The club has metamorphosed from Taylor's C.C. (c.1986) to the Full Tossers C.C. (c. 1989) to Pub On The Park C.C. (c.1990) to the present London Fields C.C. (c.1996). The result of these transformations has been to provide much business to Brian "T-shirt Man" Gurtler - "Purveyor of stylish casual wear to the discerning sportsman, whether at the wicket or at the bar".
For all but one year of its history, the club has played in the North East London Pub Cricket League (though currently the league has dropped the word "Pub" from its title!), winning it on several occasions. 1998 saw our inaugural overseas tour to Belgium as guests of Mechelen C.C. ("an intoxicating cocktail of bacchanalian imbibing and bad cricket" - Wisden Cricket Monthly), and this has become an annual fixture, as has our trip to Gloucestershire for the Kingsholm Six-A-Side tournament.
We currently play league and friendly matches on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer. Honorary members (i.e. proud owners of the "Raw Sex in White Flannel" T-shirt) include Alec Stewart, Adam Hollioake, Derek Pringle and Jonathon Agnew. Alec and Adam have visited the club at its spiritual home - the Pub on the Park.
The ground was used regularly as a home pitch by two teams playing in the long-established Clapton and District Amateur Cricket Association. Nearly all the teams in the league at that time were predominantly West Indian, but I don't know how long this had already been the case. The one predominantly white team was St. John's Catholic C.C., originally based in a youth club in King Edwards Rd. I was told this by the late Mr W.C. Quantrill, a widower who lived alone in Powerscroft Rd. He had been a founder player many years before, was still secretary of both club and league, and umpired for us in the suit he invariably wore. When he died during one winter, St. John's folded, but was re-started after a year's absence and survived a few more years.
One of our star players was Bill Peters, who told me how he had scored the only century of his life on the afternoon England won the World Cup in 1966. [Editor's note: they took their cricket a bit more seriously in those days - the London Fielders deliberately don't scheduled any games to clash with World Cup Final matches!]. St. John's Catholic tended to prop up the league, but we learned a lot about facing fast bowling.
One West Indian side was called the Rockets, most of whose players had their family origins in Dominica. Kenneth Joseph was a blistering batsman for this team. The Dalston Methodist Mission in Richmond Road ran a young side of excellent players. The names of other teams - Hurricane, Sir Frank's XI - communicate the vibrancy, aggression and confidence of the West Indian grassroots cricket community of the time. Most of the clubs in the league had several extremely talented players. At least one had a trial for Essex. Apparently, the trial consisted of Trevor Bailey putting you in a net and having Keith Boyce (the West Indian fast bowler and hitter, who was then Essex's overseas player) bowl bouncers at you. Rockets had a slow medium left arm bowler called Bobby Weekes, whose son Paul is the Middlesex player. Rockets players had family connections with both Gordon Greenidge and Andy Roberts, both of whom were seen on occasion coming down the path by the tennis courts to have a look at the game.
The league folded some time in the mid-Seventies, and I played for a year or two for Bow C.C., who played non-league home matches in Victoria Park. Then I played for Rockets, also then playing friendlies only, until they too folded in about 1980. My attention then turned elsewhere, but I think there was a period of half a dozen years or so when no cricket was played on London Fields.
In the late 60's and 70's, London Fields was different in some ways to the way it is now. The swimming pool was still open; there was no paddling pool or children's play equipment at the Richmond Rd end until the end of the 70's. It was much barer, with no flower beds. The encircling plane trees were the ground's sole glory. Most important, the Pub on the Park's previous incarnation was a virtually moribund establishment called the Queen Eleanor, without even an entrance onto the fields. London Fields' transformation into a centre of hedonism, sun worship and healthy exercise owes an enormous amount, of course, to the new pub as well as to more general social factors.
When I first played in 1967, we used to change in an unsavoury, windowless hut where the paddling pool now is; this was soon pulled down, and no one ever used the changing rooms built some years later near the tennis courts. The teams gathered round the benches along the path in front of the swimming pool wall. The square was roped off during the week in summer; the wickets were of good quality, and reckoned the most reliable of the public park wickets used in the league.
Because of the hopeless pub and the dramatically less health-conscious spirit of the age, spectators were far fewer than today. The delightful plane trees, however, mean that playing cricket on London Fields is essentially an unchanged experience.
"Friday, September 24 (1802 - Ed), was played a Grand Match of Cricket, in the London Fields, Hackney, between Eleven Gentlemen of the London Fields Club, against Eleven Gentlemen of Clapton for Five Hundred Guineas."
Sadly, no match report was included, but here's the card:
|Name||First innings||Second innings|
|Osman||5 b. Ripley||6 c. Erwood|
|Chapman||2 b. Ripley||0 b. Ripley|
|Barber||0 b. Ripley||5 b. Jonson|
|James||2 stumpt Trigg||10 b. Ripley|
|Burrow||0 st. Messenger||6 c. Erwood|
|Lorimer||3 b. Messenger||5 c. Jonson|
|Pearce||25 not out||10 b. Ripley|
|Large||1 b. Ripley||6 c. Jonson|
|Low||3 b. Ripley||2 stumpt Ripley|
|Hoare||4 b. Crisford||1 run out|
|Yeats||0 b. Messenger||7 not out|
|Extras||Byes 2||Byes 3|
|Glaizer||16 b. Pearce|
|Robbin||18 c. Lorimer|
|Hoare||1 stumpt Barber|
|Jonson||45 stumpt Osman|
|Messenger||13 c. ditto|
|Prise||21 c. Yeats|
|Crisford||13 b. Pearce|
|Ripley||4 b. Osman|
|Stewart||2 c. Hoare|
|Smith||2 c. Osman|
"Clapton won by an innings and forty-nine runs; 5 to 4 on the London Fields Club at starting."
Well, no change there then, as we're always beaten by the Clapton Casuals nowadays. Of course, we now play for the Balti Cup (a Balti Curry dish, tastefully re-engineered as a trophy).
For the statisticians:
According to the GLOBAL FINANCIAL DATA - English Consumer Prices, 1264-1998 web page, 500 guineas in 1802 is the equivalent of 21,690 guineas today, which, if a guinea is 21 shillings, makes it 22,774 pounds.
Above the scorecard is another snippet, which reads:
"HACKNEY CRICKET CLUB. A General Meeting of the Society is particularly requefted by the Committee, on Saturday, the 25th inftant, to dine together, at Mr. Brun's, the Mermaid, Hackney, and to settle a plan of regulation for the enfuing fummer. Dinner on table at Four o'clock precifely."
The New Mermaid (which no longer exists) was previously at 364, Mare Street (in the Narroway). It was built in the 1740s and demolished in the 1840s.