Wednesday, 5 September 2018

THE CRICKETERS

I was glad to read in the Kings Blog that The Cricketers was to re-open and I sincerely hope the call to use and support the pub will be heeded by the present Kingsley residents. It is very easy for a village to lose its pub and, generally, when its gone its gone forever. As someone who grew up in Kingsley in the fifties and sixties I know that the Cricketers played a major part in the life of the village. Of course, it dispensed fine ales of many sorts and, over the years food in various forms but it also played a significant part in the wider social life of the village. Not least, in that, it held the village fete in its paddock in front of Ockham Hall for many years. This was always a popular and very well supported annual event. As with many village events the fete was a joint effort between the Church, the pub and the village school. It was also the Cricketers that organized the, also very popular, seaside outings of the day. In those days few people owned cars and the seaside trips were taken by coach. Bognor Regis, Hayling Island and Portsmouth were some of the places chosen for such trips. Not only did these trips provide an opportunity to eat such delights as prawns, cockles and whelks but much ice cream was consumed. On the way home it was the custom to have a stop at a wayside pub where thirsts were quenched and courage was built up for the other essential component of such trips, the sing song. This was generally entered into with great enthusiasm although, as far as I recall, the Kingsley residents of the day were unlikely to form the basis for a half decent choir ! The village bonfire,held on the green below the school, was another event in which the pub participated.

In those days there were three popular tipples which the Cricketers served up in the ale department. These were brown ale, light ale and best bitter. Lagers did not feature at the time. Many of the men drank a combination of light and bitter. I don’t know if light and brown ales are still made but they were then and, as far as the cricketers was concerned, they all came from the local brewery which was Courages in Alton. In later years there was CourageTavern Keg Bitter and another very popular brew of the day, Watneys Red Barrel.

During the summer months the Cricketers played a pleasant part in our family’s weekly routine. It was the norm for Mother and Father to join Bill and Tilley Woods and go for a stroll on Sunday evenings. I say stroll but, I suspect, by today’s standards it would be seen as rather more of a marathon. As both family’s lived in Woodfield they would embark upon their walk by turning onto the B3004 and heading either east or west. The route covered was always the same each week, save for the direction taken. If, for example the route was to be the eastern one, we would walk past the shop and old piggery, turn left down the hill, up past the sports ground and hall,over the railway line, and turn left again into the Straits. Now heading west we would continue through the Kingsley Nurseries , through the various bends until we met the Binsted road. At that junction another left turn down, what was then referred to as, the Old Lane, past St Nicolas Church, also known as The Old Church,and on to Bakers Corner.Left again along the B3004 past Dean Farm and up the rise to the Cricketers. Once there the adults would disappear inside and order the drinks and crisps to be brought out to the children, whilst they had a couple of pints within. We played in the pub garden and hoped upon hope that our parents would not want to go home to soon.All in all a very nice way to spend a Sunday evening. 

As is the case today, with most pubs, The Cricketers was then  the hub for the villages sporting activities. There were, of course, the obvious sports of cricket, football and darts but also, in those days, there were shove halfpenny leagues. All of these activities enhanced village life and helped to secure the fortunes of the pub. Life was so different then, seasonal workers moved around the countryside picking hops and potatoes and helping out at harvest time, after a hard day in the fields they would go to the pub for a welcome evening drink. Those activities have now all been mechanised and so a source of transient trade has been lost to all country pubs. Probably just as well because I can’t imagine a modern day publican getting away with posting a "No Gypsies or Travelers" notice outside his premises as once was the norm. In the case of the Cricketers another source of trade was the army. The camp at Bordon, which extended to just over the hill from the Kingsley parish boundaries, was once a very large military establishment and soldiers would walk to the pub.As I noted on a recent visit to the area, the Camp at Bordon is now but a shadow of its former glory. All of these matters will have had to,some degree or another,a negative impact upon the viability of The Cricketers, I do so hope the present Kingsley residents appreciate their pub and support the new management in their endeavors to keep the old place open. 

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