A new untested ground, an unpaid-for pavilion, and a fresh war in the offing – these were the prospects, great and grim, facing Radlett Cricket Club on April 23, 1938, when the new pavilion was finally opened.
A simple structure made of red cedar wood and built on brick stilts, it was first reached by steps leading from just off the boundary to a verandah, two dressing rooms and a tea-room. There was no separate score-box then, just an enclosed ‘box’ in the pavilion, equipped with ‘tins’ – numbers on tin squares – and a huge wooden flap which was opened up during play. Tools and equipment were kept in a garage built in to the pavilion next to the kitchen and – at last – a bar.
Many months of hard slog on the ground, which was a ploughed field when purchased, led to the opening game on Saturday, May 30, only to see St. Albans soundly beat Radlett’s second team. The firsts fared no better at Clarence Park. But Ivor Golby – quickly in on the act – struck the club’s first ton (127 not out) at Cobden Hill next day in a drawn game against Mill Hill seconds.
Averaging 31.9 that year, Golby later came second in the first team batting averages below former Essex player Capt. F. Nicholas (33.5), who is credited as the first victim of a Cobden Hill pitch when he was knocked out while batting in a draw against Bushey. Peter Woodbridge hit the ground’s first official six that day.
An unpredictable wicket and lack of availability – as it often is nowadays – were the excuses trotted out for first team results of P22, W3, D9, L10. Poor fielding often let the side down, notably against Mill Hill which raised the comment in a match report: “Some of our team will keep their hands in their pockets – shall buy them some fielding gloves”.
But the Club more than made up for previous lapses in their match v Harpenden when nine men were caught. There was also a very prolific scorer called “Extras”. Radlett gave away 30 v. Bishop’s Stortford and Harrow Wanderers, though they gained as many back from Harrow and Hampstead.
The opposition, if anything, grew stronger on Sundays. Ian Peebles (Middlesex) took six wickets against Radlett for the Optimists, John Human (Middlesex) hit 84 for Repton Pilgrims to follow his 71 against Notts, the previous day.
On one occasion seven county players played either for or against the Club. Radlett certainly did things in style then. In a revival of an old fixture, a Club XI played a Radlett tradesmen’s XV.
But poor performances on the field were matched by a superb showing off it. June 6 saw the most ambitious fund-raising project ever undertaken by the Club. The staging of a huge fair in the field behind Wall House Dell, backing on to Watling Street. Brunton, who became Club president after Leonard Reid’s death in 1938, had provided the ground – now the Club had to pay for a pavilion.
There was a tremendous build-up with noisy lorry loads of supporters dressed up as pirates careering round the local towns besieging pubs, shops and railway stations from London to Bedford. And on the day, long distance trains stopped specially at Radlett.
Some 14,000 visitors came to enjoy over 30 sideshows along with dodgems, swing-boats and the roundabouts which Colby had charge of – “My head was spinning for days afterwards”. Star attractions such as ‘Bashing the beacon’, ‘Fishing for fizz’, ‘Smashing up the happy home’ and ‘Tip me out boat’ all provided good healthy (and violent?) fun. An anti-aircraft brigade put on a shooting display taking pot shots at an RAF plane.
There were fireworks, a non-stop viewing tent for one of the very first television sets, and 1,500 coconuts were ordered for the coconut shy. Efforts were rewarded. The Club raised £751 4s. 6d. – about £11,000 today (1984).
For England cricket too it was an eventful year. Hutton scored 364 at the Oval against Bradman’s Australians, which was then the world’s highest individual test score.