History of The Nevill Ground

These are some edited extracts from the two volumes of Tunbridge Wells in Old Photographs on the two cricket grounds, which give the date of foundation of the Bluemantles, its relationship to the other cricket clubs in town, and the point at which it transferred from the Common to the Nevill Ground.

Cricket has been played on the Higher Cricket Ground on Tunbridge Wells Common since the mid-18th century. From 1845 until 1880 County matches were played here, but these ceased due to the poor condition of the pitch which was regularly trampled by the public and grazing animals. County matches only returned to the town in 1901 after the old ground had been superseded as the town’s chief cricketing venue by the new Nevill Ground, opened in 1898.

Throughout the 20th century and on to the present day, the Higher Cricket Ground has been the home of the Linden Park Cricket Club, founded in 1876. It had originally been shared with two other clubs, the Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club, which traces its history back to the late 18th century, and the Blue Mantles, established in 1864; but these transferred their headquarters to the Nevill Ground in 1898.

Although cricket was played on the Higher Cricket Ground informally from the mid-eighteenth century, it was not officially set apart for the purpose until 1839, when the newly formed Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club received permission from the Freeholders to use and improve it, and to erect notices to deter abuse of the turf. The ground was subsequently enlarged in 1859 and 1875.

The Nevill Ground was opened in 1898 by William Nevill, 1st Marquess of Abergavenny, from whom the land had been acquired by the Tunbridge Wells Cricket, Football and Athletic Club Ltd. A contemporary guide said that ‘It deserves to be well patronised, for no expense was spared in making it perfect in every respect’. The first county cricket match on the ground was played in 1901, establishing a tradition that has continued to the present day.

In a county noted for its beautiful cricket grounds, the Nevill Ground in Tunbridge Wells possesses an unequalled charm and dignity; it has, in fact, frequently been described as the loveliest ground in England.’ So writes the town guide from 1951. When the Ground opened, the Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club (1839) and the Blue Mantles (1864) transferred their headquarters there from the Common.

Higher Ground, Tunbridge Wells
The Nevill Cricket Ground at Tunbridge Wells Date: 1902.
The Nevill Pavilion was virtually destroyed in a fire on 11th April 1913. The blaze was widely believed to be the work of militant suffragettes, and it was reported that suffragette literature had been discovered at the scene. Date: 1913

Nevill Ground Telephone Box Gets a Makeover

The much-loved telephone box in Nevill Gate, is going to receive some much-needed refurbishment this winter, according to Kent Live.

Erected sometime in the 1920s, it is one of only four in the country and is grade two listed.

According to Kent Live, the works are intended to be carried out in time for the 2021 season.

Remembering Bluemantle’s Centenary – 1962

This is the team which played in the Bluemantle’s centenary match against The Duke of Norfolk’s XI at Arundel in 1962. And below are some words from the centenary dinner, held in London that year.

vs Duke of Norfolk XI Arundel 1962

Tom Simpson

T.O.M.Simpson sadly passed away on 25th September aged 91.

Before coming to teach at Holmewood House School and representing the Bluemantle’s Cricket Club, he played for M.C.C and Esher CC

In the history of Esher CC celebrating their centenary in 1963, it states ….

‘The three years of Crouch captaincy marked the rise of J.A.Harrison and T.O.M.Simpson both powerful strikers of the ball – left and right respectively, the latter scoring his one thousand runs in 1957 and 1959’.

He first played for Esher in 1946 and had 62 innings amassing over 8000 runs at an average of 25.08.

Neil Benedict, who was coached by Tom, writes…
‘I first met Tom in the late 50’s when he ran the Esher Colts – his enthusiasm along with his schoolmasterly and authoritative style, contributed to a happy and fun environment. When I was in the Eastbourne College X1, it was lovely to watch and play against him representing the MCC in the 1960’s. He played a very positive effect on my life during this period, which I very much appreciated.’

Ted Rose, a distinguished member of The Bluemantle’s writes…

‘He was a Cambridge Crusader — he always wore the cap — and was a useful, uncomplicated, correct and attractive bat. He was also a revered schoolmaster. In his retirement he spent many hours reading to hospital patients.’

‘The one thing I can tell you is that I ran him out to finish his last ever innings! It was in the BM week and I had opened the batting in the morning. Tom came in at number three and we had a decent partnership up until lunch. I don’t know how many Tom made, but it must have been 40 or 50.’

‘Anyhow, I faced the first ball after lunch, eased it into the gap in the covers and trotted off for a gentle single. Tom had managed to get half-way down the pitch when he let out a howl of pain and pulled up with a torn hamstring.’

‘He enjoyed recounting afterwards, omitting his injury, that I had run him out in his last ever innings! – Lovely bloke.’

Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones Memoirs

The pages shown here are extracts of the former Bluemantle Pursuivant, Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones, and tell with amusement how he favoured The Bluemantle’s over MCC…

Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones
Sir Peter Gwynn-Jones. Former Bluemantle Pursuivant

(click each for a larger version)

Kindly supplied by the current Bluemantle Pursuivant, Mark Scott.

Photo Memories from Bluemantle Week 2020

It was a belter of a week on the Nevill Ground for Bluemantle Week 2020. And that applies both to the temperature and the runs scored. COVID19 restrictions meant the matches were reduced to 40-over affairs starting at 1pm (12:30 on Friday), and yet there were no fewer than 6 centurions in the week, and 8 further batsmen scoring above 50. Every day was a run-fest on the flat and parched earth of the Nevill Ground.

The Bluemantle (left) with respected members of the Bluemantle’s Old Guard.

Charlie Hobden, who scored 184 not out against the Stragglers of Asia

The victorious Bluemantles team with the Bairamian Cup following their defeat of The Moose CC

Ed Miller, captain of the Bluemantle’s, with the Bairamian Cup

Club President, Nigel Wheeler makes a short address before awarding the Bairamian Cup to The Bluemantles, Friday 7th August.

Willy Boulter and Paddy Butler

Charlotte Burrough providing valuable subsistence to the players.

Bluemantles Team vs Stragglers of Asia

 

 

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