PENALLT CRICKET IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
It is well known that cricket was played in Penallt in the 19th Century but it is not quite clear when it was played first at Moorcroft.
One of the first benefactors of the Cricket Club was the Hon. A L Pelham who lived at Moorcroft in the late 19th Century and who donated the Pelham Hall to the village.
The following obituary was printed in the Monmouthshire Beacon on March 1st 1929 and indicates that Mr Pelham restored the cricket pitch at Moorcroft when he arrived in the village in 1883. This suggests that the Club had been in existence some years prior to that date.
On the 15th February, just about the time when the afternoon's snowfall began, there took place at the beautiful little church at Stanmer, Sussex, the funeral of the Hon. Arthur Lowther Pelham, the third and last surviving son of the third Earl of Chichester. Mr Pelham, who was a great uncle of the present Earl, passed away on 12th Feburary in his 79th year.
An interesting memory of Mr Pelham's young days was recalled by the fact that at the graveside, among the present employees of the Stanmer Park Estate, was Mr Spencer Mugridge, one year younger than Mr Pelham himself, who had been taught by Mr Pelham and his brother in the night school.
The rites were conducted by the Rev. E P Hughes (Rector of Stanmer and Vicar of Falmer). A carpet of purple and white was laid in the chancel beneath the trestles on which the coffin rested, and upon the coffin was a large cross of leaves, a token from Mrs Pelharn
Members of the choir led the singing of the hymns O God of Jacob, by Whose Hand and Abide with me, and as the cortege left the church the organist (Mr F Jones) played Spohr's Blest are the departed.
Among the chief mourners were: The Hon Mrs Arthur Pelham (widow), the Hon H G G Pelham (nephew), Mrs H G G Pelham and Miss Pelham, Major E Pelham Smith (nephew), Mrs Piercy and Miss Maud Pelham (nieces), and Miss Cust (sister-in-law).
Mr F H M Anderson (agent of the Stanmer Estate) and employees of the Stanmer Estate were among those present.
There was a number of floral tributes, including one from old Penalt friends.
The Hon Arthur Pelham was best known in Monmouthshire as a cricketer, but in his youth he won distinction in other branches of athletics. Perhaps his most prized treasure was a cup won by him while at Eton in 1868, aged 18, in the open half mile handicap of the London Athletic Club. In 1871 and 1873 he won the half mile championship of the Amateur Athletic Club, and for some years held the time record for the half mile (1 min. 59 1/5 secs.), though owing to improvements in racing tracks this record has long been passed. Other events for which he held trophies were the mile, quarter mile, and throwing the hammer.
A shooting accident to his hand at the age of 16 prevented Mr Pelham from rivalling the cricketing prowess of his brothers the Hon. F G Pelham and the Hon. T H W Pelham at Eton and Cambridge, but eventually this mishap did not interfere with his cricket and at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, from 1874 to 1877, he was distinguished for both bowling and batting.
Settling at Moorcroft, Penalt, in October, 1883, Mr. Pelham soon restored the excellent cricket pitch in the grounds, which had been made by the Rev. William Bagnall-Oakeley some years earlier, and, following the traditions of his Sussex home, made it one of his chief objects in life to encourage the boys and young men of the parish to learn and practise cricket in their leisure hours. Many of the villages around will have happy recollections of the beautiful cricket ground on the hill-top (800 feet above sea level) and the hospitality provided there.
Mr Pelham himself played up to 1913 when nearly 63 years old, and intended playing in 1914.
We are told that up to the last the Monmouthshire Beacon was his favourite newspaper reading, especially in the cricket season.
During his long residence at Penalt, Mr Pelham —who stood well over 6 foot in height and was strikingly handsome — devoted himself to the welfare of the parish He was also a churchwarden and read regularly the lessons on Sundays.
Mr and Mrs Pelham celebrated their silver wedding at Penalt in 1904, when the parishioners presented them with a silver rose bowl with names inscribed. This year, 1929, would have been the golden anniversary.
Mr Pelham was of noble birth, had a beautiful disposition, led a good life, was beloved by all, and I esteemed it a great privilege to be one of his friends.
Games of cricket - a rare leveller of the classes - played in Penallt at the end of the nineteenth century were described in the parish magazines of the time, sometimes in "straight faced" style. In the early summer of 1890 the match with Redbrook resulted in a tie, each side scoring 60 runs. The return match was played at Moorcroft in June and "wonder to relate, again the two sides were exactly equal in the first innings, the totals on this occasion being 42." The Penallt opening bats, Hon. A. L. Pelham and F. Herbert, each scored one run, but Pelham took eight wickets in Redbrook's innings. Penallt scored 21 all out in their second innings (highest score, Pelham with 11) but Redbrook managed only 9 for 4 wickets. Presumably rain stopped play.
Pelham took six wickets off Llandogo earlier in the year and on that occasion scored 34 runs - proof if it were needed of his family's cricketing reputation - while the vicar, Rev. P. P. Goldney scored the only duck. Penallt scored 142 and Llandogo 20 in this single innings match. The contemporary report is intriguing at one point when it refers to Llandogo as causing "some surprise by turning up, apparently in an exhausted condition, at a quarter past four. Their late arrival having been satisfactorily accounted for, they won the toss...". Why they were exhausted on arrival we might guess but how they accounted for it we shall never know.
The Penallt team had themselves been sternly warned in an earlier magazine when the editor wrote "It has been well said that 'Punctuality is the soul of cricket' and when a match has been advertised to begin at 2.30, it is extremely trying to a captain's temper to see some of his eleven slowly sauntering on to the ground at 3 p.m." Such a thing could never happen here today - could it?