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Cricket in Dagenham


Cricket in Dagenham
Acting Assistant Archivist, Heritage Services
Borough of Barking and Dagenham

Dagenham was once a thriving hive of cricketing activity. The heyday of Dagenham's obsession with 'the gentleman's game' spanned roughly 70 years, from the 1920s through to the 1990s, when a proliferation of enthusiastically supported amateur clubs were organised throughout Dagenham. These clubs travelled across the breadth of Essex to compete in one-off exhibition matches and take part in meticulously organized league fixtures. If football dominated Dagenham's parks and sports fields during the winter months, the summer months belonged to cricket.

A Multitude of Clubs
A multitude of cricket clubs sprang up across the borough, formed by groups of friends, as well as work mates who organised their own works teams. Dagenham's long list of amateur cricket clubs included Dagenham Cricket Club, Old Dagonians, Dagenham Wanderers, Union Cables (later known as Dagenham Cables), Dagenham British Legion, Central, Fords Cricket club, Beckmain Cricket Club, Becontree B.L., Dagenham Municipal Officers, Civil Defence, Bombardiers, Pritchett and Gold Dagenham Trades, Becontree Heath, Fanshawe Old Boys, Goodmayes, May & Bakers, Briggs Social XI, Briggs Sports, Becontree Falcons and Warren. Dagenham Public Libraries even had its own cricket team in the 1950s and 60s which played against other library services in London and other departments of Dagenham Council.

However, unlike its sustained obsession with football, Dagenham's love of organised cricket has all but dwindled away. There are only two cricket clubs in existence in Dagenham today, Goresbrook Cricket Club and May & Baker Cricket Club.

Doubleday, Thorogood and The Dagenham Cricket Clubs
Yet cricket has a long and established heritage in Dagenham. Records in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Archives Service reveal that a Dagenham Cricket Club was founded as far back as the late nineteenth century. However, the exact date of what must surely be Dagenham's first cricket club is not clear. A photograph in the Borough Archives contains a note claiming that the club was formed in 1884 by John Doubleday. The note continues to state that Doubleday was the Headmaster of Ford's Endowed Schools from 1876 to 1913 and retained the captaincy of the club for thirty years until his departure from Dagenham in 1913.

However, a loving-cup discovered in an antique shop in 1979 contains an inscription which is at odds with the 1884 date of foundation. The inscription reads: “Presented to S.B. Thorogood Esq. by the Dagenham Cricket Club, 1879”.

Returning to Mr. Doubleday, an article from Essex Times of 1925 reveals that Doubleday founded another cricket club in 1924. The article describes the second annual dinner of the Dagenham United Cricket Club and describes how Mr. Doubleday and Messrs Cooper and Farrance formed the club nearly 20 years ago in the Cross Keyes public house, making the date of Dagenham United Cricket Club's founding 1905.

Dagenham Cricket Club and George Henry Beale
Perhaps Doubleday and Thorogood did indeed play for the same Dagenham Cricket Club, yet it wasn't unusual for clubs to fold and for completely new clubs to be set up under the name of previous clubs. For example, a completely separate Dagenham Cricket Club was set up in 1929 by George Henry Beale. In an uncanny repetition of Doubleday's founding of Dagenham United Cricket Club, Dagenham Cricket Club was set up after Beale walked into the Cross Keys public house in July 1929 and asked if anyone was interested in helping him set up a cricket club in Dagenham. Beale soon recruited enough players to field three teams- two teams played on a Saturday and one, nicknamed Ramblers, a mix of the two Saturday sides, played on a Sunday.

Beale became the club's secretary, a role he held for 21 years. It was he who personally organised the club's calendar of home and away fixtures and sent a meticulous recording of batsmen's scores and bowling statistics to the Postevery Sunday evening in time for publication the following Thursday. As well as organising the club's fixtures and recording its results in scorebooks, Beale contributed his own left arm off-spin bowling. In later years he retired to umpiring duties. During Beale's time as secretary the other key officers of the club included Mr. C. A. Single as President, Mr. W. Greenaway as Chairman, Mr. W. Loader as Vice-Chairman, Mr. H. Pollard as Treasurer and Mr. J. Berry as Social Secretary.

Dagenham Cricket Club wore navy blue caps adorned with an embroidered Dagenham coat of arms inscribed with Dagenham's motto “Judge Us By Our Deeds”. The club played its home fixtures at Dagenham Park Arena (the site of Ballards Road today). The boundary, a running track, was shorter than official guidelines so shots to the boundary were awarded two runs rather than the customary four. The club later played its home matches in Central Park. The outbreak of the Second World War saw the temporary suspension of the club and, much to the horror of club members, six foot deep trenches were dug across the playing field, including across the cricket square itself, in order to stop enemy aircrafts from landing!

The club continued with a full fixture list after the war and even took part in a tour of Utrecht in the Netherlands. In 1950, just before the beginning of Dagenham CC's 21 season, George Henry Beale announced his retirement as secretary of the club and was duly made honorary life vice-president.

However, Dagenham Cricket Club continued for many years after and the name of the club lived on as many separate, unconnected teams under the aegis of Dagenham Cricket Club were formed. Indeed, as recently as 1998 a Dagenham Cricket Club won the Barking & Dagenham Post Essex County Cricket League Division 3 title.

The Federation of Dagenham Cricket Clubs
Such was the profusion of cricket clubs in operation in Dagenham that a body to oversee their activities and organisation, The Federation of Dagenham Cricket Clubs, was set up. The Federation's primary mission was to help support the numerous clubs in Dagenham and maintain high playing standards. They set about this by liaising closely with Dagenham Borough Council; in particular they sought the improvement of conditions in local wickets in the parks and sports fields which many clubs adopted as their homes. The Federation also arranged prestigious representative matches throughout the seasons: these matches pitted a selection of Dagenham's finest cricketers in a Federation team against neighbouring cricket federations, associations and organisations such as the Kent Association of Cricket clubs and the Essex Club and Ground XI. Selection to represent the Federation team was a highly prized accolade for local club cricketers and upon the arrangement of a representative fixture each club was expected to put forward a shortlist of their leading cricketers. It was from this shortlist that the Federation selected the representative team.

The Gunary's: Dagenham's Cricketing Dynasty
The name 'Gunary' is synonymous with cricket in Dagenham. William Charles Gunary, a left-arm medium-fast bowler born in Dagenham in 1895, played for John Doubleday's Dagenham Cricket Club and Dagenham United Cricket Club and played one match for Essex County Cricket Club in 1929 against Leicestershire. The 1929 campaign was a season of transition for Essex as the county came under a new leadership and 37 different players were used. Unfortunately, in his one and only appearance for Essex, Gunary made a duck and was unable to bat in the second innings.

However, the name's association with cricketing excellence lived on in Dagenham as recently as the 1980s. Brothers Peter and Brian Gunary played cricket in Dagenham for Dagenham Cables and Dagenham Cricket Club respectively. Each started playing competitive cricket in the 1940s and were acknowledged as some of the finest cricket players in the district; indeed, each were regulars in the Federation of Dagenham Cricket Clubs' representative side. Peter Gunary played for Dagenham Cables' first XI well into the 1980s!

Dagenham's Last Cricket Clubs
There are only two cricket clubs in existence in Dagenham today: Goresbrook Cricket Club and May & Baker Cricket Club.

Goresbrook play their matches at May & Bakers Sports & Social Club,Rainham Road South. The club was founded by a group of young men who played cricket after school and during the holidays, at Goresbrook Park. Mirroring the establishment of Dagenham United Cricket Club and Dagenham Cricket Club, the actual site of Goresbrook CC's foundation was a pub, the Chequers Public House on the 5th October 1981. The first committee was elected, comprising Alan Mitchell (Chairman), Garry Walsh (Secretary), Frederick Morrison (Treasurer), Dean Barwick (Fixtures Secretary) and Steve Rooke (Club Captain). the next couple of years the club utilised facilities at Hainault Forest and Central Park inm and Barking Park for its home friendlies, before settling down at King George's Park, Romford in 1985.

In 1990 the club moved again to Oldchurch Park, Romford. The following term the club was accepted into Division 6. After a succession of championships and promotions, the club was promoted to Division 1 of the Smallcombe Sports Essex County League status in 1995.

In 1998 the club moved for a final time to the May and Bakers Sports Ground. In 2000 it was able to field two senior sides on Saturdays, enabling it to accept an invitation to join the Morrant Essex Cricket League.

The club has its own colts section, comprising U11, U13, U15 and U16 sides, and these have enjoyed success in both League and Cup cricket. The club continues to flourish and currently boasts a membership in excess of sixty.

May & Baker CC was founded by employees of May & Baker, a British chemical company which arrived in Dagenham in 1934. Although the May & Baker company has since split, merged and changed company name to Sanofi-Aventis, the original works club still exists as The May & Baker Club of which the cricket club is one of its many sports clubs. The current cricket club is affiliated to
the Metropolitan Essex District Cricket Board, Club Cricket Conference and is also a member of the Lords International Essex League, Havering Indoor League.

The only other existing cricket club in close proximity and with some prior association to Dagenham is Chadwell Heath Cricket Club, which is currently competing in the Herts and Essex Cricket League. Chadwell Heath CC was once considered a Dagenham cricket club and some of their leading players were selected for the Federation of Dagenham Cricket Club's representative side. Founded in 1903, the club has had many homes. It originally played at Wangye Hall Farm, then moved to Warren Farm in Whalebone Lane North in the 1920s, before moving onto Padnall Farm in Rose Lane (in 1928) and then onto their current home in St. Chad's Park in Romford. However, due to local boundary changes Chadwell Heath is no longer popularly considered part of Dagenham and the club affiliates itself closer to Romford and Ilford.

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