This piece was written by Chairman Rollo Wicksteed in response to a request for an article as to how the club and The Harrow Inn are linked.
Cricket has had an important place in local history for at least 250 years and it is inconceivable that Steep villagers would not have been amongst the thousands who flocked to Broadha’penny Down in the late 1700s, when Hambledon took on, and beat, the might of England, with Petersfield’s John Small among the stars.
During Victorian times our local MP, William Nicholson, was a great enthusiast and used some of the fortune he piled up selling cheap gin to the masses, to help finance the magnificent pavilion at Lord’s (he also paid for the construction of Privett Church and we must hope that the wreckage caused by his gin was overlooked when the time came for him to confront St Peter at the Pearly Gates).
The earliest record of cricket in Steep dates back to the 1830s and later in his diaries the Vicar, William Hawker, mentions a match between The Single and The Married Farmers. Old maps show a field near Ashford known as “Cricket Field” which could be named in honour of the sport or alternatively the grasshopper – who knows?
Steep Cricket Club as we know it was founded in about 1893. Sadly it had little to do with The Harrow and indeed there is a suspicion that the Vicar, The Rev. E.L.Puxley, and the Schoolmaster, Mr J.W.Skillington, initiated the Club to help keep villagers OUT of the pub. Certainly the original Club Rules set a high moral tone with a fine of 3d for “improper language” and specifically forbade the use of any Club funds for “refreshment”. Happily these rules have subsequently been rescinded.
The Harrow enters the story in the 1930s when one William Dodd, born in Kettlebrook Cottages, and great Uncle to current licensees Claire and Nisa, played occasional games for Hampshire. William was a policemen in Southampton and played a dozen or so times between 1931 and 1936 as an amateur, his team-mates included Lord Tennyson and his debut was against a Nottinghamshire side which boasted Harold Larwood, a matter of months before the notorious “Body Line“ tour. He had the good sense be dismissed for a duck before Larwood could get at him. Over five summers his career figures were 95 runs and 10 wickets. Modest enough but he remains the only Steep born cricketer to play for the county.
We now move to the late 1940s when a group of returning ex-servicemen resolved to resuscitate the Club that had, not surprisingly, lain dormant during the war. However the rump of the old Club had other ideas and refused to allow them to use either the ground or such equipment as had survived Hitler. So the newcomers, led by Eddie McCutcheon and his brother Sid, with support from the delightfully named “Ickle” Crane and “Rasher” Leggett amongst others, arranged matches on Steep Common and in fields behind Johnson’s Farm.
They called themselves Steep (1948), having rejected a suggestion that Harrow C.C. might be appropriate, when informed that a well known Public School in North West London already fielded a Harrow Cricket Club and indeed played an annual match at Lord’s against Eton. It was left to the owner of the ground, Mr Levi of Steep Farm and Itshide, to broker a deal between the warring factions. The new side was firmly based at The Harrow if only because the Captain, Eddie McCutcheon had a very soft spot for the Landlord’s pretty daughter, Ellen. It was also useful to be able to call on her brothers, Haden and John, when numbers were short and she made the most nourishing match teas in Hampshire, served in the Harrow garden. Since those pioneer days Steep has bought the Freehold of its ground, now one of the best in the locality, and built its own pavilion (which, incidentally, cost about the same to construct as the one financed for MCC by William Nicholson but slightly less grand.)
Way back in 1972, Steep was one of 795 clubs to enter the National Village Cricket Knockout sponsored by Haig Whisky. (now administered by "TheCricketer"). The lure was a Final to be played on the hallowed turf of Lord’s in September, although Steep had little hope of progressing that far.
It was a surprise therefore when they proceeded to win the Hampshire section and reached the National Quarter-final, before falling to Oxfordshire Champions Bledlow.
In the years that followed, Steep were the Hampshire winners on no less than four occasions and represented the county’s village cricketers against Kent, Sussex, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey, Nottinghamshire and Cornwall!!
The greatest moment came in 1974 when Steep entertained the Nottingham team Collingham, losing in the last over to be denied a Lord’s final. Over a thousand people crammed into the Steep ground that never to be forgotten afternoon.
Since those heady days in the seventies, we have not had quite the same level of success in the competition, but hopefully our new crop of Junior players will one day go one step further than their predecessors and get Steep to Lords!
Former players and club stalwarts are remembered by Chairman Rollo Wicksteed
Number 1 Bill Jarman.