when cricket was first played in Norfolk is a matter for
speculation. Certainly it was played in the county in the 18th
century and possibly earlier in some rudimentary form. In the
early nineteenth century, the Norfolk County Cricket Club was
already flourishing with a ground at East Dereham, then
described as "one of the finest cricket grounds in the
provinces." On that ground Norfolk played regular home
matches against the MCC.
But of course,
Norfolk also played the MCC at Lords. And, indeed, it was in one
such match played in 1820, that the first recorded score of two
centuries was made when William Ward for the MCC made a total of
278 runs. It was also Ward who afterwards extolled the promise
of a 17-year-old cricketer who had played for Norfolk in that
young cricketer was Fuller Pilch, who hailed from Horningtoft,
Norfolk. Thus somewhere in his native county, young Pilch had
found scope to practice and develop a rare talent for cricket.
And it all began on some Norfolk meadow or village green. Well,
what better place to start from?
Like many other
lovers of the game who has revelled in watching it played at
county and test match level, I readily confess that some of my
happiest moments have been experienced as a spectator of village
cricket. For whilst skill and dedication are abundantly evident
in it, there is about village cricket a stimulating measure of
with Hethersett Cricket Club began in 1951. As one result, I had
the privilege of meeting and getting to know the late Mr A.
Dodman or Fred as he was widely known. Although smallest of
stature, Fred was large of character, whilst his alertness of
mind belied the fact that he was already advanced into his
seventies. Moreover, there wasn't much he didn't know about
Hethersett Cricket Club, for which he played as a young man.
Thus when watching one match, it was always an added pleasure to
have Fred sitting beside me as between making his own cryptic
comments on the state of the game in progress, he would regale
me with memories of games he had played in and all the "old
timers" he had either known personally or heard talked
about. What he told me, I made notes of.
For it was Fred
Dodman's lively memories, plus his repeated assurance that
"Hethersett played cricket for over a hundred years"
which led me to contemplate making some record of the club's
long history. Meanwhile with his death in 1959, aged 82, the
club lost one of its stalwart supporters and, in his day, most
colourful players and characters.
One who greatly
assisted my research was the late Mr H.W. Back of Hethersett
Hall who, besides being President of the cricket club, was also
a grandson of the man who had "founded it over one hundred
years ago." Whilst lamenting that the club's records, once
"so carefully kept", had now been lost, Mr Back warmly
recounted all he knew about its history. Furthermore through his
agency i came into contact with Dr G.E Deacon.
and frail and being in his 90s, Dr Deacon was willing, even
eager to impart information about Hethersett CC for which he
himself and other members of his family, had played long ago.
His personal memories of the club stretched back far enough to
encompass the early 1870s and he himself affirmed that the
"Club has a long history." and that "it was
formed several years before I was even born." Dr Deacon's
year of birth was 1861, he having attained the age of 97 when he
died at Brundall in 1958.
people likewise contributed to the material upon which this
history is based. Among those were Mr R. Childs and the late Mr
Walter Dann, both bearing names which feature prominently in the
story to follow. Nor must I forget to mention Mr Tony Curson, to
whom my thanks are due for the time he spent searching through
old newspaper files for reports; often brief ones and not
readily come upon; of matches played by Hethersett CC in the
It is of course
sad that so many scorebooks and other records have been
"lost" over a period of nearly 130 years. Some
compensation is afforded, however, by the now recorded stories
culled, as it were, from the memories of old-time Hethersett
cricketers who have long since closed their innings. I make no
apologies for recording these stories here. It is people who
make history, and those stories are part of the folk-lore of
Hethersett cricket and in a sense of cricket everywhere. They
were told of and by men who carried a bat for their village, and
as such, should be preserved. My sole regret is that they are
but a few of the many now forever lost to us.
Some of these
stories hark back over a century to a time when men like
"Old George" Moore (the First) and "Amble"
Appleton were in their prime. Yet both those men, each living
into their 80s, were once familiar figures to many people whose
own lives extended into this - the 20th century. As for
"Old George" Moore and his cricketing progeny, I feel
a word or two of clarification is called for, thus avoiding for
the reader confusion which I first experienced until research
elicited what appears to be the facts as follows.
"Old George" Moore, the man who laid out Hethersett's
distinguished cricket ground, was born in the year of Waterloo,
lived to be 84 and died at Hethersett in 1899. Remembered as a
"very hale old man," besides being official groundsman,
he also served as umpire when too old to play cricket himself.
The first George Moore to appear in known records, however, was
"Old George's" son who likewise served as an umpire
after ceasing to play cricket. In due time and following his
father's death, young George himself became Old George which is
just as well as he also had a son George, who also played for
Hethersett as did his brothers Herbert and Samuel. There has
been a George Moore the Fourth in more recent times!
Finally as some
explanation of the intense and "special rivalry" that
has long existed between Wymodham and Hethersett cricket clubs,
I offer the following:
enclosures, a vast track of unenclosed land extended from
Wymondham town to the boundary of Hethersett. Known as Wymondham
Great Common, it was there the body of a dead man was found one
day in the latter part of the 18th century. Because Wymondham
allegedly spurned the obligation to bury the corpse, the parish
of Hethersett, albeit resentfully, undertook the task and
expense of so doing. But later, with the advent of the
Enclosures of 1790, Hethersett claimed a large slice of the
Great Common on the grounds of having buried the aforementioned
corpse. The claim it appears was granted and, as it was said
"Wymondham never quite forgave Hethersett for pulling a
trick like that!"
When I offered
this story to Fred Dodman (who already knew the outline of it)
as a reason for the Hethersett -Wymondham rivalry he said
"Ah that's a rum thing, when you think about it, a bit like
having the ghost of a dead man win a cricket match for
himself has gone. But it remains true that if this little book
wins approval from its readers, then it is mostly due to Fred
Dodman and those of his kind. If it fails to do so, then the
fault is mine.