Football and cricket have always been popular outdoor team sports in Stoke. Before the playing field was acquired as a war memorial in 1951, both games would be played on ground lent by local farmers. When the village railway station closed in 1964, the wooden waiting room was dismantled and reassembled as the sports pavilion, where it still stands. Tennis courts were added, and one of Stoke's sporting claims to fame is that Bunny Austin, the last Briton to reach the final of the Wimbledon men's singles until Andy Murray, is buried in the churchyard. Stoke football's finest hour was probably in the 1960s, when the Stoke Nomads swept all before them.
Until recently every pub in the area had a skittle alley, and at one time the Royal Oak boasted three men's and two women's teams playing on their two alleys in the Sedgemoor League (women on a Wednesday and men on a Thursday). Now much reduced (fewer pubs, fewer alleys and fewer committed players) the league still survives to shouts of 'Agi, agi, agi!'
Stoke Women's Institute and the Sedgemoor O.A.Ps still meet regularly in the village, but the British Legion is no longer active. Before there was a village hall in Stoke, the W.I. met at Stoke House, the home of Mrs Pipe (Bobbet as was). A previous group, also no longer active, was Stoke Club, a friendly Society set up to provide relief for its members and families when the breadwinner could not work. The annual club day, held on the second Tuesday of May, was a day out for the whole village. Church service, brass bands, parades around the villlage, visits to the vicarage and other houses, were followed by a feast, in what is still known to locals as the 'Club Room' upstairs at the Royal Oak. The Club Fair would then be held, with roundabouts and swings. For more on Stoke Club click HERE
Apart from the Club Day, the village celebrated Oak Apple Day, or Royal Oak Day, on 29th May, to commemorate the restoration of the English monarchy in May 1660. We do not know whether the naming of the pub is connected. The children of the village would wear oak leaves in their hats, and if they met another without one they were entitled to give them a pinch, shouting, 'Shik shack'. If the other child produced an oak leaf from under his or her hat, this would involve the cry, 'Thee't shik shack theezelf, then' and as many pinches as possible could be given until the victim was out of range.
The Reeve's Feast was another social occasion, for which there is some interest in a revival, but Stoke's most interesting custom is surely that of 'Egg Shackling', which continues to this day. On Shrove Tuesday each child brings an egg to school with their name on it. The eggs are placed in a wire sieve and 'shackled until the eggs begin to crack. The winner is the owner of the last uncracked egg.
Rose & Crown Skittle Team
Club Day at Ash Grove, Meare Green
Headmaster, David Blackburn, in Charge of the Eggs