Farnham Cricket Club was present when cricket was emerging in the areas of Surrey and Hampshire in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Founded in 1782, with a history tracing back to the first game on 13th August at Odiham, Farnham is one of the select few clubs who has celebrated a bi-centenary.
Cricket was played in and around Farnham long before this time, although matches were few and far between. The first ground was, in fact, over the county boundary in Hampshire at the hamlet of Holt Pound, and was known as the Oval - after which the currently better known venue was named. This was the home of Farnham for many years, and thanks to a past Bishop of Winchester, who wished to tidy up part of the Park by Farnham Castle, a cricket pitch was created near the moat. The players passion for beer was just as great 150 years ago and the Bishop sent the club packing for what he called brawling!
The first recorded games
That very first match against Odiham was well documented, and included such famous men of their times as Silver Billy Beldham and Honest John Wells. It was played over two innings per side and was eventually won by the club, Beldham being the top scorer with 16 runs in the Farnham second innings - the winning margin was one wicket and three notches. Silver Billy was employed by Lord Stawel, who captained Farnham, to create the cricket ground at Holt Pound, and it can still be found behind the local public house to this day.
Many important Surrey games of the period were contested at Holt Pound including, in 1808, when Surrey beat all England by 66 runs. Beldham died at the considerable age of 96, and during his career he played in every major match between 1787 and 1821. In those days the Hambledon club could beat all England - but the three Parishes round Farnham sometimes beat Hambledon! Honest John Wells, who married one of Beldham's sisters, played for Farnham, Surrey and MCC. Both Beldham and Wells were regulars at Lords and also played there for Farnham against MCC in 1821 along with another Farnham man, William Matthews, who for a few seasons was considered the best bowler in England. When at last these great players retired from major cricket the club went into a decline.
In the 1850's Farnham obtained the services of another notable, Julius Caesar, a local carpenter. Caesar was a member of the first England team to tour Australia, and died in 'straitened circumstances' at the age of 48 as the first player from Farnham to represent England abroad.
In July 1848 the first century opening-partnership was recorded against Bramshill, now the home of the Police College, and featured Julius Caesar and George Beldham. The attention of the London press was drawn in 1851 when a reporter was sent to the match in Alton where Farnham beat North Hants by 28 runs, after an exhibition of some very fine play.
Centenary plus fifty years
There do not seem to be any records of the club having celebrated the Centenary in 1882, even though there are records of matches during the weeks on either side of 13th August. In those days cricket was only played on Saturdays and Wednesdays and often involved long journeys by brake over dusty and rutted roads. Curiously enough, the Wednesday fixtures were by far the stronger, as this was considered the sporting day of the week. 1884 saw the first cricket week, against teams which included South Western Railway, Acton, Cliftonville, Commissariat and Transport Corps and Mr Pare's Xl. In that season the club won 11 of the 15 games played. The first fixture with Guildford was played in 1885; a return was arranged soon after and the honours were even. Farnham players even appeared as guests for Guildford, and the fixture between the clubs continued.
Arthur J Stedman joined in 1886 and was credited with strengthening the club in the period up to the First World War. In the 1880's the club played a very strong Surrey Club and Ground Xl and lost by only 36 runs.
In the early 1890's the star was Albert Baker, from the nearby village of Hale. The cricketing big shot of the area, Baker hit a glorious century against Surrey which resulted in him being given a county place as an opening partner to Tom Hayward and, later on, the young Jack Hobbs.
The highlight of 1905 was against the Club and Ground, which Farnham won by 47 runs; included in the visiting team was a very young Andy Ducat. The period from 1900 to 1930 was not particularly notable, but the club remained active, even during the Great War, despite a shortage of players.
In 1930 a new pavilion was built, the basis of the present one. This seemed to attract several new players, most notably - Dickie Watson, R F Baker and F R P Heeley. The traditional cricket week continued, and in 1931 fortunes seemed to have changed when Surrey Young Players were beaten by 182 runs. On 4th August the local bank manager, H L Heelis scored 182, which is still the club record, and then took 5-52 in the same match. That week the first instance of two batsmen scoring a century in the same innings was recorded, by Dickie Watson and Frank Baker - whose Uncle Albert was the Surrey opener at the turn of the century. In 1934 an appearance by Jack Hobbs during cricket week drew a crowd of 3,000 - he scored 39 runs in a game which also featured the debut of V H D (Vic) Cannings as a fifteen-year-old. Other well-known players in this game were Laurie Fishlock, Jack Parker and Sam Buss of Weybridge. Cannings went on to play with distinction for Hampshire and Warwickshire. Just before the Second World War a young batsman emerged from tye local Grammar school - A J Hillyer, who was to be a towering figure in the town club after the war.
Post War Cricket 1945-1970
Guildford had produced a very fine batsman in John Broatch, and he and Hillyer were to be the backbone of the Farnham batting for some years. Hillyer scored around 12,000 runs for the club, including 6,357 while captain. Jim Banks joined the club straight from the Grammar School in 1948 and quickly gained his place as an all rounder in the first team, where he was to remain for over 25 years, seven of them as club captain. In 1955 Jim set a club record, still unbeaten, of 15 wickets for 65 in Farnham's annual match against the I'Anson League representative Xl. In 1954 Tom Whitaker became captain, and in 1952 Rex Cross was the first recorded bowler to take 100 wickets in a season which also included 1,243 runs from Hillyer. Geoffrey Hebden arrived in 1956 and quickly caused the batting records to be rewritten. An amateur with Hampshire and Dorset, for whom he scored two centuries in a single day, he made 13,000 runs, having scored 1,450 runs in 1957. Hebden became the first player to score 1,000 runs in three consecutive seasons in 1961, and then became captain and later President of the club. John Tanner scored heavily as a very determined opener; a great supporter of the club he later served as Chairman.
In 1964 a young, raw fast bowler joined from the North of England: John Storey burst onto the scene and took 128 wickets in his first year, and in the next 11 years he only missed taking 100 wickets in a season once. Storey ended his career at Farnham bowling leg breaks, eventually taking over 2,000 wickets and scoring 10,000 runs. He was the best yet all-rounder, and in 1974 became the only player to do the double for Farnham when he scored 1,061 runs and took 105 wickets. John's top return of wickets in a season was a staggering 163. The other great player of the time was Neil Wilson, who gave great service in the 60's and early 70's, and was the second player to score 1,000 runs in consecutive seasons.
The start of League Cricket and the Bi-Centenary
In 1970 Farnham became a founder member of the Three Counties League, which they dominated for almost a decade at both first and second team levels. Mick Knowles, Chris Burchett and Bob Shergold were the nucleus of the very strong batting and they were complemented by the fine pace attack of John Storey and Chic Stedman. Other quality players included Rodney 'Rabbit' Warriner and Ron Graham, and the side was lead for 6 consecutive seasons by Mick Knowles.
1977 was a year to be remembered as the club swept all before it. First and second Xl league champions, winners of the evening knock-out league, six a side and indoor winners and the youth teams won all their divisions - a truly golden season. In 1979 Farnham joined the Surrey Cricketers League, and in 1980 Burchett and Shergold established a new club record by putting on 215 against Leatherhead. This pair were the two main run makers of the 1980's, whilst the main wicket takers were Storey and Chic Stedman, who has just completed 34 consecutive years in the first Xl.
1982 was historic, when the bi-centenary of the first game played between Farnham and Odiham was replayed 200 years to the day after the original encounter. A celebration cricket week was arranged, with games against The Lord's Taverners, MCC, a Surrey Xl and the Village Greenies from Grand Bahamas, who included paceman Charlie Griffith of Barbados and West Indies fame. The week culminated in a dinner in the magnificently grand setting of Farnham Castle, next door neighbour for all these years.
The first Xl remained undefeated but could only manage fifth in the league with the bulk of the runs scored by Burchett and Shergold; Ron Graham was the most successful bowler with 33 wickets. The 2nd Xl were the team of the year for the club, winning the championship in fine style: catches offered were seldom dropped, and the batting of Roger Vernier who averaged 51, plus the bowling of Andrew Kieft and Jeremy Browne was decisive and enabled them to amass 152 league points.
The mid 1980's saw the start at Farnham of one cricketer who could well turn out to be the most celebrated player ever from the club, the 15 year old prodigy Graham Thorpe. The youngest of three brothers from a cricketing family, Graham began his league career by averaging over 170 in the seconds, and then topping the first Xl during the remainder of the season with a total of 510 runs at an average of 56. In 1986 it was the 18 year old Alan Thorpe who impressed most with his mature batting, taking the League Young Player award, and brother Graham showed formidable potential. Chic Stedman won the league bowling award with 44 wickets in a season which saw Farnham finish a slightly disappointing fifth in the table. The 2nd Xl won their division decisively and in the process set a record of 14 victories.
After several years near the top of the Surrey Cricketers League and then Division 2 of the Surrey Championship, Farnham gained promotion to Division 1 as champions by a comfortable 21 points. The outstanding batsman was Graham Thorpe, now in his first season as a Surrey professional, who scored 675 runs in only 14 innings to average 67. Brother Alan hit 484 at 28, and Chris Burchett 405 at 31. Chic Stedman took 50 league wickets but he was overshadowed by a newcomer Malcolm Kirkland, whose slow left arm round secured an amazing bag of 59 wickets at 8.89 each. The consistent second Xl were runners up to Wimbledon with eleven wins and just one defeat. Long serving club official Don Banks was elected President after many years as chairman.
1991 started with much optimism with paceman Mick Lee on his way from Perth - and ended with total despair after the relegation of the first team. The second half of the season showed a marked deterioration in performances, with only Alan Thorpe scoring runs and some of the experienced bowlers showing very ragged form. Relegation had never been suffered by a Farnham side before and it was a very bitter pill to swallow. The one shaft of light was that the third Xl , runners up in 1990, went a step better and won their league . The end of the season saw Graham Thorpe gain his county cap and he was also selected for his second England A tour to Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
One of the great highlights for all club members came in 1993 when Graham Thorpe was selected for a one day international against Australia. He played in all three matches and was then selected for the third test match at Trent Bridge. The rest is now history - after a shaky six in the first innings he went on to score an assured and confident 114 in the second innings. He became an automatic choice for the remainder of the series but suffered the agony and irony of having his thumb broken in the nets moments before he was to take the field on his home ground at the Oval. The irony was that it was a seventeen-year-old net bowler, Peter Dickinson, from Farnham Cricket Club who hit his thumb. Graham has now been chosen to tour the West Indies early in 1994, treading in the illustrious footsteps of Julius Caesar. Everyone at Farnham hopes that it will not be another 140 years before the next club member is chosen to tour overseas for his country.
1992 to the present day
The period from 1992 was mainly about League Cricket as the number of Sunday games sadly declined rapidly. League cricket for Farnham meant the Surrey Championship which is where we find ourselves today.
Over the past few years the club has had its up and downs. Huge focus has been put on the future of the club. Farnham now boast youth teams between the ages of under 9's through to under 17's. Within these teams there are a number of Surrey representatives and fingers crossed the next Graham Thorpe will be discovered. Graham retired from both England & Surrey in 2005 at the age of 36 after making his Surrey debut in 1988. He amassed 21937 runs for club and country, with 49 centuries - 16 of them coming in the 100 tests he played for England.
Since 2000 the 1st and 2nd XI have both been involved in promotion and relegation seasons so at the beginning of 2011 the 1st XI find themselves in Div 2 and the 2nd XI in the first division of their respective league structures. The Academy (3rd XI) play in Div 2 of their structure.