Days of cricket & cucumber sandwiches at Brambletree

This is the sort of picture where you can smell the newly mown grass, feel the sun on your back and taste the cheese sandwiches and beer in the shade of the canvas marquee.

All in all, it’s a wonderfully evocative picture. It shows the scene, about 1951, when Borstal Cricket Club opened its lovely ground at Brambletree. To mark the occasion, the Borstal side invited an XI led by Mayor of Rochester Andy Anderson.

It was both as sporting and municipal afternoon — in the days when Rochester was a city bursting with civic pride. The councillors look a rather rotund and pompous lot — by all accounts they were – but at least they knew how to keep Rochester a city, unlike some we could mention. (Medway Council, I’m talking about you).

I’ve managed to find a fairly complete list of names for the line-up, but will be pleased to hear from anybody who can fill in the blanks.

Here goes. Back row: Unknown. Second row from back: ?; Alf Corthorn; Wally Huckstepp; ?; ?; Harold Chambers; Cllr Swain; ?: Fred Giles; Cllr Jack Phillips (owner of the lemonade firm and former chairman of the governors of Rochester Mathematical School – sorry, there’s a 70-year-old blot on his face); Fred Gore; ? (he was Cornish and lived in Mount Road, Borstal); Bill Rudd; Frank Nash; Alec Dadd (the builder, who was an umpire at this match).

Third row: Cllr Leslie Darley (an estate agent, later Mayor of Rochester, and not always a popular figure); Fred Oliver (Borstal captain); ? (the city surveyor?); Mrs Anderson; mayor Cllr Andy Anderson; Cllr Tickner; Labour councillor Bill Wilkinson; Fred Dadd.

Front row: Ewart Rayner (my father); Brian Rudd (Bill’s son); John Rayner (my father’s cousin, who captained Borstal for decades); Billy Cullum; Alan Miles.

Later, the club acquired a hut for a pavilion — Alec Dadd (the man who built our house in Mount Road) dismantling it and taking it to Brambletree on his lorry. I remember the pavilion vividly, as well as the gent’s toilets, which were fascinatingly simple (but details of which are not suitable for a family website).

Thanks to my father (hello, Dad!) for the information. Let’s hear some more from all you cricket veterans, please.

Graham Nichols wrote in 2009: “If you walked from Borstal Cricket Ground towards the bridge you would have come across another cricket team that played alongside the River Medway, a very flourishing club called Riverside.

“They had a massive site that comprised a cricket ground, football pitches, tennis courts and a bowling green. The ground originally belonged to Short Brothers whose factories sprawled along the Esplanade and their team was called Shorts Casuals. When Shorts closed the ground was taken over by a number of companies: Le Grand, Sutcliff and Gell: CAV and Berry Ede and White.

“So much money was invested in the sports club that the cricket team had a full-time paid groundsman and the wicket was of county standard. Riverside officially came into existence in 1947 and they lost very few matches.

“A good-sized crowd watched whenever they were at home from benches around the ground. They even had an early-day Botham, by the name of Len Shepherd. He was the opening bowler and a middle-order hitter. More times than I can remember spectators would arrive and ask “has Shepherd batted?”

“Riverside’s reputation was renowned and in 1951 when it was the benefit year of Arthur Fagg, Kent and England’s opening batsman, a game was arranged at Riverside when five county players with six Riverside players played the West Indies touring side which included Allan Rae.

“It made me tingle when the West Indies fast attack ploughed in only to see the ball fly over the boundary into the Medway mud, hit by Len Shepherd. Most of the team played together for years and the captain, George Pateman could always name his first six players every week without fail. My dad opened the bowling with Len. He became club chairman and secretary, my mum “did the teas” and when I was old enough I became the scorer. Such wonderful times.

“With the demise of the main factories Rochester Council took over the site and it all went to seed. Very sad. Does anyone else remember Riverside?”

To Graham’s comment, Chris Carr added: “My stepfather used to play for Riverside Cricket Club. He worked at CAV. I expect he played there in the 60s. His name is Mick Taylor and he went on to play for Sherwood CC, as I did. He holds the record for the amount of games played for Sherwood, which stands at 700-plus.”

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