Rainham Cricket Club’s First League Championship Successes of

1905 and 1906

At the beginning of the 20th century Rainham Cricket Club became re-established after breaking up for several years. The club played its home matches at Rainham Recreation Ground and the Lion Hotel in the High Street served as its headquarters. Patronised by the Wakeley family, Richard Mansfield Wakeley junior captained the team, Dr Tippett served as club president, Walter Finness, a Rainham butcher treasurer and Charlie Clark who owned a Rainham men’s outfitters store served as secretary. To be an adult member of Rainham Cricket Club in 1905 an annual subscription of 2/6d had to be paid.

In 1903 the club amalgamated with Rainham Co-operative Cricket Club who also played at the Recreation Ground. This strengthened Rainham Cricket Club allowing them to compete with the best teams in the area. The team had a quick opening bowling attack of Charlie Clark and Albert Gooding and were backed up by Walter Hunt. Spin bowler Sid Holmes, familiar to many residents in Rainham as manager of the Rainham branch of the London & Provincial Bank, added variety to the attack. The batting was almost entirely dominated by farmer Richard Wakeley who had played for Kent during the 1890s and he was backed up by George Kitney and wicket-keeper Cuckow. Overall, Rainham had a strong and well balanced team.

During the winter of 1905 Rainham decided to join the Sittingbourne & District Cricket League in the first year of the league’s formation. This wasn’t the club’s first taste of league cricket as they had competed in the Chatham & District League for one season in 1896. After only one defeat in the Sittingbourne & District League the championship was finally decided in the last match of the league season between Rainham and Bobbing, the two top placed teams.

With both teams needing victory Rainham batted first and made 116. Richard Wakeley scored 52 and Stuart Jelly 19. After this bowler Albert Gooding took six wickets and Sid Holmes three wickets as Bobbing were bowled out for 45 leaving Rainham league champions. Rainham won five, lost two and drew one of their eight league matches.

As a result of Rainham’s success a special match was arranged in May 1906 between the Rest of the League and Rainham before the next league campaign got underway. This was played at Gore Court's former ground in Bell Road Sittingbourne but Rainham disappointingly fielded a weak side and lost by 17 runs.

Rainham celebrated their second successive league championship in 1906 and had a good start to their new league campaign. Apart from a draw against newcomers Newington in late May the remainder of the games proved to be easy. Rainham progressed undefeated through the 1906 league campaign and stormed to their second successive league championship with a crushing 198 run victory over Tunstall. In this match Rainham scored a club record 244 runs.

 With easy victories against Bapchild who were bowled out for only 9 in reply to a score of 92 and Bobbing who were routed for 26 in reply to a score of 200-8, Rainham showed their strength and superiority in their second season of Sittingbourne League cricket.

The East Kent Gazette reported:

The championship of the league goes again to Rainham who have done even better this season than they did last. Rainham played nine matches of which eight were won and one drawn, giving them an aggregate of 17 points. The champions have gone through the season without a defeat.

In reviewing the season's work the one striking feature is the remarkable success of Rainham. In all their fixtures with league teams they have won with comparative ease. In R. M. Wakeley junior they possess a captain knows the game thoroughly, who is a first class bat and fine field, and the success of the team must be attributed in a great measure to his influence and help. He is backed up by some useful bats, who are usually capable of putting on a hundred or two between them.

In Holmes and Gooding Rainham have two bowlers whose different styles never fail to get the opposing batsmen into difficulties, the former being exceptionally tricky. C. Clark, the Rainham secretary is also a bowler who knows how to take wickets. The club also has in Cuckow one of the best wicketkeepers in the neighbourhood. Add to this the general keenness in the field and the secret of Rainham's success is manifest.

In the Sittingbourne and District League averages for 1906 Richard Wakeley came top of the batting with 371 runs in eight innings at an average of 53 while George Kitney, came second after scoring 186 runs in nine innings at an average of 23.25.

In the league bowling averages Sid Holmes came second with 50 wickets at an average of 4.22. He was the League's leading wicket taker. Albert Gooding came fourth with 35 wickets at an average of 5.17.

As a result of their league successes and strength Rainham were invited to take on leading Sittingbourne club Gore Court in a special match billed Gore Court v The League Champions in June 1907. Gore Court were favourites but Rainham rose to the occasion and tied in a fantastic match. ‘The East Kent Gazette’ reported:

Gore Court received a visit from Rainham, the champions of the (at present) defunct local cricket league on Saturday, and the home team seemed to have a good win in store. But the Rainham team rose to the occasion and, amid much excitement, the scores were level-88 all. Had it not been for the excellent batting of L. Bowes Gore Court would have been defeated. He was joined by the tenth batsman when every run was precious. The Rainham men bowled and fielded keenly, and the batsmen were fully on their mettle. As the score crept closer to the Rainham total the excitement increased. With a single the scores were level and Bowes called for a short run, in the excitement, overlooking the fact that there was a fieldsman in the way, and the Milton cricketer, after so nearly winning the match with a score of 33 (the highest in the game) was run out, leaving the match a tie.

R.M Wakeley junior, the Rainham captain, batted stylishly for 23, although short of practice. He fell at length to a brilliant, one handed slip catch by Burley. Captain Wakeley also handled his men with rare judgement. For Gore Court, Burley took 4 wickets for 47 and Stagg 4-21. Holmes proved a difficult man to play, the wicket evidently suiting him to a nicety; and Hunt and Gooding also bowled well for Rainham.

The fielding on both sides was good, and mention should be made of a smart catch with which G. Springate was dismissed by Andrews.

With the end of the Sittingbourne & District League in 1906 due to several clubs dropping out and no alternative to join, Rainham had to be content with friendly matches and it wasn’t until the early 1970s that they had another opportunity to play league cricket. Today Rainham Cricket Club First and Second XIs compete in the Shepherd & Neame Kent County League and play home matches at Berengrove Park. 

David Wood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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