St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Cricket Clubs St George's Park - Bedford Cricket Club / Mill Cricket Ground
Bedford Cricket Club / Mill Cricket Ground

Driving through the Eastern Cape one comes upon many unexpected sights, but none is more unexpected that the beautiful cricket field a few miles out of Bedford in the Cowie Valley, on Lochart Ainslie’s farm, Spring Grove.

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Unnamed members of the Bedford Cricket Club pose for a group photo circa 1880 when the club was still located in the town of Bedford.

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Lochard Ainslie built a new cricket ground on his farm on a field surrounded by old oak trees which were planted from acorns brought out to South Africa by children of the 1820 British Settlers and next to the family's old grain mill.

The field is surrounded by old oak trees, from acorns brought from England by the children of the 1820 British Settlers. The story goes that the children took them along on board ship as a source of amusement and entertainment.

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The entrance to the loft of the old Mill.

The field is considered by many to be the most beautiful in South Africa - even better than Newlands in the Cape.

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The exterior of the old grain mill showing the huge tables made out of rocks from the nearby mountains.

The club was opened by Jannie van Niekerk and about 400 cricket fans who arrived to cheer the eight teams who took part in the opening limited-overs tournament. Eight teams, from East London, Port Elizabeth, Cradock, Sidbury, Tarkastad, Fort Beaufort and Bedford participated in the tournament, which was won by the Gypsies from East London.

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The exterior of the old grain mill showing the stream that supplied water to drive the old mill.

Famous cricketers, such as Dave Richardson, Kenny McEwan and Arthur Short, were there that day for the celebrations.

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The exterior of the old grain mill showing the water wheel and part of the beautiful garden.

All the small town in the Eastern Cape have cricket clubs. The oldest clubs in South Africa, the Sidbury Cricket Club, founded May 11, 1843 and the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, founded January, 1859, are in the Eastern Cape. The Standard Cricket Club in Cradock also dates back to those years. Grahamstown also had a cricket club known as the Grahamstown Cricket Club, but that no longer exists.

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The old mill pub showing the front entrance.

So it is no surprise to find that the Bedford Cricket Club, has been around since the 1860s.

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The interior of the old grain mill.

Lochart noticed that the pavilion was stripped of its seating, and the change rooms were in an awful state. So he donated some land on his farm to the cricket club, called in some high powered cricket fundis, and set to constructing the field. Neil Tainton advised on the field, Adie Birrell advised about the pitch, and the local farmers donated bulli soil to compact the pitch and wires and poles for the practice nets.

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The interior of the mill showing the pub area.

Everyone helped when it came to renovating the old mill, built in 1834, into a club house on the ground floor. The machinery, which was in daily use until 1983, is still there, as is the water wheel and flue that leads the water to turn it. Upstairs, in the loft, is a B&B flat for visiting cricketers or for people who simply wish to experience the tranquil atmosphere of Spring Grove farm.

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The signboard next to the Mill Cricket Ground.

The old mealie-cob drying store was transformed into change rooms.

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The badge of the Bedford Cricket Club.

For those visitors who wish to experience a unique thrill, a night visit is essential. Lochart has planted oats around the field and as soon as it gets dark, bushbuck emerge from the mountains to graze. Visitors are driven onto the field and with the aid of the headlights, the buck’s glowing eyes give away their exact location. Most nights one can view an entire herd of bushbuck munching away.

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A poster used to advertise a game of double wicket cricket

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A game of cricket at the Mill Cricket Ground near Bedford in the Eastern Cape.

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The spectators enjoy the cool of the shade from the old oak trees while watching a game of cricket.

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