A Short History of Bernards Heath

Sport on the Heath

It is not know when cricket was first played on Bernards Heath, but Charles II may have watched a game of cricket while visiting the St Albans area in 1666. Unfortunately early records do not survive but in 1827 the Welwyn team challenged the County team, and the return match was held on Bernards Heath. Welwyn scored 52 and the County scored 329 for 8, of which J. Taylor of St Albans made 127.

During the second half of the 19th century St Albans had one of the leading teams in the county and many cricket matches were played there and for a time the Heath was the county ground.. However professional cricket on the Heath ceased when Clarence Park opened and provided far better facilities

CRICKETERS AND LAWN TENNIS PLAYERS. – Frederick George, tailor, etc., of Victoria-street, St Albans, has in stock a very choice selection of fashionable stripe flannels for Jackets, and white Flannel trouserings warranted soap shrunk, at very reasonable prices. – [ADVT.]

For many years the Cricket Club held annual athletic sports on a meadow adjoining Heath Farm - and this was so successful it attracted trainloads of people from London to watch.

Other sports were played on the Heath - but were less frequently reported in the local press. For instance 12 young men from Claremount House School played and beat 12 from the Grammar School in 1862. By 1884 the St Albans Football Club was regularly playing on the Heath. It had its headquarters at the Crystal Palace Inn, London Road, and had won 15 out of 24 matches in the previous season.

One must not forget the rural sports. fox and stag hunting regularly took place in the area, and at one time Jacob Reynolds kept a pack of beagles at Heath Farm. Shooting game was so common it is rarely mentioned in the press and in 1903 "Inanimate Bird Shooting" (clay pigeon) took place on Heath Farm.

HUNTING NOTE. – On Tuesday afternoon Col. Somerset’s staghounds (the Enfield Chase) met at Hatfield, and started a stag which ran by way of Roe Green to Oaklands. From Oakland’s Park the course lay through Beaumont’s-farm, over Sandpit-lane and across Bernard’s Heath to Union Lane. from there the animal ran through Mr Hitchcock’s fields and up Grange-street, down St Peter’s-street and finally into Mr Wise’s timber yard. it was then captured by the huntsmen and stabled at the Cock Inn. After a quarter of an hour’s rest on the green in front of St Peter’s Church, the hounds and the company, which was rather numerous, retraced their steps, at half-past two, to Hatfield, to start another deer.

Herts Advertiser, 28th February, 1891

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