Black Country Bugle

My short history of church cricket club

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IN his article Lost Cricket Clubs of the Seventies (Bugle 1393) Terry Church mentions, “Park Lane Methodists… but where did the church team play their home games?” This very potted history charts that club’s rise and fall, which is probably replicated many times over.

One evening in July 1961, the youths of two neighbouri­ng church youth clubs in Tipton, Park Lane Methodist, in Park Lane West, and Coneygre Mission (the church I attended until it was closed in 1973 – but that’s another story) in Coneygre Road, played a 20-over match on Victoria Park. Coneygre won, and a return was arranged for a fortnight later at the same venue.

This time Park Lane won most emphatical­ly, and at a number of meetings over the close season enthusiast­ically embraced the formation of a properly-constitute­d cricket club, shrewdly involving the congregati­on by getting 28 of them to pay half-a-crown membership fee. Eleven paid extra as playing members and six an extra guinea each for the privilege of being vice-presidents. Aided by a small group of ladies for tea duty, the venture was ready for action.

By April 1962 the use of Victoria Park, Tipton had been secured and the season’s fixtures arranged with Vono, Revo and Palethorpe­s, all local firms with their own sports grounds, and some local churches. As far as I know, no records exist of these matches – the earliest scorebook I have is for 1966 – apart from the two against Coneygre Mission, one another resounding victory, the other in late August when bad light brought a premature close, but the minute book records that twelve games were played in 1962 and 14 in 1963.

The main drawbacks from very early on were the quality of the park’s playing surface, about which nothing could be done, the lack of a pavilion or somewhere for tea, which meant a few minutes’ walk to the church hall and back, and the small number of playing members in the church. This meant drawing on outsiders, so a few of the Coneygre lads were asked to fill in on occasion, including myself. As the main bowlers, Ron Sherwood and Norman Randle, had been classmates of mine at Tipton Green School, and the captain, David Ashfield, was a distant relative, I soon became accepted and enjoyed many good times over the years, on works pitches such as Hobsons, Elwells, GKN Darlaston, Villiers, F.H. Lloyds, C. Brown & Sons and Edwin Danks; against church teams including Ebenezer at Coseley, Fallings Park Meths (played dozens of maiden overs against Alan Haddock); and at exotic (to me) locations like Wimblebury, Quatt and Knighton-on-teme.

The vast majority of the games were friendlies, except for the annual entry into the Mayor of Oldbury’s Charity Knock-out, which usually ended at Round 1. In later years Park Lane joined the Ansells 20-over League for a spell, and later still the West Midlands Midweek League, where the final of a cup competitio­n was actually reached on one occasion. Ironically, even perversely, it took place on a Sunday, and although by now the name had changed to Park Lane (Tipton) C.C., there was still a small minority of players with church connection­s, so it was a weakened team that strode on to the County Ground at Dudley – and lost.

The Seventies were good years for Park Lane, with thirty or so fixtures each season and sound performanc­es – 189 for no wicket against Conex Sanbra in a 20-over match; a record total of 225-2 dec. to beat W’ton ECC in a Saturday match and Roy Adlington’s 105 not out off Fallings Park Meths a fortnight later; brothers John and Michael Phipps sharing the wickets as a pace opening pair time after time. Better pitches were used, at Pendeford High School, Tipton MEB and Dunstall Park. But the Eighties saw a decline as the Midweek League programme needed a bigger squad as the older players became less available but fewer younger folk took up the game, and the club folded in 1984.

Peter Bradley Woodsettto­n

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