1950s

In 1950 there were a number of surprises this year, the first was when the Rev George Hill, priest-in-charge of St. Richard’s Three Bridges took over the microphone and preached a 15-minute sermon. For the past few years he had said that the championship should not be held on Good Friday, this year as he told a local reporter “as these people won’t come to church, I thought I would come and bring a message to them why Christ died on this day.”

Other Surprises came in the two finals, at their third attempt the Arundel Mullets beat the Tigers 26 marbles 23 in the team event and Wee Willie Wright beat new teammate Harry Langridge in the individuals. Basil Radford who was assisted by John Blythe presented the Prizes and nearly dropped the firkin of beer when handing it over to the Tigers.

Eight teams played they were Tinsley Tigers, BMB (Crawley), Handcross Bulldogs, Copthorne Spitfires, Copthorne Cherrypickers, Arundel Mullets, Fletching Fusiliers ‘A’ and ‘B’. For once ‘Pop’ was not the oldest player there, Harry Allen 87 from Fletching was on hand show and tell how he played in the championships at Fletching over 50 years before.

In 1951 it looked like trouble for 'Pop' Maynard, word had got out that the Board of Control was to supply all tollys on Good Friday. 'Pop' has used a ground down dolls eye as his tolly for many years and had said, "If they make me play with a strange tolly I shan't play as well". In the end to save him any worry a special concession was made and he played with his marble, as it was the standard size.

It was the coldest marbles day on record and one of the most eventful, play in the individuals was held up while a cigar was found for Big Bernard Wilcock. He explained that he used it to line up his shots. Bernard was playing ‘Wee Willie’ Wright who was individual champion last year, who he went on to beat.

The teams include Arundel Mullets, Tinsley Tigers, Handcross Bulldogs and Copthorne Spitfires. The final was between the Tinsley Tigers and the reigning champions the Arundel Mullets, the Tigers winning a tight game with a 25 marbles to 24 score line, a reversal of last years result. Jimmy Handley presented the prizes with a little help from Johnny Blythe.

Just before Good Friday 1952 there was another game of marbles on TV, it was between Yorkshire Mayors in Wakefield. Referee Bob Scott had seen it and said that the standard of play was not nearly so high as that seen at Tinsley Green.

For the second year running the Tigers carried off the team championship beating the Handcross Bulldogs in the final. Mrs Burbridge made the draw out of a hat to decide the order of play and the tournament got off to a good start. In the first game George Maynard captain of the Spitfires led his two brothers, Arthur and Percy and their father ‘Pop’ out to oppose the Bulldogs, who beat them 25 marbles to 24. The Tigers beat the Mullets 28 marbles to 21. Wee Willie Wright was player of the match with a break of 16, which earned him a round of applause.
A scratch team, the Shipley Bridge Tumblers sprang a surprise by beating the Artful Alberts by 30 marbles to 19, with Jimmy Wright of the Tumblers scoring a break of 12. The Copthorne Cherrypickers had a bye in to the semi finals and had a tough struggle with the Bulldogs, who beat them 25 marbles to 24. In the second semi final the Tigers defeated the Tumblers 27 marbles to 22.

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Good Friday 1952
From left to right John Blythe, PC49 Brian Reece, Bert Sired sen, Bert Sired jun, Wee Willie Wright, Harry Sired and George Burberry.

In the final the Tigers showed their claws and trounced the Bulldogs 34 marbles to 15, but it was George Warrick of the Bulldogs who accounted for the last marble in the ring.

The Handcross Bulldog Pup beat the Whiteman’s Green Flippers in the boys final, winning the Dawn White Shield. Their 10 – 7 win deprived the Flippers of the trophy that they had held for the past three years. Also taking part were the Worth Warriors and the Copthorne Scratchers.

The individuals were a family affair with Cyril Wilcock taking his bother Bernard’s title by 7 marbles to 0. Both of them are fourth generation tailors and as the commentator said “ They seem to have this marbles game sewn up.” For the championship Cyril wore a 50 year old Tattersall waistcoat and pinned to it the largest rosette in Arundel colours ever seen at the marbles jamboree.
Early morning dampness affected the sand and even Jim ‘Atomic Thumb’ Longhurst found it hard going. Brian Reece – radios PC49 presented the prizes with some assistance for John Blythe.

1953 saw the first ever International marbles match at Tinsley Green. The headline in the Crawley Observer was ‘Sussex Aces Trounce US Sailors’ and carried on “For the first time there was an international atmosphere about the marbles championship, which drew a crowd of more than 700 to Tinsley Green on Good Friday.”

Six sailors from the American Naval Headquarters in London, styling themselves the ‘Governor Gobs’ played a team of star players from well known Sussex teams, representing Great Britain. The ‘Gobs’ were George Wilson Smith, captain, Daniel A Gleason, Francis M Fowler, Donald E Tester, Fred J Isabella and Bernard L Parsons.

Representing Great Britain were ‘Pop’ Maynard (captain), his son George Maynard, Copthorne Spitfires, Arthur Chamberlain Handcross Bulldogs, Harry Langridge and ‘Wee Willie’ Wright Tinsley Tigers, and Cyril Wilcock Arundel Mullets. In his ‘The Great American Marbles Book’ Fred Ferretti mentions that at this time, Arthur Chamberlain revealed in the nickname of ‘Hydrogen Thumb’, due to his very powerful shot.

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‘Pop’ Maynard play against Seaman Smith in 1953

The average age of the American team was the early 20s whereas the British teams average age was nearer 60, ‘Pop’ being 81 years of age.

They played for the Fenn International Cup, which was presented in remembrance of Arthur Fenn, who originally hailed from New York by his son Percy. The match was played in a good sporting sprit at the end score was 38 marbles to 11 giving Great Britain the first ever international title.

Seaman Smith played an individuals challenge match against ‘Pop’ Maynard. There was great excitement when the score reached 6 – 6, then amid loud cheers seaman Smith made short work of the last marble left to win 7 – 6.

It was after seeing a story about marbles being “Kids Stuff” in a New York newspaper that George Burbridge threw out a challenge to America. He said, “If they can prove that marbles is a kid’s game we will give up.”
The organisers were disappointed with turn out, six teams in the main event and only three teams for the junior championships. George said, “Either people are frightened of coming forward or they can’t play marbles.”

The first round saw the Copthorne Spitfires beat Copthorne Cherrypickers 35 – 14, Handcross Bulldogs beat Arundel Mullets 30 – 19 and Tinsley Tigers beat the Rebels 38 – 11. In the semis the Tigers had a bye and the Spitfires beat the Bulldogs 26 – 23. The Tigers went on to win, beating the Spitfires. Cyril Wilcock retained his individual title by beating ‘Wee Willie’ Wright in the final. John Blythe presented the prizes and thanked all those that had put in all the hard work.

1954 saw a suggestion that a women's team was coming down from Yorkshire, but none came on or before the day.

The sun was shining and the 44 players plus 1000 spectators braved the biting north-east wind that blew across the marble rings. This year saw five teams playing in the main event two teams in the junior event and for the second year running the Americans played in the international.

Eighty-two-year-old ‘King of Marbles’ ‘Pop’ Maynard captained the ‘Swede Bashers’ against the ‘Grosvenor Bullets’. Great Britain won the day 33 marbles to 16, Seaman Smith of the ‘Bullets’ said after the game, that they were pleased to have put up a better performance that last year when they lost by 38-11. “But next year we intend to take away the cup,” he laughed.

The full teams were Grosvenor Bullets G W Smith, B L Parsons, B L Haggard, N C Drummond, R J Murphy and C A Cushman. The Swede Bashers ‘Pop’ Maynard, H Langridge, W Wright, G Maynard, A Chamberlain and G Burberry. Cyril Wilcock, the Arundel tailor, sportingly stood down to allow G Burberry, who was being watched by his five grandchildren from Canada, to play.

In the junior event Slaugham Scouts beat Three Bridges 14 marbles to 3, due largely to the remarkably accurate shooting by Austin Chamberlain.

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Cyril Fletcher presents the cup to the Tinsley Tigers

The main event was First round - Mullets v Bye - Tigers 29 v Rebels 20 - Bulldogs 17 v Spitfires 32. In the next round the Tigers beat the Spitfires. In the final it was the Tigers 32 v Mullets 17. Arthur Chamberlain beat Cyril Wilcock 8 marbles to 5 to win the individuals.

Cyril Fletcher presented the many prizes and Graham Neale president of the British Marbles Control Board thanked him for so doing. He also thanked George Burbridge the organiser, Bob Scott referee, Barbara Langridge for secretarial work and Ron Westbrook, landlord of the Greyhound.

In July the Tinsley Tigers, 'Pop' Maynard and George Burbridge went to Le Touquet in France as guests of the Mayor and corporation. They gave demonstrations in the town and on the beach.

In March 1955 George Burbridge banned Lady Docker from playing at Tinsley Green on Good Friday. The local papers headline ran 'Lady Docker: support for marbles ban'. The story was that on February 25th Lady Docker had demonstrated the game on television, and on March 3rd she was due to captain a team of factory girls in a game at Castleford, Yorkshire.

George said that they would not be allowed to play, as the game they play in Yorkshire is more like skittles than marbles.

1955 also saw the first of the ‘New Town’ teams playing at Tinsley Green. This new team was from A.P.V. Paramount, one of the first factories to be built on the Manor Royal Factory Estate. Crawley New Town was designated in 1948, and it seems that it took until the mid 50’s for the main flow of workers from London and beyond to feel at home and settle in to the new social life of the town and surrounding countryside.

The A.P.V. Acrobats were all members of Jordans Social Club and this first year took on a Dickension theme, with the team consisting of ‘Bill Sykes’, ‘Pickwick’ Peters, ‘Little Tip’ Palmer, ‘Scrooge’ Bashford, ‘Fagin’ Mitchell and G. Pocock. They were beaten in the first round by last year’s runners-up the Arundel Mullets. Despite this the members were so enthusiastic, that a ring was to be built at their headquarters ready for the next year.

There were eight teams; the right amount for a strait forward draw. The first round results were, Handcross Bulldogs beat Copthorne Spitfires, Arundel Mullets beat APV Acrobats, Tinsley Tigers beat Copthorne Cherrypickers, The Rebels beat The Knuckledowners. In the semi-finals Tinsley Tigers beat Arundel Mullets, The Rebels beat Handcross Bulldogs. The Final sawTinsley Tigers beat The Rebels

In the junior championship two scout’s teams took part with Slaugham beating Ardingley. ‘Wee Willie’ Wright won the individuals beating last year’s winner Arthur Chamberlain in the final. After two years of American participation, there was no US naval presents this year.

The APV team was as good as their word, for at the end of May there was a newly built ring at their headquarters Jordans. It was opened in grand style, an opening with a difference. It was opened by ‘Pop’ Maynard, who proudly wearing his large yellow and black rosette the colours of the Copthorne Spitfires and carrying his blackthorn stick, arrived in a three seater Bell Helicopter – hovered over the ring. From this position he made the first shot and so inaugurated the ring. The first match was between A.P.V. and the Copthorne Spitfires, the score was 31 – 18 to the Spitfires. (GEORGE BURBRIDGE WHO WAS IN THE HELICOPTER WITH ‘POP’ TOLD ME IN 1976 THAT ‘POP’ NEEDED A COUPLE OF BRANDIES TO GET HIM UP.)

1956 was the first year that the bar had opened at 10.30. The headlines in the local paper read ‘Marbles champs go down at last’ There was a sensation when the Tigers went down to the Casuals, a team composed mainly of well-known players from Surrey and Sussex. Six teams took part the results were First round Spitfires beat the Rebels 29-20, the Casuals beat the Half Mooners 37-12, the Tigers beat APV 33-16. In the semi final the Tigers beat the Spitfires 25-18, the Casuals had a Bye. The final saw the Casuals beat the Tigers 25-24. Wee Willie Wright beat Percy Maynard to win the individuals 7-6 and in the international England beat Wales 24-23.

There were six team in the junior event, the first round was Ardingly ‘A’ beat Snell Hatch Snapers, Slaugham Scouts beat Three Bridges, Ardingly ‘B’ beat the Tiger Cubs. Second round Ardingly ‘B’ had a Bye, Slaugham Scouts beat Ardingly ‘A’, in the final Slaugham Scouts beat Ardingly ‘B’.

The prizes were presented by Fabian of the yard and Graham Neale thanked him and referred to the sad loss that had been sustained during the year when Bob Scott, who had refereed the contest for many years, was killed in a road accident.

1957 saw the Tigers in decline, for the first time in eight years they did not make it to the finals. The headlines read, “Marbles championships sensation”. New town team Telcon Terribles had won the title at their first attempt. APV, the first new town team ever to enter – were unable to raise a team, but one of their players, Len Roberts was captain of the Terribles.

The Telcon team spent their lunch hours in resent weeks in a corner of the factory workshop, where a practice ring was set up. George Burbridge stumbled across them one Sunday morning when they were practising on the APV ring.

There was a shortage of clay marbles, and an appeal went out for further supplies. Mr Mary Thompson of Tring Hertfordshire came to the rescue with a bag of fifty.

Seven teams took part, in the first round, Half Moon ‘B’ beat Half Moon ‘A’. Tigers beat Spitfires, Telcon Terribles beat Casuals, Rebels had a Bye. Semi-finals, Rebels beat Half Moon ‘B’, Terribles beat Tigers, in the final Terribles beat Rebels. In the individuals ‘Wee Willie’ Wright beat Len Smith, Wales beat England in the international and Slaugham Scouts won the junior championship for the sixth time – “Having encountered no serious opposition.”

Conditions were ideal and hundred of people had come by bicycle, car and coach to see the play. Mr E C Larkman spokesman for the Terribles said after the event “We are delighted to have won the championship at our first attempt. Our aim was to play as a team rather than as individuals and I believe that this is why we won.”

The Crawley Observer in February 1958 had a story about two new teams the Silentbloc Busters and a team from the Dr Johnson pub in Langley Green practicing on a ring at the pub. But according to George Burbridge the newcomers would have to put in a good deal of practice before they can hope to beat the Terribles.

It was a family affair with Telcon Terribles winning the team title and the Telcon Terriers winning the junior contest. Len Smith of the Terribles beat 'Wee Willie' Wright in the individuals, after the game Willie said, “it was a fair win, he's a nice player."

Unluckiest man of the day was Sam Bailey the 'Durham Wizard' who was returning to English marbles after a ten year absence in Scotland and other foreign parts. He appeared for the Tigers and was killed early in their match against Copthorne Spitfires.

In the first round the Terribles beat the Rebels, the Tigers beat the Spitfires and the Jets beat the Casuals. The semis saw the Teribbles beat the Jets and the Tigers with a bye. In the final the Terribles beat the Tigers.

After winning for the last six years the Slaugham Scouts were ousted by the Hookwood Horrors in the first round. The results were Telcon Terriers beat Ardingly, Hookwood Horrors beat Slaugham Scouts. In the final the Terriers beat Hookwood Horrors, winning at their first appearance. Wales beat England in the International match held after the main contest.

Jim Mason of the Telcon Terribles on behalf ‘Marble Section of the Telcon Social & Athletic Club’ had written to the Cambridge Tiddlywinks Club some 14 days after the Good Friday Championship. He said, “After reading your article in the daily papers, we fell that we are in the same position as yourselves. We are both trying to prove that Tiddlywinks and Marbles are both games of skill, and I feel sure that we could help each other a great deal. We have been British Marbles Champions for two successive years, and we are trying to revive a game, which is very popular down here in Sussex. If we could arrange to play each other at our own games for any charity you mention, I am sure it would popularise both games very much.”

Cambridge took up this suggestion, and arranged a marbles-and-winks match on Tinsley Green, Crawley, for Friday 13th June, the day following the First World Tiddlywinks Congress.

On the evening of Friday 13th there was a carnival atmosphere at the Greyhound with Janet Brown, her husband Peter Butterworth and Fulham and England footballer Jim Langley as well as local skiffle group ‘the Blue Devils’. After beating the University at marbles, Telcon lost heavily at tiddlywinks. The Telcon side was saved from total defeat only by footballer Jim Langley.

The local paper ran a headline ‘Honours shared by Telcon Terribles and University.’ The final score was Marbles winner Telcon 2 – nil Tiddlywinks winner Cambridge 40 extremely skilful tiddles, Telcon One extremely skilful tiddle and 7 extremely fortunate tiddles. The marble referee was Ted Mitchell and the commentary was by Mr ‘Marbles’ George Burbridge.

1959 was the third year running the Telcon Terribles won the competition, and the Telcon Terries won the junior event by beating the Hookwood Horrors.

Drizzling rain in the morning affected the attendance, which was the lowest for many years. It also set problems for the players and even the experts found it hard going on the sodden sand that covered the rings. Halfway through the tournament the referee Ted Mitchell stopped play while fresh sand was applied to the ring.

The final was the only match the Terribles played; Len Roberts said, "it was very sticky on the wet sand and very cold for the fingers. Conditions were far from good."

Five team took part this year. First round the Copthorne Spitfires beat Johnson Jets, Tinsley Tigers beat the Cambridge Crackpots. The semis Tinsley Tigers beat Copthorne Spitfires. In the final Telcon Terribles beat Tinsley Green Tigers. In the individuals 'Wee Willie' Wright beat Len Smith. An international was held in which Wales beat England.

The weather improved towards the end and the sun came out for the presentation, which was made by singer Toni Dalli with help from Julie Bishop and Jimmy Young.

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