Brisley Cricket Club 1788 – Present
The village has long been associated with cricket. As with many other quintessential English village cricket clubs, the pitch is situated on the common opposite the pub. The club is one of the oldest in Norfolk. The earliest record is a game between Brinton and Shipdham being played in Brisley in 1788, and the first recorded game involving Brisley was against Shipdham in 1794. It must have been a challenge for teams to travel in those days and it was a challenge raising a team in small villages. As a result, single wicket competitions were common place.
We know that some famous cricket names have played on the Brisley pitch. These include Bill and John Edrich of the well know Norfolk cricketing dynasty and Peter Parfitt of Middlesex and England who was born at nearby Billingford. The most famous Brisley cricketer was Fuller Pilch, who was born in nearby Horningtoft but who lived in Brisley. He was reputed to be “the greatest batsman ever known until the appearance of WG Grace”. He was born in 1803 and played for Kent, Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex. It is not know whether he ever played on the pitch at Brisley but it’s a nice thought that he might have done.
It is not clear whether the pitch has always been in its present position but it was certainly on the common in the run up to the second world war. With the outbreak of war the pitch moved to a field off Woods Lane as the common was ploughed up due to concerns over it being a potential landing site for German paratroopers. After the war the pitch returned to its current site.
The club has waxed and waned over the years entering and exiting league cricket a number of times. However, the club is alive and well still playing friendly matches against a variety of opposition, with match days becoming a great social occasion. Long may it continue!
On Friday 8 June, Club President, Philip Curl opened the refurbished clubhouse alongside former players who constructed the building in the 1970’s. Through many fundraising events and a grant from the National Lottery, Brisley Cricket Club have been able to completely rebuild and decorate the entire clubhouse, recreate the square which now has good consistent bounce and also upgrade the fencing, imperative when surrounded by stock on one of England’s largest lowland grazing common.
After many years floundering in the lower levels of the Norfolk Cricket League, the club had to withdraw from league cricket in 2015 due the decline of players and the club was set for a dreadful fate similar to many former village teams across the country.
What bucks the trend at Brisley is that decision along with a change of governance started the rebound and the club strengthened. Brisley started playing Friday evening 20 overs a side (20/20) friendly matches, with an emphasis on a fun and family friendly atmosphere.
Today, the side draws 60 to over 100 spectators from the village and surrounding areas every Friday evening during the high summer. The team’s themselves are now flourishing with a large base of players and a substitution system often has to be employed when more than 26 players are selected for two teams.