History of the Grounds
The current earliest known reporting of cricket in Sevenoaks is based one report in the London Evening Post of a match between the Gentlemen of Kent and Sussex, which took place on 6th September 1734. On that occasion it was Lord John Philip Sackville who pitted his team and his purse against the Gentlemen of Sussex. The Sackvilles of Knole were among the many aristocracy of the day who matched their XIs against neighbouring estates for high stakes, which could be as much as 1,000 guineas. In 1773, John Frederick Sackville, the 3rd Duke of Dorset and a great patron of the game, presented the Vine Ground out of the Knole Estate to the town of Sevenoaks to be a cricket ground forever. Strangely, the actual name of The Vine is a mystery, but possibly relates to the existence of a vineyard near the Ground in the 14th Century when the Knole estates were owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Pavilion, itself a listed building, was built in 1850 and extended in 1975 when the Club merged with Sevenoaks Hockey Club. The bandstand was built in 1894. The Club Score box was refurbished in 1993 following donations from members and friends in memory of Alan Housden, affectionately remembered as a cricketer and Chairman of the Club and again in late 2008, when an electronic scoreboard was added due to the kind bequests from three late stalwarts of the club, Ken Smart, Norman Golds and Steve Trounce.
The hurricane on the night of 16th October 1987 will long be remembered in Sevenoaks for changing the whole character of the ground, as six of the famous seven oak trees planted for King Edward VII’s coronation in 1902 came crashing down in the fiercest winds seen in the south-east region for 250 years. Subsequently, on the 6th December 1987 seven sapling oaks were planted – resulting in eight oaks lining the northern (lower) end of the Vine.
In 1975 the Cricket Club joined with The Sevenoaks Hockey Club to form the Sevenoaks Vine Club and in 1982 a second ground was acquired at Orchard Field, Otford, to replace the much loved and much missed Knockholt ground. Substantial fund raising over many years finally culminated in the erection of the Otford Pavilion. In 1994 the Cricket Club assumed full responsibility for the costs of maintaining the Vine ground and in 2000 also took over the Otford ground as all hockey moved to Astroturf.
Significant Players to Have Represented Sevenoaks Vine CC
During the 18th Century great England players of the time included Lumpy Stevens, Joseph Miller, William Bowe and John Minshull, who were all employed on the Knole Estate. All were feared by the famous Hambledon Club. In fact it was reputed that the accuracy of Lumpy Stevens led to the introduction of the third stump on 18th June 1777 on The Vine. The old notch stick was eventually replaced by score cards, the first of these being printed by Pratt, scorer to Sevenoaks Vine Cricket Club.
Since those early days the Club has seen six recent members, Chris Tavaré, Paul Downton, Mark Benson, Ed Smith, Alex Loudon and Zak Crawley play for England and one, Steve Smith, play for Australia. In addition former players David Fulton and Ed Smith have both been in the Kent county side, with David as Captain in 2004, whilst Ed was made the captain of Middlesex in 2008. A number of other players have held contracts with various counties including Will House, John Bowden, Tom Parsons, Maurice Holmes, Fabian Cowdrey, Adam Rouse and Zak Crawley making a unique third generation at Kent CCC.
Recent Playing History
1971 saw the introduction of the Kent League, which then merged with the South Thames League and East Kent League to produce three divisions with promotion and relegation in 1996, and has continued to grow ever since. The 1st XI won the title in 1972, 1978, 1997 and most recently in 2014. The 1st XI remain the only omnipresent team in the Kent Premier League. Notably, 1997 saw the 1st XI play in the Evening Standard Knockout trophy at The Oval, sadly losing a tense match by 2 runs.
The 2nd XI have also experienced great success in the Kent League winning the Premier title in 1974, 1987, 1998, 1999 and most recently in 2007 and 2012. Latterly the 3rd and 4th XIs joined the Mid-Kent League (known now as the Kent Regional Cricket League). The 3rd XI won their leagues in 2011, 2013 and 2019 whilst the 4th XI won titles in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2005. The 4th XI now exists as a friendly side for young cricketers to experience senior cricket.