Friars, Football and Beyond

Reporter: Heather Coltman


On Friday 26th October 2012 Alan Cocksedge gave an entertaining illustrated talk on the history of Cricket in Sudbury; the earliest record being 225 years ago, in 1787 which as Alan pointed out are the same figures as the Sudbury STD code (without the 0) making it an easy date to remember.

There was a good audience attending and after some teething troubles with the power point projection everyone settled down for what proved a most informative evening. It was in two parts: the first mainly history of the current site and matches played elsewhere in the town and the second after a coffee break, was anecdotes about various matches and their outcomes.

We were told that the present ground bordered by Friars Street and Quay Lane was once part of the Mediaeval Dominican Priory grounds (the orchard and vineyard). After the Dissolution it became private grazing and finally, several centuries later, became a purpose built cricket ground in 1891.

There were many stories told of the gradual development of a permanent Cricket Club and one particular story amused the audience. Apparently two teams, one from  Sudbury and the other from Stoke started a game on the Great Common. Before long play was interrupted by several Freemen walking up and down and across the pitch. (One version had them lying down on the pitch!). They claimed that no one had the right to play games there without their permission. The players retired to Brundon Hall and completed the game there. Later the Watch Committee condemned the behaviour and invoked the authority of the Mayor and corporation. There were numerous articles in the local press on the matter and the Freemen made no further protests.

Another anecdote was of when the Priory Meadow, owned by a Mr. Andrews and his son-in-law Dr. Holden, was leased to the Cricket Club. It became the permanent home of the Club and was overlooked by Prospect House, owned by Dr. Holden. When lime trees were planted on the Friars Street boundary the doctor ordered that no trees were to be planted in front of the house so that the Doctor and his father-in-law could have an uninterrupted view of proceedings!

The opening of the Ground was marked by a luncheon and two theatrical performances plus much speechifying and general congratulations to all concerned. The first day’s play was rained off but faired better the following day.
After a time various other sports were played at the ground and it became Sudbury Grammar School’s games field as well. The football club, which had played at Belle Vue hired the ground for the winter months at a cost of £5.00. The above are just a few of the fascinating facts imparted by Mr. Cocksedge and a much fuller history is to be found in his book ‘Tales from the Dew Drop Inn’.

The Ground celebrated its 110th birthday last year but cricket and games in general go back much further, played with passion in and around Sudbury. The town is fortunate indeed to have such a splendid facility within a few hundred yards of the Market Hill.

At the end of the two-part talk there were numerous questions and memories from members of the audience.

Heather Coltman