The History of The Mogador Wanderers

Early Days – to the mid 1950s

One day on the up-train from Kingswood, Valerie Pollitt (later Mrs Harlow) had the notion of forming a cricket team to keep her boy-friends busy on Sunday afternoons.   This team played through the 1948 season under the name of Mr Hollis’ XI.   During the winter the gentlemen, with Bill Hollis, Tim Barnes, Tony Sartain, Nigel and Malcolm Weller to the fore, resolved to form a proper club, taking the name Mogador Wanderers from the local telephone exchange to avoid confusion with the Kingswood club which played at Lower Kingswood.    The founding Officers were:  Bill Hollis, Chairman;   Tim Barnes, Captain;  Nigel Weller, Secretary.   Bill Hollis was the leading batsman and all-rounder and the Weller brothers formidable bowlers.   Receipt books show as many as 28 playing members at subscriptions of 10/-, 20 non-playing members (11 of them ladies) at 5/- and 10 colts at 2/6.   The earliest fixtures were Headley and Tadworth, both of whom we still play, along with other local clubs including the Kingswood Conservative Association.   The first win was against Walton Heath.   A concrete wicket and nets were procured and installed in the Martin’s garden in Warren Drive. In 1953 these were donated to St Christopher’s School at the lower end of the road.

The fixture list built up quickly to 36 games in 1951 and 1952 when Saturday games were also played.    Grounds at Burgh Heath and Woodmansterne were hired to allow some home fixtures.   Club records, a few of which are missing from those early days, show some considerable success, including 15 wins out of 23 completed games in 1950.   Wickets were less prepared in that era, bowlers had a lot of help and runs were hard to come by.   Eric Evans and Nigel Weller each captained for a season.   Fixtures with Reigate Priory and Reigate Pilgrims started in 1952, Purley and Newdigate in 1954.

With great foresight a Colts team was initiated in 1950, if not the previous year.   Peter Martin, an adhesive batsman, who continued to play for the Club until 2003, was one of the leading players, along with Nigel Brook and David Fawcus.

The first tour, to Devon, was made in 1952.   It started with just ten players, which number was unfortunately reduced to eight following a collision in the field, two players straining for a catch off the last ball of the first game, and broken bones for both.

Rejuvenation from mid-1950s

The Club almost folded in 1955 as leading players retired or moved away, but David Fawcus and Peter Martin, both just returned from National Service, took up the challenge, recruited their contemporaries and rejuvenated the membership under the experienced captaincy of Bernard Boxall.   By 1959 the call for more games allowed Saturday matches to be resurrected with considerable success – 17 wins against 10 losses out of 34 completed games, David Fawcus making 1082 runs in times when they were harder to accumulate.. Many new fixtures appeared, most of which survived for many years, and some still do including Merstham, South Nutfield, Leigh, Oxted, Chipstead and the two Horsleys.

The Legendary 1960s

From 1957 to 1962 the Club was able to hire the Windmill Press’ ground at Lower Kingswood to provide a home venue for a handful of games each year.   When that agreement lapsed, for a further three years some games were played at Lloyds Bank’ ground at Eyhurst Court, Kingswood.   A legacy of club crockery survived, some pieces extant as late as 2003.

From 1959 until 1971 a Whitsun weekend tour to the South coast was a highlight, taking in Worthing and Ferring, with many famous parties at the Village House Hotel in Findon. The mighty Worthing were beaten in the first year, but they took care to deny a repeat. Bob Brown hit a then record 189 runs at Ditchling in 1964, a fixture regained in recent years.

The Club remained strong in playing terms through most of the 1960s under the captaincy of Ian Foster, a powerful all-rounder. There was an influx of strong players from Purley, seeking congenial Sunday cricket, increasing the existing cadre of ship-broker members.   Selection meetings were reputed to be held on Mondays on the floor of the Baltic Exchange.   The bare records of those years do not show great dominance, but the fixture list was strong, with several all-day games, and a notable cavalier spirit existed.

A particularly strong social life was enjoyed, with the Well House Inn at Mugswell being the unofficial club pub for many years.   Closing time was 10pm in those days and beer was always from the barrel;  on occasion the pub was drunk dry. Huge dinner-dances were held for many years, first at the Burford Bridge Hotel, then at Gatwick Airport’s restaurant for twelve years.   On one occasion at Gatwick no less than 303 guests attended, somewhat more than their licence allowed.   Such events made large surpluses and enabled the purchase of a Club cricket bag and kit which travelled for many years with the team.

Into the 1970s

John Ruffle, batsman, wicket-keeper and leg-spinner, was Captain in the early 1970s, doubling up as team secretary.   He also introduced to the club Bob Hudson who stood as umpire for some 25 years.

The 21st, 23rd and 25th Anniversaries were celebrated in the grand manner at members’ parties at Ian Foster’s and James Freeland’s houses.   One of these made a significant loss due to out-of-control costs, necessitating a retrospective whip-round of all members.   However, after Gatwick decided it was foremost an airport, annual dinner-dances continued more profitably for some years at the Russ Hill Country Club, Charlwood and later the Felbridge Hotel.   After a while declining attendances and changing inclinations led to what became a new tradition of member parties, starting with three years on board the Northdown, a refurbished Thames barge moored in St Katherine’s Dock, arranged by Ian Foster, by then the Chairman of the Club.

In 1975 David Martin, an attacking batsman and useful bowler took over as Captain and served – apart from a break of one year whilst he was working in Scotland and John Cuthbertson took over – for 23 years up to the half-centenary in 1998.   His first year was an exciting one with two tied games, 5 catches for David and 8 wickets for Paul Whitehurst in the victory at Leigh.    

The Tight-rope 1980s

By the early 1980s retirement of many players and lack of major recruitment gave team secretaries Peter Martin (by then a legendary high-flighted leggie) and Paul Whitehurst (our most prolific bowler for many years, with 10 bags of 6 wkts or more) many headaches.   Guest players were often drafted.   For three years there was a flirtation with another wandering side, but playing and social synergies did not come about and the project was dropped.

So the Club soldiered on with the help of a small contingent from Cheam, sons of members in the holidays and on two occasions ladies.   Thanks to amazing work by Team Secretaries, full sides were secured with few exceptions and the pattern of results did not deteriorate.   In 1986 a nucleus of players was bold enough to attempt a week’s tour to North Cornwall, with barely a team and mixed success apart from being served by Kapil Dev? at one curry house   But elsewhere the fixture list and the standing of the Club was maintained.   The 1980s closed with the usual Headley fixture in which three father-and-son combinations played for the Mogs – Alan and Jonathan Richards (Dad once made 5 dismissals in a Mog game including than 4 stumpings, no doubt mostly leg-side), Bob and Ali Brown (a ton and later an ODI one), Frank and Stuart Jackson.

Golden Days Again in the 1990s

In 1988 the 40th anniversary was celebrated at Lord’s with a well-supported dinner, attended by many former players and members..   In the same year Alex Hewitt, son of a former player, joined and over a number of years encouraged a membership influx of his contemporaries.   This led in due course to a highly successful period on the field, including a run of nearly two years without defeat and 16 wins out of 23 games completed in 1994.   For one glorious season The Fox Revived in Norwood 

Hill was the Club’s watering hole, at least three members being working there at the time.

For five years in the early 1990s a proper week’s tour was made to North Cornwall, staying at Perranporth.   The tennis tournament is still not concluded.   When this venture became stale, in 1995 a short tour was made to Wiltshire, where the mooing sight-screen and a somewhat lively wicket were experienced at one venue. With renewed enthusiasm, in 1996, with introductions and hospitality courtesy of Ian Foster, a week’s tour was arranged to Menorca where Ian was living.   Three games against the MCC (Menorca CC actually) were enjoyed and won at their Biniparell ground, also great beaches, Mahon gin and a party hosted by Ian.   The tour was repeated in 1999.

In 1998 the 50th season was celebrated with three mid-week games at local grounds against invited sides, and with a Ball at the Burford Bridge Hotel, attended by many former players and other guests.   A slim booklet was produced for the celebrations, including memories, statistics and the first edition of this history.

The New Century

Alex Hewitt, the most prolific all-rounder in the history of the Club and a punishing batsman now with two double hundreds to his name, became Captain in 1999; son of Robert Hewitt, a former player now a V-P.   This points up the family nature of the Club and the longevity of playing and non-playing engagement.   Four generations of Martins had played, being joined in 2020 by Emily Taylor following her mother as a lady player.   During the 2010s the third generation of the Hewitt and the Lewis families have taken the field.   Getting on for 20 other father and son pairs can be counted over the years.   In 2014 three members celebrated their 25th playing season – Alex Hewitt, Will and Johnnie Parker.   Will is now Secretary and honorary Curry-Meister, besides without doubt being the club’s record holder in both appearances and wicketkeeper dismissals – a double in excess of 400, and counting.     For a few years Johnnie one of our three overseas players, turning out when on furlough from far climes, along with two other second-generation members, Jonathan Richards and Stuart Jackson.   On many occasions the supporters’ club includes three generations.   Over the years the Club has gone through repeating cycles of batchelors with girl-friends – married men – father-and-sons playing together.

The fixture list remains strong.   Sunday is cricket day, with only one or two off each year to rest the team secretary.   A number of strong club games replace village clubs who are no longer able to raise Sunday sides.   It still includes Headley and Tadworth from the first year and many others of longstanding.   Match trophies are played for – against Reigate Priory and Reigate Pilgrims, both in memory of Peter Martin, and against Merstham in memory of Matthew Lewis, a more recent player and vice-captain.   One or two fixtures have come to be midweek, during our hosts’ cricket weeks, notably at Reigate Priory.

Tours continue to feature.   2002 & 2003 to Lechlade in Wiltshire; 2008 to Menorca; 2011 to Devon, including the legendary venue of Sidmouth; and from 2014 to Dumbleton in Worcestershire whose hospitality is awesome.   Sometimes these are planned as boys-only tours, but such is the strength of family ties that does not always happen.

The Club’s finances were put on a very healthy footing in 2012 by the formation of a Fifty Club, fifty being the target membership, exceeded now for a couple of years.   A quarter of the revenue goes to the Club and the rest is paid out in two prizes every month.   Not only are balances strong, but subscriptions are frozen, cricket can be subsidised for the younger players, a generous insurance policy can be afforded, tours and parties can also be assisted.

After 18 years as Captain Alex Hewitt stood down in 2017 and Andy Tharp moved up from a stalwart spell as vice-captain (and indeed as holder of other offices).   There is no shortage of committee members, and the routine business of the Club can be transacted at adhoc discussions during the summer.

In common with other clubs, over half the playing season in 2020 was lost to covid, but there was great enthusiasm when cricket, if not socialising, was able to resume in late-July.  

If the Club no longer holds regular annual parties, there are a number of informal gatherings and curry evenings; the Annual Dinner with the AGM continues.   The latter started at Kingswood Golf Club, and, having passed through a number of local hostelleries, has been held at Reigate Heath GC for some years.   Partners are invited and, with afternoon golf, it makes for a splendid evening, the set-piece being the Captain’s Report and awards.   In 2004 a marquee luncheon was hosted by the Club, at Reigate Priory before the annual game, to honour Peter Martin’s long service to the Club and iconic status, including more than 50 years of man-office holding (just pipping Peter Tudball), on the occasion of his 70th Birthday.   The Club’s 60th Year was celebrated in 2008 with a lunch for members of all vintages and their families, including babes in arms, in the garden of Gill Freeland’s house in Chipstead.    The 70th in 2018 was celebrated by a luncheon and afternoon’s racing at Kempton Park.

The values of the Club stay as strong as ever.   We move with the times, playing the overs-limited games often preferred by our hosts, and indeed by some Mogs.   The core remains that we want to play decent standard, competitive cricket, on pretty grounds, against teams that do not indulge in sledging, but do enjoy a friendly drink or two before and after the game.   This and the inclusive atmosphere engendered is why the Club continues to flourish both on and off the pitch.

Mogador  –  The Name

The name chosen for the Club in 1949 was taken from that of the telephone exchange covering Kingswood, Surrey where many of the members lived  – Mogador, a nearby hamlet.    There was already a Kingswood cricket team, based at Lower Kingswood.     The exchange had not been called Kingswood as there was already a Kingswood one, near Bath.

The hamlet of Mogador lies on the south side of the Kingswood area, towards the ridge of the North Downs.    It comprises the Sportsman pub, several cottages and larger houses.     The origin of the name has not yet been definitively explained.     Recent, ongoing research by the authors of a proposed history of Kingswood has established that two stories current in recent years do not provide the answer.    That in ‘Place Names of Surrey’ by Gower and others (1934) suggests a link from the name of Richard Magot, who lived in the area around 1430;  properties named Magotlandes, Magothill and Magothaw are quoted at various dates.      However a document from 1616, the original of which is in the London Metropolitan Archives, places these properties in the Copthill area to the northern part of Kingswood.    The second, more fanciful, story concerns a Mr Handford whose brother, a supposed Peninsular War veteran, who was later commissioned by the Sultan to reorganise the army of Morocco;  he named Mogador House, bought in 1829, in his brother’s honour after the coastal fort of that name in Morocco;   he also enclosed a portion of the common land and built racing stables.   However, this was long after the hamlet’s name already appeared on maps.    

The plot known as Mogadore was owned by the Muggeridge family in the early 18th century and maybe even earlier.    The name may be a corruption of that surname, or possibly come from the place in Morocco which was certainly known to British sailors back to the 16th century.    The earliest reference to Mogador is in the Chipstead parish register of 1704. 

By 1915 all that was left of the enclosure in Mogador were six derelict cottages and the Sportsman Inn, which was once a hunting lodge.  The cottages were rebuilt, other houses were built in the area to the south and in recent times the Inn has been altered and enlarged.

Interestingly there is a town in Ohio, USA which was renamed Mogadore in 1825, for reasons that may derive from a sailor who was working on a new large house there.

Mogador in Morocco has been known as Essaouira since 1961.  DLM