Club Honours: Premier League champions 2003-2009, 2011, 2015; Lincolnshire Cup winners 2001, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012
Leagues played in: ECB Premier League, Lincolnshire League, Lincoln League
Contact details: Anne Sutton, firstname.lastname@example.org
By Pat Hall
In 1945 the best sporting facilities in Bracebridge Heath still belonged to the Victorian mental hospital, which had been built in 1852. After the Second World War, a man called Johnnie Dale – an ex-Physical Training Instructor in the armed forces, who married a Bracebridge Heath girl, Madge – appeared on the scene, working at the decoding station at the Mere. He wanted to start up a cricket club and had his eye on the mental hospital ground at Cross O’Cliff Court, which had now been taken over by the Lincolnshire Health Authority.
The ground had previously been used as a cricket field in the 1920s and 1930s: St Botolphs Cricket Club won the Albion Cup in 1932 playing there.
By 1948, Johnnie had secured an agreement with the Health Authority for use of the pitch: the cricket club would pay an annual peppercorn rent each year, but also donate an annual gift to the Harmston Hospital Children’s Funds. Some local lads started to cut down the long grass with scythes and any other available equipment to get ready for the club’s first match in 1950.
In the early days the club played mainly friendly fixtures, until the 1968 season when it unfortunately had to relinquish these fixtures due to falling membership. Luckily this was short lived as in 1970 the club was resurrected under a new management committee, with a combination of “old members” from the original club and “new members” from the newly completed housing estates.
In 1970 the club managed to raise funds to purchase a timber building as a pavilion and to the rear they built a urinal and chemical toilet. Any water needed was fetched from an outside tap at the Manor House [the Lincs Health Authority HQ]. The facilities have improved incredibly since then, and in 1983 the local Parish Council gave the club a grant to build a function room extension, which meant that teas could be provided at the ground. Originally club members would walk into the village for teas at the village hall.
The decision was taken in 1971 to purchase the best mechanical grass cutting equipment and thanks to much hard work and advice from Harry Woodcock, groundsman of Collingham CC, and the Head Groundsman of Derbyshire County Cricket Club, Steve Birks, the Bracebridge Heath pitch developed into a first-class cricket square. The Club first hosted a One Day Minor County Cup match in 2007, and has been lucky enough to be invited to do this every year since.
The club played their first league cricket in 1975, when they were one of the founder members of the Newark Club Cricket Alliance where they had a first eleven in Division 2 and a second eleven playing in Division 4 mainly on Sundays. In 1976 they started a youth team and have continued to be members of the Lincoln Area Youth League up to the present day, winning the league and Knock-Out Cup Competitions on many occasions.
They were joined by the St John’s Hospital CC in 1988, whose ground at the mental hospital had been sold off for redevelopment. St John’s played in the prestigious Lincolnshire County Cricket League; when they joined forces with Bracebridge Heath they had been suffering from a shortage of players of the previous few seasons. The influx of players from St John’s enabled the period from 1988 to 1993 to be the most successful in the club’s history to date; in 1991 they won the Lincoln and District Midweek Knockout Cup and were champions of Division 3 of the Lincolnshire County Cricket League.
A two storey scorebox/equipment store was erected in 1990 and the year before saw the start of the refurbishment of the clubhouse, to enhance the environment of the many social events held during the summer months. An active social committee, involving ladies and “more seasoned” members, kept the club together throughout the year. Fundraising has been very successful over the years: the Horse Race Night, the President’s match, galas, six-a-side competitions, a firework display, and since 1970 a 250 Club. In 1999 a new Sports and Social Club was formed which enables BBHCC to run a bar.
In 1997 Claytons Cricket Club, which had been formed in 1928 and played at a high level in the Lincolnshire County Cricket Club, merged with Bracebridge Heath due to problems with their Lee Road ground, which faced possible sale and in any case demanded a high annual rent with the pavilion in a dilapidated condition.
After the merger the club, with the help of David Hall, drew up plans to refurbish and extend the Pavilion, which were passed by North Kesteven District Council. In 1999 the Club submitted a Lottery grant and were awarded £4,985 to help complete the first phase of new female toilets, 2 changing rooms with showers and seats and a seating area for the players. The second phase consisted of an extension to the rear to form a bar store, the moving of the bar area, a new kitchen and incorporating the veranda into the main seating area. The majority of the work was carried out by club volunteers, with special thanks due to Adrian Wilson (electrics), Phil Newland (plastering), and Jim Marshall (joiner).
The extension work was completed in 2000 and an “Opening Day” was carried out at the first May Bank Holiday by Mrs Olwyn Hager, who was a District Councillor and Vice-President of the Club with an invited audience of Vice-Presidents, Parish Council representatives and other local helpers and sponsors.
Since 2002 the club have played in the new ECB Premier League and has been champions of this League 9 times (2003-2009, 2011 and 2015). The club also won the Lincs Cup in 2001, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Since 2006 the Club has funded an overseas player to help with the First XI and sometime a second player to help with the Second XI. This arrangement has proved very successful. These players have been very popular and have helped with coaching and other club work.
The Club has a strong bond with the youth of the village and surrounding villages and regularly turns out teams at Under 9’s, 10’s, 11’s, 13’s, 15’s and 17 in the Lincoln & District Youth Leagues. Not only does the Club provide an outlet for the village youth but it gives them a sense of identity, pride and belonging, allowing them to develop as individuals with high standards shown by the game of cricket. This is reflected with the strong bond and ethos within the Club which is supported by the numbers of players coming through these age groups to play in the senior teams and the First XI.
Today the club runs two Saturday teams, in the ECB League and the Lincolnshire County League, and two Sunday teams in the Lincoln League.