The History of Sonning Cricket Club

The precise founding date of Sonning Cricket Club is buried in the mists of time, but the first documented mention that we are aware of, is a rather inauspicious mention in a book entitled “It’s Not Cricket – Skulduggery, Sharp Practice and Downright Cheating in the Noble Game” by Simon Rae. Here the author provides a quote from 1767, when a correspondent to the Reading Mercury denounced Sonning Cricket Club for cynically preventing Reading winning a game by wasting the last hour of the match “throwing the ball about, out of the way”. Based on the date of this report, we describe our founding date as c1750, but we hasten to add that our standard of sportsmanship has improved dramatically since then! Here below we chart some of the key moments in our long and distinguished history:

1869 – This is the year in which Sonning Parish Magazine publications commenced (incidentally the longest continuously running parish magazine in the country) and in the Sept edition of that year, Sonning cricket gets its first mention, with two cricket matches played and won by Sonning against Swallowfield and Tilehurst.

1887 – In this year, the June edition of the parish magazine announced that “agreement had been reached to found a cricket club in Sonning” with the first game being played on May 7th, although no result was published. We assume that the Sonning Cricket Club mentioned in the Reading Mercury in 1767 and playing in 1869, must have previously ceased to exist or perhaps was a more informal gathering of cricket enthusiasts rather than a formal club. The parish magazine article summarised the club rules, which included annual subscriptions of 2/6d for over 18s and 1/- for under 18s. All Sonning parishioners were eligible to become members, but non-residents could be proposed and seconded by Sonning parishioners. No cricket was to be played on Sundays or Good Fridays and no alcoholic drink was to be sold on the ground at any time – something which we might struggle with these days!

1893 – This year saw the first recorded major success for Sonning Cricket Club, with the winning of the Reading and District Challenge Cup. The parish magazine of Dec 1893 records that the trophy “was accorded quite a joyous welcome on its arrival in the village on Friday evening Oct 27th” and that “it was met at the lower gates of Holme Park by a procession of the members of the club and the villagers, nearly all of whom carried Chinese lanterns. The houses all along the route were decorated, and the street in many places was festooned with lanterns”.

1919 - Up until this point in time, the village cricket ground had probably been located to the south of South Hill, in the property now known as South Meadow Cottage, which adjoins the Berks County Sports field. Local archives show a conveyancing document dated 8th Sept 1919 with that plot of land marked on it as a cricket ground.

1921 – Not for the first, nor indeed last time, Sonning Cricket Club rose phoenix-like from the ashes, with the parish magazine reporting that “The Working Men’s Club have cast their mantle over cricket in Sonning which has been in abeyance in the village since the beginning of the war. Under their auspices the Village Cricket Club has been started again – to the satisfaction of all concerned”. It is likely that at this point in time, the re-formed club established itself in the location now known as King George’s Field.

1923 – The oversight of Sonning Cricket Club by the Working Men’s Club turned out to be fairly short-lived. A rather curt entry from the latter in the parish magazine of Nov 1923 states: “At a special general meeting of the Club, held on Oct 25th, the resolution was that the Club would no longer be responsible for running the Cricket Club”.

1924 – The above situation was very quickly resolved however, as the parish magazine of Jan 1924 reported that following a public meeting in Pearson Hall to consider resuscitating the cricket club as a separate organisation, “it was unanimously agreed to revive the Sonning Cricket Club with its pre-war constitution”.

1936 – Village archives reveal that the land including the village cricket ground, now known as King George’s Field, was purchased for £500 by Sonning Parish Council. Conveyancing documents show the presence of the pavilion at this point in time. Although only made of wood and by now probably 100 years old, that original building remains as the core of the current pavilion.

1938 – On the 16th July of this year, the land including the cricket ground was declared a King George V Playing Field. This designation requires the Trustees (nowadays, the Fields in Trust charity - and through delegated powers - Sonning Parish Council) to ensure that the area is to be “preserved in perpetuity for the purpose of outdoor games, sports and pastimes”. This year was also considered to be the 50th anniversary of the founding of the “modern day” Sonning Cricket Club and it is also coincidentally the first year for which the club has a team photo.

1946 – For at least the fourth time in its history the club underwent a revival – this time having been in abeyance during the Second World War. The parish magazine of Aug 1946 reports that “some of the old players are back again and there is a welcome infusion of new blood. As a batting side the club is strong, but there is a definite need for a good slow bowler”. It was to be another 10 years or so before Maureen and Jim Anderson came up with a couple of solutions to that problem!

1959 – The parish magazine entry for March 1959 hints at some difficult times by recording that “last year the club was, unfortunately, short of playing members and it is therefore anxiously seeking to obtain new members for the coming season.”

Circa 1975 - Peter Kay (3rd from left)

1976 – By now, under the Chairmanship of former Notts professional Peter Kay, recruited by well-known Sonning benefactor and former Club President, Sidney Paddick, Sonning Cricket Club was once again thriving. The Feb 1976 edition of the parish magazine describes the club as having a strong membership, and now running a second XI and a Colts XI, with fixtures on Saturdays, Sundays and midweek.

1977 - Richard Anderson tossing up at the Oval

1978 – In the first of several “Champagne Years”, Sonning Cricket Club became the inaugural Premier Division champions of the Berks Cricket League and the 2nd XI run by club stalwart DG Phillips, the U17s led by Richard Anderson and the U15s all won their respective competitions. The 1st XI went on to win the Premier Division in the following two seasons and again in 1984, establishing Sonning Cricket Club a formidable force in Berkshire village cricket.

1979 Berkshire Cricket League Champions
League Champions 1980
1989 - Sonning CC Touring XI v Hoover -Merthyr Tydfil
1993 2nd XI
1994 - Sonning CC Awards

1987 – Following on from tours to the south west in the 70s and early 80s, this year saw the first of many memorable tours to Cardiff and surrounding area, with regular fixtures against the likes of Whitchurch Heath, Penarth, Cowbridge and Malpas. The touring sides may not have won all of their matches, but they performed consistently well in the socialising! By this stage, Sonning had three teams in the Berkshire League, with the 3rd XI playing their home matches at the Adwest Sports Ground adjacent to Reading Rugby Club off Sonning Lane.

2001 – Following slightly more challenging times in the 90s, Sonning CC was once again on the rise. Under the shrewd captaincy of Gary Phillips and armed with former first-class pace bowler Ghulam Abbas and belligerent Cornish batsman Mark Richards, Sonning put team after team to the sword and won the Premier Division once again. Over the next 5 years they won it on a further 3 occasions and it was steadily becoming apparent that they were “outgrowing” the sadly weakening Berks Cricket League.

2001 also witnessed Sonning CC’s first 15 minutes of fame on national television when the club was chosen to feature in a BBC Food and Drink Programme tasting summer beers with Oz Clarke and Anthony Worrall-Thompson. The programme was filmed in April and the filming had to be switched at the last minute from the lawn of The Great House in Sonning to that of The Olde Bell in Hurley, due to flooding. One can imagine that Hurley Cricket Club weren’t best pleased when they saw Sonning Cricket Club on primetime TV, masquerading as the “local cricket club” in their village!

2005 - Sonning CC 2nd XI - Berks Cricket League Division 2 Champions with Robin Smith

2006 – Under the new Chairmanship of Alastair Driver, this season saw the resurrection of a Sat 3rd XI after a gap of many years, and with it the establishment of a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship with Reading Blue Coat School, on whose 1st XI pitch the home games were played – a rare treat for visiting teams at that level!

2008 – Having won the Premier Division of the Berkshire League on a record 8 occasions in the previous 30 seasons, the club took another major stride forward by moving the 1st and 2nd XIs into the Thames Valley League. Bolstered by the presence of Queensland quickie Cameron Gannon, the first of many overseas players recruited by the Chairman, the 1st XI cruised to the TVL Div. 4 title undefeated in their first season. 2008 was also a milestone year for the club as it saw the establishment of Junior cricket at Sonning, thanks to the hard work, determination and leadership of Nick and Tracy Ray.

2008 - Sonning CC - TVL Division 4b Champions with with Henry Olonga and Cameron Gannon's divisional bowling award
2009 - Sonning CC 1st XI
2010 - President DG Phillips, Rt Hon Theresa May MP and Chairman Ali Driver - Cricketforce Day

2011- In July of this year, the club played – and won - its first match of what has become a biennial fixture against the MCC. By now the club had rapidly expanded from 4 sides to 10 in the space of 4 seasons. As before, there were three league sides on a Saturday, but now a Sunday 2nd XI was introduced and 5 Junior sides were operating – U15s, 2 x U13s, U11s and U9s.  2011 also saw Sonning CC’s second 15 minutes of fame, after a memorable day spent with Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff filming an item on the science of swing bowling for The Weather Programme. The sight of Freddie talking to NASA scientist about atmospheric moisture conditions via a laptop in one of our rather basic changing rooms, was one of several stand-out memories of that day!

2011 - Andrew Flintoff at Sonning CC
2011 - Sonning CC XI v MCC
2012 - Sonning CC 2nd XI - Thames Valley League Division 5A Champions

2012 – The weather may have been dreadful this season, with 30 Senior and Junior matches being cancelled, but it was another milestone year for the club with the attainment of England Cricket Board Clubmark status. This opened up significant Sport England funding opportunities which were quickly followed up, resulting in the acquisition of major equipment including an electronic scoreboard, portable covers, practice nets and grounds maintenance machinery. The Sonning Fire Brigade Trust and the Sonning Scarecrows Fund were also key contributors to these acquisitions which helped to put Sonning Cricket Club firmly on the map as a major force in Thames Valley cricket, both on and off the field.

2014 – Club stalwart Jamie Travers took over as Chairman from Alastair Driver in this year and he and his successor in 2017 Gary Phillips, supported by a thriving Junior section, continued to ensure that the club went from strength to strength on and off the field.

2014 - Phil Tufnell inflicting the ice bucket challenge on Maureen Anderson - President's Day
2015 - Sonning CC 3rd XI - Thames Valley League Division 9 Champions
2016 - Azhar Mahmood, Phil Tufnell and Michael Vaughan with Sonning CC President Max McNeill - President's Day

2019 – Chairman Gary Phillips took another major step forward for the club by recruiting professional player-coach Andrew Niblett, who with the support of Vice-Chair Tim Murphy, Mary Keenan, John & Elinor Longridge and Michael Marsden created an excellent cricket development set-up for the Juniors to enable them to move up into the Senior sides and thus establish the self-sustaining model that all clubs strive for.

2019 - The famous BBQ Squad

2020 – This season was decimated by the COVID 19 virus crisis and associated restrictions on sporting activity, but it still saw another key moment in the club’s long and distinguished history with the establishment of the Sonning Stingers Ladies Softball Cricket team under the captaincy of newly appointed Club Secretary Sharon Fleming, ably supported by Elinor Longridge.

2020 - Sonning Stingers v Binfield Unicorns - a lovely August evening

Sonning Cricket Club has had a long and distinguished history with many ups - and a few downs - as the archives show. It has died and been reborn on several occasions, but there is no doubt that thanks to the sustained hard work and commitment of many individuals it is well placed for very successful times ahead. Fund-raising is well underway for a new pavilion, the playing facilities are being maintained to a high level, and once we emerge from the COVID crisis, the future of our playing sides at all ages and levels is looking bright.

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