To be honest I wouldn’t play anywhere else…you won’t beat Blaina. Not on Central Park Andrew Palmer - Blaina CC
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7b - Stories from Spondon

Since I last wrote one of these blogs I’ve been up to Bolton for my first interview session with Astley Bridge. These guys were great fun and another very different club – a definite Lancashire League club, with professionals and fans who have fun but take the cricket seriously. There are more cricket grounds in Bolton than any other town in Britain and amazingly two full cricket leagues made up of just sides in the town – a brilliant club cricket scene, and fantastic stories for TTF!

Before I say too much about Astley Bridge though (and also because I’m still listening through those interviews!) I promised you some more stories from Spondon CC in Derbyshire. As I’ve said before, Spondon play on a fantastic new ground on Locko Road. The move to the new ground only happened a few years ago and has changed the club dramatically – it’s now as big as a small business and takes an awfully large effort to run, even if the rewards are substantial.

The move to the new ground was clearly on everyone’s mind, and I’m pleased to say that our TTF interviews have helped to archive that move. We spoke to people very heavily involved in it, for example former secretary Kevin Hibbert who, with then Chairman Paul Tainton, masterminded the whole enterprise. Everyone had an opinion on the move, stories to share about the old ground, but mostly everyone was really pleased with the move and the choices made.

Yet the reason this move was possible was an old historical one. The club played at Royal Hill Road for nearly 100 years and were in the fortunate position of owning their ground, all thanks to the Ladies’ committee. The club grabbed the opportunity of buying their ground in 1923 with the help of a loan from the then President, Mr Follows. It took a full 22 years for the club to repay this debt, all thanks to whist drives, dances, smoking dances and wartime benefit matches organised by the Ladies’ Committee. In 1952 the three key members of this committee, Mrs Dally, Mrs Benniston and Mrs Walker-Smith, were made life members of the club for their efforts.

Many years later, the ownership of Royal Hill Road gave Spondon CC real options when it wanted to move. The club had outgrown the ground; enclosed by housing on three sides, the ground could not be expanded and often upset neighbours when cricket balls appeared suddenly in their back gardens! Spondon’s strong 1st XI, on the edge of promotion, could not play in the Derbyshire Premier League as the ground was too small, and the 3rd and 4th XIs were forced to play home games elsewhere. Chairman Paul Tainton and Secretary Kevin Hibbert then found a new ground, negotiating the sale of the old one and the building of the new pavilion. Yet without the effort of the interwar Ladies’ committee moving would not have even been a possibility.

Saying goodbye to the old ground was hard for all – many people told me of their tears after the last match and some, such as groundsman Steve Baker, were delighted to remember their last match on the ground (Steve scored a century, and took a wicket, something which is apparently unheard of!) A grand November 5th bonfire on the square said goodbye to the old ground in style. The move wasn’t easy – notwithstanding all the work put in to actually move, the first team had to play every game away during their first Premier League season as the new pitch didn’t have a mark – but former West Indian captain Jimmy Adams played against the 2nd team and became the first to get a century on the pitch. All the work and effort paid off though a year later, in 2007, when the first team won the Premier League with a game to spare. The move certainly seems to be a step forward for the club, let’s hope this continues!

More soon and some stories from Royal Hill Road I think. Or one from Astley Bridge, depending on how many of those interviews I’ve catalogued!

EP