All families need a home and Rye Cricket Club is no
exception. Over the past 260 seasons, the club has played at three venues. From
1754, and possibly earlier, the club played at Camber Castle - the
fortification built by Henry VIII. A cutting from the Daily Advertiser dated
August 19 1747 recorded one of the earliest matches played in Rye. Having
moved from Camber Castle the club then started playing games on the Polemarsh,
now known as Gibbets Marsh. There is little known of games here. In 1834, the
River Rother had an embankment built to provide a sports area for the town,
which is now known as the Cricket Salts. Cricket moved to its new home until
1844 where it is still played today.
The Sussex Agricultural Express reported the first
game to be played there on August 3, 1844.
It reads, “On Thursday, the 25th July, the return
match of cricket between the Rye and Lydd Clubs was played on the Town Salts,
near the Fishmarket, being the first match ever played there.
“The day was
exceedingly favourable and the game well contested. The bowling on both sides
was very good, especially that by E.Bromham which elicited the praise of the
byestanders, who were very numerous.
close our observations on the game without one word in praise of the old
veteran Gilbert, who, in spite of time, still makes the young folks fear for
their stumps. A dinner and supper was provided at the Red Lion Inn, by Mr
Bignall, both of which were numerously attended - and notwithstanding the
success of the Rye Club, such was the good feeling evinced by all parties, that
it might be difficult to have learned at the convivial board who had won and who
lost. This is as it should be, and betokens of another game between these
"mighty 'levens." Subjoined is the score...”
Further work on The Cricket Salts was carried out in
1870 by club treasurer Henry Burra, who “hired the Middle Salts for cricketing purposes,
which he effectively drained, levelled and put into proper condition”,
according to a report in the South Eastern Advertiser on March 6, 1886. Since then, the Rye Cricket Salts has been
the home for Rye cricket. It has also been the home for bowls, tennis,
athletics, swimming and football.
The thatched pavilion, located where the football
pitch now sits, was burnt down in 1915 but its replacement fell into disrepair.
In 1957, Rye United FC built a new pavilion, designed by Austin Blomfield, a
long-time member of Rye Cricket Club, as was his father Reginald Blomfield, and
his grandfather Henry Burra.
Sadly this pavilion was lost in August 2010 to arson,
but thanks to the efforts of Clive and Pat Taylor and Rye United FC, a new club
house arose from the ashes in April 2012. As well as playing on the Salts, in
recent years, as the number of teams playing league cricket at Rye has
expanded, an artificial square has been laid at the Rye Rugby FC pitch on New
Road near the edge of the town.
Rye cricket has many local families who, over the
generations, have helped the club develop and evolve, including the Merricks,
Hackings, Wheelers, Mathews, Thomsons, Breeds and Sellmans. To this day, many
of those families are still involved both on and off the field. Today’s club
president Richard Merricks can show family links to the club stretching back to
at least the 1920s. Back in the 19th century, the establishment of Rye Cricket
on The Salts was very dependent on one particular family, that of Henry Burra. A man of means who lived at
Springfield Place in Playden, Burra funded the levelling of the Salts in 1870
and then with his son-in-law Reginald Blomfield and grandson Austin Blomfield,
became key to the club over the ensuing years.
essential part of Rye’s history was the association with Lord Sheffield in the
1890s. In that period, Rye seems to have been a social hub, as famous members
included Reginald Blomfield (who designed The Ypres war memorial, The Menin
Gate Memorial to the Missing), the author Henry James and, as club president,
Lord Sheffield was the greatest cricket entrepreneur
of the time. He took WG Grace and many other England greats to Australia to
promote cricket in the 1890s. Out of this trip was born The Sheffield Shield,
Australia’s premier cricket competition.
At his home, Sheffield Park near Haywards Heath, he
built a cricket pitch where many of the legends of his day - such as, Grace and
Ranjitsinhji - would play in front of large crowds in matches of social cricket. In 1895, TG Sharpe took a Rye team to play on
the ground. Imagine our surprise, when current club secretary Martin Blincow
discovered that one of his ancestors had played for Lord Sheffield’s side in
that, in 1835, William Lillywhite, the man who pioneered overarm bowling, played
for Rye in a fixture against Beckley. Known as Nonpareil, his legacy is the
family sports shop in Piccadilly Circus.
Rye, in the modern era also has an extended
family. Since 1997, a flow of overseas players have flocked to Rye from all
parts of the cricketing world to turn out for the cricket side. New Zealander
Mark Kitching was the first, to be followed by players from India, Bangladesh,
South Africa, Australia and Sri Lanka. Over the years, many professional
cricketers have also graced the Salts. Perhaps the greatest was legendary
England opener Jack Hobbs, who visited in his third benefit year of 1926: the
same year he helped England win the Ashes. He played for a Walter Merricks Xl,
a side that also included Percy Chapman, who was England captain during that
Other recognisable names who have played on The Salts
include England batsman (and later Bishop of Liverpool) David Sheppard,
Middlesex and England spinner Phil Edmonds, South Africa and Hampshire opening
batsman Barry Richards, West Indies skipper Richie Richardson, Kent and England
batsman Brian Luckhurst, Sussex and England batsman (and chairman of selectors
from 1989 to 1993) Ted Dexter, and Kent and England spinners Alan Oakman and
The Salts has hosted two first-class games, most
memorably in 1968 when future stars were playing for Sussex II v Kent II.
Excitingly, the teams that day boasted future England captain Tony Grieg, the
great coach and all-rounder Bob Woolmer and a whole host of players destined to
become household names in the 1970s.
In more recent times Rye Cricket Club joined the East
Sussex League in 1977, where there has been great success, winning Division 1
in 1988, 1993, 1995, 2013 and winning the League Cup in 1988, 1989 and
1994. Sadly, there have also been
relegations, and times when the club has struggled, but it is a struggle that
sees Rye Cricket Club looking healthy having gained Sussex League status in
2013 along with ECB clubmark accreditation. We currently boast;