Claygate Cricket Club
‘From fire to future’ … how a small club in Surrey is recovering from a devastating fire…
Recovering from a devastating fire and suffering the loss of a clubhouse is one thing, but Claygate Cricket Club’s clubhouse was less than five years old and destroyed by ‘wilful damage’, by vandals who were never caught.
The impact of the fire on both the club and the village has been devastating.
It’s a story of resilience and drive that now finds the club about to embark on a re-building project which will produce a clubhouse bigger and better than the previous one and provide the club and the village with a flagship facility that will last for many years to come.
Club President Steve Wells explains, “The last year has been enormously challenging for the club, and members have been working incredibly hard for us to compete in our 132nd season. The fire affected every facet of the club, but we have been so grateful for the support we have had from so many different directions in our hour of need, from Surrey CCC, the Fullers League, from other cricket clubs, from Claygate Recreation Ground Trust and from the local community.”
To continue playing this year, Claygate bought and fitted out temporary accommodation in the form of three movable cabins. They cost nearly £30k, but with a healthy financial position and the generosity of members, Claygate were able to do that. As a result they have been able to meet all their playing commitments in the Fullers Surrey County League this season. The facilities will meet their needs for next season as well whilst the main pavilion is rebuilt.
The club has a long history of resilience. It started 132 years ago when Mark Twain first wrote Huckleberry Finn and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado first opened at the Savoy Theatre in London. England played Australia in the first ‘Ashes’ test match only eight years before! The club became established thanks to the Honourable Fitzalan Foley as President with his private house ‘Loseberry’ as the first home ground.
The clubhouse that now stands as a burnt-out shell was completed and opened in 2012 after a three-year £400k fundraising effort in the community. The club was enormously proud of that achievement which provided one of the best club facilities in the county. The action by vandals on the night of the 7th November meant the process had to start all over again.
Insurance has covered most of the loss, but once again fundraising has been fantastic and there have been many events held in the last six months. One highlight was a game in July against the Surrey Masters XI – an opportunity offered right after the fire by Surrey County Cricket Club.
Despite the impact of the fire, Club Manager Russ Guyatt who has been a member of Claygate for over 20 years sees a positive future.
“As you can see by the strength of the fundraising and re-building effort, we are a strong community-based club. Senior membership is quite small at around 60, but we now have around 150 junior members. We run four senior sides – two competitive league teams on Saturdays, a friendly team on Sundays and one which plays 20/20 matches. One of the strengths of the club is the family feel. We have a number of players in their 60’s and 70’s. and several older players now play for Surrey Seniors.
“From 2014, our two league sides have played in the Fullers Brewery Surrey County League. Our 1st XI has been promoted twice since joining the League and now plays in Division One. Our 2nd XI has had mixed fortunes and now plays in the second tier of the Second Division Championship.
Russ continued, “Thanks to growing support, we’ve been able to put substantial effort into developing our juniors and the benefits are really starting to show with some great prospects playing at the junior level. We now have eight teams playing competitive cricket in the West Surrey Youth League and Kwik Cricket (now All Stars) continues to flourish on a Sunday morning. The club also started to reach out directly to local schools running Kwik cricket training sessions in Claygate and Esher Schools. The club has hosted several schools’ Kwik Cricket competitions featuring local primary schools.
“We started to coach a number of girls recently and we had our first competitive game last summer. We are now looking for our own female coach.
“A number of years ago we invested in an all-weather artificial strip so we are able to play junior games even after bad weather, or if there is heavy use of the main cricket square. Last year and before the fire we carried out three major improvement projects: installing a second artificial wicket so we can now run two junior matches on the same day, purchasing a mobile net which enables use with the artificial pitch, flattening the bowling ends and laying a completely new pitch. Our new club nets opened two years ago and are used extensively.
“All this has benefitted from solid sponsorship support and community backing and we are very grateful to local estate agent Grosvenor Billinghurst with shirt sponsorship at both adult and junior level. The Hare and Hounds – the local pub and restaurant – has also given us generous support and provides a great place to meet!”
So in its132nd year Claygate is facing major challenges created by that night in November, but with typical Claygate spirit they are looking forward to their new clubhouse which hopefully will be open and ready at the end of 2018.
President Steve Wells added, “What is clear is that whilst Claygate is small in comparison to many neighbouring clubs, we have a big heart, and will come back stronger and better placed in the future”.