Queen’s Park, Chesterfield has hosted first-class cricket since 1898, and whilst today it is described as an out-ground, the status of this venue has historically taken on a more senior staging role in Derbyshire cricket.
Heritage Officer, David Griffin, looks at the history of the ground.
The forthcoming Specsavers County Championship game against Northamptonshire will be the 416th scheduled first-class game to take place at the ground involving Derbyshire.
That’s one game less than has been staged at Swansea, and more than at Chelmsford or Cheltenham. It’s also not many less than the number played at Scarborough or Headingley.
There was a time, particularly post-WWII, and certainly post-1955 when the ground at Derby moved to the current position from a site beyond the hotel, that Chesterfield was considered the superior venue, particularly in terms of facilities.
This might seem rather odd today, when the 3aaa County Ground has several thousand seats, a new media centre, indoor and outdoor cricket nets, and multiple corporate facilities. However, when Derbyshire first reached a one-day knockout competition semi-final – in 1969 – the club didn’t hesitate to stage the game at Chesterfield. They reacted in similar fashion in 1975 for the Gillette Cup semi-final against Middlesex, and the most attractive tour fixtures between 1953 and the late 1970s were nearly always held at Queen’s Park.
The ground at Derby during these years didn’t have a pavilion, so Chesterfield was immediately a step ahead on that score, plus the gate receipts from matches played at Chesterfield nearly always revealed a higher take.
Finally, permanent seating at the Pavilion End and semi-permanent seating at the Lake End offered a seated capacity in the region of 4,000-5,000, and Members – astonishingly, on reflection – were given full use of the Pavilion facilities, with Patron Members allowed to sit on the balcony.
Derbyshire first played first-class cricket in Chesterfield in 1874 and 1875, when Saltergate was the venue, before, in 1898, Surrey became the first visitors to the new Queen’s Park, although that summer saw the ground host just two fixtures.
Into the 20th century, it became clear that first class games could be split between the two principal venues at Derby and Chesterfield, allowing a usual minimum of three matches at Queen’s Park, until, post-WWII, the two grounds hosted an equal amount of games each season. Indeed, in the 1950’s there were often more games played at Chesterfield than there were at Derby.
By the late 1970s, ground development was a topic of much discussion at Derbyshire, and such was the anger among members at the committee’s decision to reduce the amount of cricket played at Chesterfield to 19 days (in first-class and one day cricket), that a Special General Meeting was convened to determine the amount to be played at Queen’s Park. The ballot saw almost 1,600 members cast a vote – in favour of the committee’s reduction. It was a hard-fought and, at times, bitter campaign, but it demonstrated the determination on both sides.
The Pavilion at Derby provided new changing rooms for players in 1982, and it wasn’t long before a further reduction in the number of matches staged at Chesterfield was considered. The number of days dropped to ten, and, despite a large-scale members-led campaign in 1994, the number reduced further to five before, at the end of 1998, it was decided that the ground no longer offered the facilities required for first-class cricket.
Nonetheless, the committee of the day worked with the Chesterfield Borough Council and Chesterfield Cricket Club during the fallow period, until, in 2006, first-class cricket was restored to Queen’s Park.
There have been as many as nine days of first team cricket played in Chesterfield since the 2006 return, although the current practice is for a four-day first-class match, plus a Twenty20 game.
Of course, if facilities are measured in buildings and seats, then The 3aaa County Ground is now streets ahead of the offering at Chesterfield; but if a facility can also be picturesque, welcoming, and an arena where the spectators sit almost on top of the game, then Chesterfield can still hold its own.
The following is a selection of the statistical highlights at Queen’s Park, Chesterfield and all relate to Derbyshire players only:
Custom Solar Chesterfield Festival of Cricket, in partnership with Chesterfield Borough Council. Buy your tickets in advance and save. Call 01332 388 101 or buy online.