History

Some History – Wimbledon United Cricket Club

Our story began in 1920

The Club was founded in 1920 by a group of cricket enthusiasts, among them railwaymen, shopkeepers and postal workers. We still have a postroom workers and (online) shopkeepers in the team. The main driving force of the Club was Sid Blundy. He was ably assisted by Bill Price, Ernie Cane, Frank Farley and Charlie Bowen. Their families still retain connections with the Club.

When the Club was formed no sport was allowed at Cottenham Park on the Sabbath. All the men worked on Saturdays in those days, so games took place on Wednesday afternoons. This was convenient for the railwaymen and postal workers on shift work and of course shops closed early on Wednesday afternoons. Hence the Club’s original name was Wimbledon Wednesday.

When cricket was permitted on Sundays in the late fifties / early sixties, games also took place on this day. Because there were Sunday and Wednesday teams the Club was renamed Wimbledon United. Later on in the sixties Wednesday games were dropped.

In 1970, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Club went on a cricket tour to Gouda in Holland, and for some years afterwards the clubs enjoyed each other’s hospitality. In the 1980s we helped Brading Cricket Club re-open their ground on the Isle of Wight. Cricket had been played there as long ago as the 1700s, but the game ceased when the town became landlocked and it no longer functioned as a seaport. For our 75th anniversary the Club Cricket Conference put out a Combined XI against us.

It has been the policy of the Club not to play League cricket. That is not to say however that we don’t try and win our games and compete hard. However over the years the Club has benefited from this policy, being able to play games against clubs knowing that they will be played in a friendly and sporting spirit, which has enabled long established bonds to be maintained.

It has always been a family club, involving wives and children. Our previous President and current Vice President belong to the fairer sex. Most importantly the ladies have provided teas that remain widely appreciated by our opponents and have been a feature of the Club since its onset.

Our Header shows the main Members who formed the Club. We still have family ties with those Founders. The Header also shows the current pavilion.

Our Home Ground – Cottenham Park

Cottenham Park was originally a large estate based upon a mansion – Prospect House – (sited just to the east of what was formerly the Atkinson Morley Hospital), with fine gardens laid out by Humphrey Repton and a model farm. In the early 19th Century it was owned by John Lambton, first Earl of Durham. Later it was bought by Charles Pepys, Earl of Cottenham and Lord Chancellor at the start of Queen Victoria’s reign. He lived in the house from 1830 to 1851. Not long after his death the house was pulled down and there seems little, if any, of the original estate remaining. However within the boundaries of the Park are two survivors, which almost certainly existed a hundred years before the Earl, namely two oak trees, near the Melbury Gardens entrance, which are estimated to be as much as 300 – 400 years old. They feature as the backdrop to the Pavilion in the photo above.

The ground was bought by the Council for recreational purposes in 1897. Recreation was stopped in 1939, when trench shelters were dug in the children’s play area. During the Blitz a bomb did fall in the children’s play area, but thankfully there were no casualties. During the Second World War Wimbledon suffered 150 people killed and 1440 injured, and 305 houses were destroyed. The shelters are still in the Park but have been filled in and most people now wouldn’t realise they existed. The current pavilion was opened in 1973. It originally had shared use by cricketers, footballers and bowls players. Regrettably the bowls green is no longer functional, though tennis is still played, with half a dozen hard courts available. Nobody has set out to organise Club tennis, although organised tennis lessons do take place, midweek, for local schools.

Cottenham Park During The War Years

INFORMATION BELOW PROVIDED BY LEN D’ALTON

We thought there may be some interest in war years surrounding Cottenham Park. The information below I extracted from various local publications. Following this I have attached maps of the area just south-west of here. The Blitz on London was a program of almost indiscriminant bombing on the Capital designed to break the spirit of the people.

The Cottenham Park area received some of the peripheral hits. However, it, along with the areas shown on the maps, were also victims of specific bomb targets. Our area was of great importance to the war effort.
1. As you leave Cottenham Park to join the A3, cross the motorway. After about half a mile you come to a road junction on your left. To your right you will see some white gates leading to a Private area. In this area Eisenhower had his head quarters.
2. The railway which runs through Raynes Park was the mainline for troop movements to Portsmouth, Southampton & Plymouth.
3. The A3 itself was a trunk road to Portsmouth.
4. Where ASDA is now on the A3 was the KLG factory making spark plugs for our aircraft.
5. Next door was Smith’s Industries making Instruments for our aircraft.

Recreation in Cottenham Park stopped in 1939. Trench shelters were dug in the children’s area & the sports field. These were formed of concrete arches below ground level with an entrance which was approached by steps & screened by a blast wall. Timber slatted benches lined the walls & the floor consisted of duck-boards because of the water which seeped through. At the end of each shelter was an escape hatch reached by means of a steel ladder. The Battle of Britain began in mid August 1940. The first bombs fell on Wimbledon on the 16th August, a few yards from the theatre. Fourteen people were killed & fifty nine injured. In September the Blitz of London started. On the 18th bombs fell in Cambridge Road, between Panmuir & Laurel Roads. One fell in the children’s play area forming a large crater. Thankfully there were no casualties.

The bombs were of 250kg size & this was as usual one of a cluster. On the 21st, hundreds of incendiary bombs were dropped between Cottenham Park & Wimbledon Common. At 10.20pm on 20th October more bombs fell on Cambridge road, the first on number 55. Another on the footpath damaged a gas main which caught fire. Two more fell in Cottenham Park. They wrecked a Warden’s post & damaged on of the entrances to the shelters. The next night more fell on the Allotments. The Blitz ended on the 10th of May, the worst day for London. Wimbledon had 4 killed & 6 injured, compared with London’s 1400 killed & 1800 injured. There followed a period of hit & run tactics by the German Air-force, for the next 3 years. The immediate vicinity of Cottenham Park seems to have escaped relatively lightly during this period.

However this was to change dramatically with the introduction of the V1 flying bomb in June 1944. At 2.50am on the morning of Saturday 1st July a flying bomb fell in Melbury gardens. Houses 10-14 & 3-19 were demolished. The gas main was broken & burst in to flames, destroying a number of army lorries parked near Cottenham Park. Further damage was caused to houses in Durham Road, Panmuir Road & Cambridge Road. Thankfully only 3 people were injured. The last of the V1’s landed on the 28th August in Lambton Road, causing havoc to houses in Amity Grove, Pepys Road & Cambridge Road. Two people were killed & 21 taken to hospital. During the war Wimbledon had 140 people killed & 1440 injured and 305 houses were destroyed. The shelters are still there, but have been filled in. One entrance did reappear a few years back, just about where the square leg umpire stands at the top end.

Conventional Bomb map

Eisenhower’s headquarters are still there, about half way between top dot & next down.
But it is a prohibited site by the Government.

We hope the information on this page has been of interest.