In 1869 the Surrey County School (as Cranleigh was known until 1889) decided to arrange a match for the School XI against the Old Boys, and so took place the first match involving the team which was to become the Old Cranleighan Cricket Club. In those early days the ‘Past v Present’ cricket match was an integral part of the OC Weekend which took place over the Whitsun holiday. Hundreds of old boys packed the village and accommodation could not be found for miles, a remarkable fact when the age of the School is taken into consideration. All matches at this time took place on the Common. There were cups and prizes for the best performances and the games were widely reported in the local press.
In 1890 the Old Cranleighan Club (the forerunner of the OC Society) decided to form a wandering cricket club in response to demand from OCs and in its first season there were no less than ten games, the opposition including teams such as Brixton Wanderers, Willesden and Walthamstow. The annual subscription was set at ten shillings (50p) which included a bi-monthly newsletter detailing all OCCC and OCFC results as well as gossip. However, teams were never easy to raise as there was no common assembly point for OCs and results were poor. In 1899 the Secretary of the Club was moved to write in The Cranleighan that men were having to be borrowed from opposing teams on a regular basis (a century later and this problem is not altogether unknown). A further problem was that many OCs moved abroad to work around the Empire – The Cranleighan of 1901 reports how Vivian Short, while in India, travelled 500 miles (a journey of several days) to play a game. He missed the only catch that came his way, bowled several overs of half volleys and bagged a pair… he had also bought a new two guinea bat especially for the game! The Club continued right up until the Great War on this rather haphazard basis with three or four games per season in addition to the two-day School match.
With the outbreak of the Great War almost all sporting activity throughout the country ceased (it was deemed as being unpatriotic to play games) but nevertheless the Whitsun contest with the School continued throughout the conflict. Inevitably teams became harder to raise and the old and the crippled were press-ganged into appearing, with the occasional assistance of soldiers on leave. In 1917 W. Crewe was so keen to play that he landed his bi-plane on St Andrews and the local police kept guard over it while he sauntered off to the Common. Apparently, his commanding officer was less than impressed when it was found that in performing this feat he had seriously damaged the undercarriage.
In the euphoria that followed the end of the War it did not take the OCs long to re-establish the Club and in 1921, with the permission of the Headmaster, a cricket week was arranged on the Common starting with the two-day game against the School and continuing against teams such as Mill Hill and Hampton Wick. Once again The Cranleighan reported that outsiders had to be used to make up the numbers. Nevertheless, by 1925 the side was flourishing and the number of fixtures had risen to twelve with the Jubilee having replaced the Common as the ‘home’ ground for the week.
In 1927 the OCCC was formerly established (up until this date the Club had been run on a totally haphazard basis which made it miraculous that eleven people ever turned up at the same place on the same date… more often than not they did not) and officers were chosen. The mid to late twenties were without doubt the high point of inter-War OC cricket with several minor county players available on a regular basis. In 1930, even though the week was dropped from the fixture list, the Club remained strong with regular games against Private Banks, Old Blues and Ashtead to name but a few.
In 1928 the OC ground at Thames Ditton had been purchased with the intention that it was to become the home of the Cricket Club as well as that of the Rugby and Hockey. In 1938 the committee decided that the Club was strong enough to operate on a full time basis with all home games to be played at Thames Ditton. It was, therefore, resolved that in 1939 a full Sunday fixture list would be drawn up with the intention that Saturday and Sunday games would commence in the 1940 season. A square was laid at Thames Ditton in the winter of 1937-38 and the Club received pledges from 27 individuals that they would play regularly. Events dictated that the 1939 season was severely curtailed and the Club never actually managed a home match. By the summer of 1940 the Ministry of Defence had taken over the OC Club and the ground had been dug up and planted with vegetables. The story through the Second World War is much the same as that in 1914-18 with very weak and elderly sides rarely testing the School in the only fixture. Undaunted, the Secretary continued in his drive to recruit players for the School game. One OC, who received a written invitation to play, replied that whilst he would like to do nothing better, the guards at his prisoner-of-war camp may have something to say. He went on to say that he was held captive with several other OCs and they were attempting to organise an England v Rest of the World game over the Whitsun weekend! Unfortunately, the result of this potentially intriguing encounter is not recorded.
Undeterred by the fact that they had no ground, no records (they had fallen victim to bombing) and that the kitbag which had been lent to the School had been returned minus the kit, attempts were made in 1946 to restart the Club. The absence of many potential players on National Service coupled with severe petrol rationing made the task almost impossible and despite three or four games being played annually until 1950, the Club ground to a halt with only the Whitsun match against the School remaining by 1951.
In 1958 Nigel Paul, who had spent two seasons with Warwickshire, took over the Club and within a few months he had arranged a cricket week at the School (the first since 1929) and had surrounded himself with a hard core of several very good cricketers. A measure of the progress the Club made was that by 1960 they were able to beat a Quidnuncs XI which contained no less than ten post-War blues. The six years following Paul’s rebirth of the Club saw strong OC sides take on some of the best opposition in the south of England at that time. The week became a firm fixture in the OC social calendar and it continued as such throughout the 1960s. Unfortunately, when Paul stood down as Captain and player many of those who had supported him also withdrew from the scene.
In the 1970s the Club declined with few new players coming through and increasing reliance on the old guard, although Peter Shelley arrested the slide and recruited many of the cricketers who made the early 1980s so successful. In 1982 David Bugge took over the reins and rapidly built on the solid foundations of his predecessor. In 1984 the Club won every game during the nine day week and in the seasons 1983-85 lost only five games out of 43.
In the late 1980s the Club went through another lean spell as again several stalwarts retired at the same time. Iain Wilkie did much to reverse the decline and many of the players making this trip were recruited during his captaincy.
In 1992 Michael Chetwode took control and immediately re-established the week as a must for OC cricketers as well as establishing a refreshingly cavalier attitude to the way the game should be played. A remarkable allrounder, Chetwode led from the front and attracted players of all standards. The club thrived under his stewardship, and in 1997 the first full overseas tour was undertaken to Antigua – subsequent trips to Sri Lanka, Kenya, Australia, India, South Africa and St Lucia followed, as well as shorter outings to Sarasota, Hong Kong and Malta.
In 1999, Henry Watkinson took over and continued to build on the success, and in 2001 we were admitted to the Brewers Cup after years of trying. With Eds Copleston at the helm for cup matches we reached the final in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006, winning three times, and in 2007 we added the Cricket World Trophy to our successes. Eds Copleston took over as captain in 2008 and was followed by Ed Henderson (2011-2014) and Will Howard 2015-2016) before Eds resumed in 2017.
In 2007 we were also admitted to the Cricketer Cup, the first new entry into the competition for almost 40 years. In our second year we reached the final where we lost to Old Malvernians and then reached finals again in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2018 winning against Bradfield in 2015 and Malvernians in 2018.