Stoner Cricket Club

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By Rollo Wicksteed, Old Bedalian 1949-54

Eighty-five years ago, at the end of their final year at Bedales, two boys had a meeting with their young games master to discuss the future. Jim Atkinson (1930-34) was about to
embark on an engineering degree at Cambridge, and John Fox (1929-34) was preparing to study Civil Engineering. ‘Benn’ Bennett (staff 1930-71) was in his fourth year at the school. However, it was not their futures they talked about, but the much more important question of cricket and in particular, cricket at Bedales. An idea was suggested: at the end of the Summer term, OBs should be invited to return for a week of cricket. Benn agreed to approach ‘The Chief’ (Mr Badley) to see if the proposal met with his approval. It did, so he was promptly chosen to be the Club’s first President, and Stoner Cricket was born.

Fifty years later, as the Club celebrated its half century, John recalled his memories: “Although a performer of little talent, I was quite potty about cricket and when I was due to leave, the idea of abandoning the cricket field was quite awful. I don’t remember being overly impressed by the scenic marvels of the place where I spent 14 happy years successfully resisting being taught anything… but when I found myself leaving it for good, its beauty came upon me suddenly and the notion of arranging some cricket softened the blow”.

Jim, who was not usually lost for words, was less effusive and wrote, “If the cricket has been no more than a vehicle for the making of friends and the interplay of eccentric  personalities, then never mind”. Jim was a more than useful village cricketer and was
a Stoner regular for the next 30 years, during which time he proved himself a considerable eccentric and made countless friends.

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Benn was, of course the driving spirit and a cricketer good enough to have earned a place on the Lord’s ground staff. As curator of the Bedales wicket he supervised the creation of the ‘Mem’ Pitch after the war, ensuring that it was the best ground in the district. On the death of Mr Badley in 1967, Benn became President of Stoner. Since Stoner’s foundation, hundreds of OBs and their friends have played for the Club including over half a dozen Head Boys. Staff have also played an important part including Ken Keast (staff 1939-49), Harold Gardiner (staff 1952-68), John Batstone (staff 1968-93), Norman Bellis (staff 1956-63) and Anthony Gillingham (staff 1946-70).

For those too young to know him, Anthony was an Old Etonian Marxist who helped sink the Bismarck during the war and had a father who played for Essex!

There have been many other interesting characters who have worn the club colours.  Richard Tomlinson (1970-76) has written a highly acclaimed 400 page biography of W.G. Grace. Roger Lloyd Pack (1957-62) became a film and TV star whose brief innings in
the film The Go-Between was featured in its entirety. Matthew Quantrill (1978-83) was a remorseless compiler of runs who tragically died before he could record his 100th Century.

Peter ‘Bunny’ Layton (1940-46) was a stockbroker whose legendary generosity did not always extend to his racing tips or his running between wickets, Alastair Britten (1957-62) invariably slept in a tent during Stoner Week as a tribute to the Club’s pioneers. Finally, Connor Wilkinson (1976-78), was always available to make up the numbers and his unfailing optimism with both bat and ball won him wide admiration. I could go on but enough.

After 84 years, the news that the 2018 Cricket Week had to be cancelled due to lack of  players saddened me and only Hitler had managed that. However, amid the wailing and gnashing of teeth, there are cautious grounds for optimism that a renaissance may be round the corner. Cricket at Dunhurst is flourishing, and both the Bursar and the new  Heads at Bedales and Dunhurst, love cricket and may even sport MCC ties, which shows the right spirit! We also hear that staff and parents have their own team trading under the name ‘Gentlemen of Bedales’, which includes some enthusiastic pupils.

The idea of a week’s cricket after the end of term has been discussed, and sounds an attractive possibility. Perhaps it’s worth a try – it worked last time!

This article was originally published in the Bedales Association & Old Bedalian Newsletter 2019. Find out more about Stoner Cricket Club, including this year’s fixtures, here.

Journeys

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Keith Budge leaves Bedales at the end of this academic year. This final blog is based on his last school assembly.

As I contemplate the end of my time with Bedales, I am minded to think about journeys. Last week, in a very literal sense, I was part of a group of 24 that walked from the original Bedales home in Lindfield to Steep. This journey – all 125 km of it (I completed the first 70 of them) – marked the 125th anniversary of the school’s birth, and so I have also given thought to this rather more abstract journey.

The story of our walk from school to school is pretty straightforward. We had the idea, and it generated some enthusiasm and support. There was planning, resources, logistics, administration, risk assessments, food, water, maps, sun cream; and above all a group of people who wanted to make it happen. Substantially, that the walk was a success was the result of our teamwork.

It’s more difficult to tell the story of the first 125 years of Bedales’ existence, but two really striking things occurred to me vividly over the past week as I walked. The first of these is how very unlikely it is that the school has survived and prospered. John Badley’s idea in the early 1890s that he would start a school and that it would be based on such very different principles to the ones that enabled schools like his – Rugby – to thrive, was pretty left field.

The second striking thing, and this chimes with the story of the walk coming together, is the extent of the teamwork that enabled the fledgling creature that was early Bedales to take wing. Those of you who have followed my blogs will know that I have written regularly about John Badley. His story is well known, and so I will concentrate here a little more on the other two members of the founding triumvirate. Amy Badley, a suffragist, brought a passionate belief in women’s suffrage and women’s rights. She was, some believe, the driving force behind the introduction of girls to the school in 1898. Oswald Powell, or ‘Oz Boz’ as he was affectionately known, was multi-talented (a musician and modern linguist), and brought a great capacity for making things work.

What must it must have been like in those early days of the school’s existence in Lindfield, in Summer 1893? Fortunately, we have Oz Boz’s account to guide us – and what a fascinating read it is. You can hear in his voice the sheer daring of the school’s founding and the gamble he was taking, moving from Manchester Grammar School to join such a madcap scheme. His passion for this place “where we could all learn by doing and haply teach by being and so revolutionise English education” is both palpable and infectious. This is no po-faced account, however – he cheerfully confesses to feelings of incompetence when observed teaching History by Badley, and a comic note is struck when he talks about giving a lecture one Saturday evening on the subject of bee-keeping, despite never having kept bees. By a great quirk of fate, and with charming symmetry, his grandson, Ben Powell, joined us on Day 2 of our walk, so we heard more about Oz Boz from him.

Powell died just short of his 100th birthday; Badley reached 102. I suspect that it was this enduring partnership and the complementary qualities that they brought to it that enabled the school to be what it is today. Badley supplied that informing vision, the passion; but it would have been as nothing without the ability to deliver the goods, at which (amongst other things) Oz Boz excelled.

My final thought about the journey, and the quality that has enabled the school to thrive, is its ability to innovate and to welcome change. Whilst the school has been single-minded in preserving its founding ethos, we should remember that it is a particularly distinctive and nuanced one that invites reinterpretation by successive generations. Indeed, I particularly like Oz Boz’s take on it – that we all (staff and students alike) learn by doing, and in that process remake our idea of education. Such an approach, allied to such an ambition, is demanding: we each of us need to be part of a process of continual self-scrutiny, to share a restless determination, and to be willing to change as we each of us help shape this school’s extraordinary journey.