A historic cricket club will be reaching some milestones this year.
The game has been played on the grounds of Stoneleigh Abbey for 180 years - and it is believed Stoneleigh Cricket Club itself has been playing with the picturesque surroundings for about 100 years.
Neil Carter, welfare and talent acquisition officer with Stoneleigh Cricket Club, said: “Although there are many facets to playing for Stoneleigh Cricket Club we are particularly proud of the fact that we play at Stoneleigh Abbey.
“To play at such a beautiful location on a warm summers day with spectators drinking wine and eating from their picnic hampers provides an idyllic setting. To think that cricket has been played there since 1839 makes us extremely proud indeed. Here’s to the next 180 years.”
With a recent formal agreement with current owners, Stoneleigh Abbey Preservation Trust, the Club hope to continue playing at the grounds for years to come.
As well as marking this anniversary, the club members will also be marking their captain stepping down after 26 years.
Paul Lazenby will be stepping down from his role at the end of the 2019 season in September. Paul said: “It has been a long time to be captain for and I first went to the club in 1990. I became captain three years after that.
“Ever since then I have been elected every year. To be elected every year I think to myself that I am doing something right. Now it’s time someone else had a go. I will still play for the club and I plan to play for the last few years of my career.
“I have enjoyed my time as captain and I have loved playing with the club. Our grounds were also voted the most beautiful in England by Wisden Cricketer in 2003.
“It is such a fantastic place to play and it is a wonderful background to play to and we have a very friendly and welcoming club.
”I have played more than 800 games, have more than 24,000 runs and more than 500 wickets.”
Neil Carter added: “He has diligently served the club each and every season since.
“He always leads from the front and has no hesitation to call on his own skills when needed.
“It is not uncommon for him to bring himself on to bowl.
“In fact, when in a desperate situation during the last game of the 2018 league season, he made a significant contribution by bringing himself on to bowl and took 6 for 13 to win in a miraculous turnaround that enabled us to avoid relegation.
“That decision, performance and outcome perfectly sums up Paul and the club’s character. Paul’s legacy cannot be over-stated.”
The club are also looking for new members and the club is open to anyone who would like to join.
Neil said: “We welcome players regardless of gender, age, background and ability. We play away fixtures in the beautiful Cotswolds within the Cotswolds Hills league on Saturdays and friendlies on Sundays.
“We pride ourselves of our ability to nurture players regardless of initial ability and have players as young as 13 and as mature as 64.”
Anyone interested in joining Stoneleigh Cricket Club should call Neil on: 07940 177 536.
A brief history of the club
Cricket was first played in front of the West Wing at Stoneleigh Abbey in the 1830s when Lord Chandos Leigh had a ground laid out to enable his son to play on his return from Harrow.
From being the Leigh family team, the club evolved during late Victorian years into a side representing Stoneleigh village and estate.
During World War Two the Abbey ground was requisitioned for agricultural purposes. The club then moved to play on a farmer’s field in Stoneleigh and returned to the Abbey in 1954 with help from Lord Leigh.
For much of their existence, the club played friendly fixtures but in the 1980s they joined other local village sides in the Willoughby Salver competition which evolved into a Saturday league.
This continued until 2001 when various teams decided to split from the Salver competition.
Stoneleigh then joined the South Northants Saturday league and won promotion from division five to division one. After five seasons the club joined the Cotswold Hills League and climbed from division six to division two.