History Pre 2nd World War
How Atherstone Town cricket Club came about is a little unsure but it almost certainly came from the house and estates of England producing teams to play against other estates. Atherstone was probably a product of the Compton-Bracebridge estate at Atherstone Hall on who’s land at the Royal Meadow, the Atherstone club played matches and continue to play their matches to this day.
The exact timing of the club’s founding is also a little hazy. ATCC celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1975, but shortly after this, a cutting from White’s History Gazetteer and Directory of Warwickshire of 1850 was found which records a meeting of local players at the New Swan. This states the club was established in 1847. Then, upon the advertising of 100th anniversary events, a member of Burton upon Trent Cricket Club found records of 2 day cricket matches between Burton and Athertsone sides in 1838 until 1844. The club is therefore presumed to be inexistence since 1838.
The wealthy surroundings to Atherstone with the Compton Bracebridge’s living in Atherstone Hall and the Dugdale family of MP and Knights, both having strong links with the club as Presidents lead to Atherstone being one of the strongest clubs in the region with what was described as “a most beautiful and picturesque spots for the purpose in the Kingdom”. Many high profile matches were played with leading lights of local club and county cricket. A regular match against a Warwickshire XI was played with a highlight in 1849 when an all England XI played a 22 man strong Atherstone XI. The England XI landing 15 runs short with 4 wickets in hand as the time bell struck
You may think that the game of cricket has changed over the years and become more competitive. But press records from the turn of the century confirm that the same issues effected club cricket as today. Atherstone employed a “professional” cricketer from 1900 to 1914 and also after the first world war and had some considerable success as the attached undefeated team of 1907 shows. They would come up against sides equally competitive, some having county professionals as “ringers”. The game would also be quite competitive with teams arguing and leaving the field due to “cheating” was not uncommon, especially in matches with local rivals Nuneaton. Loss of players to other sports was an issue as it is today for the Atherstone committee. Though this time it would be to golf and the emerging sport of football.
Though there are little records of the players around this time, prominent names of this time are Fowke, Wilson, Ireland, Frank and Ernie Stokes, Walter Whightman, Richard Fielders, Harry Broadhurst and of course the Stafford’s, who’s family had a strong influence in the progress of the club from the late 19th century right up until 1969.
Atherstone have played continuously at Ratcliffe Road / Royal meadow ground with a few exceptions. Both world wars caused a cessation of cricket in Atherstone and with an odd season or two at the Atherstone Grammar School field. It is thought after one of these wars, the club lost it’s original black and red colours, also donned by the town’s football and hockey clubs, for the more familiar green and gold.
The club re-formed in 1946 under the presidency of Sir William Dugdale and with Hancock, Sanders as Chairman and Secretary respectively and Frank Routledge as captain. Atherstone were a strong club, fielding two sides on both Saturday’s and later on Sundays for shop keepers and assistants who worked on Saturdays.
The club fielded some fine cricketers over this time. the 50’s saw captains Frank Routledge (Northampton and Birmingham FC footballer), C Davies and Alan Sanders with players such as Ken Purnell, Eric Nash, Jack Stafford, Derek Ford, Gerry Dickson, Tom Smith, Joe Bosworth, George Jackson and Ray Hatton.
The 60’s saw Jack Ball as the prominent captain. Other cricketers were Tom Smith, “Brick” Albrighton, Geoff Radford, Jack Palfreyman, Bob Higgins, Alf Holland, John, Ray and Warwick Bickley and Nelson Burchell
The turn of the century were successful years for ATCC with the side a dominant force in local cricket and winning the newly formed Tamworth and District League in 1907 but once this league was disbanded, Atherstone were not to enter competitive league cricket until 1969, and this was to be the new Tamworth and District Midweek League which they won at the first attempt. They were not to enter competitive weekend cricket until 1973 when the joined the Coventry Works League.
The 1970’s saw things progress off the field at Atherstone. A new club house and bar was erected out of the donation of three prefabricated houses in 1971. 1975 was a big year for Atherstone. To celebrate the “100th” anniversary and with Atherstone Rugby Club also using the premises, the now existing pavilion was erected with the prefabricated building turned into spacious changing and showering facilities. To mark the anniversary a match was played against Warwickshire 2nd XI who fielded the likes of Alan Oakman, Geoff Humpage and Steve Rouse. They also gain promotion to Premier 2 of the Coventry and District League and finished runners up in the Nuneaton Thursday league at the first attempt.
There were prominent cricketers and club members through the 70’s. Ray Millichip, Graham Davies, George, Terry and Roy Lewis (no relation to each other) the latter being the first to achieve 1000 runs and 100 wickets for the club., Les Court, Gordon Gudger, Eddy and Keith Burchell, Harry Alcock. Derby County goalkeeper Les Green, John Clark, Tony Marsden, Martin Plackett, Howard Dennis, Geoff Beale and Arthur Clements to name but a few. Other more junior players beginning to make their mark and are still playing the game were Vic Clements, Richard and Michael Daniels, Paul Henney and Terry Holland.
1981 was the next big successful year for the club when both 1st and 2nd XI managed to win their respective leagues in the newly named Coventry and District league. The first XI gaining promotion to Premier 2 status and the 2nd XI winning division 2. Under the leadership of Geoff Wetton as 1st XI captain and Les Day 2nd XI captain
The return of the hockey club and the growth of the rugby club 1992 saw the building of the new changing facilities with the old prefabricated buildings removed and with a refurbishment of the clubhouse bar, Atherstone CC had facilities to be proud of.
But it was only in 1993 that saw the real change in the fortunes on the playing side of ATCC. Welshman Richard Perry who had played for the club for a couple of years took over the role as chairman from Martin Plackett. Recent years had seen the playing surface deteriorate so the club decided to employ a groundsman and Paul Oldham taking over supervision of the square Atherstone started to move forward.
Perry attracted money through dinners with Fred Trueman, Dermott Reeve, Geoff Miller, Jimmy Greaves and John Sillett. This coupled with other fund raising to enable the purchase valuable equipment and ground materials. The highlight of Perry’s chairmanship was the benefit match for Warwickshire cricketer Paul Smith. Around 1000 people surrounded the boundary, sitting on hay bails on a scorching summers day to witness the contest between the county treble winning side and a celebrity cricket team called “the Bunbury’s”. All but Reeve and Alan Donald turned out for the county and David English raised an opposition including Arsenal footballer Paul Davis, West Indian test cricketer Roger Harper, Presenter Nick Owen, jockey Steve Smith-Eccles, actor Robert Duncan and others.
With the wickets now improving and the ambitious nature of the club, better players were attracted to Atherstone. Vic Clements returned to his home club from central league side Nuneaton with immediate effect. Others players such as Nick Maling, Brian Thompson and David Blower joined and with the employment of Pakistan’s Habib Bank opening bowler Wahid Zaman, existing players improved their game and the club began to rise through the leagues.
Finally Warwickshire Cricket league premiership status was achieved following being voted the inaugural Warwickshire Cricket Club of the Year for 2000.
2003 saw the next big step in the progress of ATCC with the employ of Bermuda National Coach Noel Gibbons and he was followed by young coach Matt Pickering. Their role was to rejuvenate the junior section which was simply “ticking along”.
And that they did. Over the course of 7-8 years, the junior section is now some 100+ strong and can boast a number of county and district players at various age groups. Ably assisted by dedicated club members and from a virtually standing start the club has achieved county champion status and are currently Warwickshire U17 champions beating well established high quality cricket clubs on the way.
More importantly, the new generation of players are now filtering into the senior sides both improving the standard of the teams but also allowing 3 or even 4 adult sides to play on Saturday afternoons.
ATCC now field 3 regular Saturday sides in the Warwickshire Cricket League and a senior side on Sundays. They also field 2 adult sides in the ever popular Nuneaton Thursday Cricket league and train on Tuesday evenings in the summer.