A cricketing holiday which created a little bit of history
In the Summer of 1926, a number of friends assembled in the village of Colwall near Malvern to amuse themselves by playing some cricket together. According to a Frank Keating article in the Guardian in 2002:
The Women’s Cricket Association (WCA) was founded only a few months after netball’s ruling body when in that summer of 1926 a company of hockey-playing friends took a holiday at the Park Hotel at Colwall near Malvern and organised during their week two keen games of cricket between themselves. A surviving diary notes that the best players were Vera, Mildred, Rebecca, Audrey, Marjorie, Biddy and Beatrice, and that “Rebecca Blaxland collided with a fence at the boundary edge and badly cut her lip”.
When a quorum of 19 decided to establish the WCA only a “Miss Brown of Cobham disagreed with the proposal”; her reasons were not minuted. (Aptly, the annual cricket week thereafter has been enjoyed at blissful Colwall.
The start of this popular tradition led to the founding of the Women’s Cricket Association*. The first official Cricket Week was held in Colwall in 1927, and became an annual Festival of Women’s Cricket for players from all levels taking part. In 1928, 48 players took part. Colwall residents provided B&B accommodation and cricket grounds in a wide radius of Colwall were used. In every peacetime year since, women cricketers gather for the opportunity of a get-together and to play the national summer sport.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, up to 12 teams were assembled to play matches in both Colwall and Malvern. Teams at this time included many of the England squad, playing at Malvern College, The Elms, The Downs and Colwall CC, which only had the top pitch at that time.
“Cricket Week has a special place in the women’s cricket calendar,” said Gill McConway, former ECB Director of Women’s Cricket and past international. “It provides everyone with a chance to play the game, take some time out in a beautiful part of England in summer, make new friends and enjoy themselves”.
Legendary names such as Betty Snowball, Myrtle McLagen, Betty Archdale, Molly Hide and many others were regular visitors in those pre-war days.
In 2010, a memorial match was held at Cricket Week for Audrey Collins OBE, who was Chairman of the Women’s Cricket Association from 1983 to 1994.
The players formed a guard of honour with cricket bats for Audrey’s nephew Christopher, England captain Charlotte Edwards and representatives of the Women’s Cricket Associates and Cricket Week to process across the ground. A tree was planted between the two grounds at Colwall, and Audrey’s ashes scattered beneath it before the match commenced. Audrey is fondly remembered by those at Cricket Week, as she regularly attended and scored until her death in 2010. One of the annual awards now presented is the Audrey Collins Spirit of Cricket Week salver.
You can read more about the beginnings of Women’s Cricket Association* and Cricket Week on the Women’s Cricket History website, maintained by the Women’s Cricket Associates.
*The Women’s Cricket Association (1926-1998) merged with the England & Wales Cricket Board in 1998.