Records indicate no games in 1888 and the Club’s fortunes were left with die-hards such as Forfeitt and the local vicar, the Rev C M O Parkinson. With no games the following year it looked as though the club might fold.
Sadly, after the heady heights of scores in the 190s in 1886, Radlett came back to earth in their opening match of 1887 with a score of 13!
Such was, and is, the “grand old English game.” Enthusiasm waned after two successful opening seasons, and of 16 games played in 1887, three were cancelled due to lack of players, six lost and only three won.
Prospects looked grave when seven out of 26 playing members attended the AGM and even worse when it was resolved “not to carry on the Club during the next season but to give to the members of the Workmen’s Club use of such implements as the numbers of the present Club think desirable” – dire words indeed.
The club was more organised in their second playing season. Henry Lubbock, a keen cricketer, became the new owner of Newberries (and the ground), while Charles Part’s butler, a Mr Birtchnall, became secretary. Practice nights were arranged for Tuesdays and Fridays, and perhaps as a result, the Club did better, winning seven and losing five.
In the Club’s early days, scores of a hundred plus were rare because of the unpredictable wickets. But one of the Club’s characters, F J ‘Dickie’ Forfeitt, scored 66 in an all day match out of 195 to win against a Captain C H Barron’s XI by an innings and nine runs. (Often each side would bat twice in an all day match).
Forfeitt, who taught at Medburn Village School, site of the present Watling Street dog kennels, got all the practice he wanted by encouraging his boys to bowl against him. He did this by placing pennies on top of his stumps.
The first general meeting was held on April 28th in the Working Men’s Club room – on the approximate site of today’s Barclay’s Bank. And here the lines were firmly drawn – and a tradition begun which did not really die until after the Second World War. The first minutes read: “C.T. Part (in the chair) – owner of the Aldenham Lodge on the site of the present Lodge End development, E. Thomas and G.B. Thomas, Esqs. and Messrs. Picton (coachman to Part), Tansley, Fred Watson (grandfather of Roy), Forfeitt (the schoolmaster), Andrews, Illotson and Thompson”.
But for the record, Charles Part was elected president and treasurer, E. Thomas vice-president, G. Marsh ‘sub’ captain and ‘Dicky’ Forfeitt secretary. Fred Watson was one of the four elected committee members. The club got off to and inauspicious start. The ‘Challenges’ were sent to Munden Park, Childs Hill, and Letchmore Heath cricket clubs which were not taken up. Other matches were arranged but rain stopped play before Radlett could bowl a ball in its very first match on May 25th.
In 1884, Radlett was but a small part of Aldenham, not even warranting a mention on the maps of the day. It was the vicar, Revd. C M O Parkinson, the schoolmaster, Dickie Forfeit, Charles Part (picture left) and two ‘well-to-do’ gentlemen who agreed to establish a cricket club. They put their persuasive talents to work on a local, somewhat reclusive landowner, Sir Francis Head. Eventually, he allowed them to use a small field in his grounds at Newberries.
Having only 360 residents in the parish to draw from meant that the team saw little early success. It was some 13 years later before fortunes seemed to have improved, when in 1897 they managed to win 12 of their 19 fixtures.
About Sir Francis Head
Following is an excerpt taken from the Internet Archive relating to the “Families of Head and Somerville”.
Imagine a gently sloping grassy field strewn with cowpats, weeds and broken branches, on the left side of what is now the Shenley Hill end of Williams Way. An old lodge house stands on today’s junction of the two roads, and half a mile away along the stately drive lies the Newberries mansion and its outhouses.
All around are fields and trees, acres of them, stretching down a long steep slope to the London Midland Railway below, which arrows its way through the Radlett valley. Dotted here and there are the big houses whose owners daily commute to London on the steam trains. In between are much smaller dwellings rented by farming folk who make up the bulk of the population – about 360 souls in all.