The Arundel Mullets were formed in 1948 and played at Tinsley Green each Good Friday until 1955, they would practise at the Norfolk Arms each Sunday morning, until the bar opened at 12 noon and in later years over at the Surrey Wharf. Two of the team, Bernard Wilcock and Bert Paradine did carry on playing with other teams for a year or two, the last time being in 1960, when they both played for the ‘Winklepickers’. This profile is short and is culled from newspaper reports and some personal comments from old players and local people from Arundel.
The Winning team 1950
It was in 1948 that the first team from Arundel was formed to play at Tinsley Green, It was on a dark winters night in March that brothers Cyril (57) and Bernard (45) Wilcock were in the bar of the Norfolk Arms. Cyril was telling all and sundry about his skills as a marbles player in days past. Being 12 years younger Bernard who knew nothing of his big brothers prowess in the game then challenged him to a contest of their shooting skills. Cyril took a mothball or two from his pocket, and flicking one at the door handle scored a direct hit, Bernard was soon shooting mothballs at the handle as well, repeating his bothers feats - shot for shot. On the following Sunday 22nd March 1948, trials were held at the Norfolk Arms and a team was thus selected to put in a challenge to the All England Championships at Tinsley Green. The first ever Arundel Mullets team was C.J. Wilcock, J. Lee, B. Wilcock, T. Finch, B. Booker, C.J. Lewis and C. Wakeford as reserve.
In their first outing to the championships the Mullets were drawn against the Copthorne Spitfires in the first round, The Sussex Daily News said that a team of dark horses - the Arundel Mullets might make a name for themselves. The local Crawley paper said The first round was between the Spitfires and a team from the Norfolk Arms, Arundel calling themselves the Arundel Mullets. The latter had not taken part in the tournament before and they did extremely well, losing by only three marbles. The Copthorne Spitfires won the match, with a final score of 26 marbles to 23, the Mullets then saw them go onto win the crown beating the Copthorne Sharpshooters (who were team champions in 1947) with a score line of 29 marbles to 20.
1949 saw the Mullets at Tinsley Green for the second year, as the Sussex Daily News put it the Arundel Mullets, who arrived on the scene with a host of supporters, including Councillor A. Whittaker Mayor of Arundel who saw their team put up an excellent performance, only being beaten in the final by the Tinsley Green Tigers. The local Crawley paper said that they were well worth the runners-up prize - a firkin of beer -, which was hoisted on their shoulders and borne back to their coach in triumph.
The following year 1950 saw the positions reversed with the Mullets beating the Tinsley Green Tigers 26 marbles to 23. It seemed that not even the skill of Harry Langridge and Wee Willie Wright (two of the best players on the Tigers team and both individual champions in their own right ) could match the deadly accuracy of the Mullets. There were eight team playing this year. The West Sussex Gazette said Last year the Arundel team, after reaching the final, were beaten by the ‘Tinsley Green Tigers’. On the present occasion the positions were reversed and the ‘Mullets’ succeeded in winning the Championship Cup, which is held for a year. The Sussex Daily News said Huge crowds saw the Arundel Mullets win the championship at the third attempt. The Mullets supported by the Mayor of Arundel, Cr. A.G. Whittaker, who entered the ring with them, defeated the holders, Tinsley Green Tigers, by 26-23.
1951 was among the coldest on record and was known as the hand blowing year. The Mullets went down fighting with the Tinsley Green Tigers avenging the defeat of the previous year, beating them 25 marbles to 24. This year had not been the best for the team, but one of them Bernard Wilcock went on to beat the reining individual champion by 7 marbles to 4. The Sussex Daily News said The reigning champion ‘ Wee Willie’ was beaten in the final by cigar-smoking Bernard Wilcock of the ‘Arundel Mullets’ who, muffled up in an overcoat and wearing a cap revealed devastating form. The Crawley Observer said, It was like this Big Bernard Wilcock, of the Arundel Mullets, was just about to draw a bead on the middle of the marbles bed during the team championships when he suddenly remembered he had no cigar. Calamity! Commentator George Burbridge appealed to the crowd gathered round the inn’s forecourt. ”Please” he asked, ’’ Bernard must have one. He looks down the line of his cigar to take aim’’ There was a ghastly silence before someone brought forward a life-saving whiff. And Bernard, who went on to beat Wee Billy Wright and win the singles’ title, puffed contentedly and said “Never play without one.’’ The team this year was made up as follows C.J. Wilcock, B. Wilcock, A. Paradine. J. Lee, F. Lawrence and T.J. Finch.
In 1952 the Mullets lost to the Tinsley Green Tigers in the first round 28 marbles to 21, their defeat was largely the work of one man Wee Willie Wright, who accounted for 16 of the total score, which earned him a round of applause from the 500 or so spectators. The Crawley Observer said top scores in each of the teams competed against each other in a semi-final for the right to meet last years individual champion, Big Bernard Wilcock. They were George Maynard (Copthorne Spitfires), Cyril Wilcock (Arundel Mullets), Wee Willie Wright (Tinsley Green Tigers), D. Gibbs (Artful Alberts), J.H. Wright (Shipley Bridge Tumblers), and Arthur Chamberlin (Handcross Bulldogs). The West Sussex Gazette said In the individual championship the holder Bernard Wilcock was beaten by his elder brother Cyril the well known tailor in Arundel High Street, who thus became Champion of Great Briton for 1952. He returned with a pewter tankard as evidence of his prowess. Even in 1952 the News papers did not all ways get it right, the Sussex Daily News said Big Bernard Wilcock, of the Arundel Mullets, lost his British individual marbles championship at Tinsley Green yesterday, but he was far from disconsolate when he strode up to congratulate the winner for the coveted honour was still in the family. Big brother Wilcock, aged 61, was defeated in the final by his younger brother Cyril, aged 49, also a member of the Arundel team. Both brothers are tailors - they are the fourth generation of a family of tailors - and in the words of a commentator: “ They seem to have the game of marbles sewn up.’’ Cyril Wilcock dressed for the fray in the garb of a champion. He wore a 50-year-old “Tattersall’’ waistcoat of brilliant hue and pinned on this waistcoat was the largest rosette (in the Arundel football club colours) ever to be worn at the marbles jamboree. As runner-up Bernard became the first recipient of the medal presented by Mr. Tom Smart of Copthorne. Brian Reece - radios PC49 was on hand to present the prize. The team was unchanged from last year.
Under the Fig Tree at the Norfolk Arms
An Evening News reporter was on hand for the final practice session ready for the 1953 championships Beneath a gnarled fig tree in the courtyard of the 180 year old Norfolk Arms in the shadow of Arundel Castle you may often see seven keen-eyed men on bended knees. There around a circle of sanded concrete 6ft in diameter, deep strategy is planed. Strategy, they hope, that will win them the British Marbles Team Championship at Tinsley Green.
For the first time ever in 1953 Tinsley Green had an International atmosphere, a team of American sailors based in London had come to take up the challenge and play the finest in England. The English team was made up of the best possible players, ‘Pop’ Maynard, George Maynard, Arthur Chamberlain, Harry Langridge, ‘Wee Willie’ Wright and Cyril Wilcock. This team went on to beat the ‘Grosvenor Gobs’ 38 marbles to 11. Cyril Wilcock (62) of Arundel retained the individual championship which he won from his brother Bernard, last year. He defeated “Wee Willie’’ Wright 8 marbles to 5. The team this year were Cyril and Bernard Wilcock, Tom finch, Joe Lee, Jack Lewis, Fred Lawrence, and Bert Paradine.
Close on 1000 people gathered round the marbles ring in the forecourt of the Greyhound hotel, Tinsley Green, on Good Friday, (1954) for the marbles championships. They saw the Tinsley Green Tigers beat the Mullets in the final 32 marbles to 17 (this was the forth time these two teams had met in the final since 1948.) For the second year the American sailors team were playing an International, the English team had one new player this year “Cyril Wilcock the Arundel tailor sportingly stood down in favour of G. Burberry, who was being watched by his five grandchildren from Canada. It was a bad year all round, even Cyril Wilcock lost the title he had held for the last two years to Arthur Chamberlain 8 marbles to 5.
In 1955 the Mullets got through to the semi-finals where they were beaten by the Tinsley Green Tigers, who went on to win the championships for the sixth time. This was the last time that the Arundel Mullets were to play as a team. The team this year was Bernard Wilcock, Tom Finch W. Putlick, Bert Paradine, Jim Pomphrey and S. Town.
1956 saw the shock defeat of the Tinsley Green Tigers, the Sussex Daily News said "Defeat of the favourites, Tinsley Green Tigers, was the big surprise at the annual marbles championships at Tinsley Green, near Crawley, on Good Friday. Champions for five years, the Tigers were defeated by the Casuals, a team comprised of well known players from Sussex and Surrey, led by Mr. George Bradford, of Burgess Hill. It was Mr. Bernard Wilcock, the Arundel tailor, who made the winning shot. The Crawley Observer said Bernard Wilcock, Arundel tailor and former champion, accounted for the last marble left in the ring after two others had had a go and missed it."
Members of the team
Cyril Wilcock:- Captain and founder member, individual champion 1952 and 1953. He was a tailor and had a shop in Arundel High Street for many years, he was born circa 1891.
Bernard Wilcock:- Founder member and individual champion 1950. Also known as Big Bernard. He was a cloth cutter for a leading firm of London tailors, he was born circa 1903.
Joe Lee: - Founder member who worked for the Duke of Norfolk and was blacksmith or tinsmith, he was born circa 1892.
Tom Finch: - Founder member who was a local printer, he was born circa 1887.
Jack Lewis:- Founder member who was a Councillor and joinery works manager.
B. Brooker: - Founder Member.
C. Wakeford: - Founder member.
Bert Paradine: - Who was known as ‘Dusty’ or ‘Ginger’ played for many years and worked for the local Council, he was born circa 1902.
Fred Lawrence: - Who was known as ‘Carlo’ was a builder, he was born circa 1902.
W. Putlick: - Played in 1955 only.
Jim Pomphrey: - played in 1955 only.
S. Town: - played in 1955 only.
Team, supporters and stars at Tinsley Green