When Harborne CC was formed in 1868 by a group of young men from St Peter’s and the Baptist Church, the Victorian founders could scarcely have imagined that the club would develop into one of the largest cricket clubs in the Midlands today, with six Saturday and three Sunday teams (four in the 1990s) regularly taking the field.
The players moved from Richmond Hill Road, close to where the 5th and 6th XIs play today, to Old Church Avenue in 1874, and the club has played there ever since, apart from a year’s absence in 1890, when the owner banned Harborne from using the ground as a result of a rift between the Anglicans and the Baptists. Fortunately, the dispute was settled amicably, and the club became one of the strongest in the Midlands in the years before the First World War. Charles Pimm was an early fast under-arm bowler, known as “Pump-handle Charlie”; among the other principal players were all-rounders Alfred Roberts and Wilmott Norton; the White brothers, Wilfred and Oliver; and H C and A J Simpson; to be followed by all-rounders Harry T Crichton (great grandfather of Warwickshire’s Jim Troughton), Irving Smith, Jack Newey and Charlie Harlow.
The “roaring Twenties” were a time of change, with new club colours (blue, black and gold) and new sight-screens. Meanwhile, the Church of England took over the ground’s freehold (a position it still holds today), and a new motor mower replaced horse power, which had prevailed for nearly 60 years. Newey and Harlow were joined by Archie Edge, Andrew Mackie, J W C Turner, Louis David, Ernest Norton and Percy Whitehouse, as the 1st XI became one of the most feared in the Midlands. The 1930s saw Guy Heaton, Richard Mead-Briggs, Edmund King, and George Stephens captaining the club, supported by bowlers Alec Hastilow, Sydney Hurd and Harley Roberts, with future Warwickshire captains Peter Cranmer (also an England rugby captain) and Ronald Maudsley prominent, alongside long-serving 2nd XI captain Leslie Cartwright, later to be chairman, and president at the time of the centenary.
The years after the Second World War saw the high standard of cricket maintained by the prolific batsman Bernard Guy, bowlers Barry Evans and Geoff Heaton and the stylish Philip Gough, whilst the club attracted cricketers of the calibre of Freddie Brown, a future England captain, and Alan C Smith and Ossie Wheatley, later captains of Warwickshire and Glamorgan respectively. Gough, Smith, Wheatley and Derek Benson were joined by Warwickshire and Somerset fast bowler Bryan Lobb, all former pupils of Bernard Guy at King Edward’s School.
The Club’s centenary in 1968, with former Warwickshire spinner Derrick Flint at the helm, marked the end of an era, as the 1970s witnessed the opening of a new clubhouse, and the beginning of league cricket with the formation of the Midland Club Cricket Championship, of which Harborne were joint founder members. Entry into this new venture was led by the attacking batsmen Bryan Saunders and Paul Knowles, fast bowlers Jim Edmonds and Dave Henry, opening batsman Simon Gilbert and all-rounder Rob Fishburn. History was made when they all played in Harborne’s first ever cup final (the Warwick Trophy), which sadly ended in defeat to Courtaulds, at Edgbaston, in 1973.
Captain Jim Millichip guided the club into the 1980s, when another cup final was reached (the Birmingham League Challenge Cup), resulting in a defeat by Old Hill in 1985. This side, led by seam bowler Don Collett, included batsmen Andrew James, Chris Stephan, Nigel Hornsby and Clive Fenney, pacemen Mark Bellm and Michael Brown and all-rounder Brian S Jones.
Under the enterprising chairmanship of Malcolm Willcox (a Conference chairman and president), 1993 saw the celebration of Harborne’s 125th anniversary, coinciding with a “purple patch” in the club’s history. 2nd XI triumphs under Simon Blackledge and John Dodge, and 3rd XI titles masterminded by Steve Mottram, were followed by the 1st XI’s maiden championship triumph, in 1996. James Moreton led a side to glory which included the former Warwickshire batsman and West Indies captain Alvin Kallicharran and the Natal all-rounder Ross Veenstra, alongside seam bowlers Gareth Williams and Mark Thompson, and spinner Dave Lovell.
After the formation of the Birmingham & District Premier League in 1998 (and another Warwick Trophy final appearance), further league titles were won in 1998 (the Warwickshire Sunday League, under James Moreton) and in 1999, when batsman and off-spinner Aamir Farooque headed a BDPL First Division team which included opening bowler Andy Bryan, leading batsmen Simon Gear and the South African Pieter Barnard, and wicketkeeper Tim Clay.
More recent years have seen a BDPL Challenge Cup triumph led by batsman and leg-spinner Jon Cockroft in 2007, with the support of New Zealand paceman Ian Butler, whilst the 3rd XI (Knots), 4th XI (Croziers), 5th XI (Nomads) and 6th XIs have all won Worcestershire County League titles in the last few years. Not to be outdone, the Sunday Knots, in the 1990s, and Nomads, in the early 2000s, both achieved championship success. Furthermore, the Warwickshire Sunday League title was again captured by a 1st XI led by all-rounder Stephen Moreton in 2008, by seam bowler Darren Cullbard in 2009, and by all-rounder Raj Sen in 2011, together with the WSL John Whitehouse Trophy, won for the first time in 2013.
The Saturday 2nd XI were league champions in 1997 and 1998 under seam bowler Ian Gunthorpe, and in 2003 and 2005 under batsman Stephen Benson, who also led his team to BDPL Cup glory in 2003, following their success in 1999 under Gunthorpe. Meanwhile, the Sunday 2nd XI have been league champions in 1998 (jointly) and 2001, both under Ian Gunthorpe, and again in 2002, 2003 and 2004, all under Stephen Benson’s leadership. These triumphs were repeated in 2012 and 2013, when all-rounder Hereward Davies took over the reins. The Robert Atherton Sunday 2nd XI Trophy was also captured in 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2013.
2013 saw the Saturday 1st XI return to the BDPL First Division, after finishing as runners-up to Oswestry in Division Two, guided by Raj Sen; whilst the 2nd XI, led by left-arm seamer Alistair Lyttle, comfortably became runners-up to Knowle & Dorridge in the Premier Division, in which they have competed continuously since 1999.