Cricket in Robertsbridge

With the parish name Salehurst probably derived from Salix Hurst, willow wood, it is perhaps not surprising that Robertsbridge has played, and continues to play, a prominent role in the history of cricket.

Cricket in Robertsbridge

Nicolls bat factory

Nicolls bat factory in the High Street.
Photo courtesy of Mrs Jean Woodgate

Making cricket bats Making cricket bats

H.J. Gray and Sons was founded in Cambridge by world rackets champion H.J. Gray in 1855 and built a reputation supplying rackets to University players such as Ranjitsinjhi and the future King Edward VII.


Gray-Nicolls was formed in the 1940's by the merger of H.J.Gray and Sons, and L.J. Nicolls. At this time the company also acquired the famous brands of Shaw and Shrewsbury and Wainwrights. The company is still owned and controlled by the Gray family and the cricket bat factory is still based in Robertsbridge today.

Barnes and Comber Wilfred Barnes and Stephen Comber make their way to the wicket.

Photo courtesy of Mrs Jean Woodgate.

The brand went from strength to strength in the 1950's and 60's and at one stage the captains of all 5 test playing countries (Ted Dexter, Richie Benaud, Frank Worrell, John Reid, Trevor Goddard) all used Gray-Nicolls bats.

Major innovations have included the revolutionary "Steel Spring" and the first shoulderless "Superlite" bat.

In the 1970's Gray-Nicolls were the first to introduce coloured labels and the trend-setting Red Flash was used by top Cricketers including the Chappell brothers, Clive Lloyd, Tony Greig and Barry Richards. In 1974 the company broke new ground with the introduction of the revolutionary scoop bat.

A new factory was opened in Melbourne to supply the growing demand from the Australian and New Zealand markets and expansion in the 1980's and 1990's meant Gray-Nicolls had to move to larger premises in Robertsbridge. New innovations included the Dynadrive, Sabre and Millennium bats. Famous names such as David Gower, Robin Smith, David Boon, Javed Miandad, Sunil Gavaskar and Jeff Dujon used Gray-Nicolls and Brian Lara scored the highest ever first class (501) innings with the Scoop 2000. The new Millennium saw the introduction of the unique Carbon & Titanium handles. More runs were scored with Gray-Nicolls bats than any other brand in the 2003 World Cup. Barnes & Comber heading for tea.

The village also produced a County class cricketer, Leslie Waghorn, who played 1st class cricket for Sussex CC and the MCC between 1926 and 1928.

Robertsbridge cricket in the 21st Century

The Robertsbridge Cricket Club celebrated its centenary in 1987 and is still thriving and cricket in the 21st Century continues to play a prominent part in Robertsbridge village life.

The village Cricket Club (Robertsbridge Cricket club) plays both competitive and recreational cricket throughout the summer! Competitions such as the infamous Cooper Cup 6-a-side competition played each July and August display some of the finest amateur cricket for miles around.

Complemented by a busy social calendar, days like the Cooper Cup Finals Day and President's vs. Chairman's XI - a Robertsbridge Cricket Club institution - are ideal examples of the invaluable and beneficial relationship between competitive cricket and a vibrant village community!



The two photos above are courtesy of Paul Brett

For more information visit the Gray-Nicolls website. Also, see the history of the cricket bat factory written by Dorothy Martin MBE.

I am indebted to the Martin family for allowing me to reproduce this here.