FOLLOWING the news that a brand new, state-of-the-art cricket club will be built at May’s Bounty, this week the Gazette is taking a look at the iconic ground’s history.

In February 2004, a fire at the Basingstoke and North Hants Cricket Club pavilion caused considerable damage to the interior of the building.

It has seen several alterations and additions during its lifetime, which goes back just over a century when it replaced a thatched pavilion on land that was then called “The Folly”.

The first recorded cricket match to be played in the Basingstoke area was in 1817, which probably was held on the Basingstoke Common or meadowland close by. In 1820, a Basingstoke team played against men from Alton.

In May 1840, the Basingstoke Gents Cricket Club was formed, and each member paid an entrance fee of five shillings (now 25p) plus one shilling (5p) a month. Practice was held every Monday from Easter until the end of September.

Basingstoke Gazette: An aerial view of Basingstoke in the 1960sAn aerial view of Basingstoke in the 1960s

The first game to be played on the Folly was in September 1855, against Newbury, and from then on it became the recognised place to play cricket in the town.

In May 1865, a special meeting, held at the Wheatsheaf Inn in Basingstoke, brought about a new cricket club in the town, as the previous one had been disbanded.

Various members were elected by the mayor of Basingstoke, Cllr Edward White, and one of these was the brewery owner and local benefactor John May, who was made president of the club.

It was this gentleman who was to come to the club’s rescue in later years.

Basingstoke Gazette:

The running of the club, with having to arrange the various fixtures and keeping the ground in good condition, brought about its financial problems in 1876.

The arrival of the Rev C H Lacon as president of the club brought about a revival of the club, and fundraising by various means brought in money to build a thatched timber pavilion on the southern side of the ground.

In September 1880, the cricket club was given notice to move off the land, as it was to be sold as building plots in connection with the Fairfields private housing estate. When John May heard about this notice he immediately contacted the people concerned and offered to buy the land for £1,800 to preserve it as a cricket ground.

The offer was accepted and 20 years later John May had the ground enlarged at his own expense. In 1901 he provided a new brick-built pavilion when the Basingstoke Cricket Club became the Basingstoke and North Hants Cricket Club.

Four years later the cricket ground was handed over to the trustees of “May’s Bounty”, a name by which the ground is still known today.

John May died in 1920, aged 83, having given a great deal of money and support to the club.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Basingstoke Gazette:

Over the following years various additions and alterations were made to the club, such as a new scoreboard in 1949.

In 1950 the freehold of the ground was purchased for £450, which allowed the club to make further alterations.

Funds were raised for a rebuilding of the pavilion and in May 1964, Cllr John Peat, deputy mayor of Basingstoke, officially opened the converted building. Squash courts were added at the Bounty Road end of the land in 1977.

From 1966, the Hampshire cricket team played regularly at the Bounty and this event used to attract crowds of people to the ground, but it came to an end in recent years.

Nevertheless the club has many other matches to play throughout the year for its ardent fans.

There is no doubt that without John May’s earlier financial help – his “bounty” – the ground would have been holding houses now and not cricket matches.

  • WHAT memories of May’s Bounty do you have? Email