On the evening of Tuesday 2nd May, members with partners and friends were sipping a chilled crémant watching the setting sun from balcony of the Reigate Priory Cricket Club pavilion as a prelude to dining in the pavilion below.
The occasion was the Croquet Clubs Centenary Celebration dinner. After the somewhat haphazard arrangement of the balcony group photo, the 3 course dinner was well organised with an excellent menu and extremely efficient service provided by caterers “Food for Thought“.
Dining with us croquet folks we were pleased to welcome couples from Reigate Priory’s sister clubs of Cricket and Bowls, and 2 “Ians” – one from Cheam Croquet Club and one from Barbarona (the garden where our erstwhile 2nd lawn used to be).
The light and airy pavilion was bedecked with balloons in the colours of the primary balls along with the mandatory helium
balloons. In a short speech the Chairman, after welcoming the guests, thanked Claire and Judy for making it all happen and the caterers for the splendid meal. He commented that Centuries happened quite often in cricket but not in croquet, so this 100th year was something special to celebrate.
However, Croquet was the youngest club permanent around the Priory Cricket Ground and several croquet clubs in the South East had longer histories – Wimbledon and Hurlingham in particular.
Delving into an early minute book had revealed that in 1923 the initial fee was 21/-, a guinea in old money. For many years play was from April to September with a popular form of the game being “15-minute croquet” (although no explanation could be found for what that was!).
Play continued throughout the 2nd World War, but was restricted by the concrete blocks of the GHQ defence line that ran along south of the North Downs that took up a quarter of the lawn from 1942 until 1949. For more recent history, the chairman suggested anyone should talk with the Knights, who have been members for just over half of the century that the Croquet Club has existed.
The President of the Cricket club responded saying that Cricket valued the history and existence of the various club around the ground that had evolved since the 1850s. He felt the one exception to that evolution was the invitation and positive action to set up the Croquet Club in 1923 and long may it continue.