EVEN those who’ve never sung a hymn since sniggering school days may recall a couple of lines from O Worship the King – “pavilioned in splendour, and girded with praise.”

Though probably not about cricket, the words may oft have been purloined for that purpose – and never more appropriately than at Scruton.

Scruton’s a village between Northallerton and Leeming Bar, its cricket club once dormant for 20 years but now batting, battling, again.

The pavilion is magnificent: externally rose-garlanded and handsomely facaded, internally immaculate. “Even a man could sort things out in this kitchen,” says former commercial airline pilot Trevor Howe, of whom much more anon.

It’s upstairs, however, which is so unexpected – glorious above, as Sir Robert Grant’s hymn might further have supposed. Upstairs houses the Scruton Long Room, a wonderful museum of village cricket and village life that could only be in England.

Like love, in that other song of praise, Scruton Cricket Club is truly a many splendoured thing.

A BOOK by former prime minister John Major, no less, records that Scruton played cricket as early as 1773, against West Auckland at Piercebridge – by which he probably meant Cliffe.

They’ve been playing pretty much ever since, though this year dropped out of the Langbaurgh League and now, a bit closer to home, compete only in the Wensleydale Evening League.

“It’s the way of it, I’m afraid,” says Trevor, who’s 73 and club chairman. “Cricket used to be a way of life in the countryside, but I can think of at least six villages within a few miles of here which have lost their clubs quite recently. They even had a team at Pepper Arden, where there couldn’t have been many more than 11 men in the whole village.

“Players get old, or they go off to university and then to jobs elsewhere. It’s quite worrying, really.”

Scruton didn’t play at all between mid-60s and mid-80s, were greatly successful in the 1990s – “we got a few lads from Northallerton who reckoned they’d rather play village cricket.”

All is recorded, cherished, framed and treasured in the Long Room. There are memories of the Coore and Hoare families, long associated with Scruton, of Jimmy French who started scoring at 13 and did it for much of his life, of Alby Dale, captain from 1946-62 – “bit of a cantankerous lad, they reckon” – and of Henry Newlands, one of few survivors when the commandeered Cunard liner Lancastria was sunk with the loss of around 5,000 souls when evacuating Britons after Dunkirk.

There’s a 1936 receipt for a new grass-cutter, £3 1s 9d, and the scorecard from the day that Middleham were dismissed for five – three of them extras. “I don’t blame Middleham at all,” says Trevor. “There were some terrible wickets in those days.”

There are memories of former Test Match Special scorer Bill Frindall, who did national service at RAF Leeming – perhaps unsurprisingly in the accounts department – and of fast bowler Arthur “Rocker” Robinson, the first Northallerton player to represent Yorkshire.

Much, too, on Albert Gaskell, a truly larger than life gentleman who deserves a few paragraphs to himself.

ALBERT had been a wicket-keeper/batsman, the latter role reputedly undertaken in the manner of biblical harvester wielding a scythe.

He was rotund and jolly, added to his roistering reputation with every pint that he drank and song that he sang and in the 1960s became the first Northallerton player to join the first class umpires list.

“A florid-faced man in a meat porter’s white coat,” former England fast bowler Mike Selvey once observed. “The biggest man I ever saw on a sports field,” said Frindall.

Most famously of all, Brian Johnston supposed of a large white object in the distance that if it didn’t move it was the sight screen and, if it did, it was umpire Gaskell going to square leg.

Keith Place, another legendary Northallerton cricketer, once told the column of Albert’s generosity – “if there were seven in the company he’d buy eight pints, two for himself”. Eileen, his widow, said that he didn’t really think it was Christmas unless he got a few Messiahs in.

In 1968 he was at the bowler’s end when Yorkshire clinched their seventh county championship in 10 years, eyebrows said to have been raised at the frequent success of F S Trueman’s LBW appeals.

Favouritism was out of the question, but Albert never again stood in a first class match. He died in 1973, aged 61.

TREVOR Howe’s family have been around Scruton for getting on 200 years. At school he excelled at maths, captained football, could never get away with cricket. “It drove me mad,” he says.

He joined the Air Training Crops, flew the world with British Midland, took a cricket coaching course when in his late 50s and still plays. “I can bowl a bit, block a bit,” he says.

He’s a dab hand at joinery – “I like working with wood, it has a warm feel” – understands engineering, builds a bit, admits having green fingers and to being a “maniac” about trees and hedges.

“I flew over quite a lot of areas where you could see how totally they’d been destroyed. We’ve planted quite a lot here now.”

The pavilion was opened in 2000 by Arthur Robinson, who’ll be 70 in a couple of weeks. The Scruton Long Room was added over three winters (“nothing else to do”) with the help of colleagues Geoff Bell and John Stubbs.

“I suppose it was my brainchild,” he concedes. “At one time everything in the village seemed to be dying, but there’s a lot more going on now.”

The ground’s every bit as impressive as the clubhouse, every bit as unexpected, every bit as cared for and every bit as unique. Now all they need is a bit more cricket.

They’re hoping that RAF Leeming will again land there for a few matches, perhaps to arrange more social games on Sundays.

It’s a truly wonderful story of village cricket, but it mustn’t just belong in a museum.