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History of Vandals 1 of 4

1. Brownacres CC (1938-1952)


Brownacres CC (1938-1952)
Before the Desborough Channel was cut across the fields where the Weybridge Rugby Club used to play, Brownacres was the home of a variety of wild animals which could be seen through the wire fencing along the tow-path. Smithy used to relate that when he and Freddie Monkhouse first came to look at the ground as prospective purchasers, the owner was a Mrs Brown who had a gardener called Brown who drank brown ale.

Whatever truth there is in this it seems that Brownacres, despite its lush pasture, was adopted as the first name of the Cricket Club. The original idea behind the Club's foundation was to keep rugby players together in the close season and (incidentally) provide revenue from the bar. Sadly, little is known of these early days and the stories handed down relate mostly to events which would not find a place in Wisden.

Nevertheless, in 1947, at the end of the first post-war rugby season and just after the great flood, there were enough of the old stalwarts left to revive the cricket. Smithy was the driving force supported by John Scurr, Sid Burgess, Midgley and a delightful old-world gentleman named Bernard Foster. In addition, some of the new rugby players joined in to form a small but enthusiastic nucleus.

The task was formidable. A large part of the ground had not been cut or cleared and the table had to be prepared on the edge of the first XV pitch. Loam was dug from the orchard, sieved and spread. This heavy work was relieved from time to time by refreshment in muddy glasses that belied Smithy's claims of "nectar". Apart from the problem of producing an "instant" wicket, there were endless other headaches: there was inadequate machinery to keep the outfield cut; lighting depended on an eccentric generator which had a kick like a mule; and in the warm weather the effervescing firkins, when tapped, would gush like an oil well. Transport was often a problem; travellers from Shepperton had first to call at the Red Lion to secure the services of the ferryman and, for the return journey in the evening, ring a bell on the Surrey bank in the hope of attracting his attention.

There was only one side but it played both Saturday and all day on Sunday. When the Saturday team was short and fishing was slack, an angler was sometimes dragged in from the river bank. All the difficulties nevertheless seemed somehow to forge a great team and spirit. Gradually the members and, indeed, the standard improved.

Across the years one recalls the fluent stroke play of Tony Spraggs when in full spate, the all-round talents of Jack Hampton who could bowl to a length all day, the neat wicket-keeping and elegant batting of Rupert Fellowes, the aggressive bowling and lusty hitting of Derek Hunt, the determined leadership of Johnny Morden and sterling performances from John Lough, Wally Hammond, Roy Horsey and Tom Chamberlain. But teams are not built on stars alone and so much is owed to the great club men such as Ron Dean, Bert Waine and Pat Preston.

It was the policy to invite a large proportion of wandering sides who would appreciate the club facilities and provide a good social evening. The fixture list was very varied. In 1949 it included such teams as the Sussex Strollers, the Sydenhurst Ramblers, the Nomads, the Spinners, Hendon Wanderers and the Wayfarers. There were also names well—known in the rugby world such as Old Millhillians, Bec Old Boys and Middlesex Hospital. About that time, too, a very happy relationship was formed with Australia House with whom the Club had many entertaining games.

The Club began to go from strength to strength. More of the ground was cleared so that the 1st Xl table lay clear of the rugby pitch. lt became possible to start a 2nd Xl which provided a game for those who only wished to play a half—day on Sundays. This was an immediate success and the new side was led in its early days by Alec lnglis and later by Eric Sage and Mike Kleiser.

For some years the Club had had a regular fixture with Lambeth who, liwzmany other visiting sides, enjoyed both the Vandals cricket and hospitality. So much so that they invited the Club to play on several occasions at the Oval when for one day they were allowed the full facility of the Surrey County Cricket Club. The Vandals did well on each appearance and the official score card remains a happy souvenir for those who were fortunate to play. Every effort had been made to integrate the Cricket with the Rugby Club and the ties were strengthened by the adoption in the mid—l950's of the name of University Vandals Cricket Club. This was perhaps also an implied recognition of the progress that had been made on the cricket side. Smithy remained as President of the Cricket Club and after his sad death Freddie Monkhouse became President of both Clubs.

R B Roper