Former Young & Co pub that was at 340 London Road, Mitcham, CR4 3ND.
Helen Osborn’s book Inn and Around London – A History of Young’s Pubs, says:
In a 1803 lease, it was called the White Swan but it become the Cricketers by 1823. Young & Bainbridge first leased the pub in 1831 and bought it in 1881. A famous and popular cricketing pub, it was the headquarters of the Mitcham Cricket Club, providing a meeting place, dressing rooms and a raised balcony for the scorers. The pub was run by the former England cricketer James Southerton from 1875 until his death in 1880.
In the late 19th Century, in the first stages of the Australian tours, the Australian team spent time training here.
The original pub was damaged by a bomb during World War 2, and was replaced by a new building in 1957. According to Eric Montague, in his book Mitcham Histories:5 Lower Green West, pp 41-42:
After an air raid on 23rd September 1940, it fell casualty to the explosion of a parachute mine dropped by the Luftwaffe.
The mine landed between the inn and what was then the town hall, and it’s delayed action fuse allowed sufficient time for strengthening the sandbagging around the municipal offices. To the anguish of his regulars, the decision was taken by the ‘powers that be’ that it was the inn that had to be sacrificed in the explosion that followed soon afterwards. The Cricketers was reduced to a pile of rubble, and rebuilding during wartime was out of the question.
What remained of the century old pub was soon cleared away, but within a few days it was ‘business as usual, conducted from a small bottle store at the rear which somehow escaped the main force of the blast, and was pressed into use as a temporary bar.
This remained the position for 15 years. Post-war building restrictions diverted labour and material to the erection of houses, and delayed rebuilding the Cricketers until the 1950s. in December 1955 plans were deposited with Mitcham Borough Council by William G Ingram and son, the architect for Young and Company, and two years later the new public house was opening time for the Christmas trade. The official opening ceremony was performed on Thursday, 9th January 1958, the first pints being pulled appropriately by the famous Surrey Cricketing twins, Eric and Alec Bedser. Arthur McIntyre, Jim Laker and Andy Sandham were among those who happily joined in the celebrations, cheering the raising of a huge laurel wreath to the new cricketers balcony, and toast in the phone the future of the house in Young’s best brews. In the hands of Charles Cromack the Cricketers quickly regained the popularity of its predecessors, the crowded bar speaking eloquently of the convivial atmosphere and the excellence of the food and drink offer both at the bar and in the first floor restaurant.
The Youngs Archives have a photo from 1947 of a Temporary Premises Customers Outing, reference YO/PH/ALB/6/55.
This ad from 1952 refers to TEMPORARY BARS:
The pub sign shown in this 1955 ad was a hand drawn sketch of two cricketers Herbert Strudwick and Andrew Sandham, both England, Surrey and Mitcham cricketers. A close up photo of this sign and of the sketch are in the Youngs Archives, references YO/PH/PUB/44 25 and 26.
The sign on the pitched roof building to the left of the Vestry Hall reads
The pub was rebuilt and reopened in time for Christmas 1957, and the official reopening ceremony was held on 9th January 1958, which featured the cricketers Alec and Eric Bedser, known as the Bedser Twins. They raised the traditional ale garland and were photographed around the bar.
The Youngs Archives have more photos of the reopening in the collection YO/PH/PUB/44 :
|7||Side view of Youngs dray outside pub, 4 horse, 1 coachman and 2 draymen on back|
|8||The Bedser Twins raise the ale garland|
|9||View behind bar of bottle shelves, cash register and spirits|
|10||Youngs dray with horses in front of pub|
|11||As no. 8 from left hand side|
|12||Bedser twins behind bar with hands on pumps|
|13||Bedser twins at the cash register|
|14||Licensees Mr & Mrs Gammon behind the bar|
Photographs of cricketers were put on display around the saloon bar. These were rescued from the skip in 2010 by John Strover, trustee of the cricket green conservation area society Mitcham Cricket Green Community and Heritage, and donated to the Local Studies Centre at Morden Library. The photos are now on Merton Memories.
Most of these are taken from directories.
1839 : Anthony NEWLAND
1851 : George WATTS
1855 : George WATTS
1866 : E. COPPIN
1874 : Henry DAWSON
1878 : Henry DAWSON
1891 : Sarah SOUTHERTON
1898 : Sarah SOUTHERTON
1902 : Mr WATERS
1911 : Edward CRANHAM
1915 : Frederick James KIPPING
1915 : Edward CALLAGHAN
1918 : Edward CALLAGHAN
1925 : E.J. CALLAGHAN
1938 : Edward J. CALLAGHAN
These names are from Mitcham Cricket Club Yearbooks:
1952 to 1961 : W.A. GAMMON
1962 : E. BLACKBURN
1963 to 1967 : Dennis TURNER
The last tenants were Charles and Joan CROMACK, from 1968 to 1986.
A refurbishment took place in 1968, which included an upstairs bar and restauarant. On 15th October 1968, Youngs Brewery chairman John Young unveiled a mural showing the cricket green, and he said:
the pub and the Cricket Green opposite had been connected with the sport for over 200 years
The mural was the work of Mr Conrad Nickols, who first took a photo of a Whit Sunday cricket match on the green, and then coloured it in, and mounted it in a frame. After the mural had been unveiled, the upstairs “Doubles Bar” and restaurant were opened by the licensees, Mr & Mrs Cromack. Customers were able to take part in wine tasting and there was a competition with a prize of a dozen bottles of Spanish wine.
From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 16th November 1973:
WARTIME PHOENIX BECAME TODAY’S CRICKETERS
THE worst moment for the Cricketers in Mitcham’s Cricket Green was when they had to decide whether to blow up the pub or the Vestry Hall.
It happened during the war when, with the compliments of the German air force, a land mine dropped between those two most important buildings in Mitcham.
The mine didn’t go off right away and the locals had time to put up a blast shield but, as any ex-air warden knows, there’s no point in setting it up on both sides of the bomb – there has to be somewhere for the blast to go.
There are still people in Mitcham who remember the arguments that raged over which building would be added to the list of bomb sites in the area. And there are some who reckon they made the wrong choice in saving the Vestry Hall.
Bar in store
But, finally, the bomb went off and that made way for the Cricketers as it is today. It was rebuilt about 15 years ago – just as the regulars were getting used to the bottle store behind the pub.
But whatever anyone says about the loss of the old pub which had graced the Cricket Green since the late 1700s, the new Cricketers is a worthy successor.
It has been going long enough not to have that fiercely modern look of the new or “done up” pub yet, it’s not so old as to be plain uncomfortable. And with the atmosphere it inherits from its cricketing tradition, it emerges, rightfully as a well-known pub of character.
The first thing you notice in the lounge bar are the dozens of photographs of cricketing “greats”. A long line of former county players stare down slightly disapprovingly as the customers line up at the bar and the whole of one wall is given over to a colour photograph of Mitcham playing Streatham on the cricket green. On the way to the gents there is a collection of cartoons depicting the rules of cricket.
But, then, it’s only right that the pub should hang on to some of its history – after all, for years it was used as the pavilion.
Atmosphere of a different kind is provided by the licensee, Charles Cromack. He’s an enormous man, given largely to blue suits and yacht club ties, who seems to spend most of his time on the outside of the bar where he calls for drinks on the house as if the stuff was still a penny a pint.
With him is his wife, Joan, with her pewter goblet from the London Victuallers Golfing Association. Together they make the ideal couple to run a pub where businessmen come in to unwind.
They come from the executive floors on the local industrial estates and from the many offices fronting the cricket green. Dozens of them make the daily trek to the pub where they set about a lager, a laugh and lunch.
Overseas representative for Downs Bros of Church Path, Mr. Richard Dickinson, said: “We mostly come here for the beer – after all it is real beer, from the wood. But then there’s the food as well. I think the Cricketers serves real pub food and, for that, it’s one of the best in the area.”
Down’s Transport manager, Mr. Peter Galtrey was there too: “I like to eat in the bar as a rule but people entertaining clients can go in the restaurant upstairs. Anyway, you generally find the lunches here are pretty good.”
And so they are, Charles Cromack admits: “I suppose the food here is as important as the drink. Our restaurant does very well.”
The restaurant is really a small meeting room cosily decorated with a red colour scheme and complete with bar and barmaid. It is perhaps too small, giving the impression of a country tea shop but there’s a good meal to be had there with melon and 8oz. steak, mushrooms, tomatoes, peas and potatoes, then a cheese board and coffee at £1.58p.
For those who prefer to eat in the bar, a good helping of real home-made steak, kidney and mushroom pie comes at 27p and chips and peas at 7p a portion.
A ham sandwich costs 18p and arrives with a knife.
Service is good and quick, and very reasonable considering there always seem to be about five people milling around behind the bar. Barmaid Irene Hogg, the pub’s 53-years-old heart-throb, dishes out a warm wlcome and refers to everyone under 90 as “young man.”
A bonus heart-throb is 25-years-old Penny Balsom, a very shapely clerk at the borough’s health department in the Vestry Hall. All eyes swivel towards the door when she walks in with an absurdly unintentional sex appeal.
The lunching businessmen were most flattering in their comments but none of them wanted to be quoted: “Wouldn’t want the wife to see it, old man . . . ”
Auburn-haired Penny just opened her eyes very, very wide and said: “I never knew I was any sort of a mascot or anything. I just come here because it’s handy at lunch time and I like the people.”
There was an immediate murmur of approval at these words.
Finding out why the regulars in the public bar liked the Cricketers was more difficult. Almost to a man they said it was the lousiest pub in Mitcham, and Jim Goodsell added that the governor wasn’t too sociable in the “public”. Why not go somewhere else then?
“Because he comes here,” he said and pointed to his brother Fred.
Fred Goodsell thought for a moment, hesitated over saying he was only there because Jim was there, and finished up with: “You can always find a good argument in here.”
Immediately he had one. New faces popped up to say it was the only place you could get decent beer while others came to play crib or darts.
Certainly none of them could have been attracted by the bar itself. It seems to have missed out on all the effort that produced all those cricketers in the lounge. Instead there is dark green wallpaper, peeling at the edges and an obscene sort of trough at the foot of the bar which catches cigarette ends.
But there’s a lot to make up for it. Just outside the public bar is a rose garden and, although there’s plenty of traffic noise, it’s a real suntrap in the summer.
Strangely enough, not many people seem to know about this, most of them sit out in front of the pub where they can rest their feet on the bumpers of cars in the car park and catch glimpses of the cricket green through the traffic.
The Cricketers isn’t a big pub so there’s no room for bar billiards or any of the more traditional pub games but there’s a flourishing darts club and a football team; every year there’s a coach outing to the races at Goodwood.
The public bar has a TV and in both bars are one-arm bandits which pay out a ceiling of 10p in cash and the rest in tokens.
There is no juke-box – which gives the lads in the public bar something to moan about; but there is piped music on tape.
Mild, disappearing from most pubs these days, is still on draught at the Cricketers; bitter comes from the wood as well. There’s draught Guinness, draught lager and Worthington “White Shield”, as well.
The Youngs Archives has a cutting in the album, reference YO/CUT/6, from the London Drinker, March 1986, that said that Charles Cromack retired on 24th March 1986 after 14 years at the pub. It said the Cricketers became a managed house after that.
This building was demolished in May, 2017. Youngs had sold the pub in December 2009 for £460,000 to CHATSWORTH LAND LIMITED (Co. Regn. No. 6046241) of 20 Hale Lane, London NW7 3PN. It was subsequently sold in November 2015 for £900,000 to CRICKETERS GREEN LIMITED (incorporated in Jersey) of 4th Floor St Paul’s Gate, 22-24 New Street, St Helier, Jersey, JE1 4TR.