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Goatacre Cricket Club – The Story So Far May 2014

When Ewart Iles moved from Purton to Goatacre in 1913 after he married the daughter of a local farmer, no one could have predicted the influence he would have on so many lives, from his interest in cricket which he had developed at a very early age.

He took up residence in the farmhouse which was to become his home for the remainder of his life and still found time to continue playing cricket for Purton until 1914 when war broke out and most clubs were disbanded for the duration.

After the war, Ewart was persuaded back to Purton for his Saturday game, but found that work and family commitments made it difficult to travel to Purton, so with great reluctance he left them and joined a team in Calne. He was by now well known and respected locally and within a few years had decided that Goatacre would benefit from the formation of it’s own cricket club, his own sons Keith & Mervyn were of an age where they were keen to play, as were numerous other local youngsters.

After discussion with his wife they decided to make a small field available as a playing field for all local children. Today that field is Goatacre cricket ground. Preparation began and stones, cow pats and weeds were removed and a “square” 3 pitches wide was produced. The ground was fairly level and the outfield was cut with a two horse mower and the square with a push along lawn mower. Changing facilities were rudimentary to say the least, being either a farm shed or under a tarpaulin cover, run off the farm wall.

A meeting was held to invite players to join and a good number attended. Officers were elected, including Mrs Iles and Mrs Reeves who for many years provided the teas on trestle tables in the open air. The club played it’s first games in 1928 and fixtures were arranged against teams within a 15 mile radius, away games being reached by cycle, apart from the wicket keeper, Fred Heath, who carried the kit and one 
player on his motor bike and side car.

In 1929 a corrugated pavilion was erected by playing members, making Goatacre one of the few clubs in the area to boast it’s own pavilion. It even had running water from a tank in the garden filled by milk churns.

As the years progressed, machinery was purchased to help prepare the ground, facilities improved and the list of friendly fixtures increased.

In 1934, a great supporter of the club, Mr. E.T.Williams donated a cup to the club, he wished to incorporate the maiden name of his wife and so the Callick Williams Cup was born. The far sighted committee of the day decided to offer the cup as a prize in a knockout competition. 

The Callick Williams Cup competition was by invitation to local clubs and produced some wonderful cricket over the years, with clubs such as Purton, Wooton Bassett and Westinghouse Tornado’s giving great entertainment at Gotacre where the semi-finals and finals were held for over 70 years.

In 1939, war broke out once again and cricket was suspended until the summer of 1946, when to great rejoicing, matches commenced again under the captaincy of Keith Iles. As time passed, the team gradually improved in quality and began to gain fixtures against bigger and better clubs. In 1954 it was felt that the facilities were somewhat lacking, the corrugated pavilion was now very dated and did not have proper toilets. It was then, not for the first time, that the ladies of the club stood forward and began a programme of fund raising. This went on until 1958 and a wooden sectional hut was purchased for £165 in Melksham, which was fine but there was no room to erect it and it was too large to use solely as a cricket pavilion. Once again in stepped Ewart now affectionately known as ‘Grampy’ Iles who donated land for the pavilion to be built on and used by the Cricket Club and as a Community Centre for the whole village. He also donated land for a car park and in 1959 the Goatacre Cricket Pavilion and Community Centre took shape, providing facilities to match the surroundings.

The club continued to be very much a local and family club, not travelling far to play matches, until 1962 when links were forged with Claygate CC in Surrey, who we played regularly for nearly 40 years. The trip to Claygate was eventually incorporated into the first ‘tour’ with two or three other games being played in the area.

In the early 1970’s a youth development policy was begun, with half a dozen promising youngsters sent to learn cricket from Geoffrey Pratt in Wootton Bassett. Most of these are still playing to this day and it was the start of this youth development which has enabled the club to enjoy the success it has. 

For many years no Sunday cricket was played as a respect for the Iles family support of the local Methodist Church. It was only the Club’s entry in to the then Haig sponsored National Village Cup in 1972 that special dispensation was allowed for us to play home games on a Sunday.

The club didn’t enter league cricket until the 1980’s so the Village KO was an ideal opportunity to concentrate the playing mind compared to the friendly cricket the Club played on Saturdays and weekday afternoons against may touring sides. On reflection many of these ‘friendly’ games could be compared favourably to today’s league battles due to elements of local rivalries against the larger town sides, Calne and Wooton Bassett and comparable village opponents in the likes of Purton, Spye Park and Potterne amongst many. The Club also played many 20 over knock out competitions from the Swindon CC organised Morse Shield, the Chippenham CC organised Village KO as well as our very own Callick Williams Cup into which 16 local teams competed each season.

1972 saw the inauguration of the National Village Cricket Championship, sponsored by Haig Whisky. The club entered from the start but initially had little success, winning only two matches in the first three years of the competition. 1976, saw the club make great strides forward, reaching the county final stage for the first time, but losing to a very strong Spye Park side by 50 runs. The Club also continued to enjoy great success in 20 over competitions, but resisted from joining league cricket, as it was felt we would lose the friendly atmosphere and sporting behaviour that was enjoyed in friendly fixtures.

In 1977, our great friend and founder, Ewart Iles sadly passed away aged 89, it was entirely fitting that his Grandson, Graham, played the match winning inning in the Callick Williams cup final two days later.

In 1980, with the youngsters to the fore and Kevin Iles scoring 80, the club defeated Little Durnford CC by 45 runs to win the regional final of the National Village KO to reach the last 32 in the country. Although we lost the next round to Frocester the experience was good for the team and in 1983 we reached the last the last 16 of the competition before losing to three times winners Troon in Cornwall.

Progress was maintained as we reached the quarter finals of the competition in 1985, losing to Kilve CC of Somerset on a damp day at Goatacre. After letting Kilve recover from 18 – 3, a certain lack of mental toughness was displayed and at a very uncertain AGM it was decided to apply to join the Wiltshire League in 1986, as one of the last teams in the county to give up playing Saturday friendly cricket.Our thoughts that we might lose the enjoyment of playing fun cricket, especially from the older members, proved unfounded, as everyone enjoyed the competitive but still sporting nature of league cricket. 

Starting in Wiltshire League division 3, consecutive promotions saw us start the 1988 season in division 1. Our whole game had improved and we now had a second team and competition for places. 

The 1988 season proved to be the most successful in the clubs history and after winning a tense National Village KO semi final at Goatacre in front of 1000 people, it was a proud village that migrated to Lords in August to play Himley from Staffordshire in the final of the National Village KO. After a wonderful pre match banquet amongst special guests such as Sir Len Hutton, Brian Johnston and Leslie Crowther, we fielded first and after restricting Himley to 203, batted for one over in reply, before torrential rain saw the match abandoned. In the replay at Beckenham the next day, 4-45 and 91 not out from Kevin Iles, saw Goatacre beat Himley by 4 wickets to become National champions after a remarkable weekend of cricket. The celebrations continued for weeks as the Wiltshire League division 1 title was clinched the following weekend.

The club went from strength to strength, the following year losing at St Fagans in the quarter finals but going on retain the league title and then in 1990 returning to Lords to play Dunstall in the final of the National Village KO, winning by 50 runs in the highest scoring final ever. Goatacre’s score of 267-5 in 40 overs is a record for the final and Kevin Iles with 123 off of 49 balls, scored the fastest ever century at Lords (39 balls) by any cricketer in the history of the game. The innings included 4 consecutive 6’s, with two of the balls disappearing out of the ground and into St Johns Wood road. Even the MCC members were roused to a standing ovation when Iles was finally caught in the penultimate over. Jon Angell followed this up with 4-18 as Goatacre won comfortably.

By this time, as well as our league cricket going well, we had developed a successful youth section, with the U15’s good enough to narrowly lose to South Wilts CC in the county final, who then went on to be national champions, in a great season for not just the club but Wiltshire cricket in general.

Local interest in the club was tremendous and we received lots of support from many local clubs and an interesting fact is that 6 or 7 local villages started cricket clubs in the early 1990’s, so great was the interest in cricket locally.

The youth teams have continued to prosper, with around 20 players representing the county in the last few years, including Jason Searle who went onto play for Durham and England U19’s and Liam Dawson, who also represented England U19’s and has been a fixture in Hampshire's multiple trophy winningside since 2008. Liam still plays for the club when ever his professional duties allow.

The 1990’s saw us try in vain to recreate our Lord’s glories with our furthest Village Knockout run ending in a heartbreaking last ball defeat to Botany Bay of Hertfordshire in the 1994 quarter final. However, with many of the county’s top clubs playing in strong leagues elsewhere we began to dominate the Wiltshire League  winning multiple titles. Our 3rd team were also introduced, playing first at Cherhill, then at Spye Park. 1999 saw perhaps our most successful all round season as all 3 sides won their respective divisions with only 2 defeats suffered between the 3 teams.

The introduction of the West of England Premier League in 2000 gave a better structure to league cricket in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset and our Wiltshire League title the previous season entitled us to a place in the 4th tier of the new pyramid structure in Gloucestershire/Wiltshire Division 2. This led to matches against many new teams and a successful first season saw us finish runners up and win promotion. The 2nds meanwhile won every game to be crowned champions of the equivalent 2nd XI league. 2001 saw us in Glos/Wilts One where the increase in standard caught us off guard and we were immediately relegated only to again come 2nd in Glos Wilts Two and win promotion in 2002. We then maintained our position for 5 seasons with a best finish of 2nd place in 2005 but in 2008 a poor season saw us drop back down again after finishing 2nd from bottom. During this period we reached the last 16 of the Village Knockout on 3 occasions but lost to Cornish sides Menheniot (2001) and Werrington (2002 and 2004). 

A 4th place finish in the recently created WEPL Wiltshire Division in 2009 gave little indication of what was to come in the following years but under the captaincy of Craig Gibbens we embarked on a remarkable 3 season run that saw us come within a point of 3 successive promotions. We only lost one game en route to winning the Wiltshire Division in 2010 before comfortably winning the Glos/Wilts Division at the first attempt back. 2012 then was so close to being the greatest in the club’s history as we were in with a chance of another Lord’s final and also promotion to WEPL Premier One. Unfortunately though we lost at home to eventual winners Reed of Hertfordshire in the Village Cup Semi Final before a disastrous batting collapse in the final game saw us lose to Keynsham and miss out on promotion to our opponents by just 1 point. During this period there were other notable successes for the club though with the 2nds winning back to back league titles in 2009 and 2010 while the 3rds were able to play in the village for the 1st time after we were able to develop the lower field into one fit for cricket. The Iles connection continues with our new ground, as the owners are Graham, Kevin and Andrew the grandsons of EV Iles, the original owner of our main ground. 2011 also saw the introduction of a 4th XI, a notable achievement for a village club.

We have always benefitted and are grateful, for the generous support of our Vice-Presidents and along with an increasing number of sponsors this enables us to improve facilities and playing standards.  

We are also very grateful to the Village Hall and Sports and Social Club Committees who manage and maintain the premises which we effectively use as our Clubhouse and who also run the much appreciated bar. Without the support and hard work of many volunteers we would not enjoy the facilities that we do and it is a great credit to all those involved that the hall and bar is in use all year round.