Reigate Priory Cricket Club
The notes below paint a small picture of the club's history but since they were written the Reigate Priory President, Andrew Packham, has produced a book covering the detailed history of the club. This book, which is also featured in the libraries of both the Oval and Lord's, was published in November 2018. Copies are available to be purchased.
Whilst it is generally agreed that Reigate Priory Cricket Club (RPCC) was founded in 1852 we believe there was a Reigate Cricket Club as a forerunner to us for many years prior to that. Reigate has certainly been associated with key developments in the game from as early as the 1770s. In 1771 Thomas White of Reigate strode to the wicket with a bat wider than the stumps, which led to the standardisation of the width of a cricket bat. In the first two decades of the 19th century William Lambert of Reigate was the first player to score two centuries in a match, managed to bowl in such a manner that the introduction of “wides” came into the laws of the game and then managed to get himself banned from Lord’s for alleged match fixing.
In comparison to these gentlemen, William Caffyn of Reigate was a complete bore. He only managed to represent Reigate Cricket Club in the 1840s, play for Reigate Priory in the 1850s and 1860s, go on the first ever England cricket tour to Canada and America in 1859 and to then join the first tours to Australia in 1861 and 1863. He stayed on in Melbourne to coach and develop the game in Australia before returning to Reigate and establishing the family hairdressing business. No real scandal at all with Mr. Caffyn.
He was also responsible for the club playing the United All England XI on several occasions in the first 10 years of RPCC and starting the wonderful history of our club, which has seen some of the finest cricketers in the world at our Park Lane ground.
In 1867 the club defeated Surrey at the Oval at a time when the membership seemed to be dominated by one family, seven Nightingales being listed as playing members! Two years later Walter W. Read started playing for the club and established himself as one of the finest bats in the country. He resigned from being secretary of RPCC to tour Australia with the Hon.Ivo Bligh’s side in 1882/3. This was the tour when the Ashes legend was created after the team played a country house XI whilst staying with Sir William and Lady Clarke at their Rupertswood Estate near Melbourne. The urn and little bag were presented to Ivo Bligh after this match. Read's name is actually on the urn itself. Walter Read went on to captain England in 1887/88 to Australia and in 1891/92 to South Africa.
In 1883 a 2nd XI was formed and fixtures became more impressive with matches against the MCC, Incogniti and Surrey Club and Ground, culminating in both 1893 and 1894 with matches between Dr.W.G.Grace’s XI and W.W.Read’s XI, with both teams full of test players. The new century arrived with a thriving cricket club, which also hosted football, hockey and tennis. Reigate Priory Football Club was in fact one of the 15 clubs to contest the first ever FA Challenge Cup in 1872.
However, just a decade or so on and the annual report for 1916 makes sombre reading. Little if any cricket had been played and seven club members had lost their lives in the Great War. The latter years of the War brought no cricket at all but 1919 and 1920 saw a resurgence of membership and enthusiasm.
In 1921 cricket week was held for the first time since the War and more importantly the club acquired the freehold of the existing ground and then later in the decade acquired further freehold land. This enabled the tennis and bowls sections to develop more permanent accommodation and free up land for a croquet lawn. A house for the groundsman was built shortly afterwards on the land acquired from J.Arthur Rank.
The highlight of 1924 was a first-class match between H.D.G.Leveson-Gower’s XI and the South African touring side. Matches against the touring West Indians followed. During this period Leveson-Gower hosted numerous matches against Oxford University and many international cricketers from that era played at the ground. Indeed research shows that we can now trace at least 266 test players who have appeared at the Priory and the recent Lashings matches have added considerably to this total. A list of the known test players appears in the pavilion.
In June 1930 the President, Sir Jeremiah Colman, formally opened the current pavilion, the club having previously used what is now the football pavilion. The year after, J. Keble Guy gave up the captaincy after a highly successful decade at the helm. In 1933, JC Christopherson, a Cambridge Blue who had played for Kent, made a real impression in scoring over 1,000 runs, including a club record of 261 not out. He became captain in 1935 and again hit over 1,000 runs. A key bowler of the period was M.J.C. Allom, who played for England and was later elected President of the MCC.
The old pavilion was damaged by a bomb during the blitz in 1940 and not surprisingly very little cricket was played but cricket resumed in 1946 with Christopherson still to the fore as he hit four centuries. Some 2,000 spectators attended cricket week in 1947.
The colts side was run for the first time in 1950 and in addition Surrey Women staged matches against 'A Women's Cricket Association XI', Middlesex and Sussex. JC Christopherson hit three centuries in 1952’s cricket week, and the centenary game against Surrey saw over 4,000 spectators in the ground. A benefit match for Tony Lock was the feature of the 1960s, a decade which was dominated by a set of familiar names: P.G. Harris, G.M. Chase, Keith Jones and Alan Whitworth (later to become President). In 1965 Keble Guy resigned as President and was succeeded by J.C. Christopherson.
In May 1968 the club played Surrey in John Edrich’s benefit match and 1971 welcomed league cricket at the Priory. After a disappointing start in league cricket the club soon began to clamber upwards, reaching a respectable mid-table spot in 1973 under the leadership of Martin Dyer. Tony Godby and Angus Lindsey-Renton also began to make telling contributions. In 1977 things picked up still further and, with Steve Saunders and Tony Cooper to the fore, the club lost just once in the league, against eventual champions Wimbledon.
Although the 1980s started slowly, the colts side had been producing promising players for many years including John Bramhall, Mark Boden and David Cawthrow and in 1982 a 13-year old schoolboy in the 2nd XI averaged 29.5. His name – Alistair Brown, who went on to have an illustrious career with Surrey and Nottinghamshire, and also played 16 ODIs for England.
The club then fared happily under Andy Packham's captaincy but suffered slightly from a lack of depth of talent. In 1987 the Cricketers League became the 2nd Division of the Surrey Championship and in the second year of this "structured" cricket Priory gained promotion to the top flight. Andy Whiteley had returned to the club and Tiku Patel, straight from Oxford, was a huge asset. The star turn in 1988 was however Zubin Bharucha, an 18 year old from Bombay, who became Reigate Priory's overseas player and his influence over the club for almost a decade was immense.
Whilst the 1st XI were enjoying success a 3rd XI was formed in 1987 and the 2nd XI, under Richard Holloway's leadership, gained 1st Division status in 1991 with a huge bowling contribution from Australian, Brian Swaney.
The 1990s started possibly the finest and most exciting period in the annals of Reigate Priory. The first half of the decade could almost be described as the Bharucha years with the 1st XI competing in the top flight of Surrey Cricket under John Bramhall’s captaincy. Zubin Bharucha scored 17 league centuries and topped 1000 league runs twice. A wonderful talent. Whilst the first half of the decade was successful enough, the arrival at the club of Robin Underwood in 1996 gave Reigate Priory its first quality spin bowler in years and, coupled with the all-round talents of Australian Nathan Rennie, had an immediate impact on the club’s fortunes with a fourth position in the top flight. Western Australian Brad Oldroyd continued the good work in 1997 when his 76 wickets failed by just two to create a record number of league dismissals.
In 1998, the relaxation of the amateur rules in Surrey cricket enabled Ian Bishop, the West Indian Test star, to become the club’s overseas player and in 1999 Brad Oldroyd returned to assist in the club’s promotion to the elite ECB Premier League of 10 clubs for the new century. In a marvellous last year to the century both the 2nd XI and 3rd XI also achieved Premier league status at their levels.
Touring returned to the club in 1993 and starting with tours in Warwickshire we have progressed to Devon, Worcestershire, Sussex, Somerset, Nottinghamshire and Wales. The touring pinnacles have however been the trips to Bombay and India in 1996 and South Africa in 2000.
The first few years of the new century saw the club go from strength to strength, both on and off the field, with the 1st XI slowly improving its position in the Premier league, finishing Runners-Up in 2003. The 2nd XI won their Premier league in both 2001 and 2004 and the 3rd XI achieved the feat in 2002.
During this period skipper Gregor Macmillan (ex Leicestershire) had slowly been building a tremendous side. In 2002 Indian Test star Sairaj Bahutule arrived as our overseas player and we enjoyed the services of promising Surrey pacemen Tim Murtagh (now Middlesex and Ireland) and Neil Saker. These acquisitions were further strengthened by the recruitment of a number of players with first class experience including ex-Somerset all-rounder Simon Ecclestone, who was undoubtedly one of the most exciting batsmen in club cricket, former Hampshire seamer Jimmy Bovill, Alex Richards from Essex and former Kent 2nd XI keeper/batsman Matt Bennett.
Local lad Chris Murtagh was following in his brother Tim's footsteps with Surrey and scoring plenty of runs for us and Aaron Pope emerged as an opening bowler of real pace. To top it all in 2005 possibly one of the best club batsman in the country joined the Llamas. Michael Foster moved to Reigate and joined from Brondesbury in the Middlesex league, having played state cricket for Victoria and having graduated from the Australian Academy!
Even with this wealth of talent nothing could prepare us for the truly sensational season experienced in 2005. The 1st XI won their Premier league by over 60 points and both the 2nd and 3rd XIs followed their example by winning their Premier leagues. In addition we were the only team to beat the touring Antigua and Barbuda international XI on their 12 match European tour, taking on the Holland XI and several County 2nd XI sides. Our only disappointment was to go down to Lashings by 14 runs when our run chase was hindered by a rain interruption. That’s our story anyway!
We narrowly failed to retain the 1st XI trophy in 2006 finishing second,a disappointment made up for in some measure by Sachin Tendulkar playing against us for Lashings and delighting a huge crowd with an impeccable century.
We ran out comfortable champions in the following two seasons. The team evolved and Sairaj was replaced by the superb all round talents of Australian Ian Hewett. Chris Murtagh developed into a tremendously reliable top order batsman and his Surrey colleague Simon King arrived to team up with Stuart Hume as an impressive spin duo. Aaron Pope matured and stepped almost seamlessly into the shoes of Jimmy Bovill and proved to be an opening bowler of real quality.
Jason Roy, a product of our youth section, became an automatic pick when school matches were over and has developed through the Surrey 2nd XI to become an established County 1st XI player. He has since gone on to be a World Cup winner in England's ODI side and made his test debut in 2019 against Ireland and went on to play in the Ashes series.
Ian Hewett became captain in 2009 and the side was just pipped for the Championship but performed magnificently in the Twenty20 format of the game. We won the Surrey cup and progressed through the regional rounds to reach the last 4 nationally and play in the Sky televised finals day at the Derbyshire County Ground. Chris Murtagh was at the helm for this Twenty20 run and took over the 1st XI captaincy in 2010 when the Premier league title was regained, to make it 4 titles in 6 seasons.
Chris took the 1st XI to third place in both 2011 and 2012. The 2012 position was built on some solid innings by the skipper but very well backed-up with the bat by overseas player Andy Delmont. On the bowling front, Will Hodson had a wonderful season and finished as the Premier League's leading wicket taker. Neil Saker also had a good year with the ball and,following Chris Murtagh's 3 years at the helm,took over the captaincy in 2013 and led the side to 4th place.
The following year saw the 1st XI Premiership title return to Reigate and the 2nd XI also won their Premiership in a wonderful year for the club. The 2nd XI retained the title the following year.
Priory is one of only three clubs in Surrey with all sides playing in their Premier Divisions. Our Surrey Cricket League team has met success and reached Division 1 of that league playing against many clubs' 1st and 2nd X1s.
In 2008 a 6th XI, now rebranded as the VI Kings, and a Ladies section were started and have proved successful. The ladies have been regular winners of their Surrey Trust league and have been going from strength to strength.
Besides offering 5 Saturday league teams and a Sunday side the club continues aiming to provide cricket for all playing standards and regularly fields a number of other sides playing non-league cricket on Saturdays and Sundays.
The club is blessed with a hugely successful youth section that has emerged as one of the most envied in Surrey under Jim Harmer’s guidance. With many promising young players all coming through and taking their chances and impressing at senior level, the club can only hope to go from strength to strength in the years to come. We currently have over 600 youngsters, including 150 girls regularly participating in Youth cricket.
Off the field, the spirit and social side of the club is excellent and the programme of social events throughout the season has made it an extra special club both on and off the field. Most years we hold a summer ball on the ground for 4/500 people.
The club's plans to enlarge and improve the pavilion came to fruition in 2014 after work started on September 9th 2013. The new pavilion has been an outstanding success and has become the benchmark for many other clubs. It has enhanced the social side of the club magnificently and is a much sought after venue in Reigate for outside organisations.
Significant investment, over a 3 year period, is currently taking place with the cricket square to hopefully enable it to reach a similar quality to the pavilion.
Whilst plans for the Club’s continued success are ambitious, with the help and support of the membership and the local community, they remain very much achievable goals.