Together, We Are All Derbyshire: Grounds feature

Tuesday 28th April 2020

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Stephen Coope contacted us about Derbyshire’s grounds.

Stephen wrote; “I would like to see a feature about all the grounds that the county have used. I am particularly interested in Blackwell where, of course, a world first class record was achieved.”

Our Heritage Officer, David Griffin, writes;

As part of the 150th anniversary programme, I planned to write a feature about Derbyshire’s grounds, and this would have been the seventh piece in the series, but, prompted by Stephen’s email, this is a perfect opportunity to bring this forward and remind everyone of the wide assortment of grounds which have hosted Derbyshire cricket.

A remarkable 21 grounds have staged a Derbyshire first-class, List A or T20 match with the oldest being first used in 1871, and the most recent new ground being used in 1991.

In chronological order, here are those 21 Derbyshire grounds.

1 County Ground, Derby – first used in 1871

The site of the ground has remained the same since 1871 although the actual position within the site has varied over the years.

In 1871 the square was located just about where it is now, with cricket played on a north-south axis. However, when the racecourse which encircled the cricket ground began to expand, the cricket pitch was moved to a position now occupied by the hotel and gym. A pavilion was built to accommodate the players in 1885 and remained in situ until 1955 when the pitch returned to its original position. The game was again played on a north-south axis until member demand encouraged the club to rotate the square and cricket was played east-west until 2010 when it returned again to its original orientation.

An indoor school was built in 1955 along with a new scoreboard (the latter still survives), and in 1982 The Cavendish Pavilion and single storey office block was opened providing much-needed modern facilities for players, officials and spectators.

Two brick stands, a new scoreboard and a tea bar were added in the mid-1980s and no further development took place until the 21st century when The Gateway and floodlights brought the ground some modernity in 2004 with a pavilion refurbishment and new Media Centre at the Racecourse End being completed in 2015 and 2016.

Derby hosted two ICC Cricket World Cup games; in 1983 between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and in 1999 between New Zealand and Pakistan, and in 2017 the ground was chosen to host a number of ICC Women’s World Cup games including the England v India opening game, and a semi-final.

In an age of diversity, concerts – the first starring Elton John in 2017 which drew a crowd of 14,000 and other annual events like the Fireworks Night & Fun Fair, which attracts in the region of 10,000 spectators – are now a part of the 365 days of the year operation which Derbyshire’s headquarters ground has become.

The largest crowd for a cricket match at Derby is difficult to determine; some claim that 14,000 were in attendance for the opening day of the Derbyshire v Australians game in 1948, while in 1990, the crowd which saw Derbyshire crowned as Refuge Assurance League champions was estimated at 11,000.

Owing to a tenancy dispute with the local authority, Derbyshire played no first team cricket at Derby between May 1975 and May 1977, forcing the use of several grounds in this review.

Derbyshire individual records on the ground include Stan Worthington’s 238 not out against Sussex in 1937, while another 13 double-hundreds have been recorded at Derby including three by Kim Barnett. The most recent was Billy Godleman’s 204 against Worcestershire in 2016. In all formats, Barnett scored 27 centuries on the ground, the most by some distance.

Bill Bestwick took 399 first-class wickets at Derby and Les Jackson 367, although the best innings bowling figures were recorded by George Davidson who took 9-35 against Warwickshire in 1895, and 9-42 against Gloucestershire a year later.

Eight bowlers have taken 13 wickets in a match at Derby, the best was 13-73 by Les Jackson against Leicestershire in 1962, and the most recent was Paul Aldred’s 13-184 against Lancashire in 1999.

2 Derby Road Ground, Wirksworth – first used in 1874

The Wirksworth Cricket Club was formed in 1849 and the land on which the ground stands was originally owned by the Duchy of Lancaster.

Cricket had been played in Wirksworth as far back as the middle of the 18th century, including three games involving the All England Eleven. The ground also hosted a match in 1873 when 16 of the county defeated Nottinghamshire by an innings and eight runs, although the game was not first-class. In fact, when Derbyshire played Kent at Wirksworth in 1874, it was the first and only first-class game to take place on the ground.

Edward Wass, a Wirksworth businessman was president of Wirksworth CC for 20 years and a Vice President of Derbyshire and it is likely that he influenced the decision to play the one game there in 1874.

It was a triumph for Derbyshire as they won by 33 runs despite making only 97 and 36. Kent were dismissed for 25 (in 23 overs) and 75 (in 78 overs). The champion fast bowler of the age, Bill Mycroft, recorded match figures of 50-38-23-8.

3 Saltergate Ground, Chesterfield – first used in 1874

The Saltergate Ground, home of Chesterfield FC, hosted two first-class games between 1874 and 1875.

The weather meant the fixture against Lancashire was ruined by rain, but the Derbyshire v United North of England game the following year resulted in a 90-run win for the visitors despite Mycroft’s match figures of 10-78.

Ultimately, the prevailing view was that Saltergate was too narrow to stage county cricket and no further county games were played there.

4 Recreation Ground, Long Eaton – first used in 1887

Lancashire were again the guinea pigs for cricket at one of the Derbyshire outposts, this time at Long Eaton’s Recreation ground in 1887, although it was an experiment which failed. The pitch was under-prepared and had to be changed at the last minute before the scheduled start by the disgruntled umpires.

Low scores were not unusual in this era, and Lancashire’s first innings total of 145 was the highest total of a match they won comfortably by 54 runs.

Between the wars, the ground was converted into a Greyhound Racing Stadium.

5 Queen’s Park, Chesterfield – first used in 1898

Queen’s Park was built in celebration of Queen Victoria’s’ Golden Jubilee in 1887 and the cricket ground opened in 1894. A pavilion was built in 1897 which enabled first class-cricket to be played in June 1898 when Derbyshire played Surrey.

Although Derby is the headquarters of Derbyshire CCC, the delightful Queen’s Park ground was used almost as frequently as Derby between 1898 and 1988. During this 90-year period, Derby hosted 461 first class games, Chesterfield 374 first-class games.

As such, Chesterfield was not considered – as it is now – to be an outground; indeed, for many years it was the first choice venue for the tour match, and Derbyshire’s first two Gillette Cup semi-finals were both played at Chesterfield. The picturesque setting combined with tiered seating around the northern (lake) end of the ground, plus the seating in front of and to either side of the pavilion meant that Chesterfield had better facilities than Derby for staging such matches.

In 1998, Derbyshire announced that they had played their final game at this famous ground. A poor playing surface combined with significant improvements at Derby meant that the county were no longer prepared to take cricket to the north of the county.

However, by 2006, improvements to facilities meant that Derbyshire were prepared to return and the ground now hosts a week-long festival which includes a four-day County Championship game and a T20 match.

Derbyshire’s individual records on the ground include 9 double centuries, the highest of which was 229 by Charles Ollivierre against Essex in 1903. Peter Kirsten (2) scored the most doubles and the most recent was by Adrian Rollins (210) against Hampshire in 1997.

Unsurprisingly, Barnett, with 11, scored the most hundreds on the ground.

Archie Slater’s match analysis of 14-48 against Somerset in 1930 is unlikely to ever be matched, although it was England Test leg-spinner, Tommy Mitchell (6) who enjoyed the most ten-wicket match returns.

The best innings figures were recorded by off-spinner Edwin Smith who took 8-21 against Worcestershire in 1951.

6 North Road Ground, Glossop – first used in 1899

Derbyshire took cricket to Glossop for one reason. Cotton.

Samuel Hill Wood lived at Hayfield and came from a mill-owning family from Glossop. Wood was Derbyshire’s captain and he guaranteed gate takings of £100 for a game against Lancashire in 1899. A further 13 first-class fixtures followed, generally backed by cash guarantees until Wood became Chairman and owner of Glossop FC and decided to use his finances to fund their football league ambitions.

Charles Ollivierre scored the county’s only hundred at Glossop – 157  against Leicestershire in 1906, while the best bowling figures were Bill Bestwick’s 7-28 against Worcestershire in 1902. Arnold Warren’s 10-70 against Lancashire in 1908 are the best match figures

7 Miners Welfare Ground, Blackwell – first used in 1909

John Todd was a manager at the Blackwell Mining Company which owned a cricket ground at Primrose Hill, overlooked by houses built for the employees.

Todd joined the Derbyshire committee and persuaded the club to take a game to Blackwell and seven first-class games were staged between 1909 and 1913.

And that was that. A ground only occasionally used over 100 years ago, and long forgotten.

Or it would have been were it not for one of the most remarkable records ever set in world cricket, and which remains a world record to this day.

Derbyshire played Warwickshire in June 1910 and the visitors batted first, racing to 504-7 declared in 124 overs and then dismissing Derbyshire for 262.

Derbyshire, 242 behind, ended the second day on 51-1 and were in dire straits half an hour before lunch on day three when the score stood at 131-8, still 111 runs in arrears.

Arnold Warren and John Chapman then embarked on a ninth-wicket partnership which to this day is considered scarcely believable.

Spectators cheered as the innings defeat was avoided and the partnership passed 100. One chance was offered by Warren when he was on 60, but with a combination of dashing stroke-play and firm defiance, the score advanced and the partnership grew. The English county record of 193 by Grace and Kitcat for Gloucestershire in 1893 was surpassed and then the world record of 232 by Hill and Wakeley for South Australia in 1900-01 was overtaken.

When Warren was out for 123, the partnership had realised 283 runs for the ninth wicket. Chapman was eventually out for 165, which is still – 110 years on – the highest score made by a number ten batsmen anywhere in the world.

The game was drawn and Derbyshire created two world records which still stand to this day.

In 2010, Derbyshire took a side to Blackwell to play an evening Twenty20 fixture in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the world records.

8 The Town Ground, Burton-on-Trent – first used in 1914

Derbyshire’s first foray into Staffordshire saw them take cricket to the first of three grounds which they would use in Burton-on-Trent.

Derbyshire played 13 first class matches on this ground between 1914 and 1937. The county justified taking the first game to Burton on the basis that part of the borough was in Derbyshire, although the ground was in Staffordshire.

Derbyshire’s batsmen scored four hundreds on the ground, Les Townsend making two, including the top-score of 141 against Middlesex in 1930.

Bill Bestwick’s 7-20 against Leicestershire in 1925 were the best innings bowling figures, and his 10-82 the best match analysis in the same game.

The ground was situated some distance from the town centre, and in 1938, cricket was staged at the better appointed and easier to access Ind Coope Ground.

9 Park Road Ground, Buxton – first used in 1923

As long as the game is played, ‘Snow Stopped Play’ will be synonymous with Buxton and the day in 1975 – 2 June – when, on the verge of one of the hottest summers on record, no play was possible following first, a hail storm, and then heavy snow.

The ground was the only one to stage first class cricket in England above 1,000 feet and so rainfall was also an issue on a regular basis, which was a pity as it is a delightful ground in a splendid setting.

The first game staged there was in 1923 when the Duke of Devonshire encouraged Derbyshire to take the tourist fixture there, against the West Indians.

Subsequently, both first class and one day games were played there, more often than not against neighbours Lancashire, and a record crowd of almost 5,000 watched the opening day of the game against them in 1936, and in 1970 and 1986 the Lancashire games in the Sunday League attracted crowds of 5,000 and 8,000 respectively.

As with many outgrounds in the 1970s, however, the pitch was considered to be unsatisfactory in 1976, and although Derbyshire returned in 1980, the final visit came in 1986.

Arnold Hamer’s 165 against Middlesex in 1951 was the highest score for Derbyshire on the ground, and Cliff Gladwin’s 9-119 against Lancashire in 1947 were the best innings bowling figures and his 14-159 in the same game were the best match analysis.

10 Rutland Recreation Ground, Ilkeston – first used in 1923

Over 100 Derbyshire games were staged at Ilkeston between 1923 and 1994.

Only Durham and Warwickshire never visited Ilkeston, although Nottinghamshire were the most frequent visitors. Situated just inside the Derbyshire side of the border with Nottinghamshire, and only seven miles from the city of Nottingham, it was a logical venue to host these local clashes.

Recognised for being a good surface for batting, it subsequently became a paradise for spinners, and always attracted good crowds, particularly for one day games.

In 1977, the ground hosted Derbyshire’s Gillette Cup quarter-final tie against a Somerset side which included Ian Botham, Viv Richards and Joel Garner, when on an extremely hot day, 11,000 spectators packed into the ground.

For a time, particularly during the two-year sabbatical from the County Ground, serious consideration was given to moving the club’s headquarters to Ilkeston. Chesterfield was also an option, but the Ilkeston playing area was much bigger.

With costs escalating for outground cricket, the Erewash Borough Council encouraged Derbyshire back to the ground after a period away in the 1980s, but the final straw was a loss of over £2,000 when Derbyshire played Nottinghamshire over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend in 1994.

Derbyshire’s highest individual score at Ilkeston was Eddie Barlow’s superb 217 against a Surrey attack containing four Test match bowlers in 1976, as good an innings as I’ve ever seen from a Derbyshire batsman, and it was a privilege to see Garry Sobers score the fastest-hundred of the season for Nottinghamshire in 1974.

Cliff Gladwin’s 8-40 against Nottinghamshire in 1951 were the best innings bowling figures, with George Pope’s 12-101 against the same opponents in 1947 the best match analysis.

11 Ind Coope Ground, Burton-on-Trent – first used in 1938

Les Jackson enjoyed the Ind Coope Ground – he took 104 wickets there at an average of 11.23 – and the locals enjoyed it too, crowds flocking to the new venue with more than 5,000 present for the first game against Gloucestershire in 1938 when Wally Hammond scored hundreds in each innings.

One of the most famous games in the history of cricket took place there in 1958, when, after Derbyshire had made 5-1 on a rain-affected first day, 39 wickets fell on the second day as Hampshire were bowled out for 23 and 55. Derbyshire won by 103 runs.

Thirty eight first-class games and a handful of one day matches took place until 1980 when the final game – against Leicestershire – featured a century by David Gower.

Derbyshire’s batsmen scored six hundreds at the ground, with George Dawkes’ 143 against Hampshire in 1954 being the highest, but a clear indication of the ground being a favourite for bowlers is highlighted by the 32 instances of five-wicket innings there, Les Jackson claiming 11 of them.

George Pope had the best innings figures of 8-38 against Sussex in 1948 and Les Jackson recorded the best match analysis with 12-115 against Warwickshire in 1959.

12 Abbeydale Park, Sheffield – first used in 1946

One of only two grounds on which Derbyshire have played as both the home and away side, Abbeydale Park staged two home Derbyshire games, beating Sussex in 1946 and drawing against Kent in 1947.

When they next played there, it was as the away side in a county championship game in 1974, and their final game there came in a high-scoring draw in 1996 when Dean Jones scored 214 not out for Derbyshire.

13 Bass Worthington Ground, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire – first used in 1975

In the period when no first team matches were played at Derby (May 1975 to May 1977), the club were always looking for alternative venues, and the Bass Worthington Ground was seen as a sensible option to host university games in 1975 and 1976. Derbyshire won both matches at a canter, but the pitches were never really suitable for first-class cricket and the experiment ended as soon as the County Ground returned to the fold.

14 Trent College Ground, Long Eaton – first used in 1975

Five one-day games were taken to Trent College, initially because of the loss of the County Ground as a venue in 1975 and 1976, and subsequently because crowds had been so good at the initial two games.

Over 6,000 crammed in for the game against Kent in 1975 and when Sussex were the visitors in 1976 the beer tent was partially pulled down as Derbyshire supporters showed their disquiet when local hero Eddie Barlow was run out for a duck.

In the final game there in 1979, one of Derbyshire’s greatest batsmen, Peter Kirsten, was a surprise match-winner with the ball, taking 5-34 in the 19-run win over Northamptonshire.

15 Station Road, Darley Dale – first used in 1975

Derbyshire had no idea that when they allocated the final one day game of the 1975 season against Hampshire to Darley Dale (technically, Station Road, South Darley) that it would end up being televised, and would see Hampshire crowned as John Player League champions in front of a crowd of 6,000 – more people than lived in Darley Dale.

The ground was almost overwhelmed, parking was in a field, and coach-loads of Hampshire supporters roamed around the ground and the town.

It was the first and last Derbyshire game played at the ground and never can a more modest venue have hosted such fine cricketers as Barry Richards and Gordon Greenidge, who opened the batting for the visitors, and Bob Taylor, Mike Hendrick and Alan Ward who were members of the Derbyshire side.

16 Town Ground, Heanor – first used 1976

Heanor was a joint cricket-football venue and in hindsight, too small for county cricket. The sight of Hampshire’s Malcolm Marshall running from a marker close to the boundary at the Bowling Green End in the only first-class game staged there in 1987, confirmed this. Marshall never had a long run up, and it was just as well that John Wright was preferred to Michael Holding in the Derbyshire side, or the West Indian fast bowler might have had to start his run up off the field.

Crowds were excellent for the eight one-day games, and a good pitch combined with the short boundaries invariably made for entertaining cricket.

17 Victoria and Knypersley Social Welfare Centre, Knypersley, Staffordshire – first used in 1985

Derbyshire were offered a guarantee of £5,000 per game by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council in 1985 – an offer too good to refuse – and the first venue to host a game was Knypersley. Three one-day matches were played here between 1985 and 1990, always watched by large crowds.

18 Highfield, Leek, Staffordshire – first used in 1986

Leek became the second of four Staffordshire grounds used as part of the Staffordshire Moorlands venture when Warwickshire were the visitors in 1986. A further two matches formed part of the agreement, although the county returned in 2010 and again in 2013 to play further one-day games. And in a more unusual move, Derbyshire took the home T20 fixture against Warwickshire to Leek in 2011.

19 Tean Park Sports Ground, Cheadle, Staffordshire – first used in 1987

Cheadle had been an away venue for Derbyshire in 1973 when Minor Counties North were the home side. The game was a group stage fixture in the Benson and Hedges Cup which Derbyshire won by five wickets.

The Staffordshire Moorlands deal saw Derbyshire return as the home side in 1987 which resulted in a thrilling one-wicket win against Glamorgan with Ole ‘Stan’ Mortensen, not known for his batting, hitting the winning runs.

20 Repton School Ground, Repton – first used in 1988

Repton has provided the strongest of cricketing/educational links with Derbyshire and in an experimental move, a Sunday League game was allocated to the delightful Repton ground in July 1988. It was the week before Derbyshire’s appearance in the Benson and Hedges Cup Final and a large crowd gathered with Middlesex the visitors.

However, on a slow pitch with little bounce, the first five Derbyshire batsmen were all bowled, and they subsided to 120 all out, Angus Fraser taking 3-8 off eight overs. The Middlesex reply stood at 32-0 in the 11th over when heavy rain forced the players from the field, with no further play possible.

21 Uttoxeter Road, Checkley, Staffordshire – first used in 1991

The final – to date – ground used for first team cricket was the fourth of the Staffordshire Moorlands grounds and experienced mixed fortunes. The first game in 1991 was played in glorious conditions with Derbyshire winning a high scoring match. This game had not been the first choice for Checkley, Somerset being scheduled to visit earlier in the season, but rain forced that game to be played at Derby. As a result, the Glamorgan game was switched to Checkley in August.

The second and final scheduled game in 1993 never saw a ball bowled because of heavy overnight rain. The opponents were Hampshire and it was a shame that the reasonably-sized crowd in attendance didn’t get to see David Gower, Robin Smith and Malcolm Marshall in action.

The development of the Derby headquarters, plus the modern-day requirements for players, officials, staff and spectators has meant that the days of outground cricket are largely over for Derbyshire. However, Chesterfield still retains its place in the fixture calendar, though it seems unlikely that any other venue aside from Derby and Queen’s Park will host future home fixtures unless any significant financial guarantee is offered.

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