The finest century made at College Field

This article by Rob Batiste of the Guernsey Press on 15th May 2024 was a dedication to the building of the pavilion in 1924. He included information about the commando officers James Symes and Hubert Nicolle, both Old Elizabethans, who hid from the Germans during the war, that appeared in his previous article about the pavilion in 2019 and to be found in the list of cricket articles on this website.

EC Pavilion when built in 1924

One of the finest buildings in Guernsey and surely its most revered sporting structure is 100 years old this month. The College Field pavilion off King’s Road has hosted thousands of cricket matches over its 10 decades and many of the world’s finest ever players have walked down those four concrete steps and over the boundary ropes onto the hallowed grass. Sir Leonard Hutton, Sir Garfield Sobers, Barry Richards, David Gower and Bishen Bedi are just a few of the summer game’s greats to have emerged from those front double doors and strode out to the crease to look back at the pavilion with all the style associated with a PG Wodehouse novel. The literary great Wodehouse’s time at Elizabeth College preceded the building of the two-storey pavilion, the work of architect WV Quilter and built from scratch by Messrs W and E Rabey over the winter of 1923-24. Wodehouse never saw it himself, he had departed the College 34 years before this Victorian-styled pavilion replaced a long-standing temporary structure which had tidied the College over for much of the time the ground existed for students’ use. And while the building has long lost the original visual symmetry provided by a second set of steps on the Rue a l’Or side, it remains a charmer in a 21st century sporting world.

Len Hutton and Bill Sutcliffe in 1963 playing for MCC

In the spring of 1924 the Guernsey Press declared that there would be no playing fields in the Channel Islands so complete and well-equipped as the Elizabeth College. They were right. Occupying a ground area of 48 ft by 32 ft, behind a first floor viewing veranda, Quilter found room for that basic, but at the same time historically special, 31 ft by 13 ft dining room. And around those long tables where England and county players down the generations have nibbled their meat salads and sandwiches, your eyes cannot help but be drawn to those dozens of wooden shields commemorating past Elizabeth College First XIs.

And outside, both in 1924 and now 2024, that upper veranda provides the most sumptuous of all this island provides – all seven acres of it. In Guernsey nothing compares. A packed Garenne Stand at Footes Lane may be able to provide greater noise and atmosphere while the sadly demolished Press Box at the Track offered a wonderful view over the heads of thousands of Muratti goers, but that veranda is something special as it looks down on the vast playing square more than 80 yards ahead. From up there match scorers, including Bill Frindall, have noted searing sixes struck by Sobers and the Indian Test star Kirti Azad, scribbled little ‘w’s on their scorepads when quickies such as Sarfraz Nawaz and ‘Butch’ White have smashed the stumps. Those scorers have statistically laid out some of the finest innings ever produced by an Elizabeth College batsman and, for those who reached the magical three figures against rivals Victoria, have had their surnames, initials and scores inscribed onto the pavilion entrance honours board. Little has changed this way in a century.

One hundred years ago on 15th May it was team captain HD (Henry) Green and WT (William) Cullion who had the honour of being the first Elizabethans to walk out to bat from the pavilion. Neither player was out there long as the Manchester Regiment, who had batted first, rushed the first XI out for 23. Since then many of the school’s all-time batting greats have made the same journey to and from the building, but in contrast to Green and Cullion, returned with a century to their name. Wonderful players such as Philip Sarre, Robin Roussel, Keith Howick and Mike Webber immediately come to mind. Why and when the western steps were removed is unclear, but elsewhere around this magnificent sporting facility, so little has changed since Green and Cullion’s day.

The first XI football pitch remains where it was first laid out and the only major alteration has been the re-siting of the practice wickets from near the Rue a l’Or gates to the ground corner immediately west of that pavilion where the old clock donated by Mrs Lucy in memory of her brother and star Elizabethan sportsman, GH Forty, has formed the upper floor beneath the red-tiled roof.

College v Manchester Regiment on Thursday 15th 1924. The College lost by 56 runs with WT Cullion top scoring with 8. The team that played the first match on the completion of the building was:

HD Green (C), WT Cullion, JHH Coombes, RH Onslow-Carey, DMcN Beaugie, CE Davey, WL Stranger, RA McLauren, EJ Laine, SC Crowden and JHV Vaughan.

Manchester Regiment batted first to score 79 with the College bowling led by Green with 6-25, Beaugie with 4-29 and Crowden with 0-16. When the College batted they were dismissed for 23.

The old floorboards and steps may have splintered in time, bombarded by studs and spikes, but outwardly it show no sign of old age, having undergone remedial work five years ago. The original lumpy ‘rough cast’ plaster is unusual and seemingly resistant to time, but for me it is that white wood-slatted balcony, the French windows and sloping red roof with central tower that make the pavilion so special, especially when the flags of Elizabeth College and the likes of the MCC flutter in the breeze. (ed. And more recently the many national flags of team from around the world and Europe when international matches are played there.)

I feel cheated on behalf of the building that it does not rate one word in the otherwise outstanding National Trust book which, via the eyes of CEB Brett, charts and describes the cream of buildings of St Peter Port parish. Perhaps he did not like sport, but it seems odd to omit a building that is unlike anything else locally. Yet, he appraises the old Beehive pub on the Rohais and St Peter Port Secondary school. Also, given that the pavilion’s architect was none other than WV Quilter, Brett should not have been sniffy as to who designed it. After all, among Quilter’s lasting and listed designs are Carteret House, the former home of Lord James St Vincent Saumarez, the former Grandes Rocques Hotel and the Carteret Bridge. Before 1924 the pavilion had been a wooden structure serving mainly cricketers and, for a time, cyclists. For a few short years the ground’s periphery was let out as a cycling track, but when second cousin Cecil Carey was made aware of available fields at the bottom of Victoria Avenue, off the cyclists pedalled on their penny-farthings to race around the Track. Meanwhile the monies for the College Field pavilion came from the Old Elizabethan Association and the school’s (First World) War Memorial and, it has to be said, it has proved money well spent.