Essex County Cricket Club was formed on the 14th January, 1876, in Brentwood. Cricket had been gaining in popularity in Essex and surrounding areas for about a century prior to the official formation of the club. Six years after the formation of the club, they moved from Brentwood to Leyton. This same year saw the arrival of Charles Green at the club and many still view him as the founding father. Essex had to wait until 1894, however, before they played their inaugural first-class match. It was played against Leicestershire at Leyton and the opposition proved far too strong for Essex.
1895 was Essex’s first season in the County Championship. This inaugural season brought some success to the club, as Walter Mead took 17-119 against Hampshire at Southampton. James Burns also managed to score the club’s first century, against Warwickshire at Edgbaston. The following seasons saw the team improve rapidly and in 1897, the club finished in an impressive third place. This success combined with a rise in popularity and support for the club, as Green’s target of 1500 club members was achieved.
This third place finish was something of a high point for the team, who faltered over the coming seasons. Essex failed to finish higher than sixth between 1899 and 1932. One of their main problems was a lack of real leadership. Kortright was made captain in 1903 but was replaced by Fane only a year later. In 1907, McGahey was appointed captain but had to make way for Douglas in 1910 amid damaging rumours of blackmail. In 1912, there was some positive news for the club, as Charles Green resigned as Chairman, settling the club’s debts as an act of goodwill.
The decline of the 1920s and the 1930s resurgence
In the build-up to the 1920s, Essex had become heavily reliant upon a small group of players, which included Russell, Buckenham, Douglas, Perrin and McGahey. The early 1920s saw these players decline and this had a damaging effect upon the team. Furthermore, Douglas, who had captained the team for 18 years, abandoned his position, a move once again surrounded by controversy.
However, this departure worked in Essex’s favour, as they found stability with new captain, Morris, in 1929. Several new and exciting players, such as Jack O’Connor and Stan Nichols, were also finding their feet in the team. This exciting and optimistic combination led Essex to a fourth-place finish in 1933. The team continued to improve until the outbreak of World War Two.
The post-war years
The exciting team which was building momentum prior to the start of the war had crumbled by 1945. Essex failed to strike a successful balance between new, inexperienced players and older, more experienced players. 1950 brought embarrassment to the club, as they were given their first wooden spoon. Despite this lack of success, cricket’s popularity was soaring and Essex’s membership reached 5,000 in 1952. The late 1950s signalled hope for the club, as they managed to reach the top half of the table again but this relative success could not be sustained due to a lack of class in the team.
Bailey was made captain in 1961 in an attempt to improve the club’s fortunes. In 1966, Essex’s current home ground at Chelmsford was purchased. 8 years later, Fletcher was appointed captain and in 1976, the club celebrated their centenary year. This centenary year was to signal the start of a golden era for Essex and a complete reversal of fortune.
The golden years
In 1979, Essex won their first two major trophies: the County Championship and the Benson and Hedges Cup. In 1981, the team won the Sunday League for the first time in their history. They had to wait only 2 more years before their second County Championship, in 1983. The following season saw Essex successfully defend their County Championship and they also won the Sunday League again. 1985 saw Essex retain this title and they were able to add another trophy to their ever-increasing silverware cabinet, by winning the NatWest Trophy. A fourth County Championship was won in 1986 and this year also saw the appointment of the highly influential Graham Gooch as captain.
The early 1990s saw more rapid improvement from the side, as they won a fifth County Championship in 1991 and successfully defended it the following year. Essex’s success made them more attractive to successful international players and Nasser Hussain arrived. Later in the decade, they were able to attract stars such as Darren Gough and Alex Tudor. 1997 saw a second NatWest trophy win and the following year brought a second Benson and Hedges Cup victory. However, this success was mixed with disappointment, since Essex finished bottom of the County Championship.
The New Millennium
The year 2000 saw Nasser Hussain appointed as captain and they won promotion back to the first division of the County Championship at the first attempt. The following year unfortunately saw the team bounce back down to Division Two. However, they once again won promotion back to the top division as champions and managed to stay in this division during the following seasons. In 2005, Essex won the League Championship, their first proper title in 8 years and followed this success in 2006 by a NatWest Pro40 title.
Between 1915 and 1923, Douglas, almost single-handedly, carried the hopes of Essex upon his shoulders. He managed to take over 100 wickets in one season, for seven years. His personal best came in 1920, with a total of 147. He was also an influential captain and led Essex for 18 years.
A remarkable batsman, Russell scored 1000 runs in 1913 and repeated this feat during the subsequent three seasons. In 1922, he scored 2575 runs, making him the leading run-scorer in the country. He was later justifiably nominated for the Cricketer of the Year award. During the post-WWI period, he became one of the most successful players in England.
Fletcher was a successful captain of Essex between 1974 and 1985 and later enjoyed a second spell in charge during 1988. After retiring from playing cricket, he became the coach of the first-team.
Gooch is considered to be one of the greatest batsmen ever to have played cricket. In 1979, Gooch scored 120 in the Benson and Hedges Cup Final, helping Essex to win their first piece of silverware. He was a vital part of the Essex team which won six championships between 1979 and 1992. He still holds many Essex records, such as scoring the most first-class runs in one season.
Contact and Ticket information
- If you want to write to the club, use the following address: Essex County Cricket Club, The Ford County Ground, New Writtle Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 0PG.
- To reach the Main Office of the club, phone 01245 252420.
- This link has phone numbers for specific departments of the club and will also give you information on how to subscribe to the club’s newsletter.
- You can buy tickets for club games here.
- Directions to the Ford County Ground:
From north: from A130 (Essex Regiment Way) exit roundabout on to A138 (Chelmer Valley Road) and follow A138 to junction with B1007, take B1007 (New London Road), turn right into New Writtle Street.
From south: from B1002 take A1016, at roundabout take A414 (London Road), at roundabout take B1007 (Moulsham Street then New London Road), turn left into New Writtle Street.
From east: from A130 (Southend Road) take A1114 (Southend Road), continue on A414, take A138 (Parkway), turn left on to B1007 (New London Road), turn right on to New Writtle Street.
From west: follow A414 into Chelmsford (Ongar Road, London Road), take B1007 (Moulsham Street then New London Road), turn left on to New Writtle Street.
By train: Chelmsford station is half a mile away from the ground.
By bus: There are also several bus routes which connect to this part of town, as well as several cycle routes.