We are located in the shadow of the Clent Hills and ideally situated nine miles south west of Britain’s second city Birmingham. The club sits at the junction of two arterial roads, the A456 and A459 and is easily reached by road or public transport.
For many years it was believed that the club was founded before 1847 as a report in ‘Bell’s Life’ had indicated a game against Kingswinford had taken place that year. However upon further investigation the date of the fixture was Tuesday 2nd September 1857. This was further contradicted by a report in the Brierley Hill Advertiser of Saturday 2nd August 1856 when the fixture was reported as being played on the previous Tuesday. So it is now agreed that Halesowen Cricket and Tennis Club was founded in 1856, as this is the earliest documentary evidence that can be found although circumstantial evidence does indicate that the club may have existed before 1847 as previously thought.
What is known is since the club’s inception they have played at three different grounds and began life at a ground in Stourbridge Road, Halesowen. This area is known to all associated with the town as the Grove Recreational Ground after the owner of the ground, Harold Grove. Groves Button Factory was one of the principal employers in the town during the early years of the Club’s existence.
However a union with the town’s football club was not without its problems as the dual sports caused deterioration to the ground. Not an ideal situation for a team to play good cricket fixtures on. The war also played its part and in 1940 the club was wound up and all assets stored. Two years previously the tennis section had discontinued in response to rising costs.
It is not clear when the club changed its name to solely Halesowen Cricket Club but reports suggest that the Tennis part of the name remained until 10th April 1945. One month later cricket returned to the grove as Halesowen CC played host to the Old Wesleyans team. But with the advent of the MCCC in 1947 and the clubs desire to be one of the best in the area it was concluded that a new ground was needed.
In 1945 the newly set up Halesowen Athletic and Cycling club had purchased a tract of land just off Manor Lane. This was to become the home of the Athletic and Cycling club and is still in existence. It was officially opened in 1949 and was to be known as the Manor Abbey Sports Ground. Upon hearing of the clubs plans Halesowen CC discussed the possibility of moving to the ground and using it as its permanent home ground. Despite some of the obvious drawbacks with the small boundaries being one the club entered into negotiations to use the ground. The hosts agreed to fund the instillation of a cricket square and a rent of £100 per annum was agreed. In the space of one week during the 17th to 24th October 1947 the club voted to move to the Manor Abbey ground for the 1948 season.
The club first played at Manor Abbey during the 1948 season and stayed at the ground until 1956. It was a happy association with the Athletics and Cycling club and during the nine season period that the club stayed at Manor Abbey the hosts and tenants enjoyed a good relationship. The facilities were a marked improvement from the Grove and the backdrop of Manor Abbey proved a wonderful setting for cricket.
Halesowen’s long association with Worcestershire County Cricket Club began in 1949 when a request was made to stage 2nd XI fixtures. The club was delighted that the County agreed and staged a match between Worcs and Lancashire during the 1950 season. The picturesque nature of the ground also led to a request for the club to host Benefit matches and Eric Hollies, Jack Flavell, Hugo Yarnold and Don Kenyon all made appearances. Don Kenyon was to score the first century on the ground.
Despite the obvious success of the time at the Manor Abbey sports ground a desire to have a home ground devoted entirely to cricket was still forefront in everyone’s minds. The insecurity of tenure, fixture problems with athletics meetings and problems with evening games also contributed to the decision. However it is quite by chance that the club was to move to Seth Somers Park. If not for the professional relationship between Mick Archer and Bill Tivey and the former's spotting of works being completed at the site of the new ground then a merger between the Cricket and Athletics clubs may have taken place.
It was soon discovered that the ground owned by the Seth Somers Trust was being set up for use as a sports pitch. A meeting was arranged between the trust and club officials to discuss the possibility of the ground becoming the permanent home of Halesowen Cricket Club. The trust was sympathetic and provided certain conditions were met then the site would become the home of Halesowen CC. Those conditions being that the ground be open free of charge to the General public and that the club provided facilities for the Youth of Halesowen. It was also decided that the trust would meet all capital expenditure and the club all ground maintenance. Mick Archer, Bill Tivey and Jack Russell represented the Club in the long negotiations.
The club earmarked the 1956 season as the first at the new ground so it was imperative that funds were found for the new ground and pavilion. Dan Wellings, the club president, started the pavilion fund in 1955 with his own donation of £500. It proved so successful that the club was able to defray the £4500 cost in two years. A brick built pavilion was desirable but when estimates proved that it would be too expensive a wooden one was constructed. The contract was handed to A.M Farmer and it is said to have cost circa £3000.
Halesowen’s permanent home was opened on 28th April 1957 by Lord Cobham. A match between Halesowen CC and a Norman Whiting XI was also held on the same day. However the first fixture was held the day before when Solihull were the visitors and Eric Perry scored the first century on the ground. His 126 was commemorated by the presentation of a cricket bat by Alec Joynson. Colonel T.V Somers had opened the new wooden pavilion some three and half months earlier on 5th January 1957. It went on to become one of the most picturesque clubhouses on the local circuit with views of Clent and Walton. Further maintenance was undertaken with the front of the Pavilion terraced and seating provided, a brick scoreboard built,
a fence erected to stop balls entering the adjacent river Stour and important items such as covers being purchased. The links with Worcestershire County Cricket Club were to continue during the 60’s and two first class matches were staged at Seth Somers Park as Worcs CCC entertained Cambridge University on two occasions.
During the 60’s and 70’s the club built a side that was capable of beating anybody in club cricket. The fruits of which were seen in the 1979 season when the 1st XI won the Worcestershire League and the 2nd XI finished 2nd in division two. It was easily the club’s best season.1979 was also important as a watershed year for another reason. Tim Bee, with help from Keith Rose and Neil Mallett formed an Under 16 side, which was the basis for the present day Youth Section. It has since flourished under the watchful eye of many people including Pat Bell, Rob Round, and Brian McCann et al.
1983 saw the first of two refurbishments that have been completed to the old pavilion site. Replacement of the wooden pavilion was always going to be inevitable and with the threat of collapse a real possibility it was decided that repair would be impossible. A new brick structure was built in 1983 at a cost of approximately £55,000. Carl Williamson, Pat Bell, The Buckley Family and Brian Peplow were heavily involved in this project and their vision is the basis of the pavilion you see today. The clubhouse was officially opened on 31st August 1983. Our second refurbishment was completed in 1990 when the steel columns were removed and a new roof put on. Inside the entire building was refurnished and decorated thus creating one of the most pleasant clubhouses in the area. Our good relations continued with the Athletics club as they hosted the club’s members during the refurbishment period. The trust was also very supportive during the process and has been since the club moved into the new ground in 1957. Two extensions to the 21-year lease have taken place in 1978 and 1999 and it comes up for renewal in 2020.
But it is on the field that any cricket club will be judged and our performances have met with mixed fortunes. The year of the first refurbishment the club won the North Worcs Midweek League and Don Kenyon knockout on successive nights during an excellent season. The first XI won the Midland Club Championship in 1987 and the third XI the West Midlands Third XI championship in 1986, 1987 and 1988. Further titles in the Stourvale Mid Week League, Don Kenyon, Express and Star KO were also proof of the clubs strength. However the club struggled during the later part of the eighties and the first half of the 1990’s. But this decade was to end on a high.
However the major part of the eighties and nineties success story was the role played by the Youth Section. What began from humble beginnings turned into one of the best Youth Sections in Worcestershire. The club ran teams from Under 11 to Under 17 during this period and was driven by the enthusiasm of Pat Bell and many willing coaches, managers and volunteers. During the period the Youth Section provided many players for senior teams, won every major trophy in Youth Cricket including a first Under 13 title in 1989, first Under 16 title in 1992, and many others. The club was to see the Youth Section win trophies at Under 11, Under 13, Under 14, Under 15, Under 16 and Under 17 during the period. The first batch of county players were selected for Worcestershire during this period and 1989 was the most successful year when players were selected at Under 11, 13, 16 and 17.
However a successful Youth policy alone could not keep Halesowen at the top of the tree in club cricket. As some of the players who had made up the championship winning teams of the past began to retire we found it increasingly difficult to recruit players to take their place. The club found itself in a difficult position with a gap in the age groups of very young players and established veterans. However in 1998 the merger of the Birmingham League with already established leagues such as the Beddis Hobbs (formerly Midland Club Championship) and promotion and relegation signalled a new era in club cricket. From the very beginning Halesowen cricket club embraced the new structure and the appointment of Dave Manning as captain has coincided with the club’s best on field performances. Promotion from the 1st division was achieved in the second season and we have since then finished 4th in 2000, 2nd in 2001, 1st in 2002 and 5th in 2003 in the Birmingham and District Premier Cricket Leagues top division. The second XI was champion of division 1 in 2001 and the third XI champions of division 1 in 2003. 2004 will mark the completion of an un-written 5-year development plan that’s main aim was for all sides to be playing in the top division at the end of its life cycle. We have also reached the national KO competition round 5 (where it becomes a National competition) and entertained the West Indian Cavaliers in the quarterfinal in 2003. It was a superb days cricket, well organised by the many volunteers and our highest position in the competition to date.
Unfortunately the 1st XI were relegated from the premier division in 2005 and the 2nd XI also dropped down a division in 2006. Despite these setbacks there has still been success on the cricket field as the 3rd XI entered the Crusader Worcestershire County League in 2006 and were champions of division six. 2007 dawned with the 3rd and 4th XI’s invited to join the newly formed division four after the Crusader League expanded the number of teams in its double team divisions. We were happy to accept the offer and had achieved in two seasons, what we had speculated would take five seasons. Entering the Crusader League has improved the playing standard, reduced travelling time, enabled more of our youth section players to experience senior cricket at an earlier age and we have been able to retain more of our youth players.
The 2007 season marked our 150th Anniversary and 50 years at Seth Somers Park. The club owes a debt of gratitude to those who have passed through its membership during 150 years of existence and looks boldly forward towards the next landmark. 200 years of history will be complete in 2057 and we all hope that the young players of today are here to celebrate our next landmark.