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         Backwell House X1 1883

         Edgar, Theo., Harold, Arthur, Frank (12th Man), Alfred, Sydney.

         Cres., Alec., Walter, Wroughton, Kossuth





 This is the story of a family, who over a period of 86 years, with the exception of two periods covering the World Wars, have annually fielded a Cricket XI and also of Flax Bourton, who since before the beginning of the century, have been their traditional opponents.



 The Backwell House Matches originated from an invitation by Charles Parnell, Captain of West Town Cricket Club, to Alfred, eldest son of John Robinson of Backwell House, to bring a team to play West Town on August Bank Holiday 1878. After consulting and recruiting his 5 brothers and 5 of his first cousins, Alfred told Parnell that they would field a team consisting entirely of Robinsons. The team assembled at Backwell House and drove in two wagonettes to the ground. They were followed at a respectful distance by the Backwell House pony cart, carrying the four lady supporters of the family, including Isabel aged 10. Isabel can still remember every incident of the game that followed, and has watched every Family match since then until a few years ago.

The story of this first match against West Town might have been taken from a Cricket novel. The youthful Family XI led by their Captain, Arthur aged 23, faced a total of 136-a fairly formidable one on the wickets of those days. When Theo, the junior member of the side, joined his Captain, 16 runs were still needed for victory. The chronicler describes how, amidst intense excitement, the runs were hit off and the retiring batsmen carried in shoulder high. Arthur's contribution was a magnificent 83 not out.

Thereafter over a period of 87 seasons, 57 members of the family have taken part in the Backwell House matches. The teams have always consisted entirely of Robinsons grandsons, great-grandsons, great-great grandsons or great-great-great-grandsons of Edward Robinson (1791-1870), paper maker, and his wife, Maria Smith of Silver Rill, Overbury, Gloucestershire.


  Up to the turn of the century, Backwell House played a succession of different opponents, which included the villages of Backwell, Wraxall, Nailsea, Long Ashton, Sneyd Park, Yatton and in 1889, the first of many encounters with the now traditional enemy-Flax Bourton. Several of these early matches were very low scoring affairs. In 1879, the Family (1O7 and 20 for 4) defeated Backwell (57 and 94)' Arthur again played a leading part scoring 37 (1st innings) and taking 9 wickets in the match. In 1881, in spite of being 'outed' for 22 in the first innings, the Family again defeated Backwell (44 and 33) by 9 wickets. During the early years, Theo's bowling contributed considerably towards the Family successes. In 1886, he took all 10 wickets in one innings against Wraxall. In 1890, Arthur (159) scored the third of his 4 centuries for Backwell House, and with Cres (90) contributed mainly towards the biggest ever Family total -415 for 7 dec. However, the gilt is rather taken off the gingerbread when one reads that R. Ford's XI scored only 138 for 6 in reply, and there was no report of rain!

  Now in 1891, came, historically, the most important match, versus the GRACES. The ROBINSON'S were defeated by 37 runs, but went down fighting. After a fine opening partnership of 84 by the 'Coroner' (81) and W.G. junior, the Robinsons did well to keep the Graces down to a total of 184. At one stage, the Robinsons were 102 for 1, when Arthur was caught by the 'Champion'. Cres of the Somerset XI was out soon afterwards, having played a dashing innings of 67. One story, (not officially recorded!) relates how one of the lesser known Doctors, anticipating that fielding in the heat of the afternoon might become rather trying, arranged, between innings, that his Coachman should bring out a message to the effect that he, the Doctor, was urgently required to attend a confinement. Board, the Gloucestershire wicket-keeper acting as substitute, fielded magnificently and saved many runs. However, the Doctor couldn't resist watching the exciting later stages of the Robinson innings from a dark corner of the pavilion. Unfortunately, for him, he was spotted by a member of the opposition!

 In 1895, another family, the Evans, took the limelight against the Robinsons. The Evans had for some years formed the backbone of the Flax Bourton XI. On this occasion D.L. (Somerset XI) and E.D. took 19 out of 20 Robinson wickets and D.L. (45) and P .M. (31) made the highest scores of the match, which Flax Bourton won by an innings and 53 runs. In this year, also, Backwell House were tumbled by Barrow Court for their lowest ever total -20. However, in that year, also, the return match against Flax Bourton was won and Mr. R. Ford's XI (89 and 36) defeated by an innings and 32 runs. 

 On to the scene at this stage, came the great Gloucestershire trio-Foster (now Sir Foster, owner breeder of Merchant Venturer, Derby 2nd in 1963 and Homeward Bound winner of the Oaks in 1964), Percy, and Douglas; all of them destined to play big parts in the Backwell House matches up to 1937. Foster captained the County from 1919 to 1922 and Douglas from 1924 to 1926. For Flax Bourton, appeared Harry Chidgey, the Somerset bat and wicket-keeper, who played regularly for the Club until 1934. In 1912, Percy (90 n.o.) and Douglas (65.n.o.) put on 157 for the 1st wicket to give Backwell House their first and only 10 wicket victory.

 So ended the pre-World War I era of 37 years and no less than 14 matches (won 52, lost 43, drawn 9) had been played. 36 members of the Family had taken the field at various times. Douglas went to South Africa with the M.C.C.. Touring Team in 1913, but, was unfortunately forced to return through illness without playing in a match. He also kept wicket for the Gentlemen v. the Players at Lords and the Oval (twice). Cres and Theo played for Somerset and Arthur for Gloucestershire. Arthur's contribution both as Captain and batsman had been very considerable. He scored 4 centuries and carried his bat through the innings on no less than 4 occasions.

Between the Wars

 It was 1927 before Backwell House again took the field. Six members of the Family had lost their lives in the Great War. In addition, the Gloucestershire trio were invariably heavily engaged for the County against Somerset over the August Bank Holiday. In 1928, the 108th match was played and Theo, who had played in 105 of these matches, was still taking part. On the Flax Bourton side, the Evans family were still there in strength, Harry Chidgey, and Alan Cave (married to a Robinson!) and destined to become the biggest thorn in the Family side. Alan's final record of 1,392 runs in 43 innings (5 times not out) well illustrates this.

 In 1929, the highest ever partnership for any wicket (4th) of 204 was made by Percy (112) and Esmond (87). E. O. Evans scored 117 not out in the same match. In 1930 Alan Cave (110 n.o.) scored the first of his 3 centuries in 5 years (not to mention a 95!) and for Backwell House, always well served behind the stumps, Lawrence took 6 wickets (st. 4, ct 2) in one innings.

 1936 was a memorable year on two counts. Backwell House won both matches for the third time and Theo made his final appearance aged 70. During this period of 58 years, Theo had the final all round record of 107 matches, 2,864 runs, 399 wickets and 64 catches. In this year, there was a span of 55 years representing 3 generations between the oldest and youngest members of the Family side. Incidentally, Theo at 70 was the oldest ever to play for Backwell House, and Rupert (11 years and 13 days) the youngest.

Post World War II

 With the outbreak of World War II, the Backwell House matches ended in 1939 and restarted again 9 years later. There were now a considerable number of new faces on both sides. Esmond captained the side and the Family bowling was opened by two young bowlers, Tony (Wiltshire), who was genuinely fast down the hill, and John Esmond. For Flax Bourton, the old enemy Alan Cave, Jack Clarke (half a Robinson!) and Leslie Rogers were the only links with 1939. Backwell House were heavily defeated in one match this year and the other was ruined by rain. In the following year, the Family found great difficulty in raising a side and, in fact, only one Backwell House match was played. This was also spoilt by rain, but marked by a magnificent century for Flax Bourton by Chris Rowe, who hit 100 out of 140 scored whilst at the wicket.

 The most exciting finish since 1878 occurred in 1954-a tie. Facing a total of 143, Flax Bourton lost their 9th wicket at 13, but with some desperate singles the scores were levelled, and then Baker swept to mid-wicket, where Geoffrey had been specially posted and took a good catch. Tony and John Esmond bowled unchanged throughout the Flax Bourton innings. For several years these two had to bear the whole brunt of the Family bowling.

 1956 produced two exciting finishes. In the first, Backwell House faced a total of only 82, and with only 4 men out for 71 seemed well placed. The last 6 wickets fell for 7 runs! In the second match, Backwell House were 17 runs short with 2 wickets to fall.

 In 1959, although again reduced to two bowlers (Tony and Philip, aged 16) Backwell House won both matches-by 7 wickets on Saturday and 4 runs on the Bank Holiday Monday. Philip took 1 for 111 in the two matches. This year, as well as being the 4th time that Backwell House had won both Bank Holiday matches, also proved to be the last occasion of a victory against the old foe.

 1960 saw the arrival of a new star in the Flax Bourton side, Alan Glover. In this year, with his skipper, Barry Seymour (87 n.o.) he scored 101 n.o., following it up with 111 in 1962.

  Now the Backwell House XI was showing sign of weakening, while Flax Bourton continued to be one of the best Club sides m the Bristol area. After the 1964 matches and a good deal of serious discussion amongst members of the family, it was decided regretfully that the Backwell House XI should go into a state of suspended animation. 


Backwell House

 The Family batting and bowling had always had a fair number of ups and downs, but the wicket-keeping had always been of a high standard. Walter and Sidney shared the responsibility until the middle '90s, when Foster took over. He was succeeded by Douglas, one of the largest wicket keepers ever in 1st class cricket, followed by Lawrence and his son, Rupert (Army). 

Backwell House 1864

 Robinson bowlers have been somewhat few in number, but high in quality. Since the first war, 7 bowlers only have borne the brunt of the attack-Percy (Gloucestershire), a deceptive medium paced trundler, Vivian fast medium and John Foster with the windmill action and prodigious googly, who both played occasionally for Gloucestershire, Esmond, leg spinner, Tony, fast, John Esmond and, as a Marlborough schoolboy, Philip-both medium.

 Mention must also be made of the staunch support given by those Robinsons, who, over the years, often never touched a bat from one August Bank Holiday to the next. Notable among there, were Herbert, who scored a total of 26 runs in 23 innings and brothers Edward and Francis, both fine athletes, who saved many runs around the deep field.

 The Family fielding has always been very keen, and even if the Bank Holiday week-end ended with the odd pulled muscle, and a considerable amount of unaccustomed stiffness, it was always deemed to be in a good cause.

 In the last few years, Tony played many fine innings and was well supported by Geoffrey, John Foster and John Esmond, but the weakness of the batting as a whole, has now brought the 87 year old series, temporarily, it is hoped, to an end. In all, 163 matches were played, of which 64 were won, 71 lost, and 24 drawn. There was one tie and three were abandoned owing to rain without a ball being bowled. 


 These are many and varied-an occasion between the wars when a match, having  reached an exciting position, was interrupted by a cloudburst. The Robinson Ladies rushed off in their cars and returned, with blankets, for use as 'blotting paper' on the wicket. Greater love hath. .. Then there was the junior member, who having, as was often the custom, been offered so much a run by a senior cousin, returned to the pavilion and when asked what he made, replied promptly -2 7s. 6d. The awe-inspiring memory (to a Robinson batsman) of the formidable figure of Jack Clarke thundering down the hill; the Robinson cheers, which always greeted the dismissal of Alan Cave; the annual complaint of the Family fast-bowler on the Saturday morning, that Flax Bourton had, as usual, over-watered the wicket on Friday evening! Finally, there was the picture of a great enthusiast, Alfred, who in his later years, during breaks for rain, used to walk slowly from the pavilion, lift his hat, and if he felt the spots, would return slowly and somewhat sadly to the pavilion.

Flax Bourton

 The lovely ground of county size, on which so many of these Bank Holiday battles have been fought, lies on the West side of the Village and along the North side of the main road (A370) from Bristol to Weston-super-Mare. It is beautifully kept with a fine batting wicket, but with a deceptive slope, which has upset many a fast bowler, on a first visit, down the hill (ask Fred Rumsey of England and Somerset!). In the North West corner of the ground, now stands a fine new pavilion, opened in 1960, with every facility, including an active bar. Inside there is a memorial plaque to the grand old man, Alfred, of the Robinson family, who with Arthur, was responsible for starting the Backwell House matches, and who died in 1949. He was also President and a great supporter of the Flax Bourton Cricket Club.

 In the years since the last war, the Club has continued to produce many fine players. There were the two Rons-Cole and Grove, who bowled so well together and earned the reputation of being the best pair of Club spinners in the Bristol District; Bob Challis, English Rugger International and useful all-rounder; Mervyn Kitchen, now a regular member of the Somerset side, and who joined the County from Flax Bourton; and David Pegg, a very good young 'keeper now playing for the County 2nd XI. Mention has also been made of the finely aggressive Alan Glover, who is also a more than useful fast medium bowler and played for Somerset 2nd XI in 1964. Barry Seymour, the present Captain, came to the Club from the Birmingham League, and has proved one of their most sucessful batsmen. The Club has also been well served behind the stumps. Harry Chidgey was followed by Leslie Rogers and then his son, Lee; incredibly alike in both looks and keeping style. David Pegg has recently taken over from Lee. Two of the older 'hands' who have done so much for the Club, are Philip Lewis and Hubert Ball. Both are in their fifties and still playing regularly for the Extras.

 Since the First War, the Club has always had Robinsons playing regularly-Vivian and son, Tony, and Esmond and son, John. Needless to say, their coats were always turned over the August Bank Holiday! Esmond followed in the steps of his father, Alfred, as President of Flax Bourton.

 The Club holds its own on the cricket field'not only with town cricket clubs, but in April, 1958, through the offices of the then Captain of the Club, Chris Rowe, achieved the honour of an annual fixture with the Somerset County side. Unfortunately, several of the matches, since that date, have been completely washed out by rain, but in April 1964, the Club put up a fine performance. Flax Bourton put out the complete County side for 172, and at one stage when the Club batted, the scoreboard read 81 for 1! Barry Seymour scored a very good 51 in 70 minutes. The Somerset Captain, Bill Alley, was perhaps a little relieved when Langford then took a hand and with 7 wickets for 8 runs, closed the Club innings for 95.

 This is the Club, who for many years now, with the Robinson Family XI have played the annual Backwell House matches, now well-known in the West Country and which have been reported in the national press. E. W. Swanton has written about them in The Daily Telegraph and, between the Wars, the late Bernard Darwin devoted his complete golf column in The Times to the Backwell House matches of one year.  


Darwin also wrote an article in Country Life (22nd August 1936) and one can do no better, perhaps, than to end with an extract from it:-

So brave a family team as this, which has gone on so long with recurrent reinforce-

ments, seems to me to afford interesting material for the eugenists. They draw up

their pedigrees of the Bachs in music and, if a family black sheep may say so, the

Darwins in science. Are not yet the Graces, the Walkers, the Lytteltons, the

Lubbocks, the Christophersons and the Fosters good enough for them? Let them not

forget the Robinsons! Some of these families might, I admit, prove disappointing.

The genius of the Graces flared high to heaven for one generation, and then was gone.

The meteor drops and in a flash expires. None of the Walkers of Southgate, I think,

married, or, at any rate, left any descendants to carry on a great tradition. But a

family that can playa match for fifty-eight years and produce an eleven ranging

between seventy and fourteen, is one that the noblest eugenist of them all cannot

disdain. "And so farewell, 0 ye Robinsons and, deem it not all a too presumptuous

folly, this humble garland which I lay at your feet." (Bernard Darwin)

(Reproduced by kind permission of the Editor of Country Life).

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