The earliest record of cricket being played on Ickwell Green is in a newspaper cutting from the 17th August 1839 edition of "The Beds Mercury & Huntingdon Express".
"A match of Cricket was played at Ickwell Green, on Friday 2nd inst., between eleven gents of the Parish of Warden, and eleven of the Parish of Northill; ...this being the first match played on Ickwell Green, it excited some interest and the company was very numerous, amongst whom we noticed the Hon. G. Ongley, the Hon F. Ongley, Rev. J. Taddy, Mrs. Taddy and family, and a great number of ladies, whose smiling countenances animated the players to do their utmost".
This match was also reported in the 10th August 1839 edition of “The Cambridge Independent Press and Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette” which added:-
"the playing of Messrs. Neal and Jackson, of Warden, was truly excellent; and that of Halifax and Newman, was decidedly of the first rate. The day was remarkably fine, and afforded a great holiday for the parishioners, who seemed to take a decided interest in the game".
In this match Warden emerged as winners by 29 runs. A return match was played on the 8th August which Warden also won this time by ten wickets.
" ... in a meadow appropriate for the game when the Warden came off victorious with 10 wickets to go down..... the day being a fine one, numbers attended from the neighbouring villages, and to enliven the amusements of the day, a band of music attended".
In the following year there is a report of a match on the Green "between eleven gentlemen of Ickwell and Warden, and eleven from Biggleswade".
The Northill Parish Magazine of May 1893 reported "At Caldecote the Married beat the Single: At Ickwell it was the other way round. Both Clubs have a good list of Matches for the season."
"THE ICKWELL CRICKET CLUB was re-organised at a recent Meeting. We heartily wish it success. It has a beautiful ground to play on, and there has never been any lack of funds. All it wants is a little more enthusiasm in its Members. There are practically only two Rules:
The first was well carried out at the Meeting, when the Members’ Florins came in well. Nor will there be any difficulty about the second, if all will work together under the leadership of Captain Arthur Law.”
Later in that year the August magazine reports that matches were played against Henlow, Mogerhanger, Beeston and Caldecote. Only one innings was greater than 63 and the highest scores by batsmen were A Law, 21, and G Bygraves, 20.
"The list of fixtures occupies all the Saturdays but one from now until August 13. The games to be played on Ickwell Green are Muggerhanger, Barford, Sandy, Blunham and Biggleswade."
At this time Ickwell cricket teams were made up entirely from players who lived in the villages of Ickwell and Northill. Games were only played on Saturdays. The poorer pitches and long grass in the outfield meant that the number of runs scored was a fraction of what they are today. Matches were dominated by bowlers and often two innings were played in an afternoon. Batting was much more of a challenge!
The playing strip was cut out with a handmower that required considerable effort to push. The heavy roller had to be pushed by hand. The outfield was not cut and grass was kept down by cows that grazed on the outfield during the week. Any mess had to be cleared up before the game!
There was no pavilion and players got changed under the oak tree just across the road from the ground or came already changed. A box to keep the kit in was kept permanently under this oak tree. It was not locked and was quite safe with no fear of being broken into.
In the 1930’s teas were provided in her kitchen by Mrs Williams (who lived in what is now Jimmy Heath’s house) and the two teams would traipse over to her house every Saturday to eat. There were few cars so players would go to away matches either in a hired coach or cycle to matches.
Ickwell 1st XI were winners of the East Beds and District League Division II in 1929 and Division 1 in 1938 and we have team photographs of these winning sides. Some well known names in the history of the club were captain Jimmy Turnbull, Alf Marsom, Jack Humphries and Ted and Geoff Reeks amongst others.
During the six years of the Second World War no cricket was played at Ickwell and the ground was in a very poor state when Geoff Reeks came out of the army and returned at the end of the war. He and Duchy Thompson, together with other club members, spent many weeks working on the Green trying to get the grass down and re-establish the square and playing area.
In 1949 they bought a second hand set of gang mowers from the Regimental Depot at Kempston Barracks for £65 and Charlie Milton regularly used these to cut the outfield with the help of a tractor to pull the gangmower. To quote Geoff Reeks “From then on the outfield was regularly cut for the first time. Alf Marsom cut the outfield for years thereafter with the mower we bought. Consequently the outfield was much improved after the war. There were no longer cows grazing on the ground. As there were gradually more cars on the road we could no longer let cows wander around.”
After the war it was decided that the pitch needed to be relaid. This was done by a Mr Goff from Elstow and an invoice from 1947 shows “For Relaying Cricket Table £75”. During the war there had been a gun emplacement on the square and the club was paid £10 to £15 compensation but this was nowhere near enough to cover the cost of relaying the square.
Ickwell Cricket Club is famous for the oak tree that stands in the outfield and this has been adopted as the Club logo. It is estimated that it was planted in about 1758.
The first mention of building a pavilion was in 1939 but was delayed by the Second World War. On Easter Monday 1946 Ickwell Cricket Club presented “A Mammoth Holiday Fun Festival” to raise money. The programme of events included a Funfare and Amusement Arcade, a Variety Concert, a Whist Drive and Old Tyme Dance. A slab cake was obtained – such a delight was very difficult to get at that time because of food rationing after the war - it was cut into portions and sold to raise money. The cake weighed ¾ of a hundredweight (185 kilograms)! The fete raised £67 for club funds.
Definite proposals to build a pavilion were mentioned at the Club AGM in 1951. In a later interview with The North Beds Courier on 11 May 1954 when asked whose idea this pavilion was Geoff Reeks, Club Secretary, said “it “just growed”. “We can do it” was the unanimous opinion of the members. A Public Appeal raised £110 in gifts and £186 10s in loans mainly from people living in the villages of Ickwell and Northill. The largest contributor was the school mistress, Mrs James, from Northill School who made a loan of £100.
“The pavilion was built by volunteers. The thatching cost £231 – it was all done in reeds by a proper thatcher. Mr Beresford-Wright, who was the chairman of the club, worked for Stewartby bricks and donated 12,000 bricks for the building of the pavilion. The rest of the work was done by members of the club. Some were bricklayers who did the corners and others filled up the sections in between. At that time after the war it was very difficult to obtain wood and Tom Newton who was foreman at Old Warden helped obtain the timber. These included the oak posts which are still there in the present day pavilion. The new pavilion cost £550 and the major part of this was the thatching. It was one of the best pavilions in the local area. Most of the others just had a hut of some sort. Visiting teams are frankly envious of this grand pavilion”.
In the following years various improvements occurred both on and off the field as the nature of village cricket at Ickwell and other clubs began to develop into the game we would recognise today. In 1976 the pavilion was enlarged as extensions were added to give dressing rooms at either end. Sometime around 1972 the first practice nets were laid down and in 1980 a proper wooden scorebox erected. But it wasn’t until 2000 when Ickwell joined the Bedfordshire County League that sightscreens first appeared on the ground.
It was a long time before games were played on Sundays. The first in 1955 was at an away venue as there would have been some opposition to playing on The Green. The first home Sunday games were in 1968 and it wasn’t until the following season that Sunday games were regularly played at Ickwell.
Mid-week cricket was played in the Bedford Hospital Cup and Ickwell won this very popular competition in 1957 and two years later were winners of the East Beds Shield.
In 1967 the Millman Competition was formed after Geoff Millman had finished playing for Nottinghamshire and England. At this time friendly cricket was becoming less popular because many games were ending in tame draws. It was agreed to set up a competition based on the recently introduced limited overs format of the Gillette Cup – no draws and winner take all. The Millman proved to be extremely popular and after a year or two applications came from everywhere. Leading clubs in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and Buckinghamshire joined this new competition. Bedfordshire and the surrounding area became one of the first in the country to play limited overs cricket. It soon became the mainstay of local cricket and led to an improvement in the standard of play.
Ickwell Cricket Club was a founder member with Geoff Reeks being a leading light as league secretary and he continued in this post for about twenty years. Later counties began to form their own Saturday leagues and sides drifted away from the Millman. Much later the Bedfordshire League was established for Sunday cricket in the County but many clubs continued playing on Saturdays in the Millman for several years. Ickwell continued playing Millman cricket for altogether forty-one years until 2009.
Ickwell were winners of the Millman two years running under the captaincy of Neville Course. After two games had been lost at the beginning of the 1986 season Neville was asked to take over the first eleven and did not lose another game all season. They also won the Millman Cup the following season.
In 1990 twelve cricket clubs set-up the Bedfordshire League that would play their games on Sundays. Several of them had already left the Millman Competition to play their Saturday cricket in the Hertfordshire County Cricket League. In 1999 the league decided to expand and invited five more clubs including Ickwell to join and first and second elevens were entered. This change could not have happened at a worse time for Ickwell as the playing strength of the club was very weak. Somehow the club managed to put together a couple of sides and the second eleven was very much a makeshift side containing several people with little playing experience. In the first year in the Bedfordshire County the first eleven didn’t win a single game and the seconds managed four wins. In 2000 the first won a couple of games and three in 2002. Captains Alan Wise for the 1st XI and Gerry Ingham for the 2nd XI, both newcomers to the club, did a tremendous job in keeping up the team spirit through these difficult times.
In the next few years we steadily made progress through the divisions. By 2005 the 1st XI was in the Premier Division and in 2007 they were runners up having led the division for most of the season and only losing the top spot on the final weekend. The 2nd XI got promotion to Division 2 in 2006. In every year between 2002 and 2007 at least one of the Ickwell sides won promotion in either the Bedfordshire County or Millman leagues.
In 2009 Ickwell Cricket Club left the Millman League to play a higher standard of cricket on Saturdays in the Huntingdonshire County Cricket League. In their first season Ickwell 1st XI were champions of Division 1 and gained promotion to the Tucker-Gardner Cambridgeshire & Huntingdonshire Premier League. In this league they immediately gained promotion from Division 2 to Division 1 – a very high standard of cricket. But this performance could not be sustained and they were soon relegated back in to the Huntingdonshire County League.