Taverners History 1 of 2

1. Starting A Club

The club was conceived in the Crown and Cushion during the late summer of 1969. Denis West, the landlord was getting worried because a couple of his regulars, Ian Bonham and Nick Carbury, kept disappearing over to the Reading area to play cricket on a Saturday and Sunday. Denis had the idea of forming a club from the regulars at the pub. There were several of us that were party to the conversation, Roland Stevenson, Bruce King, Ian Bonham, Nick Carbury and Denis West. It was decided that this would be a good idea. We would post a list on the notice board to see what, if any interest was shown. In about 4 weeks we had some 25-30 names of interested persons, mostly as players but with a fair number of supporters.

A meeting was arranged in the Crown and it was decided that we had enough support to form a club. A committee was formed and various methods of fund raising then had to be considered. Denis very kindly let us run a weekly raffle in the pub. Bruce King organised a weekly waste paper collection on the estate where he lived. Ian Bonham and his wife Moriag would bundle the paper up and weigh and bind it. When a ton was collected the paper merchants would collect and pay the club. Jumble sales were another great source of income (No boot sales then).

In the spring of 1970 we were in a position to purchase a limited quantity of kit. Two of us went up to London and returned with bats stumps, keepers gloves etc. At this time we also laid a practice strip of concrete, using a borrowed mixer, on the edge of what is now the club ground. We purchased a net and suitable coconut matting and held a practice session a couple of nights a week.

Fixtures were a major problem in the first couple of years as all of the local sides decided that we were a pub side. Fortunately there were a lot of sides around Basingstoke and we were invited down to Lansing Bagnalls by their fixture secretary/captain and with his help providing all of the addresses for sides like Smiths Industries and a number of the village sides in the area. We also joined the Club Cricket Conference and obtained a number of fixtures through them.

Farnborough Urban District Council allowed us to play our cricket at Rectory Road although the club was in the old Fleet Council area. There were two reasons for this happening. One, most of the clubs players came from Farnborough and equally importantly, Barry James, a non-playing supporter of the club was also a local councillor.

The clubs held a trial match on Osborne Road recreation ground where the abilities of the members could be assessed ready for the first match against Lansings. After this match the committee appointed the clubs first captain, Brian Keeble. On the day it poured with rain all morning, we were champing at the bit. The skipper from Lansings rang me and assured me that if it stopped raining we would be able to play. Sure enough it did stop and we were able to play our first game as the Taverners. Peter March and Nick Carbury opened the bowling. We won the match and were on our way.

In 1970, the ground, which was owned, as now, by the MOD was leased by Denis to keep his daughters horse. It had been used to rear pigs back in the early 60’s and had a fall towards the south of 4 to 6 feet with gorse and broom growing all over the place and resembled a bombsite. Also during 1970 the construction of the M3 was started and a large number of the employees of the main contractor W C French lived in the old Guilliemont barracks which were bounded by Sandy Lane and Minley Road. A number of the senior management drank in the Crown and they offered, after a little coercion on the part of Denis, to level the ground.

Two very large Bulldozers arrived at the ground, removed all of the top soil and then levelled the sub soil, replaced the topsoil. The cost to the club was a lot of beers and the drivers wages for the Sunday.

I don’t think anyone had seen so many stones. Richard Smith, another member, found us an old tractor that had been used on one of the London golf courses. With a diesel engine and most important a tipper back so that the stones could be loaded onto the tractor and used to fill the void between the two fields. The stones were raked up for weeks with wives and children all helping. Once raked into rows they could be loaded onto the tractor by one person. The tractor had a very low first gear and so it could be lined up with the stones and set of with the driver also driving the shovel. It took most of the summer to rake and remove the stones.

During the winter the square was excavated and levelling markers hammered into place. All of this work was done by hand as we had committed all of our resources to laying the square. Come the spring and we were ready to lay the table. The loam came from Farnham at a cost of £200.00, a serious amount of money back then. We spent hours shifting barrow loads of loam from the covered heaps that had been dropped around the square and levelling using the markers.

The infamous ridge was caused when some loam got wet before it had been levelled. It set like concrete and had to be dug out. The frustration that this caused to the then club members is hard to say. The loam was dug out and replaced but the ridge was created despite all of our efforts, including French's supplying a huge roller delivered on a low loader to the ground. Albert's Ridge is now part of the grounds character. When the square was complete the first grass seed, Suttons County Wicket 16A was sown. This was in the spring.

The winter rains exposed even more stones on the outfield. After another gargantuan effort by members, wives, children and friends the outfield had enough soil showing to be seeded. The square was cut for the first time during May. The keeper from Guildford came with his Ransom mower, and for the first time the field looked like a cricket ground. Although the outfield grass was rather sparse it was green. We managed to purchase a second hand Ransom mower and a small Ransom push mower. Dick Smith sold us a large hand roller for its scrap value. The club still has this roller.

We had to learn about looking after the square and the outfield plus the mowing equipment. As well as all of the groundwork that was taking place the club also had a full fixture list with home fixtures being played at Rectory Road. As the wicket was looking good and the outfield grass had thickened up it was decided to play the first match on the ground at the end of August.

We borrowed a small marquee for changing and had the clubs first barbecue. The opposition were the Reading West Indians. The pitch played well and it was very rewarding for all of those involved. During the next winter Brian Keeble managed to obtain two old motorway contractors sheds from the M4. From these we were able to construct our first “pavilion”. It was lined with plasterboard, papered and painted. It was a bit small but served its purpose.

The Crown’ provided our tea ladies with a home. The toilets were also available and the pub acted as our clubhouse after matches. We acquired an old caravan that we converted into area where the teas could be laid out. The teas were passed through a window into the pavilion. This made us a little more independent although we still had to use the pubs toilets.

The next few years saw the club thrive. We had joined the Hampshire league on its formation in 1973 and were placed in North Division 2 where we played all over the north of the county and in Berkshire. At this time we also ran a mid-week XI playing sides like Reading Lawyers, the Police College, touring sides and even the Royal Engineers at Southwood. We also played in the Haig village KO and got to the Hampshire final in 1972 but were beaten by Steep.