Cricket in Chalfont St Giles and the Hearne family.

Contributed by Roger Cook.

The first 'cricket club' founded as such, and not a collection of players brought together for betting purposes, was Hambledon, founded about 1768 (date is an estimate but the famous cricket historian H.S.Altham suggests that his research points to the early 1750s when organised by the local squire, Thomas Land). Hambledon practically broke up in 1791 but existed in name until 1825.

Cricket in and around Chalfont St Giles is recorded back to the early 1800s with a few local villages Penn, Chalfont St Peter, Cholesbury, Risborough recorded as playing in the 1700s. These earlier clubs were not alone, as transport was a key factor; therefore other local villages including St Giles could have played but they have not been identified in the record books or early newspapers.

Chalfont St Giles Cricket Club was registered as being formed in 1870 (CCC Handbook) but cricket in St Giles is also recorded as being played in 1840 (Wheelwrights to Wickets by J W Hearne). A report in the BB and H Chronicle suggests that St Giles was running a cricket team in the 1820s. By the late 1860s the village could turn out a junior team that played Gerrards Cross junior XI (Uxbridge Journal). The senior team of the same era was represented by: Kirby, William Hearne, W. Curtis (wicket keeper), Herbert Hearne, Walter Hearne, Foard, Ives, G. Montague, Gurney, W. Montague, Craft. Herbert taking 8 wickets in a two innings match and Walter 11 wickets, enabling an easy win for their team. The Montague brothers were cousins of the Hearnes.

Other players in the late 1870s included H. and W. Curtis jnr, W. Bailey, Langstone, Turner, Stacy.

Without further research it is quite possible that the noble game was played in and by the village in earlier times. There does not appear to be a 'Home' ground. Several fields belonging to local farms are named, Hill Farm, Ashwells (Trumpers) Farm, etc.

Here is a short list of recorded Cricket matches played by local towns and villages within an easy travel distance:

1769. 23rd June. Chalfont St Peter played a cricket match against Penn at Chalfont, probably on Gold Hill Common. The Estate papers of Mr. Andrew Baker of Penn incurred to Mrs Gurney, expenses of One Guinea for the match. [Bucks Records Office, Aylesbury]

1774. 9th Aug. Risborough played Wycombe in Lord Le Despencer's Park, West Wycombe for a silver cup of £5 value. To meet at 9 o'clock and pitch wickets at 10. [Oxford Journal]

1798. August 14th-15th. On Tuesday, August 14th, and following day, was played a grand single match of cricket at Hyde Heath, near Wickham [High Wycombe], Bucks between three of a side for 200 guineas. Howard Esq. (Howard Esq. West & Talmash) v Jones Esq. (Jones Esq. Lintott & Hunt). Scores Howard Esq: 49 and 11, Jones, Esq: 29 and 23. Howard, Esq. won by 8 runs. Betting was five to four in favour of Howard, Esq., at starting. [Bri] (ACS)

1823. Mon 11th Aug. Aylesbury played Chepping Wycombe on the Rye. A number of booths and marquees were erected for the accommodation of the great concourse of spectators who attended to witness the dexterity of the parties. Aylesbury scored 95, Cheeping Wycombe 48 and 32. The parties dined together and the day's diversion was crowned with harmony. The return game is to be played on Mon. 25th Aug. [Windsor and Eton Express]

Mon 11th Aug. Gentlemen of Wooburn (including the two Howards) played Gentlemen of Beaconsfield (including Lord Kirkwall) on Wooburn Green. Won by Wooburn. [Windsor and Eton Express]

Thurs. 14th Aug. Risborough played Aylesbury at Risborough. Risborough scored 52 and 67, Aylesbury 75 and 45-6 [Windsor and Eton Express]

1824. Tues 10th Aug. Rickmansworth played 4 Parishes (Chalfont St Peter, Chalfont St Giles, Iver and Beaconsfield) at Rickmansworth Park. Rickmansworth scored 71 and 145, 4 Parishes 41 and 21. [B B and H Chronicle]

The Hearne family is probably one of the most famous of all time as the combined families, not only those born and lived in St Giles, represented all levels of cricket from international to village from the 1700s to the 1900s. The St Giles family starts with Joseph Hearne and Rebecca, their four daughters Helen, Ann, Mary and Rebecca and son William all born in St Giles. Joseph a builder, carpenter born in 1796; his son William born in 1828, a talented cricketer for St Giles, was also a builder and undertaker by trade and married Ann Montague. They had five sons and two daughters all born in St Giles. Three of the cricketing sons, Herbert, Walter and John Thomas became first class cricketers. The youngest brother William was an adept cricketer and became a cricket coach and groundsman.

Herbert, born 1862, played cricket for Kent but a knee injury forced him out of the first class game. He played for Bucks and many local clubs but also trained as a carpenter. He married Mary Ann and had ten children.

Walter, born 1864, played for Kent (1887-1896), Bucks and like Herbert for many local clubs. Also like his brother Herbert he was forced out of the first class game with a knee injury. He continued to live in Canterbury and married the widow Hannah Fagg.

John Thomas born 1868 originally trained as a carpenter with the aim of taking over the family business. JT, as he was known, played for England in 12 Test Matches with a debut against South Africa in 1892, for Middlesex (1888-1923) and lived in St Giles at Lynton Cottage with his wife Edith Anna, whom he married in 1905 at Wellington, Somerset. He was best known as JT in his life and was the best known of the brothers. Only three bowlers (Rhodes, Freeman and Parker) have ever taken more first-class wickets than Middlesex and England's JT, "Old Jack" Hearne. A fast-medium bowler with a textbook action. In all he took 3,061 wickets in first class cricket, using guile and varied off breaks and pace to lure batsmen into his trap. Three of his victims gave him England's first hat-trick against Australia, at Headingley in 1899, and it was a seriously illustrious trio: Clem Hill, Syd Gregory and Monty Noble. JT was named Cricketer Of The Year in 1892. He was a handy lower-order batsman, a useful slip, and a respected coach - he spent his retirement with Oxford University in the summers and, for six years, with the Maharaja of Patiala in India in the winters. In 1920, Hearne became the first professional cricketer to be elected to the Middlesex committee, a place he held until the end of the decade.

In 1907 JT was invited by Lowndes of Chesham to represent his team, that also included W.G. Grace, against a select Chesham XI. At the age of 40, JT's return for 37 overs was 5-108. [Bucks Examiner]Three seasons later JT again topped the first class bowling averages.

William, born 1860 and a good cricketer became by 1881 a groundsman and coach for Household Brigade, Chelsea living in Hammersmith and later Wellington College. He married Rebecca Mary Dunkley of St Giles at Kensington 1884. William had briefly moved back to St Giles by 1911 but died as a result of an industrial accident in Liverpool. (Wheelwrights to Wickets by J W Hearne)

Herbert and John Thomas are both buried in the Churchyard of St Giles Parish Church.

REFERENCES. Unless otherwise specified, all references given above refer to catalogue references at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies at Aylesbury. (County Record Office)

This print is a section of the Chalfont History website.

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John Dodd ©2012