A History of Kimpton Cricket Club.
On the 22nd August 1799, at team of cricketers from Kimpton played a team from Datchworth at Gustard Wood. The first recorded game involving players from Kimpton. This early interest in the game in the parish of Kimpton would have been due to the appointment in 1797 of Lord Frederick Beauclerk as Vicar. An aristocrat and titan of the early game, he played 82 times for an England XI and was the leading player of his day. In his first summer as Kimpton’s Vicar he played 17 first class (mainly 3 day) games. The taking of many services would have been delegated to a curate, but he must have spent at least some time in the parish and passed on his enthusiasm for the game to the local gentry and gentleman farmers. The 22nd June 1814 saw the inaugural game at the Thomas Lord’s third ground, when the home of the MCC moved to St John’s Wood, where of course it has remained. This game saw 4 players from Kimpton take the field. Lord Frederick captained the MCC and 3 Kimpton players were in the Hertfordshire XI that provided the opposition (Bruton, Sibley and Crew). Bruton, a fine bat with a century (a feat in that age) against Hatfield to his credit farmed Kimpton Hall, where the current Chairman now lives!
At which point the playing of cricket became formalised into a club is not known. There is a rare recorded game on the 28th June 1879, where Kimpton lost to King’s Walden. The Coleman family (2 players in 1879), link that game, to a photograph of a victorious team from July 9 1892. This team had given Digswell a good hiding (scoring 325 runs) and the photograph has 3 Coleman’s. Including JE Coleman who played in the 1879 and would is elected captain in the first surviving minute book from 1908. His son William (Bill) is also present in both 1892 and 1908, as is a somewhat portly J Coleman. The Umpire in 1892 and groundsman and coach in 1908. Thus, based on folk memory the year of foundation is given as 1880. Bill Coleman might lay claim to being Kimpton’s best player. He was born in the Boot in 1878 and was a regular player for Hertfordshire as well as Kimpton. A formidable bowler he took 5 wickets for Hertfordshire on 51 occasions whilst scoring 21 50’s and 1 century. His final tally for Hertfordshire was 619 wickets at an average of 18.11 runs per wicket with best bowling of 8 for 33. He also 3885 runs for Hertfordshire.
The original ground for Kimpton was on recreation ground behind the Dacre Rooms. This was not flat. Kimpton was a strong and successful club in this time. The president was Viscount Hampden, who lived at Temple Dinsley (Preston) but would walk to Kimpton to play for the club. In 1912 the club amalgamated with “the Hoo” club. This and the division of the equipment between the 2 club’s is the only reference to two club’s in the Village. We can only speculate, but presumably a club also operated out of Kimpton Hoo, which was then a large stately home. Despite the merger the club did not feel it could run a team in 1913. The war then intervened but the club retained subscribers and by 1920 is playing again. Viscount Hampden is still president and vice-president’s included George Bernard Shaw and by 1930 Harold Macmillan. He was a good friend of Viscount Hampden and regular visitor to Kimpton to watch cricket. As during the interwar years the club regularly fielded two teams, participation wise the club had “never had it so good”. Charlie Smith was the captain serving for a remarkable 14 seasons. The club minutes have a familiar feel, with the main discussion being on ground maintenance and the recruiting of tea ladies.
Of course, the war interrupted the club again, with no cricket played between 1940 to 1945. By 1946, the club was getting back on its feet but the old ground on the recreation ground was unfit to play on. Mr C H Harding offered a ground at the Hoo and offered to prepare a wicket for a game in the last Saturday in August. This was taken and the club moved home to the Hoo. The indomitable Charlie Smith arranged for pavilion to be moved from the Recreation ground to the Hoo. The 1950’s was a strong decade for the club for the war. In 1950 they managed p34, W16, L10, D8, a post war record. The 1960’s started well, but a new generation was not coming through and the number of fixture’s was reduced. In 1967, the club’s Annual General Meeting discussed whether it should continue. The motion carried unanimously by the 13 members present, but the club struggled that summer. However, by 1968, the developments of Dacre Crescent and then Parkfield brought numerous new players into the village. The club prospered in the 1970’s, hosting several charity games against celebrity opposition. In 1977, the club started its Annual tour of Kent in Whitsun week. This tradition continued to the early 90’s.
Up to this point, the author has been able to rely on the reference works Cricket in Hertfordshire and the History of Kimpton Cricket Club published for the centenary year in 1980. The rest must be done from memory and the author only started his association with the club in 1989. At some point in the early 1980’s it became apparent that to maintain the viability of the farm the ground at the Hoo must be put to commercial use. The Parish Council arranged for the ground behind the Parkfield estate to become the club’s new home. The cricket club was moved here, and the tennis club founded at the same location. The courts were in place by mid 1980’s. Work on the cricket pitch started in 1988 but did not come in to use until 1990, mainly as the ground required substantial levelling. Thus the club has 2-3 years of nomadic life. Sadly, the old pavilion could not be moved from the Hoo, so another second hand one was obtained and constructed at the ground, which is the structure still in use today. The 1980’s and 1990’s were reasonably successful years at the club, with Saturday and Sunday teams being fielded regularly. The club has always played in the southern friendly tradition and this was a time when many of the traditional opposition clubs started the transition to the league game. The maintenance of friendly status was the firm preference of the members at the time. By the late 1990’s the club was struggling to put teams out. In October 1999, the decision was made to field just 1 team a week. Initially a mixture of Saturdays and Sundays but now exclusively Sundays. If 1999 was bleak in the 2000’s the club progressed with a few young players from the village playing regularly. This even allowed for as series of weekend tours to Lincolnshire between 2006-2012. A shipping container was placed at the ground, which helped greatly with the storage of the ground equipment. In the 2010’s the club has maintained a steady state transitioning like many clubs to a wider group of less regular players. It welcomed a couple of Saracen teams to the ground for celebrity games and the Wheathamstead 3rd XI began to make regular use of the ground on Saturday’s bringing useful income. It is now facing the challenges of 2020 and the suspension of cricket. However, as this history demonstrates, the club has faced many challenges but overcome them through the dedication and enthusiasm of its members.