Setting the Scene
Wooburn Narkovians cricket club is based in the village of Wooburn Green in south Buckinghamshire. The club's home ground is in the lovely setting of Wooburn Park, tree-fringed and flanked by hills and the River Wye, which skirts the park on two sides. The price we pay for this delightful setting is a short walk from the car park to the clubhouse.
The ground itself was originally laid by the famous Wine Merchants, Gilby's, who lived in Wooburn House. They arranged matches in the early 1900's against top club sides, and the square has been maintained since then.
New Club Founded
The Wooburn Narkovians club was formed on 6th November 1936 by a group of young Wooburn men. At that time, there was already a club playing on Wooburn park, appropriately named Wooburn Park C.C., and so the name "Wooburn Narkovians" was chosen. "Narkovians" is a slightly unusual name, and has caused some comment over the years.
The club's original Honorary Secretary, Harold "Mac" Sheppard, who has been a stalwart of the club throughout its entire history, explains the origins of the name.
The name "Narkovians" belonged to a charity organisation entitled "Narkover College", which was founded in aid of St. Peter's kitchens.
The organisation was founded in 1934, by a group of well known actors, music hall artists, journalists, radio personalities and other nationally prominent people in the entertainment world, with the object of raising money to fund soup kitchens to feed the unemployed and under-priveleged of London. During the depression years of the 1930's, many people were grateful for the help given by St. Peter's kitchens in Hanover Square, London.
The means of raising funds was to invite members of the public to become pupils of the college by donating one shilling. To become a Fag, a further three members had to be enrolled; a further five members to become a Monitor; until, having recruited seventy pupils, the title Senior Master was earned.
Some of the well known people who supported Narkover College are listed below:-
- Governors - The Marquis of Donegal, Jessie Matthews (film star), Sonnie Hale (West End star), Douglas Fairbanks Jnr. (film star), Tom Webster (sports cartoonist)
- Headmaster - Will Hay (film star)
- Chief Inspector - Gillie Potter (radio comedian)
- Moral Advisor - Ronald Frankau (stage and Radio star)
- Music Masters - Leslie Holmes and Leslie Sarony (musical stars and composers)
- New Master - Clive Brook (film star)
The objects of the college appealed to the young Wooburn cricketers, most of whom were pupils, and it seemed natural to use the name Narkovians for the newly formed club. Early in 1937, permission to officially use the name Narkovians was received from Clive Brook, with the hope that the college would send a team to Wooburn in the near future. Unfortunately, with the advent of war in 1939, contact with the college was lost, it not having survived the war.
Founder members, whilst appreciating that the name was very unusual, considered that it had the magic of a talisman, in as much that although confronted by apparently insurmountable obstacles, there has become a special Narkovian spirit which has carried the club to the well established position of present days.
The first home matches were played at Holtspur on a ground which was shared on alternate Saturdays with Flackwell Heath. This notice appeared in the Bucks Free Press after the club's first match on 7th May 1937:-
NEW CLUB FORMED - Cricket enthusiasts in Wooburn have formed a new club, "Wooburn Narkovians". They began the season on Saturday with a decisive victory over Seer Green at Holtspur. They dismissed their opponents for 67, R.Lewis taking 5 wickets for 16, and replied with a score of 103. Principal contributors to the total were S.Smith (38), R.Woods (18), T.Glitheroe (16) and H.Sheppard (10 not out).
Fixtures followed against Knotty Green and Frieth. Knotty Green defeated the Narkovians by four wickets, but Frieth were beaten by the remarkable margin of an innings and two runs!
It was not until 1939 that the Narkovians were given three home fixtures at Wooburn Park.
The Second World War then intervened, and immediately afterwards, Wooburn Narkovians took over the Wooburn Park ground, as Wooburn Park C.C. had ceased to exist. The Narkovians have been playing their cricket on the park ever since.
In the early post-war years, the ground was a little different from the one we know today, and car parking was certainly less of a problem!
A New Pavilion
In 1965, the Parish Council built a new pavilion to be shared by the Cricket and Football clubs. A match between the 1st and 2nd elevens marked its official opening on 30th August.
In the 1970s, as league cricket began to take hold, the club joined the Chiltern League. This league consisted largely of local clubs and was always keenly contested. Success came in 1981, when the 2nd XI finished up as Champions. The 1st XI followed suit in 1988, stealing the title from under the noses of Marlow Park and Stoke Green on a dramatic last day of the season.
Thames Valley League
In 1992 the club was successful in its application to join the restructured Thames Valley League, and began the following season in Division 3 of that League, along with Marlow Park, North Maidenhead and I.C.I. Paints from the old Chiltern League. In the winter of 1999 the Thames Valley League was restructured once again, with 1st and 2nd XIs competing in the same League. The 1st XI found themselves in Division 4B while the 2nds were in Division 5. The 2000 season saw both sides win promotion from their respective Divisions.
The club has for some time run a successful junior section, mindful of the need to provide young players for the senior teams. Harold 'Mac' Sheppard, one of the founder members of the club, ran the juniors very successfully for many years. After a short break, the junior section was resurrected, principally by Paul Cooper and Derek Roberts, and today it is thriving once again. The club provides competitive cricket for boys (and girls) from the age of 5 through to 17. Younger players are also encouraged to come along on Sunday mornings to play Kwik cricket and practice in the nets. The club recognises that its juniors are its future, and every effort is made to encourage boys through to the senior sides.