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The Turville Heath Blacksmith
David Cairns – Secretary to Turville Park Cricket Club

...  the  blacksmith,  having  taken  in,  just  for  luck  as  it  were,  yet  another  reef  in  his  snake  buckle  belt,  prepared  to  open  the  attack.  It  so  happened that at the end he was to bowl the ground behind the wicket was level for a few yards and then sloped away rather abruptly, so that  it  was  only  during  the  last  three  or  four  intensive,  galvanic  yards  of  his  run  the  blacksmith,  who  took  a  long  run,  was  visible  to  the  batsman or indeed anyone on the field of play except the man stationed in  the  deep  field  behind  him.  This  man  saw  nothing  of  the game except the blacksmith walking back dourly and the blacksmith running up ferociously, and occasionally a ball driven smartly over the brow of the hill in his direction.

A G MacDonnell, England, Their England

Philip  Strange  followed  his  great-great-grandfather  (Thomas),  great-grandfather  (John),  grandfather  (Philip)  and  father  (James)  as  the Turville Heath blacksmith. He was born on 10 September 1854 at The Hatch, Turville Heath. He had an elder sister Susanna Mary and, eventually, three younger siblings, William, Ann and James. His mother died in 1864 and his father in 1869. So, in his mid-teens, Philip Strange took over as Turville Heath’s blacksmith.

No doubt Philip did a great deal of work for the Turville Park estate. Therefore, when Stafford O’Brien Hoare took over in 1880 and formed the cricket club, Philip was eager to please his new employer by participating in the team.

After  years  at  the  anvil,  Philip  had  a  good  eye  and  was  capable  of  lusty  blows.  His  was,  therefore,  an  invaluable  source  of  quick runs in the later part of Turville’s innings. With his strength and fitness, he was also likely to bowl fast, very fast. We shall probably never know whether he was Turville’s opening bowler (or even its first ever bowler).

But if we close our eyes, we can imagine him running ferociously over the brow of the hill that leads down to Turville Park farm to bowl to trembling village batsmen.

Turville Spirit

In his first three years in the team, Philip Strange had probably had both good and bad days but even on the worst of those days he enjoyed the Turville spirit. The banter with team mates and opposition alike; the despairing look when the captain dropped a slip catch or the opposition umpire denied him an obvious LBW; warm beer after the match before walking briskly back across Turville Heath to the Hatch.

Philip  was  selected  as  usual  to  play  on  23  August  1883.  Although  the  scorebook  was  lost,  Turville  tradition  (which  started  veryearly) meant that the middle of August usually meant one of the two matches against Stonor. There is now, and was then, no greater rivalry in the sporting calendar than in this local derby. Therefore, there is a good chance that Turville played Stonor on 23 August 1883.

It was a very hot day with the possibility of a thunderstorm later. Philip had a busy morning shoeing horses for a local farmer and repairing a plough for Turville Park estate. His young family had also demanded his attention. He ate a quick lunch and downed a pint of home  brewed  beer  quickly  before  rushing  across  the  Heath  to  the  Turville  Park  and  the  cricket  ground.  He  was  late,  but  not  the  last  to  arrive. His kit was complete (unusual) and creased (as usual), but not as creased or stained as that of some others (nothing changes).

Captain’s Orders

Turville won the toss and elected to field. “We’re better at chasing a target”, explained the captain who also decided to experiment by opening the bowling with two youngsters who were visiting the estate. “Give them a chance”, he said. But who were ‘them’? The young visitors or the visiting team.

The Stonor openers scored quickly and Philip Strange and his fellow Turville fielders were condemned, on a very hot afternoon, to an hour of chasing the ball into the adjacent corn field.

Eventually, the captain threw Philip the ball. “We need a wicket”, were his only instructions. Philip walked dourly to his mark, turned and began his ferocious run up over the brow of the hill to the wicket. We don’t know whether it was his first ball which was his last or whether he bowled a long spell before he collapsed and died of heart disease.

We can only speculate whether his death was caused by his earlier exertions at the anvil or in the field, by the strains of his long run up the hill on a hot afternoon or yet another dropped catch or appalling LBW decision.

The Last Blacksmith

Philip Strange is buried a few yards from the door of Turville church. His death devastated his young wife and family as well as his siblings  and  they  moved  away  from  Turville  Heath.  Philip  was  probably  the  last  blacksmith  in  Turville  Heath.  The  Hatch  is  now  the expensive home of a commuter who also plays cricket for Turville Park.

We  cannot  be  sure  that  this  story  reflects  exactly  what  happened  on  23  August  1883  and  we  have  no  record  of  Philip  Strange’s  batting  and  bowling  records  for  Turville.  We  can  be  sure,  however,  that  he  enjoyed  his  cricket  —  he  made  good  friends  and  was  good company. He always wanted to win, but not too easily (unless the opponents were Stonor) and was never too downhearted after a defeat (even  if  the  opponents  were  Stonor).  He  always  forgave  those  who  dropped  catches  off  his  bowling  and  was  sometimes  known  to  buy a beer for an opposition umpire who turned down his LBW appeals.

We can also be sure that he would have wanted a place in a Turville team to play Gloucestershire - as long as the match was played on the 1883 wicket. Given the batsman’s paradise prepared by John Leefe and John Hancock, today he might have preferred to watch other bowlers being hit into corn fields. There is, after all, only so much Turville spirit in a fast bowler.

With much appreciation to Mike Strange and his study of the surname Strange and its derivatives in Buckinghamshire and elsewhere and to those who have contributed to that study. Further information is available at:

And with apologies to A G MacDonnell

Published  in  the  Turville  Park  Cricket  Club  programme  for  the  Tim  Hancock  Befit  match  on  Sunday  5th  June  2005.    The  match  wasbetween Turville Park Cricket Club and Gloucestershire County Cricket Club in Turville CC’s anniversary year of 1880-2005.

Turville Churchyard and Philip Strange’s Gravestone

Philip's gravestone is the right of the two with the same shape and just beyond the path about a third of the way from the left hand edge of the photograph, i.e. to the right of the ivy-clad tombstone in the shape of a cross.