Wantage and Grove Cricket Club may well be the oldest sports club in the town. The programme for the 1895 season can be seen in a cabinet in the town’s museum, but the first recorded match was in 1863 against Abingdon which Wantage duly won. The Victorians were not constrained by 40 minutes for lunch and 15 minutes for teas, their meal breaks were all together more civilised with joints of cold roast beef, lamb, ham on the bone and huge pork pies followed by raspberry, gooseberry and other soft fruits as flans or tarts accompanied by flagons of ale or cider together with sherry and malt liquors. It is said that frequently there was some wild batting and bowling in the half hour after the resumption of play. Today, refreshments on match days are not quite so lavish although the odd flagon of ale is often in evidence when the game is over.
For many years the club played cricket on the Wantage Memorial Recreation Ground but in the late 1940’s a local farmer, Bertie Castle, generously offered a lease at a peppercorn rent on a much flatter site in Charlton Village Road opposite the Lord Nelson Pub. At that time Charlton was still a village but soon became a Wantage suburb with the housing development erected to accommodate the workers at Harwell Atomic Energy Research Centre. The cricket field remains and we hope to be playing there for many more generations, even as new houses spring up along-side at the new Crab Hill Development. These new houses have encouraged new features, with netting now lined up along two sides of the ground and we look forward to welcoming new members to the club who may move in to the new housing.
Since the late twentieth century, the Wantage and Grove teams merged and have embarked on new adventures in league cricket, traditional friendly cricket, and a local midweek 20 over league as well as the introduction of Under 11s cricket on a Friday night. On-field successes in that time have included consecutive promotions from Division 7 to Division 2 in the Oxfordshire Cricket Association League, a cup final appearance in the Telegraph Cup in 2014, and success in Division 4 of the Serious Cricket Berkshire Downs T20 League. A 6-a-side tournament first conceived of for our 150th anniversary in 2013 has also been a welcome annual fixture in our friendly calendar.
After admirably coping with the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the team is once again on the up after a merger of the two local Oxfordshire Cricket Leagues. A successful first year in the sixth tier of the Cherwell League saw promotion, and the Saturday league team looks forward to a competitive year ahead with some local rivals in the regionalised ‘5C’ division. We continue to offer a welcome brand of social cricket on Sunday afternoons and we also operate a Wednesday evening ‘after-work/school’ team, offering a mixed ability team plenty of opportunities to engage in enjoyable short-form cricket. Players from all teams are welcomed at our Thursday evening training sessions, which run throughout the summer and are supplemented with winter net sessions from January through to April.
Since 2017 the club has run a junior section, with two sessions operating on Fridays throughout the summer. These sessions are run by a fully accredited coach and cater for boys and girls from the age of 7. We look forward to welcoming some of these players to our adult teams as time progresses and the next generation of Wantage cricket can begin!
As well as the three thriving teams and the junior section, the club also has an active social members group. Social members pay a minimal annual membership fee and have use of the pavilion bar and indoor games facilities. Friday evenings are particularly active in summer, with parents of children attending the junior sessions making good use of the outdoor space, sunshine and the bar, with BBQ food also regularly available.
Pool and darts are played regularly and in the winter months knockout competitions are organised for these two games. The bar is always open on Wednesday and Friday evenings as well as Sunday lunchtime and match days – we are often busier in summer and we look forward to welcoming you to the clubhouse soon.