The Walker family lived in Southgate for 141 years from 1777 to 1918. The seven Walker brothers founded Southgate Cricket Club in 1855, Middlesex County Cricket Club in 1864, and were instrumental in establishing the home of the county at Lords in 1877.
Four generations of the Walker family lived in the big house called Arnos Grove on Cannon Hill. There had been no great tradition of sporting achievement, but the seven Walker brothers got their love of cricket during their school and university days in the 1850s and arranged for all the great teams of the day to visit the Waterfall Lane ground and play the village team.
For miles around, Southgate was soon to become the Mecca of cricket and in 1877 a committee was elected. For Middlesex, the Walker brothers held every administrative office at some time or other and, whenever they played, one always captained the side. Marquees and tents lined the ground, gaily bedecked with flags and bunting, providing shade from the sun and dispensing a variety of refreshment.
The gentry would be in their finery for these special occasions, the ladies conspicuous in their crinoline dresses and brightly coloured parasols. The mass of the crowd, from all walks of life and from all parts of London, added to the hubbub of excitement. Travel to the ground was on special trains run by the Railway Company to Colney Hatch Station (now called New Southgate). There was indeed a carnival atmosphere.
The three eldest Walker Brothers played their cricket for the village team, then called Southgate Albert, on a very bumpy Chapel Fields wicket. John, the eldest, spent large sums on re-turfing the ground to encourage a better standard of play. He founded Southgate Cricket Club. In the middle of the 19th century, the organisation of cricket, both at club and county level, was sadly lacking.
The Walkers were primarily responsible for raising a Middlesex team in 1859, founding the Middlesex County Cricket Club in 1864 and establishing the home of the county at Lord's. The seven brothers all became first class cricketers, the very backbone of Middlesex and all played in many representative matches. Test cricket did not start until 1877, prior to which teams would be labelled “England” or “an England XI”, and four of the brothers played in such teams.
Reference must be made to perhaps the greatest cricketer of all the brothers, Vyell Edward Walker, who took 10 wickets in an innings on three occasions. A great all rounder, he stood head and shoulders above all his contemporaries in the game he graced for so long. His knowledge and sound judgement were so universally respected, that he served for years on the M.C.C. The United All England XI would come to do battle with the sixteen men of Southgate.
It is wondrous to think crowds of up to 10,000 would flock to the Chapel Fields (now the Walker Ground) to witness these great matches. The youngsters would be in the ground early for a good position. Admission was free. The famous brass band of the 2nd Life Guards provided the music. Christ Church, and the Walker Ground opposite, still serve to remind us today of the benevolence of the Walker family, long after their passing. They were wealthy benefactors who cared for the village and its people and came to be highly respected, not only for their generosity, but also for their willing involvement in community life.