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Chalkwell Park


Essex may well be regarded as the nomads of county cricket for, without a regular headquarters, they move their circus of tents, stands, mobile washrooms, score- board and printing shop around the county, playing a game here and two games there throughout the season. In 1933 they left their home at Leyton and in looking for other grounds settled for an appearance at Westcliff where, in Chalkwell Park, they set up their seating beneath the trees in a corner of the ground normally used by two local clubs.

Historians do not record just how Chalkwell was named. True it is that Solomon Monk, a tenant of the great old Hall, installed a spring pump at the well probably accounting for the latter part of the name but the soil certainly contains no indication of chalk. An earlier reference shows that Robert Swete lived there until 1493 but no mention is made of chalk or wells. The only item of interest was a note in his will leaving 6/8d and 3 sheep to the church altar but he did of course also leave the manor house which was demolished 136 years ago when the present Hall was built. Early this century the local corporation purchased the property, including roughly 30 acres of ground and the foreshore rights, for a sum of £20,000. The house is still in use as a tea room and as the home of the head groundsman. Trees line two sides of the enclosure shielding the ground from the busy shopping centre while on the opposite side is the beer tent set adjacent to a clump of trees near the old pavilion. From here shipping can be seen on the Thames and here it was that excitement ran high one tranquil afternoon when Larwood suddenly unleashed a huge hit which sent the ball into the branches of the trees over the tent. In 1936 the spinning fingers of Hedley Verity wrought havoc in the Essex ranks when he captured 9 for 48 followed by another six to give him match figures of 15 for 100. Essex suffered again the following year when Johnny Clay took 9 for 59 in the game against Glamorgan. But they have not always been on the receiving end and T. N. Pearce, that lusty hitting Essex captain, took 211 from the Leicestershire attack in 1948 and his score is still unbeaten at Westcliff.

Bill Alderton is now head man at Chalkwell Park and apart from supervising the cultivation of 7,000 rose trees and planting 26,000 bedding plants every year he prepares the wickets for the county games. Using a solution of cow manure and water to bind the top he rolls the surface until, in his own words, `it has a nice shine', when it is left for the captains' inspection. But winning the toss at Westcliff has put many a county captain in a quandary and caused him to doubt the wisdom of his ultimate decision.
Playfair Cricket Monthly 1965

Essex played their last match on the ground in 1976, although it is still used by Westcliff-on-Sea CC

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General view of Chalkwell Park, Westcliff (circa 1965)
General view of Chalkwell Park, Westcliff (circa 1965)
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