King Cotton and Prince Cricket

The Town of Heywood lies on the A58 between Bury and Rochdale.  In a fold in the Pennines the brooks ran fast enough to power early watermills.  The presence of coal made the location ideal for industralized cotton production.

By the mid C19th the hand weavers and the farmers had given way to the 2,000 or so ‘strangers’ brought in to run the larger and larger cotton mills.  Sir Robert Peel’s father was an early industrialist who introduced new technology and expanded Makin Mill.

Wikipedia tells us that in 1881, the newly created Municipal Borough of Heywood included 67 cotton mills and weaving sheds, 67 machine works and other workshops, 75 cotton waste and other warehouses and 5,877 dwelling houses. It had 22 churches and chapels and 24 Sunday and day schools. The population was by then estimated at 25,000.

This otherwise comprehensive list fails to mention a cricket field, but at this time cricket must have been played and a club side was in development. 

From the A58, close to the centre of Town, Aspinall Street descends northwards towards and besides the Grade II listed Mutual Mills complex pictured below.  

Building of this Palace for King Cotton begun in 1914 but was not completed until 1923.  As the photograph at the top of the page illustrates, it dominates the skyline of Heywood Cricket Ground just as dramatically as the Cathedral dominates New Road, Worcester.  Idle since 1986 the building’s lower and huge windows are boarded up and the whole set of buildings awaits the revival of the housing market in the hope of a further round of apartment speculation.

Heywood CC is one of the founder clubs of the Central Lancashire League and has been in existence since before 1897.  Cricketers with a sense of vision sought out this spot and carefully leveled a precisely circular ground with an exact diameter of 180 yards – a fitting and adjacent home for Prince Cricket. 

It lies next to Queens Park opened in 1879 and designed by Queen Victoria’s gardeners (including circular bandstand, café and fountain) following the death intestate of one of the Town’s merchants. 

Yesterday, a Sunday, spectators of the Lancashire Under 17s v Durham Under 17s 50-overs-a-side match could enjoy the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance and other favourites drifting across the ground from the Park. 

To the west beyond the ground’s perimeter wall they could see glimpses of BMX-ers  rising into the air as they enjoyed a track first built in the 1980s but recently renovated by Hudu (Huhe?) with a £18,000 grant from the Community Cash Back Fund.

Back on the cricket ground the wicket was lovingly prepared.  A heavy hammer was needed to thump in the gadget that creates the stump holes, but the wicket played slower than it looked and lower than the ‘quicks’ would have hoped for except when the odd ball leaped and jagged disconcertingly.

Lancashire in this age group have a wealth of spinners and Durham side that included a number of trialists could muster only 150.  Slowly, as the bounce vanished further, just three Lancashire batsmen were required to knock off those runs.

Even Curtley Ambrose, who was a former professional here, might have found it difficult yesterday to get the ball above stump height.  

Andy Flower, another ex-professional called back recently when England were playing Bangladesh at Old Trafford.  An indication of just how meaningful are the bonds created by these relationships.

The history of the club is on its walls with photographs and ‘figures’ for many of the club’s professionals including John Reid pictured with a vast array of trophies.

An old pro that Third Man was told to look out for was the little known Australian, Stephen Wundke who Cricinfo say played only 6 first class and 11 List A matches, including some for Cheshire as well as his native South Australia but who in three years netted countless runs and wickets for the club.

This strong Lancashire side meet at Old Trafford tonight before going across the Pennines to Barnsley to play the old enemy in a two day and a one day match on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.


1 Comment

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One response to “King Cotton and Prince Cricket

  1. diogenes_1960

    there is a school of thought that says that John Reid was the ultimate all-rounder…along with George Brown. Did even the almighty Sobers ever keep wicket at top-level?

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