Cricket at Wytham - 'The Wytham Way'

It is not known exactly when cricket was first played at Wytham. No doubt it was sometime after Hambledon beat the Rest of the World at Broadhalfpenny Down, Hampshire in the mid eighteenth century at a time when a third stump had yet to be added to the wicket.

It was certainly played at Wytham in the early 1920s following Colonel Raymond ffennell's purchase of the Wytham Estate in 1920 from the seventh Earl of Abingdon. Apparently, Colonel ffennell would not give permission for a grass strip to be prepared and maintained.  This was the reason a concrete base was laid with the players carrying out a coconut matting strip to lie on top of the base for each match.

It transpired that one of the good side effects was that following heavy rain, usually signposted by dark and threatening clouds appearing above the beautiful Wytham Woods overlooking the cricket pitch, the strip would dry out more quickly than a grass strip. This often resulted in matches being able to be played at Wytham when most other matches in the county were called off. The other good side effect was that it taught the players very quickly that when in doubt whether to play forward or back, playing forward was the better option. The downside of playing on the coconut matting after the rain stopped was that although the top dried quickly the underside was still wet and the pitch could become more lively, indeed spiteful, on occasions. In more recent times some away teams became reluctant to play on the coconut matting and this combined with the need to replace the matting at least every other season led to the current artificial strip being laid. 

Cricket was played every season until the outbreak of the Second World War and in 1943 the University of Oxford became the owner of the Wytham Estate. This was in no small part thanks to the generosity of the ffennell family. Wytham Cricket Club started up again a few years after the war and the club's President and long standing resident of the village, Stan Neale, was one of the youngsters who began playing for the club then together, among others, with another resident at the time, George Thomas, whose son Derek, became arguably the finest all -round cricketer Wytham has produced to date.

Cricket has again been played every season since the club restarted in the late 1940s although in  recent years more players have come from outside the village. This is in no small part due to the fact that as there are hardly any freehold properties in the village most families with young children would eventually move in order to buy their own home. Initially, the non resident players were only invited to play if they were relatives or friends of locals provided "they played the game in the right spirit irrespective of their ability". This is 'The Wytham Way' and as the club has had to rely evermore on non resident players this ethos is as strong today as ever.

Finally, it is worth noting that Wytham has never played league cricket which is another tradition of the club which complements 'The Wytham Way'. New players embodying these values are always welcome.

PR 2nd May 2015