined.

Also, at this time, moves were underway for further extensions to the pavilion and, after a number of delays an addition of new dressing rooms, shower area and score box was built at a cost of £6.500 in 1978. With the promise of a longer lease from the Council, the Club spent a further £7,000 in 1981 on improvements to the kitchen, bar area and ladies toilets. The final major improvements to date were undertaken in 1985/6 when £36,000 was spent on providing an upper storey to the dressing room end largely increasing the two dressing rooms with integral toilets and showers and including an Umpires Room and new score box. Much of the building work was undertaken in wintry conditions by a dedicated team of Club members.

Proposals for League cricket in Essex were being aired by 1970 - a league of sorts being operated in 1971 and, for 1972, nineteen Essex clubs were invited to form a new league. For this year, the final table was decided on an average basis, as it had not been possible to rearrange all the fixtures in time. Leigh finished 3rd in the inaugural season and repeated that success in the following year, the first proper league season.

The 2nd XI league started a year after the 1st XI and eventually, in 1979, the 3rd XIs formed a league. Not all the League clubs wished to participate and, for the first six years, the table was therefore decided on an average basis. The 4th XI league was formed for the commencement of the 1998 season with clubs divided geographically,

The 1st XI always held their own in a competitive league but sadly were relegated to Division 2 at the end of the 1998 season when the Premier League commenced and leagues of ten clubs were formed. With an Overseas player engaged and two new recruits for the 1999 season, promotion back to Division 1 was achieved by finishing runners-up.

The 2nd XI had a good year in 1991 finishing in 2nd place only three points behind the winners. In both the 1996 and 1997 seasons, the 2nd XI led for the early part, but then faded to finish in mid-table. Regrettably, they were relegated to Division 2 at the end of the 1998 season.

The 3rd Xl had good years in 1983 and 1984, when finishing 3rd and did even better in 1989 and 1990 when finishing in 2nd place. From then on, their form declined, culminating in relegation at the end of the 1996 season. However, two years of consolidation at the lower level culminated in being crowned Champions of Division 2 in the 1999 season.

Sadly, the commitment of Saturday League cricket led to a decline in the standard of Sunday cricket - a decline which is not specific to Leigh-on-Sea CC. A Sunday League was started in South East Essex in 1997 in an attempt to arrest this decline, but it is clear that the number of senior players who are prepared to play two matches at the weekend is much less than in the 1970s.

In 1980, the Club came to an arrangement with Leigh Ramblers Football Club which allowed the footballers use of the Pavilion during the winter months for their social events, a situation which benefited both Clubs, and the increased bar profits made possible the improvements to the premises. When, in 1993, the Leigh Ramblers pulled out at very short notice the Club was faced with possible financial difficulties which were avoided thanks to the generous sponsorship by a Club member, George Johnson (ETS Building Services), whose help in this manner continued for many years.

For Youth Cricket, the Club has been fortunate in having some dedicated Youth Managers and competitive cricket has been organised at Under 11, Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 levels..

1996 saw the fruition of a joint project with our neighbours, Westcliff-on-Sea CC, for the conversion of an old tennis court in Chalkwell Park to provide three all-weather practice pitches. With financial help from the Lords Taverners, National Lottery and others, the new facility was officially opened by Sir Colin Cowdrey (now Lord Cowdrey) and provided a practice facility which had been sadly lacking at the ground for many years.

1999 saw the formation of an Essex Premier League with a change in the established format of recreational cricket. Leigh-on-Sea Cricket Club has not yet reached Premier League status but the future may well see another phase in the history of the Club.