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Churchdown Cricket Club planning a reunion at the Old Elm pub in May

Gloucester > Sport > Cricket

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Tuesday, 2nd April 2019, 09:00

Churchdown Cricket Club have a proud history Churchdown Cricket Club have a proud history

Churchdown Cricket Club have a very proud history, one that stretches back almost 140 years and one that has seen some stellar names turn out for the club.

They include a former England Test cricketer, an ex-Gloucester and England rugby player and a one-time professional footballer who was good enough to play in the Premier League.

The players in question are Gilbert Jessop, Dave Sims and Guy Whittingham and the club would love nothing more than to see two of them turn up at a club reunion that they have planned for mid-May.

Jessop, who was born in Cheltenham in 1874, died some 69 years ago, but the club are hoping for a good turnout of past and present players for their reunion at the Old Elm pub in Churchdown on Saturday 18th May, starting at about 8pm.

The reunion is being organised by Ross Parry, a former chairman of the club who these days is a player in the 2nd XI.

The 56-year-old has been with the club for some 40-odd years and remembers playing alongside both Whittingham and Sims.

“Guy was an exceptionally talented sportsman,” recalled Parry. “He was brought up round here but stopped playing for us at quite a young age because he joined the Army.

“He was a very good batsman and I remember him scoring a big century in one game – it was for the 2nds and he got 140. It won him the club’s performance of the season award.”

Whittingham, now 54, went on to play football professionally for a decade and a half, scoring a stack of goals for a whole host of clubs including Portsmouth, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa.

Sims, meanwhile, was the lynchpin in Gloucester’s pack for much of the 90s. A former captain of the club and now 49, the second row was also capped three times by England in 1998.

He was one of a number of Gloucester rugby players who have played cricket for Churchdown over the years – others include Paul Holford and Paul Williams – and Parry has fond memories of one game in particular in which Sims was involved.

“It was a Sunday game against a touring side and he bowled the first over of the innings,” said Parry. “Obviously he was a big bloke and for a bit of fun we put all the fielders in the slips for the first ball.

“He didn’t get a wicket but two balls later he did when everyone was back in their normal positions, I took the catch at mid-off.”

While Whittingham and Sims obviously enjoyed their cricket, Jessop was a superstar of his age.

And his association with Churchdown has only recently become known to Parry.

“I was at a meeting of the Cheltenham Cricket Society and I was shown a cricket scorebook which showed a game played between Churchdown and Churcham in 1890,” said Parry.

“The first surprise was that Churchdown Cricket Club existed in the 19th century and secondly one of the star players that day was Gilbert Jessop, who top-scored with 75 in Churchdown’s 249 and then took 5 for 0 as Churcham were all out for seven!”

Fellow Cheltenham Cricket Society member David Battersby is currently writing a limited-edition book on Gilbert Jessop titled ‘The Early Days of Gilbert Laird Jessop’. The book is due out in the summer and takes in Gilbert’s life from his birth in Cambray, Cheltenham, until his departure for Cambridge at the end of 1895 as a 21-year-old.

Gilbert played for a whole host of clubs in and around Cheltenham, first playing up on Cleeve Hill as an 11-year-old.

“The first record David has come up with of Gilbert playing for Churchdown is in 1888 and the last in August 1890,” said Parry.

He went on to play for Gloucestershire and played 18 tests for England including a famous performance in the fifth test of the 1902 Ashes series when he scored 104 in just 77 minutes, facing only 76 balls as England recovered from 48 for 5 to score 263 to win in a game that became known as ‘Jessop’s match’.

Jessop was the Ian Botham of his day, scoring his runs at a rapid rate and taking wickets for fun. In 1900 he had his best year for Gloucestershire, scoring over 2,000 runs and taking over 100 wickets.

He also won a blue at Cambridge University for hockey, played wing three-quarter for Gloucester and became a scratch golfer after he retired from cricket!

“With the assistance of David Battersby it appears Churchdown Cricket Club were formed in 1880 and we are proud to know that we are where one of cricket’s true legends started his career,” said Parry.

These days the club run two adult Saturday teams and a midweek evening league team.

The Saturday 1st XI play in Division Six of the Gloucestershire County League while the 2nd XI play in Division Two East of the Cheltenham/Gloucester/Forest of Dean League.

“It would be nice to win a promotion, particularly the 1st XI,” said Parry, a batsman who has scored more than 10,000 runs for the club, “but we play for fun. We’re a very social club.”

The club are always on the lookout for new players and anyone interested should call the 1st XI captain Ivor Griffiths on 07891 536736 or the 2nd XI captain Paul Brooke, who is also club chairman, on 07834 556273.

Anyone wanting details about the reunion should call Ross Parry on 07710 397558.

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