All aboard as cricket club celebrates special anniversary

July 05 2018
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OLD Down cricket club are celebrating their 175th birthday with a series of special events that include a dinner on board the SS Great Britain.

What is thought to be the oldest club in the Bristol area was established very close to July 19, 1843 when Brunel’s iconic steamship was launched.

The world is a very different place these days but the first Old Down cricketers would still recognise the club’s undulating outfield and stunning views over the Severn Estuary to the Welsh hills.

Andy Rowen is in his third year as chairman, following in the footsteps of his father Roger who is now president, while 14-year-old son George is starting to make an impression at a club dominated by family groups sharing a love of cricket.

Andy said: “Even on a cold night it’s good to come up and enjoy what we have here. We’re a village cricket club with no pretences … we play for fun and we try to win. But we try to do it properly, shaking hands after and then having a beer.”

Old Down put out two senior Saturday sides in the Bristol & District League as well as under-11, under-13 and under-15 youth teams along with running Chance to Shine for under-9s and the new All-Star scheme which is aimed at youngsters aged five to eight.

Andy added: “It’s wonderful to be here on a Friday and see kids absolutely everywhere. The anniversary will include a family day in June because we want the celebrations to include our juniors.”

“It wasn’t that long ago that we were struggling at times to get our 2nds out but a tremendous amount of hard work has gone into our juniors and we’re now starting to see the fruits of those labours.”

“It’s lovely to look 25 years ahead and think of being 200 – wouldn’t that be fantastic?”

Old Down, who have a special match against the MCC on August 5, are not quite as old as Lansdown who, batting for Bath, trace their origins back to 1825 but edge ahead of Congresbury (1844) and Frenchay (1846).

The Great Britain dinner is set for July 6 when the world’s first steamship will remember its important role in cricket history as the vessel which, in 1861, departed Liverpool carrying the first ‘All England’ cricket team to Australia.

The 12-match tour by ‘The Trailblazers’ was such a success that it paved the way for The Ashes series which are such a beloved part of today’s cricket calendar.