Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Part Two Of Look Back At Worcs Proud History As 150Th Year Approaches Finale

Part Two Of Look Back At Worcs Proud History As 150Th Year Approaches Finale

Everyone at Worcestershire CCC has been proud to celebrate the club's 150th Anniversary Year which will reach a climax with a Gatsby Ball in the Graeme Hick Pavilion on December 31.

Now seems an appropriate time to look back at the history of the County via a series of articles on the Worcestershire website during the next few weeks.

Here we feature PART TWO from when the County achieved its first class status at the end of the 19th century.



Worcestershire's hat-trick of outright Minor Counties Championship titles in the late 1890s led secretary Paul Foley and the county to apply for first class status.

The qualification for this was to obtain six home and six away fixtures with other first class counties.

Help was received from the MCC and after some initial difficulty matches were secured with Yorkshire, Sussex, Hampshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire.

Some of these counties, concerned at making a financial loss, demanded and were given a guarantee of £50 a match and in 1899 Worcestershire joined the first class ranks.

Foley was also instrumental during this period in Worcestershire moving from Boughton, which was considered to be too far out of the city, to the present County Ground at New Road.

He negotiated with the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral to rent farmland consisting of three fields next to the River Severn from 1896 onwards for a small annual sum.

The Dean and Chapter were willing to help although there were provisions put into place that nothing unsightly should be erected.

There was work to be done before the land was transformed into a cricket ground and Foley brought in Kent player Fred Hunt as head groundsman in 1898.

He transformed farmland into the cricket ground we know today and remained as head groundsman until the end of the Second World War.

Hunt had no mechanical equipment to aid him with his duties and he was up at 5am to feed and water the horse and then set it to work rolling the square and wickets.

He earned a reputation for producing first class wickets and was the leading groundsman of his era.

Hunt, who played occasionally for the county between 1905 and 1922, farmed land himself around the perimeters of New Road until the petrol service station was built on what is now the entrance to The View and Premier Inn.

But the tenant of the farm at the time appeared to have no love for cricket and horses, cattle and sheep often appeared on the ground shortly before matches were due to get underway – and manure had to be cleared.

The pavilion, the New Road stand and other seating and the Severn Bar – plus a bicycle shed and telegraph facilities for the press – all had to be completed for the opening first class match.

Foley was seen applying the last licks of white paint to the sight screen shortly before the opening match got underway.

But the targets were met and on May 4, 5, and 6 1899, Worcestershire staged their debut inaugral first class match against the then champions Yorkshire who included a young Wilfred Rhodes in their side.

The side was HK Foster (captain), WL Foster, RE Foster, GE Bromley-Martin, EG Bromley-Martin, EG Arnold, F Wheldon, A Bird, RD Burrows, GA Wilson and T Straw.

Worcestershire had hopes of launching their first class status with a victory after establishing a first innings advantage of 72.

But Yorkshire recovered to inflict an 11 run defeat on HK Foster's side.

The county's first victory as a first class county was registered away to Oxford University and wins in the Championship in that first season were registered against Leicestershire and Derbyshire – both at New Road.

In the July a record was established that would stand for three quarters of a century.

Against Hampshire at New Road, WL Foster scored 140 and 172 not out and RE Foster 134 and 101 not out.

This remained the only time brothers had scored centuries in both innings of a first class match until achieved by Australian duo Greg and Ian Chappell in 1973-74 against New Zealand.

Worcestershire were well and truly on the map heading into the 1900s.

*Tune into the Worcestershire website for part three of the county's proud history.