Belhus Cricket Club
| The name 'Belhus' derived from the 14th century owner of Belhus mansion, Nicholas de Belhus, who was of Norman ancestry. In 1618, Sir Edward Barrett was granted a licence to create a park ('English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest') around the Belhus mansion ('One of the most important and beautiful seats in the county' ('Seats in Essex', by Joseph Rush, 1897) which subsequently became the home of the Barrett-Lennard family. Sadly, the mansion was demolished in 1957 but some interesting remains can be seen in the Thurrock Museum. Interestingly, Edward Barrett-Lennard emigrated to Western Australia in the 19th century and his grandson, George, established a winery, known as Belhus, in the Upper Swan Valley in Perth in 1896.
The oldest cricket club in Essex, Woodford Green CC, was founded in 1735, although the game came rather later to South Essex. One of the earliest known matches in the district took place in Belhus park between 'Eleven Gentlemen of Aveley' and 'Eleven Gentlemen of the Liberty Club' for a wager of 100 guineas on 22nd June 1815 - just four days after the Battle of Waterloo (see below what is believed to be the oldest known handbill of a cricket match in England). Aveley Cricket Club was probably the first, formally constituted club to be established in the borough in the 19th century. They played their 'home' matches in Belhus Park against the backdrop of the magnificent Belhus mansion whose attractive grounds were landscaped by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown between 1753 and 1763.
The first known match played under the Belhus name took place on 26th May, 1888 when, according to '133 Years of Cricket in Orsett and District' E. H. Rowley, 1948 . . . 'Canon Whittington of Orsett took a team to Belhus, Aveley where they were hospitably entertained by a country house eleven captained by a Mr Hiley'. Rowley added, 'According to my information, the Orsett team had a thoroughly enjoyable time'. Belhus won by 31 runs.
Belhus Park was used in the First World War as a training camp. It was also the operations centre of the Army Postal Service that by 1916 was handling 1.5 million letters a day including 1.1 million to the Western Front ('The Quick and The Dead', Richard Van Emden 2011). In the Second World War, Belhus park was a reporting venue for our troops prior to their departure for the D-Day Normandy landings.
Belhus Cricket Club was formed in 1960. The 1st XI's inaugural match was against South Ockendon Hospital CC (at the time, one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in the UK) on 30th April 1960. Belhus batted first and, after being dismissed for a lowly 52, proceeded to skittle out the opposition for just 25 to win by 27 runs. A fine start for the club but the following day, against Beltonians CC, the 1st XI batsmen performed only marginally better when they amassed 55 - and lost by 6 wickets. The 2nd XI made their debut on Sunday, 1st May against London Graving Dock CC but they also lost - by just 13 runs.
The club shared the ground and facilities at Belhus park with Aveley Cricket Club which, sadly, disbanded in 1971. Apart from a pitch that was considered to be one of the best in the area, the changing and catering facilities at Belhus park were a little primitive. The 'little green hut' was built in 1929 by local Aveley builders Pavitt & Sons, and served its purpose well for more than 30 years when, recognising the increasing popularity of cricket in the borough, the local council built a new, modern pavilion in 1965. At the same time, an additional cricket square was laid on the other side of the pavilion and provided the club with the luxury of two 'home' pitches that sparked the resurrection of a regular 2nd XI.
All of the club's matches prior to the early 1970s were 'friendlies'. With both national and county cricket bodies keen to improve the standard of play at club level, league cricket was introduced in 1973 and the larger clubs in Essex, including Belhus CC, were invited to participate. Since then, the greater competitive nature of club cricket has been a contributing factor to the improvement in standards of play. But the success of a club is not just about its triumphs on the field of play: efficient administration, management and organisation by committed volunteers are key ingredients in the recipe for progress and development.
The club undertook its first overseas tour in 1966 - to Northern Ireland. The success of that first tour prompted demand for a return visit in 1967, although it is still not known why it was decided to travel by train and boat to Belfast in preference to the Aer Lingus flight the previous year. The party of Belhus players experienced what was reported to have been the roughest ferry crossing over the Irish Sea for some 25 years!
The club's next ambitious tour was in 1976 - this time the destination was farther afield - to the sun-drenched island of Barbados in the West Indies. Being the first club side in the UK to undertake a tour of Barbados, much interest was generated at both local and national level. Written congratulations were received from HRH the Duke of Edinburgh as well as the captain of England, Tony Greig. Diplomatic and cricketing dignitaries in Barbados acknowledged the importance of the groundbreaking visit by inviting the Belhus party to a Reception at the official residence of the British High Commissioner, Charles Roberts. In addition, a match was arranged at the Test ground in Bridgetown, the famous Kensington Oval. But up against opposition players including Test legends such as Wes Hall, Joel Garner and Wayne Daniel, it wasn't surprising that the club didn't excel on the field of play!
The club is proud that its pioneering visit encouraged interest and paved the way for many future tours to the island by a number of other UK club sides. It was to be another fifteen years before the club toured Barbados again. Having already achieved pathfinder status among the cricketing fraternity on the island, the club's visit in 1991 was warmly received and old friendships renewed.
The club's first domestic tour was to Hampshire in 1981, since when numerous other tours have been organised to Devon, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Norfolk. No other club in Essex has undertaken such an ambitious programme of overseas and domestic tours - a degree of activity that is testament to the ambition, spirit of fun and friendliness that has always underpinned the culture of Belhus Cricket Club.
A key feature of Belhus Cricket Club has been its vibrant Youth Section. 'Colts' cricket was first played in 1968 and a Youth Section was formally established in 1975. Today, the club organises expert coaching and an extensive programme of matches for Under 9, Under 11, Under 13 and Under 15 age groups within an environment that is considered to be one of the most congenial in Essex. The Youth Section is particularly well known for its history of week-long tours, the first being to Sussex in 1977.
Move from Belhus
With an age-old ambition to provide better facilities for members, the club moved from Belhus park to North Stifford Village Green in 1997 (where cricket was first played in 1949), and subsequently finalised negotiations for security of tenure in 2004. This was undoubtedly the most significant development in the club's history, since when the club has lifted the Essex League's 'Best Pitch' and 'Best Hospitality' Awards.
The club has achieved a fair degree of success since its venture into league cricket in 1973. Having won various senior and youth team league titles and cup competitions, its glory year was undoubtedly 2016 when no less than three of the club's four XIs won their respective Divisions in the Essex Cricket League. And its single most significant playing achievement was in clinching the ECB's National Indoor Championship, beating Whitley Hall CC (the champions of Yorkshire) in the Final at the Lord's Indoor Academy in March 2016 - the culmination of a prestigious competition in which 800 clubs from 32 counties throughout England & Wales took part. An astonishing achievement that brought credit to the borough.
Belhus Cricket Club will continue to make a major contribution to cricket in the local community, and it will endeavour to provide first rate facilities that will enable young players to fulfil their potential. More importantly, it will strive to ensure that all of its members and guests have a thoroughly enjoyable time.
Return to top