Cricket has been played in Selmeston for more than 200 years, and the Selmeston & Alciston Cricket Club was formed in 1807. The Club plays principally on Saturdays, in the East Sussex Cricket League.
The team’s fortunes have recently been mixed. Not so in 1931, when the team won the Cuckmere Valley League !
Many exciting games have been played over the years, but one game in particular has gone down in local history. It occurred on St Swithin’s Day (July 15) in 1905, between the men and the women of Selmeston and surrounding villages. To make the game more even, the men had to bowl and catch only with their left hand, and use a broomstick for a bat!
This made such an impact that a local poet, Hedley A. Brydon, wrote a ballad about it, consisting of 240 lines. It refers to some of the well-known residents who took part. Herbert Hufflett kept a copy of the ballad, which he passed on to his son George, who became the landlord of The Ram at Firle, and he would often read it to his locals when requested. The poem shows life in a country village at the turn of the century, before the turmoil of the First World War, where the ‘landed gentry’ would mix with the villagers, having good old-fashioned fun in the ancient game of cricket. It cannot be regarded as a literary masterpiece but is a good description of one local event in a country village at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Mr Alec Marsh ( one-time chairman of Eastbourne Lewes and Newhaven Cricket Association, and honorary secretary of the Sussex Cricket Association) undertook some further research into this particular match and we are indebted for his notes at the end
The Sussex girls are fair and brave The Sussex girls are strong; And high their fame and loud their feats were chanted by Miss Long
From Sherrington’s old manor house, a challenge bold went forth; and all the world of cricket stared from Brighton to the North
Eleven fair dames defied the might of Sussex cricket men; and, decked with laurels reaped at Glynde, would match them once again
Then Fry and Ranji shed a tear, and put their pads away, for against the girls of Sherrington they did not dare play
But a gentleman from Africa, L.Dalton was his name, stood in the gap, and vowed to win an everlasting fame
A Sussex man- he swore to find eleven good men and true, who yet should tame these Sussex girls, and make them wear the rue
And so the match was duly fixed, and on July fifteen, the rival teams came to the mark on Selmeston’s high green
Now Potter, Selmeston’s vice-chief, in order to set the ground, and rolled it all so smooth and fair that not a lady frowned
Bert Huflett found the hats and gear, and though the bails were black, such satisfaction he produced that no one cared a crack
It was a glorious St Swithin’s Day, when thus the rival teams stood forth for such a game as man can only match in dreams
From every quarter of the shire, east of the Lewes Ouse, spectators poured to see the play and air opposing views
Glynde sent its genial Vicar forth, and eke his lady fair; and Upper Dicker’s parson came and drove his daughter there
And Selmeston’s good clergyman supplied the cricket tent, in which refreshments were supplied to players tired and spent
And Dr Wallis trotted in from far-famed Alfriston, and hosts of others choked the roads of quiet Selmeston
And Chandless drove his motor car, and did just what you please, and turned and twisted in the lanes with marvellous great ease
And, just for once, Miss Ellis, too had left her porish care; and choir and organ were forgot by this devoted player
Contingents came from Tilton House, from East Dean in they strode;and from far Eastbourne’s busy town they swarmed along the road
Now gathered on the village green, the teams were face to face, the ladies fair, the men endued, with many a manly grace
But Dalton, with his team one short, now wore an anxious look, and many a glance around the field for a substitute he took
But help was nigh, for from the crowd, a stalwart parson stood, and vow’d he’d aid the men to win, or for ever doff his hood
And so he did right cheerfully, and stood behind the stumps, and took the wicket like a man, not heeding divers bumps
Miss Saunders first did wield the bat, Miss Dalton was her pair, and they played the bowling in a way that made the men-folk stare
For the men, you know, were penalised, and had to bowl and field with left arms only, as also their narrow bats to wield
But Tucker, long and lithe of limb, was getting in his eye, and bowled Miss Saunders with a ball just fit to make one cry
Miss Chisholm, who succeeded her, he shattered her stumps too; and the runs scored for two wickets down, were three singles and a two
But now a mighty stand was made, Miss Russell smote so sore, and Bertie Dalton backed her up, and runs came more and more
Now Hedly took the ball in hand,a cunning man and strong; he yorked Miss Russell who’d defied the bowling for so long
Then Mac caught Bertie Dalton out for the top score of thirteen; a shout went up for the men were pleased as if they’d bowled the Queen
Two married ladies came along, named Bryden and Mackey, they snickered the balls and stole the runs, and laid on gallantly
But Hedly, with a direful ball, bowled Mrs Bryden clean; and her comrade hit her wicket down, and had to quit the scene
Now Mrs Marshall stood her ground, a batsman famed is she, and soon the runs crept up again, and men sighed wearily
But Mac the bold kept up his side with many a merry jest; and Marshall’s cheery laugh went round and the men renewed their zest
Miss Pierce went down for nought, and then Olive Bryden came, and smacked the bowling heartily, and earned high praise and fame
Next came Miss Harris, armed in gloves that wicket-keepers use, and played a steady blocking game, that caused the men to muse
She wouldn’t hit, she stopped each ball, and stole runs like a hare; and Mrs Marshall swiped, and men could scarcely keep their hair
But Hedley, with a fateful ball, shed Mrs Marshall’s bails, and far and wide, from round the field, you could hear the women’s wails
Miss Long came in, and Selmeston raised a clear and ringing shout, for the favourite of the village folk is she beyond a doubt
A hit for one Miss Long did score, then came disaster fell- Miss Harris put a ball in the air, and Hedley held it well
Then silently and sorrowful, Miss Harris left the sticks, and all the ladies now were out- and the score was fifty six
The company now all adjourned to tea with Mrs Long, who in the pleasant Parish Room did feast the cheerful throng
Then all refreshed and heartened up, they sought the cricket field, and ladies wondered how the men their broomsticks now would wield
Tucker and Hedley led the way, and their comrades wished them luck; but Miss Russell bowled their wickets down, and each went for a duck
Then Bryden came and hit about, for two singles and a three, till Miss Dalton took his wicket, and the ladies leaped for glee
Richardson came and went for two, then followed Meerze in; the way he laid about him raised a loud and furious din
Now Meerze bold, an Indian prince, of high descent and long, like Ranji, plays the noble game of cricket very strong
He hit a four, he hit some two’s, and singles made galore, he smote the ladies bowling till he made their hearts full sore
Brave Mac came in, and now the pair seemed as if they’d never yield, but Miss Saunders caught Mac splendidly and he had to quit the field
Then Marshall, Vicar of East Dean, that very cheerful pastor, smote, and again did Meerze smite, and the ladies ran the faster
Miss Pierce stepped forth and took the ball, and bowled ‘his reverence’ out; but not before he’d made eight runs, and caused his side to shout
The Maddock came and went for one, Tod Stephens followed too, and laid about him heartily, and raised a loud to-do
And now Miss Pierce sent such a ball, that Meerze played too late, and he was out, but not before his score was twenty eight
Dalton and Parson Russell came, and Stephen’s wicket fell; the Parson carried out his bat, and played the game right well
Now all was o’er, the scorer plied his pencil and his brain; and presently his voice raised, and this was his refrain
The ladies score is fifty-six, the mens just four runs more; a finer match I never knew, though versed in cricket lore
At that a mighty shout was raised by all the o’er-wrought men; and thrice hurrahs went up to heaven, and thrice went up again
Great Marshall’s voice led all the throng, and sounded o’er the lea; it startled shepherds on the Downs, and sailors on the sea
It reached a school of porpoises, and terror-struck were they; and, diving with their heads for France,they fled in wild dismay
So closed the far-famed cricket match, thus fought at Selmeston;and Sussex ladies proud may be, though the gentlemen just won
And ages hence, whence Sussex hinds sit by the winter fire, and red-cheeked children crowd to hear the stories of their sire
He’ll tell them of that famous fight, fought in the days of yore; When eleven good men of Sussex beat eleven girls by four.
July 15, 1905 was a Saturday (a half-day for workers).
Sherrington Manor was occupied in 1905 by the Chandless family, who owned three Rolls-Royce motor cars along with a Daimler.
The Ram Inn is located at Firle and the landlord was George Huflett, whose father was Herbert.
Doctor Wallis practised in Alfriston (ceasing in 1913).
Reverend Marshall lived at East Dean.
Thanks to Margaret Weller for use of this photograph