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Joy of Cranleigh – The Centenary Cricket Match, 1956 – June 2021

A postcard of the Cricket Ground, post-marked 1906 (courtesy of Roy Pobgee)

Frank Swinnerton, novelist and literary critic of national standing who lived at Old Tokefield on the Common, declared Sunday June 24th 1956 ‘the greatest day the village has ever known’. It was the day Cranleigh Cricket Club celebrated its centenary, by holding a match against a star-studded team of visiting players, assembled by the cricket commentator E.W. Swanton. Swanton was a former pupil of Cranleigh School, who had played on the cricket pitch, with great enthusiasm but little distinction, during his schooldays.

Frank Swinnerton unveiling the new clock on the old thatched cricket pavilion, 1956

Swinnerton went on: this day ‘caused the purest local happiness I have seen since the lights were lit for peace, and it was a success beyond every dream. Five thousand people sat or stood round the cricket field – men, women, boys and girls. Behind them were ranged innumerable cars, which by mid-afternoon were gathered in every direction…The atmosphere was that of holiday; the excitement as keen as that of a Test Match.’…

The players at the Centenary Match, with Cranleigh and the Visitors mixed. E.W. Swanton is in the centre, with Sir Len Hutton (in pads) on one side, and Cranleigh’s captain, Leslie (‘Cliff’) Eede, on the other. Next to Eede is Frank Tyson, 2nd from the right in this row. Cranleigh’s fast bowler, Bob Attwell, also the local pharmacist, is in the 3rd row behind Hutton and Swanton

Yes, the Cranleigh Cricket Club was celebrating 100 years of playing on the Common, one of the finest pitches in Surrey. In 1856 it printed its own ‘Rules and Bye laws’. Cricket was enormously popular at the time, as seen by the great number of clubs founded in almost every neighbouring village – Ewhurst, Shamley Green, Wonersh, Bramley, Shalford, Shere, and even Run Common.

Frank Swinnerton (1884-1982), outside his house overlooking the cricket pitch

The star player visiting on June 24th 1956 was the great Len Hutton, who had captained England 1952-4, and had recently been made ‘Sir Leonard’. Other England players were Frank Tyson, John Warr and Alan Oakman. Tyson is still considered to be one of the fastest bowlers ever. Alan Oakman, a 6ft 6in former Welsh Guardsman, played two Test matches for England, during this summer of 1956.

A Cranleigh XI in the 1880s (courtesy of Vera Wilkinson). Maybe somebody knows why the dog in the centre is holding a number 7.

The players whom the crowds had flocked to see duly performed. Alan Oakman, who opened the batting for E.W. Swanton’s XI, made a century. The 22-year-old Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie made fifty, and Len Hutton was not out on 59. Frank Tyson made a rapid 25, and was not out when Swanton declared at 295 for 6 wickets. Cranleigh’s Bob Attwell took 4 of those wickets for 65, and must have been a satisfied man.

Scorecard (Cranleigh History Society Records)

Cranleigh were unlikely to reach the Visitors’ total, but their innings provided plenty of entertainment. Swanton used eight of his side as bowlers – even himself and Len Hutton. Cranleigh’s batsmen withstood Frank Tyson, who finished with 0-22 (maybe he didn’t bowl flat out), and the afternoon closed with them on 141 for 3.

Part of the Surrey Advertiser report on the Centenary Cricket Match

The Visitors were generous with signing autographs, and Cranleigh’s big day was almost perfect – apart from Sir Len dropping the Centenary Cake!

(With grateful thanks for the help of Colin and Jonathan Crick, Doug Lock and Angus Henderson.)

Len Hutton dropping the cake at the Centenary Match

The Cranleigh History Society plans to resume its monthly meetings in the Band Room as soon as the Covid-19 regulations permit.

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