The Early Days
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The Grace Family Group in 1892 with WG and his elder brother CSCC Captain Alfred Grace at the front.
Cricket in the Sodbury Vale
Our story of Chipping Sodbury Cricket Club in its early days is incorporated in an article, entitled "Cricket in the Sodbury Vale" contributed to the "Gazette" by the late Mr. James Mills of Rock House, Chipping Sodbury, who was one of the Club stalwarts in those bygone days and captained the side in the 1890's.
It was in the early 1860's that the Grace family first became associated with Chipping Sodbury Cricket Club when Dr. Alfred Grace Dr. Alfred Gracemoved to the town to take over Dr. Brookman's practice. By the mid-l860's, the Club had temporarily moved from The Ridings to Gaunts Field where, according to Mr. Mills, they had a good wicket for those days. There was much more practice then, between ten to 15 players attending most evenings.
They used to keep the playing kit in a large black box which was stored at a Mr. Matthew's house. On the Gaunts Field ground, Dr. Alfred Grace, his brother, G. F. Grace and old Mr. Pocock, their uncle (who taught them their cricket) played for Chipping Sodbury against Syston and District. "G.F." made over 100 and Mr. Pocock knocked up over 60. There were no boundary hits in those days and to run a 100 was quite a physical accomplishment.
Captain of the Club for several seasons was J. D. B. Trenfield, described by Mr. Mills in his article as "a fine player, a topping bat and a good roundarm bowler." He played for the XXII of Clifton and District against the All-England XI. The Club had no pavilion but a canvas tent which only appeared on special match days. There were far fewer fixtures which were chiefly played on weekdays with six away games and six at home.
Saturdays were devoted to practice games, captain and vice-captain picking the sides. "They made the play quite social" wrote Mr. Mills in his article. " They would have a whip round and send one of us boys to one of the pubs and bring up a gallon or perhaps two gallons of beer according to the number playing. Matches lasted generally all day with luncheon on the ground or at The Portcullis or George Hotel."
One of the first known teams fielded by Chipping Sodbury included J. D. B. Trenfield, Dr. Alfred Grace, Mr. C. Watts, Mr. New (a clerk at the bank with Mr. Watts), Mr. Sam Cool, the grocer, who was a good underarm lob bowler, two brothers named Westwood, the brothers Edward, Fred and Harry Godwin and Mr. Bacon, the headmaster of the National School.
Mr. Bacon's one great fault, apparently, was that he could not refrain from chaffing batsmen when he shattered their wickets. There was one home match against Wickwar in which Mr. Bob Allen (father of Mr. W. Allen) was playing when the Wickwar captain was bowled and Mr. Bacon laughed and chaffed and upset the player. He promptly protested and said he would not go on until Mr. Bacon had apologised. This he finally did and the game continued.
In the 1869 season G. F. Grace opened Chipping Sodbury's innings against Tetbury and scored 206 not out in a total of 287 and took three wickets. Another of Dr. Alfred Grace's brothers, "E.M." (The Coroner) knocked up a century for Chipping Sodbury in the return match with Tetbury later that season.
By 1870 the Club was experiencing a lean time owing chiefly to the fact that Mr. Trenfield was too busily occupied in his professional work as a solicitor. At this period Dr. Alfred Grace took over the captaincy but his profession made him an uncertain player and he was often called away in the middle of a match.
From available records, it is certain the Club were playing once more on The Ridings by 1874, the secretary at that time being a Mr. Murray. It was about this period that the Grammar School was re-built.
The first master, Mr. J. P. Wills, was very keen on cricket and in a very short time he had formed a school team which played on The Ridings, using the same pitch as the club. This joint use of the wicket continued for some time but it was an unsatisfactory arrangement. Eventually the Club laid a new pitch higher up in The Ridings almost opposite to the Ridge entrance gate.
Mr. Wills took an active part in the Chipping Sodbury Club together with Mr. Bowen Bernard and the Rev. Mr. Moore (curate at that time). In consequence the Club soon revived. There is one story told by Mr. Mills about the curate.
In the course of one match he had to leave the field to conduct a funeral service. Mr. Wills remarked to him "Don't be away long, old chap" to which the curate replied "All right, I'll get back as quickly as I can ". True to his word he was not absent for more than half an hour and on his return was heard to remark to Mr. Wills: "I got the old lady under in 20 minutes."
In the Chipping Sodbury team for the match played at Woodchester Park were the two schoolmasters (Mr. Wills and Mr. Bacon), Mr. Bernard, Harry Godwin, Joe Iles, Joe Collins (Horton) and J. Mills. The owner of the Park provided them with tea and when play was over, Mr. Bacon, Harry Godwin and Joe Iles had a bet as to who could drink the most tea.
Harry Godwin was a tall, but broad fellow; Joe Iles, a medium-sized man; and Mr. Bacon was thin and wiry. Most of the team expected Mr. Godwin to win the contest but much to everyone's surprise it was the thin man who beat the other two contestants. Joe and Reuben Iles soon developed into good bowlers and for some years were sought after to assist most of the local Clubs when they were not playing for Chipping Sodbury.
By the early 188O's, the pitch at The Ridings had been leveled and re-laid and it appears that the Club were thinking in terms of providing a suitable structure there to serve as a pavilion, for on June l0th, 1884, the secretary (a Mr. Howard) wrote a letter to the Bailiff and Burgesses seeking permission to erect a small shed, measuring about 20 ft. long and 15 ft. wide in the Stub Riding.
There were several young players joining the Club in 1884-5, among them, Dr. Alfred Grace's eldest son, A. H. Grace (or Alfie as he was familiarly Dr. Arthur S. Graceknown) who played for the County Colts and Gloucestershire from 1886-91.
Other newcomers or new players coming on included the brothers Will and Sam Turner, George Eyles, Tommy Hayle, T. Ratcliff, W. Johnson, G. Bates, J. W. Trenfield, Dr. T. C. Leman, W. Permain and Tomlin.
Yet another of the Chipping Sodbury Graces, Arthur S. Grace (who also played for Gloucestershire Colts) joined their ranks and the Chipping Sodbury Club of that period could field a fairly good team, the Club operating with varied success into the nineties.