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A Brief History of the Free Foresters Cricket Club
The Club originated on the 20th July, 1856, in a match organised by the local parson W.K.R. Bedford on his Rectory Ground Field at Sutton Coldfield. This match was between the Pilgrims of the Dee from Cheshire and the Free Foresters, so-called because the team hailed from the Forest of Needwood in Staffordshire and Arden in Warwickshire.
In 1857, the Free Foresters played four matches at Rugby, Leamington and Manchester, when it was decided that they should be a wandering Club of Life Members from certain Midland Counties. By 1876, the qualification for membership had been extended by a rule which provided that regular Free Foresters must be either by birth or one year's bona fide residence in the following counties: Bedford, Bucks, Cambridge, Derby, Hereford, Hertford, Huntingdon, Leicester, Lincoln, Oxford, Northampton, Nottingham, Rutland, Salop, Stafford, Warwick, Worcester, Yorkshire and Lancashire, south of the line drawn from Preston to the Humber, and this rule continued normally in force until early in the 1890's.
On the 1st June, 1858, Rev. W.K.R. Bedford was appointed the first Hon. Secretary with a Committee of four to assist him. The colours of crimson, green and white were adopted, together with a badge consisting of a loosely tied Hastings knot, entwining two captial F's and the motto "United though Untied" which indicated that members were permitted to play against the Club.
In 1861, sixteen Free Foresters played a match at Manchester against the United England XI which the Club won by four wickets.
In 1866, it was laid down in the rules that the club policy was to play against "County, University, College, Schools, Regimental XI's and with recognised clubs in desirable localities." Except for Counties, this policy remains today. For many a year the Free Foresters were the only amateur club to feature in the First Class Fixture List. The rules of the Club were first printed in 1867.
The restriction for membership to those born or resident in the Midlands contuned until 1892, but was never applied in the case of Officers of the Fighting Forces, and the limitation of Active Cricketers to a maximum of 150 was not removed from the rules until 1922.
The first FF Tour was arranged in 1864 in Scotland; since that date Tours / Matches have taken place in Australia, Canada, Holland, Channel Islands, Ireland, Germany (B.A.O.R), Egypt, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kenya, Cyprus and the USA.
The membership of the club has grown from the original 64 members to around 2,000 and the fixture list to around 80 matches.