Your Stories: My First Canterbury Cricket Week…

Friday 29th July 2011

Men’s First Team

This year will be Kent Cricket's 160th Canterbury Cricket Week.The Cricket Week can be traced back to 1842, making it the oldest festival week in England, and one of the most distinct cricket events in the world. This year, five days of magnificent cricket are promised in stunning surroundings, with wonderful events planned for each day, withthe St Lawrence Ground as ever ringed by marquees.

To celebrate the world's most historic Cricket Week, we have asked Kent Cricket supporters to send in stories of their first Cricket Week. We have had an excellent response and some of the stories are included below. If you would like to submit your own story, please send it to

This year's Canterbury Cricket Week takes place between Wednesday 10th and Sunday 14th August. For details of the full programme of activites for this years Cricket Week and to book tickets, click here.

My First Cricket Week by Stephen Clifford

My first Week (well, the Saturday really, as though school holidays for me, my Dad, then the Member, was at work) was August 1963, when I was 13. (I became a Junior Member the next year, for the 1964 season). As has it seems so often been the case since, especially when I could attend only one day, most of Saturday was spent shivering in the Frank Woolley Stand, hoping for play.

Colin Cowdrey was not of course playing, as he was recovering from the broken arm suffered in the famous Lord's Test, and the side v Hampshire was led by Peter Richardson, who was having a great season with the bat, though not when put in to bat that day. My abiding visual memory of the evening play we had was Butch White steaming in from the canvass sight screen at the far end as Kent collapsed on a damp pitch, with Derek Shackleton bowling meanly from the Pavilion End, and with a dramatic setting sun breaking through the clouds. I think we were 60 something for 8 at the close, and were out for under 80 on the Monday (no Sunday play then). Thetwo openers may have bowled unchanged over the 2 days.

Very unusually – the only time ever? – the match was carried live on afternoon TV by the BBC, presumably for the Bank Holiday weekend, so I was able to watch Hampshire, through a 100 from Marshall, getting a quick lead of about 200 in sunshine and then making a challenging Ingleby-Mackenzie declaration to try and force the win. Kent then nearly won the match on the final day with hundreds by Richardson and Stuart Leary (who may well, as usual, have been playing his last match of the year before returning for August football training) before declaring, and a rapid fall of Hants wickets as they chased the win.

I know Derek Underwood was playing in his first season, and suspect someof the mainstays of the great years to come, Mike Denness and Brian Luckhurst were too, but probably at 5 and 6. Tony Catt was presumably wicket-keeper as Alan Knott had not yet made his debut, and David Nicholls was a young opening batsman not a keeper then.

I have seen sunny days since at the old ground!

My First Canterbury Cricket Week by Fred Curzon

I think I would have first attended in 1948 when I was ten, and would have gone over from Ramsgate on the number 9 bus with my mother and father who had Kent membership. They would have sat in the stands and I probably on the grass by the boundary. Hampshire were always the first opponents for the week and my own particular Kent favourites at the time were Les Ames, Godfrey,Tony Pawson and Fred Ridgway. Particularly the last named as he played outside right for Ramsgate FC whom I avidly followed.

My First Canterbury Cricket Week by Martin Read

By the time I was eight, in 1948, I was studying the scores and eager to see Kent play against Bradman’s visiting Australians, but my mother insisted that I was too young. So, my first visit was delayed until 1950 when I was immediately captivated by the tents, flowers, music and atmosphere of Canterbury week. Kent shot out Hampshire for 81 and lead by 100 at close of play. Although the match was drawn I was hooked and returned for the next game to see a victory over Middlesex. Those two counties were the regular fixtures at Canterbury week and I got to know their players almost as well as Kent’s. Watching Ames, Evans, Doug Wright & Co do battle against Derek Shackleton and the Comptons, Edrich and Titmus was no hardship. In the absence of other distractions in that era Canterbury week crowds remained traditionally healthy.

My First Canterbury Week by Derek Butler

My first Canterbury Grand Cricket Week was in 1946 when Kent played Hampshire on 3rd, 5th & 6th August. I was 11 years old at the time and had started watching and supporting Kent since their first home game after the warin May 1946 when Yorkshire beat us in 2 days!Yorkshire 252 (Len Hutton 62, Maurice Leyland 52 – Doug Wright 5-89.Kent (alas!) 69 and 92, I still have my scorecard.

In the August game Kent replied to Hampshire’s 229 with a total of 477 (this was on Bank Holiday Monday in lovely weather)and a great crowdincluding my family saw Les Todd hit 122 and Bryan Valentine 110. Tony Pawson, on his debut for Kent hit a very fast 90 before running himself out and shared a good stand with Godfrey Evans who made 72. Without the services of Doug Wright Kent’s most successful bowlers in the game were Ray Dovey and Norman Harding, supported by Fred Ridgeway.The untimely death from polioofNorman Harding in 1947 at the age of 31 was a great blow to the side. The other Kent players in the team against Hampshire were "Jack" Davies,Les Ames, Arthur Phebey and Tom Spencer who later found fame as a test umpire. I still have my scorecard for this game.
The other important game I saw that season at Canterbury was theTest Trial in July when England (captained by Norman Yardley) played The Rest captained by S.C. Griffiths. Cyril Washbrook hit 120 for England on the first day but I attended on the second day when schools were given a day off because the Royal Family were visiting Canterbury. Quite a few of my class from the Simon Langton Boys` School opted for the cricket as we were all mad onsport. Doug Wright and Godfrey Evans played for the England side and Denis Compton for The Rest.My scorecard tells me that Sonny Avery from Essex top-scored for The Rest with 79.

I now look forward(at 76) to the 2011 Week – my 66th. (I missed 1953 whenI was doing my National Service).
Happy days!

My First Canterbury Week by David Longley.

I was 10 in 1948, and my father had promised to take me from Broadstairs to Canterbury at the end of August to “see Bradman.”

Then when Canterbury Week came at the start of August, he asked “Would you like to go to cricket tomorrow?” I considered it, but said I would rather wait to see the Australians later. Dad said “No, I mean both.” I couldn't believe it! This was still semi-austerity post-war Britain. Two days out!

So it was we hired “cushions for sixpence” and sat on benches sat on the bank between what are now the Ames Stand and the Cowdrey Stand (though of course the latter as not then built). The date was 1 August, actually the second of the three days. Kent’s opponents were Hampshire – as they were to be endlessly during the subsequent Canterbury Weeks. That day it was Todd, Fagg, Ames, Pawson, Valentine, Davies, Evans, Edrich, Crush, Dovey and Ridgway in the field. I wonder if Fred remembers the match – his three wickets that day were, as I was to see so many in the immediately following years, c Evans b Ridgway. Bowling opposite Ridgway was Eddie Crush who took 6-50. (My second day later in the month saw Eddie dismiss Bradman nearing the end of his final tour of England.)

But that first day had me hooked on Championship cricket – as I have been ever since. And I’ve seen cricket at Canterbury every season since that 1948 start except 1968 and 1969 when I was in Nigeria.

My First Canterbury Week by David Rolfe

I attended my first Canterbury week in 1959 at the age of 9. It was Saturday 1st August.My father and I sat on the boundary edge to the right of the famousPavilion and facing the famous lime tree on the far boundary.The game wasKent vs. Hampshire.

Kent batted first but were soon in trouble. Colin Cowdrey came in but made only 4. The great Godfrey Evans made one of the best scores of the innings with 15 and hit a boundary near to where we were sitting. Kent were skittled out for 80.

When Hampshire batted they had no such trouble. Roy Marshall opened the batting and was later supported in a stand with Henry Horton. They reached 127 – 1 at the close. They were slow-clapped at one stage for their cautious batting.

Fred Ridgeway and Dave Halfyard plugged away but couldn't make a breakthrough. Godfrey Evans kept everyone on their toes with some flamboyant keeping. No sooner had the ball hit his gloves than he'd toss it to first slip to make sure he was awake. But then Colin Cowdrey was one of the best slip fielders of his day.

Kent lost the game on the Tuesday despite a brilliant century in the second innings by Colin Cowdrey. It was Godfrey Evans final season so I feel privileged that I saw him play.

I've been a Kent supporter from that day, through all the ups and downs of the 52 seasons. As a youngster I went regularly to Kent games with my father and my friends. Like all the youngsters at that time, we played our own games of cricket on the outfield at the intervals.

Living in County Durham now I don't often get to see Kent play but I always follow the scores and the news. Kent County Cricket Club has been and always will be,my one true sporting loyalty.

My First Canterbury Week by Dr Fred Imms

I first attended Canterbury week on theSaturday for the match against Hampshire in 1947. I was taken by my mother whilst we were staying with my grandparents in nearby Chartham. My interest in cricket started when the first class game resumed after the War in 1946 but this was my first visit to a match.

Kent had a strong side that year and played probably their strongest side in this match – Todd, Fagg, Ames, Valentine, Davies, Pawson, Evans, Mallett, Dovey, Wright and Harding. The Hampshire side included a Lieutenant Commander and a Reverend and were captained by Desmond Eager. Kent batted first and by close of played had amassed 434 – 7 and went on to win by an innings.

As a raw country boy,I was awestruck when we entered the ground by the large stands and the massive scoreboards. The crowd was much bigger than nowadays and it was difficult to find a seat on the old wooden planks that served as public seats. We paid sixpence each to hire cushions to ease our sore bottoms. My mother told me that the stands and the Pavilion were for the posh and rich people and that the tents were occupied by the landed gentry. At tea time the crowd spilled on to the outfield and many groups of boys played impromptu games of cricket using glass bottles as bats. Two stewards attached ropes to either side of the Pavilion exit and extended these almost to the square to form a passageway for the players to come on to the field. What atreat to get so near to the Kent batsmen as they resumed their innings.

Sixty four years later as President of my club anda member of both Kent and MCC I suppose that I have joined the 'posh' people.

My First Canterbury Week by Peter Thompson

My first visit to Canterbury was in 1950, as a 10 year old, with my parents. I had a new Kodak box brownie camera and was so thrilled to see Ramadhin & Valentine walking round the boundary that I leapt to my feet and took a wonderful photograph of their midriffs!!!! They went on to take 59 of the 80 England wickets to fall in the 4 match Test series. It was also, of course, the tour year of the 3 Ws – Worrell, Weekes & Walcott – I subsequently had the privilege of shaking the latter's hand when he was walking along the beach in Antigua, one November morning some years ago.

Many more happy days have been spent there, though now being a Life Member and living in Spain I don't get there as often as I would like.

My First Canterbury Week by Derek Barnard

The first match that I attended was the game between Kent and the South Africans in August 1952. I persuaded my mother to take me to the third day of the game. Rain had consistently interrupted the game on the first two days but I persuaded my mother that all would be well on this third day.

We went by steam train from Gillingham to Canterbury East and then walked up to the St Lawrence Ground to be in good time for the 11.30am start. As we walked up to the ground from the station it began to drizzle, which then turned into heavy rain before we reached the ground. We were soaked and things became more miserable when all we could do was sit on those rudimentary benches which normally pierced your rear end with splinters. Do you remember them?

My mother paid the admission charges on the gate in the Old Dover Road and was assured by the gateman that there would be play sometime later in the day. In a way he was correct, as all of six overs were bowled late in the day but by that time my mother had decided that we were not going to spend the whole day watching heavy rain and we returned to the station for the journey home.

The journey home was memorable because the steam train crashing through the crossing gates at Selling. The noise of the heavy steam engine taking out the crossing gates was thunderous and the train was delayed for well over one hour. Even today I can remember looking out of the window and seeing one of the gates perched on the chimney stack of the engine.

So my first ever visit to Canterbury was memorable for heavy rain, wooden benches and a railway accident. Not a bad introduction to Kent cricket.

In early July 2011, I managed to purchase from an auction room in Bristol one of the stumps used in that 1951 game. The stump has been cut down the middle and signed by the players of both sides in the 1951 game. Well they had to do something whilst it was raining. Many of you will recall Kent names like Fagg, Phebey, Clark and Wright, but names like Rowan, Mcglew and Cheetham may even transport you back to Canterbury 1951.

My First Canterbury Week by John Sweetman.

My first visit to Canterbury Cricket Week was in 1946 at the age of 11. We were playing Somerset who took all day to score 298 for 8. The main Somerset star was Harold Gimblett who was supposed to be an enterprising opening batsman but was very dull that day. It was not a very good baptism to County cricket but I have seen many better days since.

My First Canterbury Week by Anthony Budd

­The first match I went to was Kent v Lancs at Blackheath circa 67/68. Clive Lloyd was the legend of the time but I digress. Canterbury Week, summer of love, Stuart Leery at 3, also a Charlton F C player. Luckhurst, Denness also and Lord Colin, the last great gentleman of cricket. Alan Dixon and his soon to come Gillette Cup bowling. The young Knotty and Underwood; folk legends. The giant Norman Graham, Alan Ealham's electric fielding, and middle order batting. Was Shep there? I think so, soon to become a fans’ favourite.

It began in 67 with the Gillette Cup, and for the next 12 years, Kent were the most exciting team in cricket. When we won the John Player League in 73, with helicopters over the ground and all, this made one day cricket what it is now. Asif Iqbal, an unsung Kent legend. Asif’s dedication and contributions were integral to our success.

Remember the banner at Lords' B and H final. Asif Kent could Knott win. Win we did in 73 76 78, we invented one day cricket. I know I’m over-running, but I love our history. Pure memories, still alive. I was overawed by my childhood hero when I first spoke to him outside Lucky’s Bar when Brian arrived with his dogs who he always brought. What a gentleman and pleasant, charismatic man. Saying that, many bowlers felt the rough end of his bat. Given a chance early on Brian would have been up with Amiss Edrich, at least as a test legend. Anyway that’s a little memory of my first days at Canterbury Week. Good people, great players. Sometimes memories are better than statistics of course.

My First Canterbury Week by Nigel Moore

I was aged 18 years when I attended my first cricket festival week at Canterbury in 1960. As usual there were two three day games starting on the Saturday preceding the Bank Holiday Monday then at the beginning of August, attended by large crowds on their annual holiday. The second match was always against Hampshire and of course the sun always shone!

I played cricket for Sheldwich Cricket Club and was able to attend the Hampshire match for one day along with our captain Bill Baker, courtesy of two complementary tickets provided by the Association of Kent Cricket Clubs. An added bonus was that we were able to spend most of the day in their small marquee by the famous tree enjoying excellent beer at 2 shillings (10 new pence) a half and the same for freshly made sandwiches sold by a local landlord.

Early in the day we were joined by a work colleague of Bill’s whose wife had been admitted to Kent & Canterbury hospital to have their first child and as was the norm he was not encouraged by the Sister to stay for the birth. Every time a wicket fell he dashed off to the ward to see his wife and when he returned we had another drink to console him on not yet becoming a father.

On the pitch the cricket was enthralling. For the cricketing aficionado it was always entertaining watching Derek Shackleton bowl effortlessly most of the day with his wonderfully smooth action contrasting with the bustling fast bowling at the Nackington Road end of Butch White, he with the enormous drag .

Later Roy Marshall, probably the first overseas cricketer to play regularly in County cricket played as usual a delightful swashbuckling innings for Hampshire in contrast to his opening partner, the dour Henry Horton who seemed intent on not scoring any runs off the persistent and consistent bowling of Dave Halfyard and the fast pace of the long striding Alan Brown.

Earlier in the day we watched Bob Wilson continue his Kent’s innings and I can recall him scoring a six just over gulley’s head with the ball landing between the boundary painted line and the second line two feet away that acted as a barrier for children not to cross during play as they watched sitting on the grass whilst their parents sat on the wooden planked seats full of splinters behind. Bob had taken the place as opener from the popular Arthur Fagg whose name caused him to be known affectionately as Woodbine, a well-known small cigarette of the day, by some of the regulars enjoying the unusual treat of all day drinking in the marquee.

Colin Cowdrey, the captain played a majestic innings, timing was his strength and his choice of festival week to perform at his best could not have been better. He was certainly an entertaining cricketer once he had settled and at one stage he was to be seen dancing in the slips with Colin Ingoldsby-Mackenzie, the new Hampshire skipper as the military band continued playing after lunch under a tree near where later the Colin Cowdrey was later to be built.

At the end of play we watched a large group of partially if not wholly inebriated supporters in the adjacent marquee each place a £1 note into an empty pint glass laying on its side about 30 yards away from where they were staggering and holding on to their putters to keep upright and whoever hit a golf ball into the glass in the shortest number of shots won the money. Much to everyone’s amazement the very first person to attempt this very difficult task somehow managed to hit the ball into the glass with one shot first time. With some difficulty he made his way to the glass, stooped and collected his winnings and made his way home before the remaining competitors had realised what had happened.

After watching that piece of additional sporting entertainment, the expectant father then strolled off to the hospital once more for the evening’s formal visiting and Bill and I moved on to the Abbots Barton Hotel where the players were staying. We were fortunate enough to spend some time with Stuart Leary and Tony Catt and over a drink we discussed the day’s play. Stuart was able to clarify for us why Kent waited for him to face one ball only before they declared just before tea. Apparently Colin Cowdrey was hopeless at working out the relevant scoring rates needed for an appropriate declaration and relied heavily upon Stuart to do the mental arithmetic. Unfortunately he had to wait some time for a wicket to fall for his advisor to join him in the middle and was then told that he should have declared much earlier to achieve his target.

For a short while we were then joined by a mother and her teenage daughter who offered to buy Stuart a drink which he politely declined. Naturally Tony, Bill and I were disappointed that we had not been included in her round but now I wonder whether or not it was because Stuart looked more like Hugh Grant whilst we three could easily have been mistaken for Russell Grant. I shall never know.

I then decided to catch my train home and left Bill to join Derek Shackleton in the Cricketers at Canterbury High Street where Derek was sure to be recharging his batteries after his long bowling stint.

On arriving home I suspect from the look on her face that my mother did not believe me that the reason for my glazed look and feeling of biliousness was due to possible heat exhaustion but then again this is the devoted mother who earlier had admonished me for wasting my valuable holiday time going to cricket where nothing ever happens. I can assure her that although there have been a number of alterations in the subsequent fifty years in essence the Festival remains the same and there is always something to do including discussing the changes with all and sundry. Had he been alive today Bill would have loved it.

My First Cricket Week by Josclyn Bucke

My first memories of Canterbury Cricket Week date back to 1954 when I was 6 years old. My grandmother, aunt, uncle and numerous cousins would meet up on 'the bank' where one could eat ones picnic at leisure and watch the cricket at the same time. In order to obtain one of these highly prized positions we would leave home shortly after 6am in order to be in the queue outside the Nackington Road entrance by 7am. Then would follow an interminable wait for the gates to be opened, breakfast would be consumed in the meantime, and then the Formula 1 type dash for a position on the bank once the gates had been declared open. There was then another 2 hour wait before there was any cricket to watch!

I must confess that I initially found the cricket exceedingly boring, the highlight of the day being when a wicket fell and I could fill in my scorecard (costing 4d!), I could even afford to buy 'up to date score cards' which were produced after the fall of nearly every wicket. The other excitement was autograph hunting and I remember waiting outside a white wooden door at the back of the pavillion waiting for players to come in and out. I dont think I knew who they were but if they were in whites they were badgered by me!

I remember seeing Doug Wright, Ridgeway and of course, Colin Cowdrey. The match was always against Hampshire and the names Horton (batsman) and Shackleton (bowler spring to mind). I went on to become a cricket fanatic and I think I have only missed a couple of cricket weeks since.