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James Chaloner Retires

Updated: Apr 5

We've come a long way since the merger of our two village cricket clubs in 2000. Many wouldn’t recognise it much from those days (except Jim still manicuring the square). Before the merger, West Chilt had a small but competitive 1st XI squad playing in the old West Sussex League. This was towards the bottom of the old Sussex cricket league pyramid which in those days was made up three or four different stand-alone leagues with no promotion or relegation.


WCCC were a youthful club and had quite a few bachelors playing regular cricket, much like today.


The bachelors of that era included people like, James, Fitz, Hennings, Rupert Cleaver, Mike Ford and of course dear old Bob Llewellyn.


Matt Hennings (long time member and wine connoisseur) remembers:"We had a lot of fun outside of cricket at the Riser and Elephant in the early days (Elephant & Castle was a pub at the bottom of Church Street in WC). Being single meant a weekend of cricket and a night on the beers in between, they were good times with fond memories”.


Thakeham had a few players but no team or ground so many played for WC - It’s a shame that many WCCC scorebooks were lost when a former member moved house and forgot to take the scorebooks with him. Many of these were from the nineties and contained the history and exploits of the team including those mentioned above.


Once the clubs merged, a new committee started pushing things forward and we shot up the leagues and arrived at the lofty position we find ourselves in today and being on the fringes of the Sussex Premier Division. Many players have come and gone or simply faded away.


Our "world class village colts’ section" which started in 2005 is the envy of many in Sussex and no doubt beyond, churning out players that will hopefully sustain our four league XIs and including our blossoming women and girls' section.


But in all this change, there was one who bestrode this club like a colossus and more importantly, carried on playing.


James Chaloner, the man, the myth, the legend has recently informed the club that he has played his last game. The great man is hanging up his boots after giving his all to the cause for so long.




James was educated at Tonbridge School where he was a contemporary of and played in the same team as ex England and Kent cricketer, Mark Ealham.


"James taught me all I know," said his old mate!


JC joined West Chiltington Cricket Club before most of our 1st XI were born and whilst you could argue that some of the 1st XI at merger would not get in the side now, James would have been exception and was still playing 1st XI cricket until relatively recently.


Mark Tuppen (former player who introduced JC to the club) remembers the young man: “I first met James around 1990 when he joined the same company I worked for. We soon struck up a friendship and discovered a common love of cricket. When I first saw him play, it was an impressive sight! He could move the ball both ways and knew how to use a bat. He could field as well. Seeing all this, I encouraged him to come and play for West Chiltington at weekends. It was a gradual process, but he soon fell in love with the place and established himself as a great all-rounder for the club”.


James’s faithful sidekick and your local solicitor, Malcolm Fitzgerald, remembers his batting as being pretty effective: “James was a very useful bat, but I remember that in one season with Bob (Llewellyn) coming in at 3 and me at 4, we had a secret pact, concentrated and prided ourselves in not getting out and so ensuring that James didn’t get a bat. Whatever the motivation it worked pretty well. You could see him pacing around the outfield muttering about the scoring rate”.




And the club’s cheeky chappie James Howgate also suggests that his batting continued to be useful in more recent times. “James was also handy with the bat. It was a pleasure to take the field with him and listen to his advice which really helped me when I joined the club.


After the clubs merged, JC was an integral member of the team that secured many promotions and numerous West Sussex and Invitation League championship awards.

James was at differing times the club captain, committee member and colts coach for son Ben’s age group. Fitz again: “When he was captain, his batting position depended on when the slow bowlers came on”. His last full year for the 1s was when Tim Monday's charges secured our elevation into the Sussex County League in 2015.


James rarely played a bit part in any side he played in.


Peter Jones (Club President and former 1st XI player) noted "James was an extremely skilful and highly intelligent bowler. Although he suffered with injuries for many years, he never lost the knack of accurate bowling”.


James would no doubt describe himself latterly as a bowling all-rounder and whilst his batting contributions may have diminished as the years passed, his bowling feats did not. Hennings again: “He had a decent eye and scored important runs for the club as a batter in the middle order. However, as a bowler, he was different gravy. I was at Petworth relatively recently when he destroyed them with the help of another left arm, Jordan (Dear). Amazing accuracy and skill to move the ball in the air and off the deck on a regular basis. Definitely the best I've seen for Chilt; I saw him dismiss many a decent bat even in later years”.


James pitched everything on a nagging length and swung it every which way to varying degrees. And by gum, was it effective! You forget sometimes that bowlers, like batsmen operate in partnerships, and as Australian former overseas Mick Armstrong explains modestly from his home in Torquay, VIC: “James claimed to know the downfall of every batsman in Sussex. When I started at Chilt in 09, it was generally James’s bowling from one end and me at the other. We complimented each other. He attacked the stumps and was at his most dangerous to right handers. As soon as they thought they’d worked him out, he’d slide it across them. I swung it away and bowled a 4th/5th stump line. Pressure from both ends so I was the catalyst for a lot of his wickets! I also spent a lot of time in the slips to him and was the recipient of a lot of outside edges. He was very skilful, challenging the inside and outside of the bat and any lapse in concentration would see the batter’s demise. He slowed down a touch each year, don’t we all, but the level of skill was always evident. And even he was better than Malcolm at fielding!”


Malcolm again:I am horrified that he has been described as a good fielder (and better than me!) as he was scared of the ball!” Unsure what that says about Fitzgerald.


Howgate again: “He was the first team player that I could rely on when I was captain, not just to hold up an end, but someone who could cause such devastation to the top order of pretty much every team we played against in my early years. This allowed me to introduce the youngsters into the attack earlier and develop their skills that are now being utilised in the 1st XI”.


His run up may have shortened over the years as the hair thinned and his girth girthed. But his economy rate, average and strike rate remained up there with the best of this world and his 8-17 vs the long defunct Ocean still stands as the club's best bowling performance. (Fitz is convinced it was nine - when Jim grabbed the last one, JC was unimpressed).




As he and others will tell you, Chaloner suffered endless ribbing from all of us as he occasionally wore his cricketing crown with a heavy heart. Former Chairman and 1st XI keeper, David Hardisty told us: “I still remember James getting a hat trick and whilst we all celebrated, he just commented gruffly: “Urmm it wasn’t my best ball!”


His endless chat on a Saturday afternoon with his sidekick Fitzgerald was highly entertaining.

Perhaps it was Fitz's early retirement a couple of years ago (despite the fact that in the last couple of years, they were selected in different sides) that precipitated the end for James. Like the old boys on the Muppet Show, you rarely saw one without the other. It was certainly appropriate that the Club awarded both of them Honorary Life Membership at the recent AGM. Son Ben’s reluctance to continue must have been a factor too after they had played together for a few years.


There were other amusing anecdotes of course. Our current affable Chairman, Lord Hodgson: " not long after I had joined, we had a BBQ after the game. Usual fayre of burgers etc but I remember James turning up with a trout, he said he’d recently caught it and wondered if someone could cook it for him... ". Hugh Warmisham (our beanpole social media maestro): "He was introduced to me as a ‘club legend bowling machine’. In one of his last matches, he said he was unavailable as he would have to leave early in order to pick his son up from school. But we were short so Matt (Luckhurst) persuaded him to play knowing he would be leaving early. We bowled second, in a devastating spell he took five wickets in nine overs, plucked his cap from the umpire and left!"


Armstrong again: “He played hard and fair, but he'd also be the first to have a beer with the opposition post-match. Some of my fave memories were in that bar in the old pavilion on a Saturday evening with him, Malc, Bob and co. Great times ribbing each other and James talking sh*t about every wicket he'd taken. In summary, not only a great cricketer (in the top handful ever to play at West Chilt) but one of my most enjoyable team mates to play with, here or over there. I look forward to catching up for a beer with him (and you all) sometime very soon!" Brian Chambers (ex 1st XI all-rounder and lager distributor) simply says: "Good old Toff". Matthew Goring (Club Jester): "Long Live the King. He always played with exactly the right mindset, the right spirit and I do believe for all the wickets and runs, that's what really matters to him. A true clubman. What a bloke. It's just a shame he's still alive as I'd never say any of this to him".


Hennings: “Who can forget those turquoise corduroy shorts?


I think he’s gone prematurely as he still has plenty of wickets left in him. Having a quality left arm over was always a massive plus for the club and you can see that in his stats". Malcolm:Bob hid his turquoise shorts, and he had an absolute tantrum until they were returned. He didn’t appreciate that Bob was doing the world of fashion and him a massive favour but maybe I could just add quietly that he was a really good bowler and whilst his cricketing path moved in the opposite direction to Mark Ealham, I genuinely think he was the better bowler. His nickname was Eeyore as he was never happy on the pitch, but he has become a great friend and is a club legend. I wish him a happy retirement”.


And Howgate hits the winning runs: “I’m really happy that he has earned life membership for such wonderful service to the club. This is well deserved”.


  • First recorded game was at the Rec for WCCC against the Fleet Street Strollers in 1995. Jim Gee and, of course, Fitz played that day. Many more matches unrecorded.

  • Fourth highest in terms of matches played for the merged club. Only Bob Llewellyn (383), Cal (379) and Lucko (354) are ahead of him and if you just look at adult cricket, he is second on the list.

  • His 8 for 17 in 2002 in a WSL league game vs Brighton club, Ocean, remains the best bowling ever at WC&T.

  • Fourth best bowler overall in terms of average (15.69) for those with more than 100 wickets. Chambers, Armstrong and George Bryans ahead of him; second in terms of economy (3.27) with only Mick ahead of him.

  • 50 wickets or more in a season twice for the 1s - 2011 and 2013 - and 37 as recently as 2021 for the 3s.

  • We won countless 1st XI league titles with James as an integral part of each side. WSL Div 1 Champions in 2006: that side also contained Hodgson Snr, Fitzgerald, Neil Miller, Chambers, Mike Ford and Llewellyn; Invitation Cricket League Div 3 Winners in 2011 - with Howgate, Brian, Will and Tom Chambers, Fitz and Grant Morrish in it. We won the Div 2 Invitation League a year later - Chaloner played with the likes of Fitz, Goring, Howgate plus David Robinson or Mick. And when we finally got promoted into the Sussex County League as Invitation League Div 1 Champions in 2015, James was a key member playing with the likes of Tim Monday, Howgate, Jack Elliott-Monday, Fitz, Tim Jarvis and Tom Chambers.


James Chaloner – Stats** many games unrecorded


Overs - 3028.5

Maidens - 674

Runs - 9925

Wkts - 626

Best - 8/17

5fers - 27

Economy - 3.28

Strike Rate - 29.06

Average - 15.85


Matches

1st XI

2nd XI

3rd XI

4th XI

Sunday

Other

WCCC*

24

7

0

0

0

17

0

WCTCC

347

180

56

17

7

20

67

Total

371

187

56

17

7

37

67

WCCC*

WCTCC

WCCC*

WCTCC

Bowling

38 wickets

626 wickets

Best: 5-7

Best: 8-17

Batting

332 runs

4447 runs

Best: 78

Best: 107

*Many WCCC games are unrecorded

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