Look Back With Little: Twenty Club origins

"Old Dick" pulls the roller. Left to right: Bill Hawkins, Bill Mason and Jim Neville
"Old Dick" pulls the roller. Left to right: Bill Hawkins, Bill Mason and Jim Neville

The loss of Banbury Twenty Cricket Club memorabilia in last month’s fire at the club pavilion is especially heart breaking in the light of a history characterised by self-help.

Acquisition of their present ground near the motorway and ensuring that it was well appointed was due almost entirely to a combination of enthusiasm and determination on the part of members.

Its origins can be traced back to 1932 when 20 people gathered in a room at the Buck and Bell, then at 39 Parsons Street. It was Fred Betts who calculated the number present at the meeting and suggested that ‘Banbury Twenty Club’ was an appropriate name for the new group.

A year later they turned their attention to cricket as a means of cementing relationships above the level of mere membership.

By 1933 their base had moved to the Wheatsheaf in George Street.

The original members were Eric Lowe, Basil Harris, Bill Hawkins, Johnny Byles (renowned local boxer), Bernard Gilkes, Jim Neville, Harold Tyrell, Bill Rogers, Charlie Bartlett, Harold Peake (Market Place dentist), Albert Northcott, Fred Clements, R.W. Jackson, Ernie Wincott, Harry Horsley, Reg Robbins, Frank Clack, Fred Betts, Reg Sellars and Frank Fosbury. In the space of a year these enthusiasts had come a long way from the tripe supper that greeted them in 1932.

Early matches were played on the Horton View ground, which was the home of the Banbury Town Club and was considered good enough for Minor Counties fixtures.

Under the skilled wicket preparation by groundsman J. Darlow the square gained a reputation for batsmen’s tracks, no bad situation for a new side like Banbury Twenty trying to build a local reputation with an inevitable effect on the quality of their fixture list. While getting established they were undoubtedly glad to have the opportunity of taking over the old Banbury Town ‘A’ side’s programme.

In the late 1930s the club acquired a home of its own.

They rented a meadow in the Middleton Road. Here the laying of the square necessitated specialist intervention but the rest of the work was down to club members.

This even included erection of a pavilion and dressing rooms.

An important characteristic of the ground has been its site close to the county border. Down the years this has ensured good links with the Northamptonshire county side. Many visiting beneficiaries from the Wantage Road Club have brought strong sides to Banbury for testimonial matches. Typical was a Whit Sunday game in the 1950s when Ken Fiddling’s XI came.

Involvement in local competitions has also featured strongly. Twenty Club won the Advertiser Cup on several occasions and in 1935 coupled this with success in the Charlton Charity Cup. As much as anything this level of success was down to a well-appointed ground on which much excellent voluntary work was lavished by several non-playing members.

Friendly matches have been the backbone of fixtures. In 1939 the programme was both enterprising and varied. Local derbies marked the start and end. There were home games with Banbury and the Northern Aluminium Company. There was promise of good wickets during encounters with Shipton-under-Wychwood, Moreton-in-Marsh and Buckingham. Some opponents had intriguing names, notably Will-O’-the-Wisp, Coventry Wanderers CC, Hognoggins and Hoboes CC (Coventry).

During that season W.D. White excelled with the ball and twice claimed seven wickets. C. Holmes had a good knock of 79 in the Moreton game.

An interesting measure of progress within the club came in 1952 when at the Annual General Meeting it was decided to appoint separate Saturday and Sunday captains. More recently a merging of Banbury and the Banbury Twenty Club promises much good cricket way into the future and this despite the trimming of the ground as a consequence of the arrival of the M40 motorway.

Destruction of the pavilion and the loss of memorabilia were devastating blows but history suggests that cricket will survive at Ermont Way even if recollection of the past glories depends more on memories and less on the written word and pictures.