Bovey Tracey Cricket Club History


Frances Billinge 2019


Bovey Tracey Cricket Club held its 150th anniversary in 2000. Such anniversaries are an opportunity for playing matches, social events and producing celebration souvenir histories (Fig.1).[1] The year 2000 has a nice ring to it, but as Jeffrey Stanyer in his history of Exeter Cricket Club pointed out such anniversaries are rarely accurate as it is too tempting to opt for an appealing date.[2] The sesquicentennial celebrations in Bovey Tracey really should have started two years earlier!



Figure 1. Bovey Tracey Cricket Club 150th Year Souvenir Brochure, 2000.


The first South Devon cricket matches were recorded from1814. These matches were between men from the landed gentry who had the time and money to travel. Powderham Castle and some Devon country houses such as Cockington Court, Killerton, and Poltimore had their own cricket pitches. When public school or Oxford University scholars visited South Devon in the summer they established teams such as The Etonians, The Buller Cousins or Teignbridge Pupils.[3]

The Buller family were gentry whose seat was at Downes near Crediton, and several of their relations had links with Bovey Tracey and Teignbridge. This was the same Buller family who would later become locally and nationally famous through the General Sir Redvers Buller in the Boer War.


A cricket club was established in Teignbridge in 1823 for which William Hole J.P. of Parke played from 1824. Hole was a man of considerable social standing as he owned large estates and his family had held civic roles in Bovey Tracey for over a hundred years. He was also a Wychamite and would have played when at school at Winchester. William Hole was one of the club’s committee members from 1839.[4] William Hole’s son, also called William, had the honour of playing for Devon against the England team in 1852.[5]

In 1843 John Divett, an old Etonian and also a J.P., the brother of Edward Divett M.P. for Exeter, came to live in Bovey Tracey when he purchased the local Pottery Company. He immediately started to play for Teignbridge Cricket Club, and was co-opted onto its committee on which he served for the next forty years.[6]

This means that when the first matches were to be recorded in Bovey Tracey there were local men with experience in playing cricket and managing a cricket club.


In 1848 the first local club match in Bovey Tracey was reported in The Western Times.[7] This was described as a match on Monday 24 July between the married and singles teams of Bovey Tracey Pottery Cricket Club.  As they played in Bovey Tracey they must have had a suitable pitch. There may have been earlier matches but this was the first one to be recorded. 1848 was obviously a good year for local cricket with a married vs single men match of the Bovey Tracey Pottery Cricket Club played on Monday 11 September. The Club then celebrated their season with a supper at the Union Inn, now known as the Cromwell Arms. This supper was ‘favoured by the surrounding gentry and tradesmen of the town.’ What is interesting about this is that gentry and tradesmen were mingling socially.[8]

Social mixing was something of which Bovey Tracey was proud as later remarked on at an inaugural annual dinner for good fellowship in 1863. At this dinner Jabez Mugford, the landlord of the Union Inn and manager of the local Pottery Spur Works and close friend and business colleague of John Divett, stated ‘…the object [of the dinner] being to signify and give expression to the friendly feeling which exists between all the classes’. Another local man Mr Lock, a carpenter, expressed his pleasure that the tradesmen joined with their wealthier neighbours.[9]

At the start of the season in 1849 the club still had the same name.[10]


Both William Hole and John Divett were local cricketers who had the experience to start a local club, and both are recorded as playing for it. However as the club was initially named as linked to the Pottery and only started once John Divett came to the town it is likely that as co-owner of the Pottery he was the driving force.[11]

Victor Coombes in his history of the club produced in the 150th anniversary souvenir programme of 2000 , and in the Bovey Book considered that it was incoming Staffordshire pottery workers who brought the game to Bovey Tracey.[12] Victor Coombes was secretary of the club in 1950 but he was too young to have living relatives who could confirm when and how the club actually started (Fig. 2).[13] He wrote his history without the benefit of newspapers on-line which confirm when the earliest matches took place.

Figure 2. Victor Coombes c.1949. Michael Steer collection, an image of his cousin, with Michael’s kind permission.

Some of the local pottery workers did come from the Staffordshire pottery towns which had cricket clubs whose matches had been reported on since 1836.[14] However the Bovey Tracey club would have needed educated men with local social standing and contacts to get things started, and arrange matches with other clubs. To run a club would require reading and writing skills and only minimal education was available to working people before the 1870s. Also the matches were played on a working day so would have needed a sympathetic employer to agree to eleven, or sometimes twenty-two, workers taking such time off. John Divett, the co-owner of the Pottery, was a keen cricketer and it is probable that he saw the possibility of starting a local club that would also be advantageous to the cohesion of his work force. The influx of men into Bovey Tracey meant that there was more of a pool of young men to form the two teams who played. This makes it most likely that it was John Divett who started the club, probably supported by William Hole. Only these two men would have had the social contacts needed to arrange the matches recorded against other clubs such as Isca, and Totnes and St Marychurch. It is unlikely that the Pottery workers started the club.

Bovey Tracey was one of the first local clubs. Cricket in Chudleigh commenced in 1859 supported by Henry Trowbridge Wright, a landed proprietor and fund holder.[15] Ilsington recalled cricket being played from the 1860s involving the Rector, with records held from 1894.[16] Lustleigh had cricket played from 1888, the Captain being  Mr Lionel Gould of Knowle House, with the club managed by landowner Mr Carew-Hunt.[17] Manton has records from 1921 and gentry such as Rev. Tudor and the Kitson family, and the author John Galsworthy supported the club.[18] Clubs needed local dignitaries to promote their success and the support of William Hole and John Divett for Bovey Tracey’s team would have been an important factor,  


After the Bovey Tracey Pottery Cricket Club match in May 1849 the next reported matches in July and August were described as being between Bovey Tracey Cricket Club and Totnes Cricket Club and held on Bovey Tracey cricket ground. All further references use the name Bovey Tracey Cricket Club. We have the names of the Bovey Tracey men who played in 1849. The team included John Divett who opened, Blake, Robinson, William Cartledge, B. Dale W. Dale, William Ranger; Robert Steele, Richard Joll; James Galer , and Bloor. As opening batsman John Divett was a significant member of the team. Richard Joll was a prominent local businessman and licensee of what later became known as the Old Dolphin. Descendants of some of these families still live in Bovey Tracey. From Census information we know that only three of the team, William Cartledge, Robert Steele, and James Galer came from Staffordshire.[19]


The only places the cricket club could have played were on a village green, common land or private land. Bovey Tracey’s central ‘green’ was where the market was held each week. This was sloping land not suitable or large enough for cricket. There are no references to private land being used for the matches. It is generally accepted that the cricket ground always was at its current location on the edge of the town. This land was heath land part of ‘The Heathfield’ held by Lord Courtenay, Earl of Devon as Lord of the Manor of Bovey Tracey. Tenants of Bovey Tracey had rights of common including grazing on this land (Fig. 3).[20] The use of the land for sports is not referred to in the Manor or Borough Court rolls and so would have been a local arrangement whereby the matches were played and no formal transaction took place as to the use of the land. In 1841 William Hole of Parke obtained rights on this land through a mortgage with the Earl of Devon.[21] This confirms that as occupier of the land William Hole was involved in the start of the cricket club along with John Divett.

Figure 3. 1841 Tithe Map showing the site of the current cricket ground. By kind permission of Devon Heritage Centre.

 It is presumed that cricket club started playing on part of this common land some time around 1848 when the first local club match was reported in the newspaper. William Hole still had possession of this land until 1855 when the Earl of Devon sold the lordship and his Heathfield lands to Charles Aldenburgh Bentinck.[22] Bentinck continued to permit recreation on this land with the  arrangement being formalised when the ‘Heathfield’ was enclosed in 1865.[23]


Club Cricket in Bovey Tracey has been recorded since 1848. John Divett the owner of the local pottery company, and William Hole of the local gentry, were the founders of this club. Through William Hole’s generosity the pitch was sited on the Heathfield where it remains to this day. Ownership of this land passed to Charles Aldenburgh Bentinck in 1855 and he continued to permit recreation on it. In 1921 with the Law of Property Acts about to come into effect Bentinck passed the land to Bovey Tracey Parish Council.[24] It is now Bovey Tracey Town Council which is responsible for the recreation ground, and the cricket club is run by its members (Fig.4).The club’s next big anniversary will be the two hundredth year of club cricket in Bovey Tracey which will be in 2048. Will any descendants of the c.1925 team be around for that celebration (Fig.5)? Do you remember more recent players (Fig. 6)?



Figure 4. Bovey Tracey Cricket Ground. Frances Billinge 2019.

Figure 5. Bovey Tracey Cricket Cub team c.1925. Alfie Courtier umpire, next to him is Michael Steer’s father. Michael Steer collection  with his kind permission.



Figure 6. Cricket Club Dinner with Members of the Bowing Club  1957. Trecarn Hotel Torquay. Colin Payne’s collection with his kind permission.

Colin Snell Pat Mountfortd, Austin Coombes, Victor Coombes, Tom Goodridge, Derek Stevens, Colin Payne, John Clarke, Vernon Coombes. Jack Collier, Stuaert Mountford, Joyce Bond, Ken Bond, Norman Maundert , Peter Wright.

Figure 7. Bovey Tracey Cricket Club team, do you know the date and place? Colin Payne’s collection with his kind permission. 


I am grateful to Michael Steer who very kindly sent me his copy of the Bovey Tracey Cricket Club 150th Souvenir Brochure all the way from Australia, and for sharing his memories and photographs with me. Also thanks to a local resident for providing a later image. 

[1] Bovey Tracey Cricket Club 150th Souvenir Brochure (Manaton Moor Print, Bovey Tracey Cricket Club 2000) 

[2] Jeffrey Stanyer, 2000. A Great Survivor. The History of the Exeter Cricket Club in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Exeter, St Leonard’s Press) pp.13, 15-17.

[3] Stanyer , 2000, op.cit.p. 113; Stan Vigers and Michael Cockram, 2007.The Early History of Dawlish cricket Club. (Dawlish, Dawlish History group) p.4.

[4] George Wareing Ormerod, 1888. Annals of the Teignbridge Cricket Club 1823-1883. (Privately published available at Devon Heritage Centre S796 358/TEI/ORM) p. 3 matches between Etonians and Buller Cousins; pp.9, 12 William Hole a member in 1824.

[5] The Western Times 28 August 1852, p.7

[6] Ormerod,1888, see note 4.

[7] The Western Times 29 July 1848, p 5.

[8] Ibid., 19 September, p. 5.

[9] Exeter and Plymouth Gazette6 February, 1863 p.3.

[10] The Western Times 12 May 1849  p.5.

[11] Ormerod, 1888, p.6, see note 4.

[12] Bovey Tracey Crickey Club 150th Souvenir Brochure 2000, p.2, see note 1;  Victor Coombes, 2004. Cricket in Veronica Kennedy, 2004. The Bovey Book, (Bovey Tracey, Cottage Publishing) pp. 151-155, p.151.

[13] Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 17 March 1950, p.8.

[14] Staffordshire Advertiser, 2 July 1836, p.3 referred to a cricket match between Hanley and  Burslem and that the pottery towns each had a cricket club.

[15]  Chudleigh History Group, 2009. The Chudleigh Book (Chudleigh, Orchard Publications) p.333; 1861 Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 29 March 1861  p.6. meeting to establish a Cricket Club; The National Archives Census 1861 Henry Trowbridge Wright.

[16] Dick Wills, 2000. The Book of Ilsington (Tiverton, Halsgrove) p.63; Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 30 August 1895, p.11 match with Ashburton

[17] Joe Crowdy, 2001. The Book of Lustleigh (Tiverton, Halsgrove) p.111; The Western Times March 6, 1903, p.15 meeting to elect Captain

[18] Jean Baldwin et al., 1999. The Book of Manaton (Tiverton,Halsgrove ) p. 173;  Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 26 August 1921, p.14 match with Moretonhampstead at which John Galsworthy played.

[19] Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 21 July 1849; The Western Times 11 August 1849, p. 5; The National Archives Census 1841, 1851

[20] Devon Heritage Centre DEX/4/a/TM/BoveyTracey1, Tithe Map 1841
[21] Ibid., 312M/3/M/1 Mortgage of Heathfield between William Hole and the Earl of Devon 1841
[22] Ibid., 312M-3/M1 and M2 1849 Reconveyance of Heathfield from the Earl of Devon to  Hole of Park 
[23] The National Archives 1865,  MAF1/205 Enclosure Map of Heathfield including recreation grounds
[24] Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 5 August 1921, p.13.