Fry's cricket club relives its past and prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary with a March 9 reunion in Keynsham.
Started in 1872, under the shade of a hawthorn bush in Pembroke Road, Clifton, Frys cricket club was originally called the Caracas Cricket Club after a new cocoa the company was making at that time.
The club's first match – which we can only presume they lost since it was reported the opponents "enjoyed themselves at the club's expense" – was against the Bristol telegraphists.
Cricket flourished on the Downs when it was too hot for chocolate production down at the factories in The Pithay and in Union Street.
Frys has a long association with Gloucestershire County Cricket Club (GCCC) – in fact the County Ground was owned by JS Fry & Sons from 1916 to 1932.
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The firm's popular sports days were staged at the Ashley Down Athletic Ground, laid down with specifications by the legendary WG Grace and opened in 1889, and were rented to GCCC for its county championship matches.
In June, 1921, the Prince of Wales arrived to watch Gloucestershire play the Australians.
At Frys Cricket Club jubilee dinner in 1922, its chairman, WG Ridler, said the tourists told him Ashley Down was the finest pitch in England.
When Frys moved chocolate production from Bristol to Keynsham in the 1920s the County Ground was sold back to GCCC.
For many years Frys regularly ran three teams during the season, playing friendly matches with many other local clubs.
Visiting teams always enjoyed their games, as they do to this day, appreciating the excellent facilities.
In 1973, when league cricket arrived, our First XI was elected into the Second Division of the then newly formed Bristol & District League.
Our Second XI was also elected into the Second Division of their league.
During the 1970s and 1980s, in addition to the three Saturday teams, the club also ran a Sunday XI and an Evening XI.
The 1st and 2nd XI maintained reasonably good positions in their respective leagues with the non league 3rd and Evening XIs always enjoying their encounters.
Many members from the Somerdale Youth Club team eventually progressed to playing for Frys 1st and 2nd XI.
In the early 1990s the 3rd XI, or the newly named A XI, joined the North Somerset League
Such was the surplus of players at that time that the club could easily have fielded a 4th XI on a Saturday.
Fry Cricket Sixes, introduced in 1973, was looked forward to by most amateur players in the area who fielded several teams each year.
It was a popular misconception that Frys CC was a works team exclusively for Frys (and later Cadbury) employees.
In fact this was the case until the late 1980s, but because fewer people were being employed at Somerdale so fewer work cricketers were available.
It was thanks to two or three stalwarts – together with assistance from many outside players – that the cricket section continued to exist.
A steady decline through the mid to late 1990s saw the demise of the A XI in 1996 followed by the folding of the 2nd XI in the late 1990s.
In fact things looked pretty bleak – at one time Frys only had eight players to call on for a first XI match.
But such was the spirit and camaraderie among the players they decided they would carry on with just the one team, playing in the Bristol and District League on a Saturday.
Now, thanks to the dedication and commitment of chairman Craig Bruton and team captain, Trevor Pratt, things have steadily improved.
The current nucleus consists of players who have been loyal to Frys for a good many years, plus some newer faces.
The good news from Somerdale is a commitment to build a new clubhouse as part of the re-development and to maintain the Fry Club as a sports and social club.
Frys are friendly bunch of lads with new players of all abilities always welcome.
It's the hope of the current team, who play on a Saturday afternoon with nets on a Tuesday night, will be able to start a 2nd XI in the not too distant future.
New players who wish to join should contact Fry Club on 0117 9865787.
One of the club's sporting legends was Len Corbett who later switched to rugby, playing for Bristol and captaining England against Wales in 1927. Geoff Parfitt, captain for many seasons in the 1960s, was also on the ground staff of Somerset County Cricket Club.