The History of Groot Drakenstein Games Club

The Groot Drakenstein Games Club is a social club, whose aims and objectives are to promote the interest of sport and the spirit of true sportsmanship in the district of Groot Drakenstein . The club provides family recreational and sporting facilities for the residents of the Groot Drakenstein Valley, and for sports lovers from further afield. 

Situated in the picturesque Groot Drakenstein Valley, on the R 45 between Paarl and Franschhoek it is surrounded by farmlands, with views from the club grounds extending over the orchards and vineyards to the majestic Groot Drakenstein mountain range, the Simonsberg mountain and the Wemmershoek mountain range. 

Dating back to 1895, the GDGC was first formed as a cricket and hockey club. Players would meet and play on a field (normally a cow paddock) on the farm Rhone, belonging to Rhodes Fruit Farms, or travel to Paarl, Elsenberg or Stellenbosch in a wagon pulled by mules. In 1921 H.E.V.Pickstone, a farmer in the district offered for lease (at a nominal rate), a piece of ground, and together with H.O.Arton , 10 acres of land, covered with fir trees and sunken roads was chosen on the farm Delta. The beginnings of the club as we know it today. This piece of ground was leased to GDGC by H.E.V. Pickstone for the princely sum of 10 shillings per year for 50 years with an option to renew the lease at the end of the 50 years. From October 1921 the members at the time (known as The Forest Span), including Nicholas Gray, Tom Micklem, Jimmy Taylor, and Messrs. Baldwin, P. Bick, Buller, Davis, Franceys, Manning, Solomon and Mayo, spent many a Saturday afternoon clearing, levelling and ploughing the ground. This magnificent gesture by H.E.V.Pickstone of this piece of ground came with just one proviso – that at least one game of cricket be played on the field each year. This has increased over the years to more than 60 games per year on the field. 

In 1923 the first tennis court was built and work on a golf course was begun. The golf course has since disappeared! The tradition of hosting touring teams was started early in the life of the club, notably in 1924 the Club hosting a cricket match between a Country Districts XI and Colonel Stanyforths M.C.C. Touring team. 

On the 26 April 1926 the MATCH PITCH was established using horse ploughs, grader and equipment. Bradley Grass was planted, to replace the coir matting which was in common use at the time. This was a landmark in South African cricket history, as it was the first turf wicket laid in the country. 

THE CLUBHOUSE seems to have been built in 3 stages. The original clubhouse was built in the year 1929 and consisted of a timber structure called the “Memorial Hall” which now comprises part of the dining room and bar. This Clubhouse was opened by Mr. Kohler, the Chairman of the KWV and farmer from Simondium. The second phase of the clubhouse saw it enlarged to add a gents cloakroom, bar area, library which is now the coldstore for drinks, a kitchenette for washing glasses and the ladies showers and cloakroom. This was built by a Mr J Malan from Paarl in 1959. At the same time the labourers cottage for the groundsman was built. The total tender cost 475 Pounds. 

On the 3rd September 1964 an application was made to the Standard Bank for an Overdraft Facility with which to build the Change Rooms and the swimming pool so in 1964/5 these were built. This was a large alteration and cost the club a great deal of money, from the records over 2000 Pounds. It appears that all these improvements and building put a large financial strain on the club and various personal loans were canvassed from members. 

Our archives show that, from correspondence from Faure and Faure, attorneys in Paarl a liquor licence was granted to GDGC in 1962. 

In our 90th year the bar was built and enlarged and in our CENTENARY YEAR 1995, the bar was further extended to its present shape mainly by the good work of Ralf Rosenstein, a staunch member of GDGC from Anglo Farms. The entrance road to our club was moved to increase the size of the field. A new batting strip was added to the Eastern side of our pitch which has greatly helped our ability to host important games such as the 6-a-side. A wetland was established between the field and the road on the south eastern side of the field. At the same time our gates were built which were dedicated to JACK D Manning, long serving Chairman, President, Cricket Captain and Patron of our club. 

In 2007 our Cricket Captain, George Northcote, a builder, provided extensions to the Clubhouse creating substantial extra space and the development of the Clubhouse within the existing facility is an ongoing task. 

Thanks to the GENEROSITY OF THE PICKSTONE FAMILY the grounds were officially sold to the club in 1977. The deed of transfer describes the grounds as “certain piece of extinguished quitrent land situate in the Division of Paarl, being portion 5 of the farm Delta No. 1003. “ At a ceremony in 1999 held on the pitch attended by Mrs Wendy Pickstone, Granddaughter of H E V Pickstone, one of our founder members and original donator of our grounds, her son Michael, John Faure, our President, Ian Laurenson, Chairman at the time and club members, the field was officially named “The Pickstone Oval”. 

The SWIMMING POOL was built in the summer of 64/65. The pool was officially opened on 27th February 1965. It was 40 by 20 feet and appears to have been lined with a soft lining as one can deduce from the warnings to beware of damaging the soft lining with any sharp instruments! The present marbilite lining and filters were added some years later. Andy Michel was responsible for planting the grass around the pool. The brick paving path around the pool was added in our centenary year. The pool has been enjoyed by many members and visitors alike over the years during our hot summers. 

Plans are in place to enlarge the outdoor entertainment area by opening the pool access to the clubhouse patio, relay the tennis court and add a couple of Boules pistes. 

Over the years we have only had 11 Presidents of our Club: – 
1921- 1939: HEV Pickstone. 
1940- 1951: Mrs. HEV Pickstone. 
1952 – 1956: NB Gray 
1957 – 1966: Mrs. JC Cochraine 
1967: EJ Crean 
1968- 1977: GJV Larmuth 
1978 – 1989: JD Manning. 
1990 – 2005: John Faure 
2006 – 2010: Reg Steenkamp 
2011 – 2015: D Rennie
2016: R von Hoesslin
2017: D Rennie
2017 – 2020: R von Hoesslin
2021 – Present: K Lumb 

We have had 22 Chairmen during the club’s existence so far: – Thanks to successive Chairmen and their committees we today have a beautiful club, which we must preserve for our descendants. 

1921- 1922: HO Arton
1923 – 1926: AL Franceys
1927 – 1939: HO Arton 
1940 – 1942: NB Gray
1943 – 1944: TG Halford
1945 – 1949: NB Gray 
1950 – 1956: TG Halford
1957 –1958: GA Wadlow
1959 – 1963: GAO Arton 
1964 – 1971: JD Manning
1972 – 1974: JM Faure
1975 – 1977: K F Strable 
1978 – 1982: R Steenkamp
1983 – 1984: Nick Taylor
1985 – 1987: CG Trent 
1988: AJ Visser
1989 – 1990: C G Trent
1991- 1997: R von Hoesslin 
1998 – 1999: Ms. J Dyer
2000 – 2001: I B Laurenson. 
2002 – 2008: D Rennie
2009 – 2011: R. Bertram 
2012 – 2016: B.Davis
2017: S Brogden
2018: P Fourie
2019 – Present: J Boulton 

Since the club’s inception CRICKET has always been the backbone of the club. During the years the club has had some illustrious players as members and has hosted many teams, some very strong and well known and some your normal weekend players – the games have always been played on a “Friendly basis” where the game is greater than the result. Peter van der Merwe, one of South Africa’s most successful cricket Captains, Captain of the 64/65 tour to England which South Africa won, was a member of our club. Among the many famous players to have played at our club are Dennis Compton, Len Hutton, Adrian Kuiper, Vincent van der Bijl, Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, Schalk Burger, Mark Boucher, Kevin Pietersen, Sam Curran and Jonny Bairstow

From the number of cricket captains that the club has had we can see that at best it is a difficult and time consuming task to be able to field teams every weekend and sometimes in the week as well for 26 weeks of the year. The captains through the years are as follows:- 

1921 – 1928: HO Arton
1929: NB Gray
1930 – 1931: T Micklem 
1932 – 1941: HO Arton
1942 – 1948: PC Bick
1949 – 1952: JH Simpson 
1953 – 1956: JD Manning
1957 – 1958: RAK Michell
1959 –1960: FW Ellis 
1961: JM Faure
1962 – 1963: EC Allen
1954 – 1965: KF Strable 
1968 – 1969: D Cowling
1970: RE Howard
1971 – 1972: PB Hodes 
1973 – 1975: LE Connor
1976: M Theron. 1977 – 1978: R Vos 
1981- 1982: P Thompson
1983 – 1984: D Hopkins
1985: IB Laurenson 
1986: C Smailes
1987: D Roux
1988: IC Sinclair 
1989: I Mengel
1990- 1995: IB Laurenson
1996 – 1998: D Diemont 
1999 – 2004: N Watson
2005-2007: G Northcote
2008-2011: A Cupido. 
2012–2015: M Landman
2016-2017 B Taylor.
2017-2018: M Landman
2019 – Present: C McNaught 

TOURS OVERSEAS:- The first Cricket tour undertaken by a Groot Drak team was a tour to England in 1974. The Captain of the tour was Peter Hodes . The tour manager was the Vice President of the time Jack Manning. The only one of our present members who went on the tour is Piet Louw. 
The village green atmosphere is still very much alive today and social cricket is still played throughout the season. Some fixtures have been going for decades, such as the annual 6-a-side tournament, the highlight of the GDGC cricket calender. This unusual form of cricket was introduced by Bob Holman and Geoff Wadlow in 1961. Another annual fixture is our Bishops PrepU-13 leavers and Cricket Masters game against GDGC. The Groot Drak team was Captained for many years by John Taylor , well known for his lengthy motivational speeches to the schoolboys at the end of the game. This has been going since 1949 and is played every year at the end of the school term. 

Originally, in the 20’s and 30’s there was an annual cricketing fixture against the Navy with Navy reciprocating as hosts to the Groot Drak team which has since been discontinued. 

A new annual fixture has been added to the list and that is the Ken Strable “White Rhino” Double Wicket Memorial competition. This competition is named after Ken Strable, a loyal long time member, cricket Captain and Chairman of our club. 

An innovation this year is the use of the field by the Coronations CC ladies team, a side that includes several internationals. Their club ground in Pniel is not available on Sundays and as their matches are all on Sundays, Groot Drak has become their base. Because of this we have had to make movable sight screens but, true to tradition, these are removed for Groot Drak games so players can enjoy the sight of the magnificent mountains whilst batting!