1860 The Preston Cricket Club
by Brian Membrey
Northern Blues Football Club historian and a sponsor of the Preston Cricket Club
A cricket team representing Preston played as early as 1860, when the area was little more than a handful of loosely connected hamlets. Just how long the team lasted is unknown, but it made a lasting impression on The Brunswick and Pentridge Press after it played a Brunswick-based club, Phillipstown, early in 1860 ...
"... the Preston players went in first and during their first innings repeated and not uncalled for complaints were made about the decisions of the Preston umpire as being in favour of the club he represented …
… the Phillipstown players had the good sense to go when they were given out and many and bitter were the remarks indulged in off the field as to the decisions … Preston again took the bat … one of them at the bowler's wicket having attempted to make a bye, the ball was thrown to the bowler by the long-stop (Clement) and the player run out.
He disputed the decision of the umpire, claiming to have been home and when he went into the tent, sent the nominal captain, a mere schoolboy, down to demand another umpire. This being the only decision of the Phillipstown umpire that even the Preston players had had the impudence to cavil at, while the eccentricities of the other umpire had been as glaring as they were unjust, the Phillipstown players regarded this request as adding insult to injury, and refusing to comply, left the ground".
The Brunswick and Pentridge Press, February 11, 1860
For the few scraps that remain of the earliest Preston Cricket Club, we extend our thanks to the Trustees of the Estate of Miss E. Dods of East Brunswick.
Miss Dods passed away in 1941 and discovered amongst her possessions were copies of the first three years editions of The Brunswick and Pentridge Press, from October 1, 1858 to September 28, 1861.
The trustees had the foresight to pass on what may have seemed a worthless pile of newspapers to the Historical Archives for the Citizens of Brunswick from whence they found their way to the State Library of Victoria where copies remain on microfilm.
Phillipstown was one of the very early names used for part of the area that became Brunswick.
The area roughly defined by the northern boundary of Royal Park, by Grantham and Victoria Streets and Sydney Road. Other early names around the district included Wrigglesworth (off Hope Street) and Sweet-hope, north of Albion Street. One of the district's first settlers, T. W. Wilkinson and a partner acquired a property in Phillipstown and named it Brunswick Park after the ascension to the English throne of Queen Victoria, a member of the House of Brunswick, the district later adopting that name.
The teams appear to have played three times, the first game being at Preston on January 14, 1860.
The following week, the Press "regretted full scores were not available", but revealed that Phillipstown won by four wickets, "the day will be remembered as a most boisterous one and rendered the game anything but pleasant to those engaged … the match was of two innings each and was spiritedly played out".
No details were given of the second match, but on February 4 the Press advised readers that "the third or off-match will be played on Monday". With formal fixtures still many years away, the challenges of the day usually involved two matches on the alternate grounds, the "off-match" probably meaning Preston won the return game and the clubs agreed to play a decider.
The date of the second match isn't known, but the first encounter was played on a Saturday, which indicates that the two teams must have had quite a few members to select from, or perhaps in Preston's case, drew on the farming community for players. Saturday for most trades and professions even by 1860 was still a full working day; sporting activities of any sort on Sunday were deeply frowned upon and as a result, most matches between smaller clubs were scheduled on Monday public holidays.
Sadly after tempers flared during the "off-match", there was little likelihood of challenges to the Preston Cricket Club coming from Phillipstown or other clubs in the Brunswick or Pentridge areas and there is no further sighting of the name until 1863 when a report on the prominent Collingwood Commercial Cricket Club, in the Collingwood Observer notes "next week a match will be played at Preston".
The following two issues are missing, but in early April "a return match will be played between the Preston and the CCCC".
The team that Preston played would have been a Second XI at best. The same day, a combined 22 of Collingwood and Fitzroy played a combined Victorian XI with 13 of the Commercials named. The match was played on the Commercials ground on the East Collingwood Rifles butts in the triangular wedge between Heidelberg and Northcote Road (Queen's Parade) and the report continued "… it is regretted the club's cricket ground had not been fenced in otherwise a trifling charge might have been made …".
(Although there in no specific reference to Preston, Robert Coleman's “Seasons In The Sun”, a history of the Victorian Cricket Association lists around 25 clubs known to have existed in 1861 including "Merri Creek" - sadly, the book does not give a citation for the list to allow further research).
One potential opponent for a team from Preston during the intervening years was certainly Heidelberg.
A Heidelberg Cricket Club existed as early as 1855 and often played under the name of Yarra Yarra.
The Melbourne press treated their occasional matches with city clubs as something of a novelty, but they created a minor sensation when playing Richmond, (along with Melbourne, one of the two leading city clubs in 1856), when Heidelberg managed to bat all day.
Between 1968 and 1872, the Preston name appears a few times, usually only fleetingly.
The Australasian, a weekly compilation of news from the daily Argus, published fixtures of upcoming matches, almost invariably between the city clubs, but early in the 1868-69 season for around four weeks noted a match to be played on October 24 1868 between Preston and Ascot Vale, Given it was up to club secretaries to provide match details to the papers, one or other of the competing officials got their act together and the following week, The Australasian carried a full scorecard, showing Ascot Vale's 41 had been easily overtaken by Preston with 6/61.
Despite the small tallies, the Ascot Vale total included some 18 extras including 12 byes, and Preston's a remarkable 29 sundries - either Preston had brought their own umpire again or the Ascot Vale bowlers were a little rusty as some 23 wides were recorded!
J. Thomas managed 13 off the bat, with McLaughlin and W. Doolan eight apiece. McLaughlin also took four wickets, F. Thomas 2, Lewis 1 and Ascot Vale contributed to their own downfall with three run-outs, and there is a brief reference to a likely return match that never attracted attention.
On January 23, 1869, Preston played against their neighbours, Pentridge in the only other game for the season where scores have survived. Although they had by far the better of proceedings, they were not able to force an outright victory. In replying to their opponents 38, Preston compiled 78 (T. K. Thomas 20, W. McLaughlin 17), but Pentridge hung on with 4/26 to draw the game.
Again The Australasian's opening fixture for the cricket season included Preston.
The schedule listed November 13 and 20 with another match between the locals and the Collingwood Commercial Cricket Club, The C.C.C.C. originally played at an area known as Willow Flat in Wellington Street, Collingwood then moved to a ground in Simpson's Road, a location that appears regularly in the early history of the sporting activities of Collingwood and Richmond.
Rush not for the street directory!
The thoroughfare was renamed around 1900 to become Victoria Street as the logical extension to Victoria Parade in East Melbourne. The Simpson's Road ground had some prestige, being one of the first in Melbourne to be surrounded by a post and chain fence.
As it turned out, there were actually two-one games scheduled, the first at Preston and the second at Simpson's Road, where it was noted "that Collingwood will select the site for their new pavilion".
At Preston, where "the bad state of the ground prevented any large sores being made", the Collingwood team were too strong, scoring 93 to Preston's 44, the top scorer for the locals being White with 10.
The following week was a similar story, Collingwood compiling 58 and dismissing Preston for just 19, "Ballard and Johnson astonishing the Prestonites by the way in which they tumbled the wickets down". Ballard took 5/6 and Johnson 4/4, suggesting that again extras may have made a significant contribution to the modest total.
The Commercials didn't exactly have the world's first Internet-based score service, but there was some indication both of the local support they enjoyed and an innovative use of the communications media of the time.
In 1862, the Collingwood Observer regularly carried advertisements for the Fitzroy Hotel on the corner of Webb and Napier Streets under the heading of "C.C.C.C. Rendezvous" where "Telegrams are received in hourly communication during the play of all matches associated with the Collingwood Commercial Cricket Club".
A week or so later, Preston took on a team described as South Melbourne, although almost certainly the team involved was a second or third XI from the strong inner-city club.
But you can't always choose your opposition, and the Preston lads ran out easy winners, scoring 65 and 2/18 to defeat the Southerners, 20 and 63.
No scores seem to remain, but "Richmond's 100 Years of Cricket" published in 1954, mentions a match early in the 1869-70 season between Preston and Richmond. Richmond, one of the three leading suburban sides and playing virtually every week would have been a massive challenge for a small country club playing a handful of games each season.
While the book doesn't give detailed scores, it suggests that for Richmond "T. Darke took 6/5 and Eggleston 7/10" - the total of 13 wickets may be match figures, or perhaps Preston fielded extra players under a handicap arrangement.
The names indicate that Preston played pretty close to a full-strength Richmond XI, as Darke won the club's bowling with an average of 3.75 runs per wicket, and Eggleston represented Victoria later in the season, top scoring with 90 against Tasmania.
Sadly from that point on, the references to a Preston club are few and far between.
The Shire of Jika Jika acquired nine acres in Cramer Street in 1875 for what was to become "Preston and Gowerville Park" and Council minutes from November 11, 1876 record "The Preston Park Cricket Club through its Secretary has asked Council to fence in the ground they had purchased as a reserve and as a recreation ground. The letter states that some farming members of the club have promised to plough, harrow and sow grass on the ground if it is enclosed".
Later in the meeting, the Shire President, Cr. Clinch directed attention to the necessity of fencing in the Preston Cricket Ground. After some discussion, Cr. O’Keefe moved and Cr. Mitchell seconded a motion that tenders be called "for fencing in Gowerville and Preston Park and such tenders be advertised in the Collingwood Mercury".
No such advertisement appears in the surviving copies, but The Argus notes in April 1877 that "a five feet high picket fence has been erected around Preston Park and that residents are urging the Council to purchase the mere slip of land to extend the reserve to the main street", "Preston" was listed in some 1876-77 fixtures of other clubs, including Heidelberg, Northcote and Yarra Yarra Park, and there are references to a club of that name applying for the Park in 1877 and 1878.
There are also instances of the "Preston Park" club applying for the Park at other times over the same years and it is not clear whether they are one and the same club.
In April of 1878, the Collingwood Mercury noted an upcoming match between Preston and the Northcote Zingari team based behind the Croxton Park Hotel, suggesting Preston "was a new club, formed from an amalgamation of the North and East Preston teams" - could these have been Preston Park and "Preston"?
From 1880, the Preston name was carried by a number of clubs (see chronology) that came and went, with a more stable club in Gowerville remaining for over a decade. "Preston" at this time was primarily what we think of as Regent, the area around Tyler and Wood Streets being the settlement. Gowerville on the other hand was South Preston", principally the wedge between High Street and Plenty Road to Bell Street and further to the east.
The two areas along with North Preston were the Ridings of the Shire of Preston proclaimed in 1885 and were bitter rivals, several emotional meetings being held in both camps claiming the right to "Preston Station" when the Whittlesea rail line opened in 1888 (the Railways out-trumped the locals, opting for four stations - Preston-Bell, Preston-Murray, Preston-Regent and Preston-Reservoir - and again in 1905 when the Preston prefix was dropped and :Preston-Murray" became Preston. neatly sitting between the two areas).
The current Preston Cricket Club came into being before the start of the 1901-02 season,
The Early Players
No individual performances were given for the South Melbourne match, but Bell's Life suggested the leading players for Preston were White, W. Doolan, Crawley and the two Thomas brothers.
There were many branches of the Thomas family in the northern part of the district, giving Thomastown its name, so it is no surprise that family members appear amongst the earliest players. Mr. F. Thomas, described as from North Preston, was that area’s representative at the first meeting of the Jika Shire on January 3, 1872, and although there is no direct evidence, he was most likely the cricketer of 1860.
The Doolan family's blacksmithing shop stood alongside the original Shamrock Hotel on the upper Plenty Road and was a local landmark until its demolition in 1918. The family also had extensive farming interests and one or more of the three sons, William, Charles and Baldwin are prominent in most mentions of the Preston Cricket Club up until the early 1880s.
The Crawley name was also well known around the Preston area as farmers in Spring Street in what would have been thought North Preston. Today's Crawley Street commemorates the family name.
The "selectors" weren't overwhelmed by the number of players to choose from!
The 1861 census reveals that the total population of "Preston" - defined as "those parts of the Jika Jika Shire outside of Upper, South and Central Northcote", or in other words, today’s Preston, Reservoir, Thomastown and Mill Park was 1,423.
If we dispense with today’s political correctness and eliminate the female population, ignore the Press's suggestion of a "mere schoolboy of a captain" and remove 327 boys under the age of 15 and another 212 "veterans" over the age of 40, then the male population between 15 and 39 totals just 238, many of whom would have lived in the outlying districts and not have been either aware or interested in a "Preston club".
Preston Cricket Club (1) noted in games versus Phillipstown (Brunswick)
Preston Cricket Club (1) noted in game against Leamington (North Preston)
Preston Cricket Club (1) noted in game v. Ascot Value
Preston Cricket Club (1) noted in games v. AscCollingwood Commercial CC, Richmond and South Melbourne
A Preston club (maybe boy's team) dismissed for one run (a bye) against a Northcote team
Land set aside for Preston Park in Shepherd's Run (later Cramer Street)
Preston (2?) noted in fixtures for Yarra Bend and Northcote clubs (September)
Preston Park Cricket Club noted in Shire minutes (November)
Preston Cricket Club (3) noted as combination of East and North Preston
Preston Cricket Club (4) appears in the Victorian Cricketer's Guide as having played 17 matches including a visit to Kilmore. Believed foundation year
Gowerville Cricket Club founded
Preston Cricket Club (3) disbands at end of season
Preston Union Cricket Club formed
Preston Alfreds Cricket Club formed
The Preston and Northcote Leader newspaper are published for the first time
(September) Melbourne Sports Depot Trophy for the first time.
(Gowerville Cricket Club renamed Preston Cricket Club (4)
Preston Cricket Club (4) play on matting for the first time
Preston Districts Cricket Club founded
Preston Cricket Club disbanded at end of season
Preston A.N.A. club formed
Preston Districts win Sherrin Trophy
Preston Cricket Club (5) is founded (January)
All Saints Cricket Club formed and share Preston Park which had two wickets
Preston Presbyterians Cricket Club founded and take over Preston Districts
Preston Presbyterians Cricket Club win Presbyterian Athletics Commission Cup
Preston Cricket Club (5) disbands at the end of the season
Preston Presbyterians Cricket Club disband
Preston District Cricket Club, later Preston (6) founded at Shire Hall.
Preston join V.J.C.A. First Grade competition
Club secretary Wallace Fyfe records Preston's first century, 105* against St. Joseph's
The District club was known as Preston Cricket Club and has a continuous link to today. No formal move to adopt the new name was ever sighted.
V.C.A. introduces District cricket
Preston Cricket Club take sole occupancy of Preston Park
V.C.A. Second Grade restructured to become Sub-Districts Association
Preston Baseball Club formed as adjunct of cricket club
Harry Westmoreland (165) and Frank Bullouch (100*) add 248 for first wicket against North Ports
Preston make finals for the first time, defeat Clifton Hill in semi-final, lose to South Melbourne Footballers in final.
Preston captain Carey Robinson killed in France in fighting on the Somme
Preston again runners-up, losing to Middle Park in final
Northcote and Preston Churches Cricket Association formed
Northcote and Preston Sunday School Cricket Association formed
Turf wicket laid at the Park. Application to join Sub-Districts on hold
Preston Cricket Club join V.C.A. Sub-District Association
Preston Ladies Cricket Club formed
Jika Cricket Association formed with eight clubs
On behalf of the Preston Cricket Club, we would like to congratulate Brian for his outstanding work and thank him for providing his research to us. His tireless efforts have helped solve many of the mysteries surrounding our great club, justifying those beliefs that we all hold close to our hearts.
The General Committee
Preston Cricket Club