Village Spotlight: Wykeham: Cricket’s at heart of village

Downe Arms, Wykeham.
Downe Arms, Wykeham.

Once you have seen Wykeham village’s hidden-away cricket ground you cease to wonder how such a tiny place (280 at the last census) can put out four decent cricket teams.

Anyone half-decent with a bat and ball would love to play in such lush surroundings.

The Clock Tower.

The Clock Tower.

The £25,000 required to build the £65,000 pavilion was raised through Yorventure, discos, darts tournaments and charity walks and help from the Estate.

Cricket is at the heart of Wykeham and chairman David Grimwood has team pictures going back to 1909 but he thinks that 1875 is probably when the team first played. Yorkshire championship winning captain David Byas was a Wykeham player. The village fielded 10 teams throughout 2015 – three Saturday teams, three evening league and four juniors. Snainton ground is hired so they can meet their playing commitments. Links are strong with Wykeham school so many school sporting events are held at the cricket ground.

Small as Wykeham might be in terms of number of inhabitants, it is spread over a vast area comprising a sizeable caravan site, Wykeham Mature Plants and Wykeham Fisheries. Some of Scarborough’s finest rural scenery is to be found here.

The Dawnay Estate has owned Wykeham and Ruston villages (except for four houses!) since 1910, a tenant in every house. Most houses are three-bedroom cottages and there is a constant waiting list to be housed.

All Saints' Church, Wykeham.

All Saints' Church, Wykeham.

The Estate has an interview panel whenever there is more than one potential tenant and keeping a good social mix is a priority. The Estate was responsible for construction of all the major buildings within the village: church, school and pub.

Dawnay Estate is a major employer with over 100 workers in no fewer than 38 businesses, major of which are the pub, Wykeham Mature Plants, St Helen’s caravan site and the fisheries. Lady Downe is chair of the Parish Council (consisting of Wykeham, Ruston and North Moor) and has always involved herself in the local community.

Most Scarborians simply speed through Wykeham on the A170, noticing only the Downe Arms, a centre for weddings, conferences and society functions. The Estate still owns it, but Jane and Paul Bower took up its tenancy eight years ago and have established a good reputation.

Originally an Estate farmhouse, then a tenanted pub called the Bull Inn, it was developed as a business opportunity in 1970. Although a business venture, the Estate never forgot the local drinker and Tucker’s Bar (named in honour of Tucker Shepherdson, a regular pubgoer from Ruston) provides a public bar for Wykeham locals.

Farfield Business Park, Wykeham.

Farfield Business Park, Wykeham.

Church and school are something quite special in Wykeham. Religious buildings in the vicinity are plentiful, the Abbey itself being founded on the site of a Priory.

Today’s All Saints’ Church was a 13th century medieval construction which had become derelict. In 1855 the job of restoring the church was given to William Butterfield, architect of Keble College and Rugby School.

He favoured a High Gothic style with Wykeham being one of a ‘job lot’ of seven estate projects whereby school, vicarage and church were jointly built. A unique feature at Wykeham is that the spire rises out of the tower of the original church.

The outstanding acoustics in the church allow for live concerts. Pride of place inside the church goes to a plaque telling you that Sir Len Hutton was married here. In its churchyard lie the remains of John Dean, principal tenor in the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. Local celebrity and Wykeham boy, publican Mick Jay Hanmer, was buried here in 2014.

Wykeham village view.

Wykeham village view.

Some years ago Wykeham School came close to closure. Falling numbers with few new entrants from outside the village itself made the future look bleak. With the estate’s help, the tide was turned and today Wykeham C of E is a thriving Primary School of about 40 pupils. A visit to the website shows you how well they did when inspected last year, although the head has moved on and now Helen Isaac is joint-head of Wykeham and Brompton.

Because many of the school’s recruits travel from outside and cannot easily get home, the school puts on a range of pre-school and after-school activities like Breakfast Club and Homework Club.

The name Shepherdson is common currency in these parts. Shepherdsons have been herdsmen, farmers, cricketers and the site where Ron Shepherdson once had up to 50 milk cows in the centre of the village has been developed into a furniture restoration business.

Adaption and evolution is everywhere. When it became obvious that the Post Office would lose its franchise and could no longer maintain itself as a village store, it was converted by Peter Davey into a successful country sports’ shop with a brisk online trade.

The days when a small village could rely on agriculture alone for its survival are long past.

Along the main road, adjacent to the school, is the Farfield Business Park with enterprises like dental technicians, children’s toys, oil fuel distribution and even a surf shop. Wykeham tea rooms and gift shop is a convenient stop-off point with a decent gluten-free range on offer. Next door is a picture framing and art gallery premises.

The Scarborough to Pickering railway line used to service Wykeham until it was annexed in 1950; the station having been tastefully transformed into the main offices for the Estate. Mounted on their walls is a frame bearing the last ever passenger ticket issued. As part of the Millennium Project, the old railway line was developed as a Village Millennium Path which skirts past the ancient ice house on its way to Ruston. The path then crosses the A170, loops behind the cricket ground and terminates in Wykeham village.

Because Wykeham and Ruston were aware that their history had not been catalogued, an event was organised the last weekend in September whereby locals were encouraged to bring along old photographs which could then be tagged and archived. It was so successful as a social event that it may well be repeated.

Quite why Wykeham is so-called is a bit of a mystery. The ‘ham’ bit comes from ‘hamlet’ as in a small village but a ‘wyke’ is a stretch of high moorland leading to the coast (as in Hayburn Wyke), a Viking word which is a corruption of wick. To confuse matters further Wykeham is eight miles from the coast!