A brief History by The Chief - AHV MONTEUUIS
Much of this brief history of B.B. has been extracted from the Centenary Book (now out of print) written in 1958 by Brother Bryan Tassell, and much of what is recorded since then is by the same masterly hand. The remainder is the work of lesser Brethren.
When the Band of Brothers (known throughout Kent as `B.B.') was founded in 1858 Queen Victoria had only been twenty-one years on the throne. The evolution from round-arm to over-arm bowling was hardly completed, and the playing dress of the period, let alone the protective equipment, would have appeared to our present-day ideas to be extremely unsuitable.
Into this age was born `The Brethren', the third oldest of the succession of `wandering' clubs which followed the pattern set by I Zingari (1845) and the Free Foresters (1856), but differing from most of them in requiring both a territorial allegiance (to Kent), and in admitting from the very start not only cricketers, but also Men of Kent and Kentish Men of distinction, good will and good sportsmanship.
All but one of our Founders (the Original Brethren), whose immortal names are set out on page 2 of The Mystery, were officers of the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles. They had themselves photographed together - the photograph still exists - and formed themselves into a society, adopting as its name a popular song of the Christy Minstrels called `The Band of Brothers'.
B.B. took unto itself at once its colours of black and Kentish grey and opened its cricketing account on 12 August 1858 with a match at Evington on Sir Courtenay Honywood's ground against a side from Torry Hill, and very properly won it by 159 runs against 63.
In telling the story of those early days the fourth Lord Harris wrote:
For some years B.B. played a few matches annually in East Kent. They were a jovial, somewhat boisterous crew, out to enjoy themselves when they did assemble... but, as the founders got old and dispersed, the Club was nearing collapse, when some of my cricketing friends helped me to revive its fortunes, and since then B.B. has not only been a most active cricketing force in Kent, but has brought the two divisions of the County together in the best spirit of comradeship and brotherhood.
This first period of playing `a few matches each year', as mentioned by Lord Harris, was from 1858 to 1869, and then, from 1869 to 1878, to quote a contemporary report, `the only symptoms of vitality displayed by the B.B. Club was the pitching of their tent on the St. Lawrence Ground and the display of their colours by the fair sisters in the ballrooms.
In 1879 came the great revival, when a match was played at Torry Hill against an eleven collected by the de Launes of Sharsted Court, and was followed a couple of days later by a two-day match at Torry Hill against Gore Court.
1880 saw, as it were, the second flowering of B.B., and it seems very appropriate that Lord Harris, the principal begetter of that re-flowering, should in the first match of 1880, which was also the first in the unbroken line of matches with the Royal
Engineers, have scored 162 off these great and hospitable opponents and so disciplined his team at the subsequent guest-night that R.E. could only collect 144 and 33 and were beaten by an innings.
What words can properly express the debt which Kent and B.B. owe to the fourth Lord Harris. He took the lead, and from 1880 until his death in 1932 it is no exaggeration to say that he was B.B. From his efforts there sprang and was canalized through B.B. for the benefit of Kent that strong stream of great amateur players which had a solid half-share in the county's great days. His record as a player is fantastic. He played his first game for the Brethren (against St. Lawrence) in 1867 when he was an Etonian of 16. Sixty-one years later, in 1928, he played his last game for B.B. against the Buffs and took four wickets with his lobs. Between these dates many centuries and wickets went down against his name.
As the leader of B.B. (he would not take the title of Chief until after the death of the last Original Brother in 1919) his undeviating fairness and kindness inspired everyone's respect and affection in spite of the utterly despotic rule which he exercised.
After 1880 the annual fixture lists begin to include clubs with which the modern Brother is very familiar. I.Z. indeed appeared as long ago as 1860, and West Kent in 1863, but in the case of the latter there was an interregnum until 1880. R.A. received us for the first time in 1881, and, as with the Sappers, B.B. were brusque with their new hosts and won by seven wickets. Nevertheless, the Gunners have gone on receiving us, and generations of Brethren have treasured memories of the great days and nights they have spent in the company of members of that wonderful mess. The Mote appear in 1882, Bickley Park and Shorncliffe Garrison in 1884, Tonbridge in 1885, Blackheath in 1886, Free Foresters in 1887, Tonbridge School in 1888, Hythe in 1897, Eton Ramblers in 1900, Beckenham in 1901, the Buffs in 1906 and the Harlequins in 1910. By 1913 the fixture list, with twenty matches, was almost as large as it is today, but with fewer matches against schools.
The period from 1880 to 1914 does to many seem to span the golden age of cricket. Whether that be true generally of cricket, it would seem to be certain that B.B. sides have never been so strong as they were in those days. The hard test of figures show that out of 361 matches played in that era, 163 were won and only eighty-four lost, a balance of virtually two to one in favour of B.B. At no other period can such favourable results be shown. Though no club can be less interested in the success of the individual, the historian cannot but feast his eyes on the galaxy of famous Kentish cricketing names which flit through the scorebooks of B.B. at that time, many of whom played such a dominant role in Kent's championship winning years of that era. Leslie Wilson, W.H.Patterson, Stanley Christopherson - later to follow the fourth Lord Harris and the first Lord Cornwallis as Chief ,E.C.Streatfeild, J.N. Tonge, Frank Marchant, T.N.Perkins (whose 243 at Hythe in 1899 still remains the largest innings ever played for B.B.), C.J.Burnup, D.W.Carr, M.C.Kemp, A.P.Day, L.H.W.Troughton, C.S.Hurst, F.H.Knott, S.E.Day, N.Haig, J.R.Mason, S.H.Day, E.W.Dillon, K.L.Hutchings, C.H.B.Marsham, F.A.Mackinnon, G.J.V. Weigall, C.E.Hatfeild, and these are but a few with many others equally or only a little less eminent.
Five out of the six highest scores ever made by B.B. belong to this period. We cannot properly count 627 for ten wickets declared against Hythe in 1907, since the match was twelve a side - Hythe incidentally replied with 538 -but 575 for eight declared against the Royal Marines in 1911, 523 against the Club and Ground in 1902, 516 against the Weald of Kent in 1888, and 507 against Hythe in 1899 are four out of the only five innings of over 500 made by the club, the fifth being the 1924 total of 511 for seven declared against Hythe. It was also in this era that Shorncliffe Garrison in 1899 were put out for twenty two, which is still the lowest score ever made against B.B. Against such examples of strength it is perhaps a relief to find that B.B's lowest score was in 1908, when the Folkestone Club dismissed B.B. for thirty two.
The 1914-1918 War extinguished many ancient traditions and activities as well as nearly a million British lives. Anyone who stands in the pavilion at Canterbury and contemplates the list of Brethren qui ante diem perierunt may well wonder that the club and other amateur cricket clubs revived at all. Yet despite the increasing conflict of loyalties for Brethren between their duty to B.B. and their obligations to their territorial or regimental clubs, the list of matches in the twenty years 1919-1939 grew ever longer and the games were as vigorously contested as ever. No greater match was ever played than that in 1923 when at Belmont B.B. met and, oh! so nearly beat the full strength of the West Indies Touring Team including amongst others the great L.S.Constantine. Three wickets was the margin and it took a gallant piece of hitting by J.Small to rescue the West Indies from a situation which, half an hour before, had seemed for them to be beyond hope.
One cannot resist recalling a few of those who upheld the name in this era between the Wars, namely, A.L.Hilder, J.L.Bryan, G.J.Bryan, R.T.Bryan, T.H.P.Beeching, N.B.Sherwell, A.J.Evans, R.G.H.Lowe, The Hon.WS.Cornwallis (the second Lord Cornwallis), G.De L.Hough, A.P.F.Chapman, I.A.W.Gilliat, B.H.Valentine, A.O.Snowden, J.A.Deed, F.G.H.Chalk, I.Akers Douglas, E.H.Moss, C.H.Knott, T.A.Crawford, C.PJohnstone, T.C.Longfield and P.G.Foster.
It was on the R.E. ground in 1935 that the largest number of runs was made in a B.B. match. B.B. got 403 for seven declared and 256 for five declared, and R.E. 343 and 289 for five: 1,291 runs in two days' cricket. Here also in 1939 L.A.F.Weigall (then 65 years of age) and G.A.Simpson (then 53) bowled unchanged through the R.E. first innings and dismissed them for 139.
World War II brought B.B. cricket to an end from 1940 to 1945 and it was not until 1947 that a full fixture list was resumed. In that wonderful summer our cricket restarted as if it had never been halted. The match-managers and players of 1939, though by 1947 for the most part around 40 years of age, took up where they had left off and so continued until such time as the new intake of young Brethren were able to take over, a process which was all but completed by the Centenary in 1958. Some 49 seasons have passed since then (1959-2007 inclusive) and the publication of the Centenary Book.
During those years the two-day match, previously the staple fare of B.B. Cricket, has ceased to exist, save for its sole survivor the match with The Gunners. The pattern of B.B's fixture list has also changed, the reduction in the armed forces having swept away the Kentish Garrisons, the Nore Command, and the County Regiments (in regimental form), whilst the Town Clubs' interest in league cricket has reduced their affinity with wandering clubs. Meanwhile the number of matches with Kentish Schools has greatly increased and matches with a few London-based Clubs have increased. Our most ancient fixtures, however, continue to prosper and the centenaries of our matches with R.E. (1980), with R.A. (1981) and Tonbridge School (in 1988) were duly celebrated, the Sappers' match being adorned by 101 not out by N. Heroys, at the mature age (by modern standards) of 43. The centenary of the first match against the Eton Ramblers occurred in 2000 and was incidentally in recent times the first of a now established series of B.B. matches played at Torry Hill, the scene of one of the Club's earliest games. The matches with I.Z. Bluemantle's, Yellowhammers, The Stragglers of Asia and others maintain and develop their respectable longevities.
During this period the Club has continued to enjoy the support, on and off the field, of the great names of Kent cricket, some twenty or more Brethren playing for the County, of whom seven have been Captain. Most notable of these must be the members of the Cowdrey family (Colin, the late Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, C.S. and G.R.), M.R. Benson, R.M. Ellison, M.V Fleming and the seventh Chief, D.G. Clark, who, like the fourth Lord Harris before him, was not only Captain but also Chairman and President of Kent, as well as being President and for many years Treasurer of M.C.C. It was during this period that the Kent and England immortals Frank Woolley, Les Ames and Doug Wright were appointed Hon. Life Members of BB.
Other Brethren have also made their mark; in 1986 the Brothers Mark (six for 65) and James (four for 25) Ryeland took all ten Yellowhammer wickets between them, a family performance unequalled in the history of B.B. In 1990 C.J.C Rowe scored 194 in the match against R.A., while in 1967 P.J.C. Canney had bowling figures of nine for 41 against St. Lawrence College Ramsgate and N. Heroys scored 106 and took six for 14 against his old school, Tonbridge. In 2002 S.Collins took six wickets in seven balls including two hat-tricks against The Arabs at Torry Hill, a feat unparalleled in the history of BB. In 2003 the Club celebrated the centenary of the formation of its junior section, The BaBes, which is believed to be the oldest junior section of any of the major wandering cricket clubs in the Country. In 2006 BB scored 404 for 2 in chasing down the Hurlingham Club's score of 402 for 3 declared, the highest number of runs ever scored in a single day in BB's history. A candidate A.O.J.Shales, scored 210 not out, the seventh double hundred for BB and the first since 1933. In 2008 BB celebrated its 150th Anniversary with a Dinner at Lords, a Golf Day at Royal St. George's Golf Club, a Ball at Godinton and a Cricket Festival on Birley's Field, King's School Canterbury. In 2010 BB held their first-ever Cricket Tour, a four day trip to Paris during which a strong group of BB cricketers played three cricket matches winning them all convincingly.
This small selection of recent events shows that all in all the thing which most clearly emerges is that B.B. cricket has ridden the changes triumphantly and enters the 21st century with the same happy features which gave it birth in the middle of the 19th.
Those whose playing career for B.B. now extends over many years can detect no difference in atmosphere and enthusiasm from the days when they first wore the honoured colours. No doubt if we could call in evidence the Brethren of the last century they would find equally little difference in these things. No man ever could or ever will turn B.B. sides into super-efficient cricketing machines. None in his senses would wish to do so. Keenness there is and ever will be, but the supreme virtue is the comradeship and the friendship rather than technical excellence and victory, and this remains today as strong as ever, and may perhaps contribute to making us welcome to our many friends and hosts.
The source of all B.B. cricket records are `The B.B. Books', which contain all the scores of all recorded matches, averages, fixture cards and photographs, and have from time to time been embellished with decorations and cartoons. There are now some twenty volumes of `The Books' and, as they weigh nearly a hundredweight as well as being precious, it is no longer possible to take them round to matches as used to be the custom. In order to preserve these records for posterity, the Club produced a Compact disc (CD) of the computer scanned images in full colour of all the information contained in The Books covering the period 1858 – 2000 inclusive, copies of which were subsequently made exclusively available for purchase by Brethren.
The Books' represent a remarkable and detailed record of the Club's life. Those principally responsible for the keeping of The Books have been the fourth Lady Harris, Brother Mrs. L.R.S.Monckton, Brother R.G.D. de Uphaugh, Brothers Oliver and Marjorie Grace and Brothers Bryan and Norma Tassell. This challenging tradition has now been loyally assumed by Brothers Peter and Amanda Cattrall. They all deserve the gratitude not only of members of B.B. and their families but also anyone interested in the history of English club cricket to which the Band of Brothers makes such a proud contribution.