Tinsley Green has always had a team playing in the championships, in 1947 the name ‘Tigers’ was added on and one of the most successful marbles teams was formed, they played on until 1962, when glass marbles were used for the first time as targets. The core members of the team were Bert Sired, and his two sons Bert jr, Harry, George Burberry, Willie Wright and Harry Langridge. They reached the final a dozen times in the 16 years they played and came out champions no less than six times. As runners up on six occasions the team also won six Firkins of beer - some 432 pints.
The first year after the war (1946) saw the continuation of the championships at Tinsley Green and it was at this time that many of the players who were to make up one of the most formidable of teams had had the first taste of marbles. That first post war Tinsley team was made up of George Burbridge, J. Constable, P. Clark. “Mickey”, W. Thorpe and C. Charman. They did not have much luck as they were knocked out in the first round, beaten by the Griffing 33 marbles to 16. Harry Langridge who at that time played for Crawley Tools beat Jack Carman the reining champion 10 marbles to 3.
In 1947 the team had, had a change of personal and was now George Burbridge, ”Mickey”, Jack Constable, John Hammond, “Killer” Cook and Harry Holder. The Crawley Observer said Mr George Burbridge captain of the Tinsley Green team, played a big part in the organisation of this years event. There were three other teams playing this year Copthorne Sharpshooters, Copthorne Spitfires and Crawley Tools who had the individual champion in their team, Harry Langridge by name, who beat Bill (Wee Willie) Wright who was also a member of the Crawley Tools team 7 marbles to 5 in the final.
1948 saw the Tinsley Green Tigers win their first game in many a year, the Crawley Observer said ‘With the aid of “Killer” Cook from Crawley, Tinsley Green Tigers beat Crawley Tools. The Tigers were immensely pleased because they had not won a game for years. They though that they were going to be handicapped as Mickey Doyle had to work, but George Burberry stepped into breach at the last minute. The Tigers were later knocked out of the tournament by the Spitfires. The Sussex Daily News said Brilliant individualist Harry Langridge set up an all time record by winning the individual championship for the third year in succession. Harry met in the final a fellow member of the Crawley Tools team - “Wee Wizard” Bill Wright, the baby of all the competitors for Bill is still in his thirties which is a mere infancy as marbles player go. The Crawley Observer had it that Harry Langridge beat “Wee Wonder” Bill Wright.
Good Friday 1950 from left to right
Basil Radford, George Burbridge, John Blythe and Wee Willie Wright.
In 1949 there were six teams taking part and it was the first year that the Tigers won the event. Their surprise defeat of the holders, the Copthorne Spitfires was only over shadowed when they beat the Arundel Mullets in the final. The Sussex Daily News said Harry Langridge of Tinsley Green accomplished the unequalled feat of winning the individual championship for the fourth year in succession, beating A. Maynard of Copthorne Spitfires in the final.
1950 saw ‘Marbles with a Sermon’ yes on this day the local vicar from Three Bridges George Hill gave a sermon from the balcony as the Tinsley Green Tigers went down to the Arundel Mullets 26 marbles to 23. The Crawley Observer said not even the skill of Harry Langridge, unbeaten individual champion for years and “Wee Willie” Wright, ex-Crawley Tools and now with the Tigers, could match the deadly accuracy of the Mullets. Surprise number three came when “Wee Willie” took the championship from his new team mate, Harry, in a few seconds by the brilliant exhibition of “Dead” tolley play.
Harry Langridge practicing for the Good Friday 'Marbles'
1951 was the coldest on record even so the Tigers avenged the defeat of the year before beating the Arundel Mullets 25 marbles to 23. The Sussex Daily News said The team championship produced the closest finish in the long history of the jamboree the coveted trophy was won back to Tinsley Green - the “home of marbles” - by the local team. In the individuals event Wee Willie Wright was beaten by Bernard Wilcock of the Arundel Mullets
1952 For the second year in succession, Tinsley Green Tigers carried off the team championship, beating Handcross Bulldogs in the final.(34 marbles to 15) So said the Crawley Observer after a report of some of the day’s play, It went on Another thrilling encounter was that between the Tigers and the Mullets. The 28 - 21 win for the Tigers was largely the work of “Wee Willie” Wright, who accounted for 16, an achievement which earned him a round of applause. In the semi-final the Tigers defeated the Shipley Bridge Tumblers 27 marbles to 22.
Good Friday 1952 from left to right
John Blythe. PC49 Brian Reece, Bert Sired sen, Bert Sired jun, Wee Willie Wright
and in the background George Burberry
1953 had an International flavour to it with a team of sailors from the U.S.A. playing for the first time. In America you can only play in competition until you are 15 years of age. The Crawley Observer said Thanks mainly to “Wee Willie” Wright and Harry Langridge, two Tinsley Green “veterans” the Americans were defeated 38 - 11. The Sussex Daily News said Toast of the taverns of North Sussex last night was “Wee Willie” Wright, the perky, diminutive Tinsley Green marbles player, who came to the rescue of Britain in the first international marbles contest ever to be held with the U.S.A. later in the same article it went on And then “Wee Willie” stepped into the breach. In two inspired spells he gave the Americans an unforgettable marbles lesson. Nine marbles were sent rocketing from the ring in his first session - 12 in his second. The Crawley Observer went on Tinsley Green Tigers carried off the team championship for the third successive year, beating Copthorne Spitfires in the final. The West Sussex Gazette said The Tigers had in the first round beaten a scratch team the Rebels, receiving a bye in the semi-final. Although entitled to retain the cup they have handed it back as a perpetual Challenge trophy. The Crawley Observer added This was the Tigers’ fourth win and they are the first team to have been victorious three years in succession. The Tigers’ team consisted of G. Burberry (captain), B. Sired, sen., H. Sired, B. Sired jun., W. Wright and H. Langridge. Harry Langridge was on top of his form; in one session he accounted for 20 marbles which is believed to be a record. Cyril Wilcock retained the individual championship beating “Wee Willie” Wright 8 marbles to 5. Mr Wilcock said he was rather surprised to have won “especially against the best marbles player in the world.” Mr Graham Neale thanked Miss Barbara Langridge, who had carried out much of the secretarial work.
In 1954 close to 1000 people gathered round the marbles ring and what a day they had. The great Briton team captained by George Burberry beat the American Sailors team for the second year running. The West Sussex Gazette said Cyril Wilcock, the Aundel tailor, sportingly stood down in favour of G. (George) Burberry, who was being watched by his five grandchildren from Canada. As you will see there were three of the Tigers playing in the British team which beat the Americans 33 marbles to 16. The Tinsley Green Tigers beat the Arundel Mullets 32 marbles to 17. The Crawley Observer said about the cold There was one player, however, whom the cold troubled hardly at all. Forty-eight-year-old “Wee Willie” Wright - he stands 4ft. 6in. - had brought his own heating apparatus - a hot water bottle slung round his neck and concealed under his coat. In the intervals between play he kept his right hand on the bottle and his fingers from “freezing.” This secret weapon also helped “Wee Willie’s” team, the Tinsley Green Tigers, to carry off the team championship for the fifth time and for the fourth time in succession. Mr. Wright told an “Observer” reporter that the cold wind affected play considerably so that it did not reach the high standard of previous years. “With out my hot water bottle I would have had difficulty in playing at all, as my fingers go ‘dead’ in the cold weather,” he added. An ex-champion, he has played in eight of the Good Friday events, and this was the first time he had failed to reach the final of the individual championship
1955 saw the Tigers win again the West Sussex Gazette said For the sixth time Tinsley Green Tigers carried off the British Marbles Championship at Tinsley Green on Good Friday. It was the Tigers fifth consecutive win. The Crawley Obsesver went as far as to say Hero of the British Marbles Championship at Tinsley Green on Good Friday was “Wee Willie” wright - he stands 4ft 6in. Not only did this 49-year-old tool maker from Christ’s Hospital help his team, Tinsley Green Tigers to carry off the team Championship, but he also snatched the individual championship from Aurthur Chamberlain, of Handcross. It was the Tigers 5th consecutive win and the sixth time they had won the Championship. There captain is G. Burberry a thatcher.
Good Friday 1954 from left to right
Harry Langridge, Bert Sired sen, Bert Sired jun, George Burberry, Wee Willie Wright (behind cup),
Cyril Fletcher and George Burbridge.
There was a shock in 1956 when the Tigers lost, the Crawley Observer said Sensation of the British Marbles Championships at Tinsley Green on Good Friday was the defeat of the local team, Tinsley Green Tigers, champions for the past five years. Led by George Burburry, the Tigers went down to the Casuals, a team composed mainly of well-known players from Sussex and Surrey and captained by George Bradford, of Burgess Hill. The West Sussex Gazette 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. It went on Mr. Billy Wright (50), toolmaker, from Christ’s Hospital, retained the individual championship after a keen struggle with Mr. Percy Maynard (Copthorne Spitfires), son of “Pop.” Mr. Wright, known as “Wee Willie” (he stands 4ft. 6in.), had a hot water bottle under his coat on which to keep his fingers warm.
The Tigers went into a decline and in 1957 they did not even get into the final, the first time for many years. The Crawley Observer said Telcon then went on to trounce the Tigers, winners of the championship on six occasions. The Tigers were handicapped this year by the absence of Harry Sired (30), who has a slipped disc. later it continued Top scorers in the team events joined battle to decide who should challenge Billy Wright for the title of national champion. They were; Percy Maynard, Roy Pattenden, Harry Langridge, Len Smith Harry Bashford, Arthur Chamberlain and Bill Cole. Len Smith proved the Winner. For the vital game 13 marbles were placed in the ring. Taking the first shot, Len left the “Wee Wonder” a sitter, of which he speedily took advantage and the game was all over within a couple of minutes. “Conditions were just right for playing, but I certainly had a stroke of luck as well,” said Billy Wright afterwards. He has now been champion four times.
Checking Tolleys in the bar from left to right
Mickey Doyle, Bert Sired sen, Ron Westbrook (landloed), George Burbridge,
Harry Langridge and Bert Sired jun.
1958 saw the Tigers fighting back they made it to the final once more, but lost to the Telcon Terribles. The Crawley Observer said Tinsley Green’s own team, before the 1957 event, had won the championship on six occasions and this year they had Sam Baily (45), known as the “Druham Wizard,” to play for them. He had retired from marbles, but agreed to fill in the gap caused by Harry Langridge being unable to play. One of the biggest surprises of the day was the defeat of the reigning individual champion, 52-year-old Billy Wright. Billy Wright had held the championship title four times and for the last three years in succession. “Len Smith made the mistake last year, I made it today,” he said.
The Tigers were in the finals again in 1959, and were runners-up for the second year in succession. “Wee Willie” Wright won his individual crown the Crawley Observer said He was thrilled to win again, “But he could not have done it without this,” he laughed holding up his hot water bottle which he keeps in a special pocket sewn inside his coat to warm his fingers. He also wore thick woollen mittens knitted by his wife. Watching him play were his wife and eight-year-old granddaughter, Glyn Mitchell. who is also a keen marbles player.
1960 saw the Tigers and the Telcon Terribles teams battling it out for the championship in the finals, for the fourth year running the Terribles were victorious. “Wee Willie” Wright lost the individuals to Len Smith.
1961 was much as the year before with the Telcon Terribles beating the Tigers in the final. Unlike last year “Wee Willie” Wright did not get through to the individuals he told the Crawley Observer I was off form today, but will be back again next year and hope to do better.
In 1962 the Tigers and Telcon Terribles meet in the semi-finals with the Tigers coming of second best. “Wee Willie” Wright was true to his word last year and was back in the final of the individuals, but his best was just not good enough and he was beaten by Len Smith. It was the last year that the team played it was said that it was because of the glass marbles that were used, I don’t think we will ever know the whole story. In the Crawley Observer Because of the introduction of glass marbles, Tinsley Green Tigers, as a team, has now finished. Billy Wright said one regular member of the team refused to play on Friday with glass marbles, and a substitute had to be found. The others said it would be the last time they play. ‘So that is the end of the Tigers,’ said Billy, who is a former world champion and a tool maker at the Crawley factory of Meatal Box. However he will continue to play at Tinsley Green as he has been invited to join another team.
Game on Harry Langridge shoots while players look on.
Members of the team
George Burberry was a thatcher from Three Bridges and was Captain of the team. He first played at Tinsley Green in the 1930’s and was a member of the winning team in both 1935 and 1937 when they beat the Rustington Ramblers 28 marbles to 18. In 1937 he was also individual champion beating “Champ” Harding, when I meet his son Robin in 1981 he gave me the tankard his farther had won together with his bag of clay and stone marbles. On arriving home I found in the tankard George’s rosette. I also have a photograph of the team with Cyril Fletcher (see page 4)
Harry Langridge first played as a boy in Copthorne, when I meet him in 1980 he told me he play outside the Post Office where he tried to beat the Postmasters son, who was the best player in Copthorne. He also told me that a large ring was drawn on the ground at Brook Hill in Copthorne at Easter and that men women and children all played there. He said that on one occasion two teams played at Arundel just outside the Norfolk Hotel - this was late at night in the road using car headlights so as to see what they were doing. He also told me he played at Handcross Social club and over at Ardingly where he won a pig. Harry was the first person to win the individual championship four times in succession 1946 - 47 - 48 and 49, he last played in 1957. He was born circa 1905.
“Wee Willie” Wright was a Welsh man who came to live at Christ’s Hospital Nr Horsham, he was only 4 foot 6 inches tall and he had a secret weapon a hot water bottle sewn inside his coat. He worked at Crawley Tools, playing for their team until 1949, only then moving on to play for the Tigers. Bill was individual champion 5 times in 1950 - 55 - 56 - 57 and 59. He last played in 1962. He was born circa 1906.
Bert Sired came from Hookwood and was the local builder, he first played for the Rustington Ramblers ( a local Crawley Team all of whom were working at Rustington at this time ) in 1937. He was the head of a marbles playing dynasty, sons Bert jun., Harry and Terry were also members of the team. In addition there was Les who played for the Rebels and Tony played for the Spitfires
Other players made appearances from time to time:-
George Gibbs played in 1957 in place of Harry Sired, he had played for the Copthornr before.
Sam Bailey played in 1958 in place of Harry Sired, known as the Durham Wizard had played for Crawley Tools in 1946 and 1947.
J. Edwards and Aurthur Chamberlain played in place of Bert Sired and Harry Langridge.
J. McDonald played in place of Harry Langridge in 1960.
A. Burberry played in place of Harry Langridge in 1961.
Many of the stories about the Marbles, the teams and Tinsley Green that I have, came from George Burbridge - who was Mr Marbles for so many years. Every so often articles on the Marbles were published in magazines and News Papers, many of them quoted George.
In 1951 a young reporter Desmond Langley wrote a piece in ‘Everybody’s Weekly’ In 1990 Des sent me a copy see page 18, in it he quotes Mr George Burbridge, the organiser, told me that Harry Langridge’s feat in holding the Individual Championship for four successive years was ‘very remarkable,’ adding, “He plays the game of marbles with the skill and technique of a billiards player - useing ‘top,’ ‘spin,’ ‘side,’ and so on.” When the Organiser called on him the other eveing, ex-champion Harry was practising his best shots - on a rug in front of a roaring fire! The pile of the carpet made it difficult, and it was therefore an excellent way of keeping in trim on a cold night, he explained.