The 100 years village cricket match
Local historian Donald Stanley writes about a cricket match that was completed 100 years after the outbreak of the First World War forced its abandonment
TcrickeT HROUGH the years, there have been many instances of play in village t matches being suspended because of inclement weather. Howling gales, driving rain and even hail have frequently caused players to go scurrying for the shelter of the pavilion.
And it was a heavy shower of rain that initially caused the teams from The Lee village cricket club and the Manor House, the home of the Liberty family that founded the famous Regent Street store which bears their name, to head for shelter back on August 3, 1914.
But that interruption grew into something much more serious as it became obvious that England would declare war to attempt to curb the expansionist plans of Germany.
Two of the players taking part that day – village fast bowler, Albert Phillips, and Ivor Stewart-Liberty from the Manor House – vowed to finish the match once the small matter of dealing with the Huns was out of the way.
Joined by two of his brothers, who were fellow players, Phillips went off to serve his country, as did StewartLiberty, but only Ivor survived. Ivor Arthur Stewart was the son of Donald Stewart and Ada Rebecca Liberty.
Born in Chesham in 1843 Ada’s brother, Arthur Lasenby Liberty, started work at the age of 16 and was apprenticed to a draper. He specialised in women’s fashions and in 1875 opened his own shop in Regents Street where the fabrics he sold became synonymous with the Art Nouveau movement of the 1890s.
From 1892, he lived in the Manor House in The Lee and as Lord of the Manor he carried out many improvements to the village including the provision of fresh water, and work on the Parish Church, village green and cricket and football pitches.
Arthur had no children and chose as his heir Ada’s son, Ivor, who took the name Stewart-Liberty. The family’s connection with the store ceased in the 1990s but Ivor and his family had continued his uncle’s contribution to the life of the village, The Lee Manor Estate becoming a major employer.
When the Royal Navy’s last wooden warship – HMS Impregnable (formerly HMS Howe) – was broken up in 1921, Ivor used its timbers for the mock Tudor extension to the London store but decided to bring the figurehead – a depiction of Admiral Lord Howe, back to his new home The Pipers at The Lee.
The abandoned cricket match was finally completed when the current members of The Lee cricket club invited a team representing the Manor House to play out the game.
As it happened, the Manor House won the match scoring 180 to The Lee’s 169 runs – but in truth the result of the match was less important than the fact that it was played in memory of the men who gave their lives to ensure that we had the freedom to play a typically English game in a typically English village.