A History of Cricket at Moss Lane

A limited edition print of the pavilion by P.A.C. Kelly in 1979

A limited edition print of the pavilion by P.A.C. Kelly in 1979

Shane Warne speaking after the Cheshire-Hampshire match in 2004. The other Australian Captain, Michael Clarke, is far right

What follows was prepared for a book entitled ‘Cricket Pavilions of Cheshire’ by a colleague Geoff Wellsteed so with apologies to the other sports at our multi sport club my emphasis here is on Cricket.

 

At the foot of a sandstone outcrop and at the eastern end of the Cheshire plain the Alderley Edge Cricket Club pavilion faces south overlooking the playing field, 14 tennis courts and the Edge which rises beyond – a most memorable location. The club ground was originally held on lease from the De Trafford Estate which owned and developed most of Alderley Edge in the early days. The club did however manage to buy the freehold (7.5 acres) for the princely sum of £3,500 on 19 December 1960.

 

Sport has been played on the field at Moss Lane since 1870. Originally there were two cricket pitches and at least two croquet lawns. Lawn Tennis followed but play was not allowed on a Sunday for fear of setting a bad example to the ‘village people’. Hockey followed and then much more recently Squash. With the exception of Croquet all sports sections are currently thriving although all Hockey is now played off site.

 

Despite an extension in the 1970s and the addition of four squash courts to the east and west soon afterwards the 19th century building has maintained its Victorian character.

 

Folklore has it that in the very early days players were chauffeur driven to the ground. Cars were parked on Mottram Road and trolleys used to take the players’ kit to the pavilion. Each player had his own locker in the only dressing room (still used as the home dressing room). The opposition changed in a hut located to the east of the pavilion. As now, the scorers enjoyed a unique view of the match through a ‘hatch’ above the front door. Matches finished in good time for the chauffeurs to take players home so they were in good time to dress for dinner.

 

Those of us still here to tell the tale confirm that in the years after the War the Club employed a Steward, and a Groundsman providing accommodation for them and their families in properties owned by the Club on Moss Lane. The groundsman, Pickstock, maintained all the tennis courts, still all grass in those days, as well as the cricket table. The grass nets complete with poles and guy ropes were sited in the current car park. The steward ‘George’ Wood always dressed in white jacket and black tie called everyone ‘Sir’ (few women in the clubhouse in those days) and pulled a good half (no pints I recall!) of Robinson’s Mild. In his leisure time George tended the allotments located to the east of the Pavilion. Mrs Pickstock helped by Mrs Wood prepared the Teas – Egg & Cress sandwiches, a speciality Banana & Jam sandwich, and a selection of cakes and chocolate biscuits (Bandits and Penguins I recall).

 

A fireplace indicates that the Club was once heated by solid fuel. After the War two overhead gas heaters were added and later removed for safety. In more recent times the Pavilion and all facilities are now centrally heated by gas. The interior is now tastefully furnished with a modern bar and kitchen – a delight for all.

Since the 1970s overseen by a series of dedicated and experienced committee members the Club has continued to prosper on and off the field. Professional house and ground staff provide excellent catering and facilities for all members and visitors. Open daily, the Clubhouse is used for a wide range of social activities for members and the community.

 

The Club has hosted high profile events for all its sports. Cheshire County Cricket Club plays County Matches here and in particular a match v Hampshire in 2004 where Hampshire fielded seven international cricketers (including two Australian Captains) - Warne, Clarke, Mascarenhas, Pothas, Tremlett, Udal, and Mullally.  A bat signed by all players is mounted in the Pavilion. Whilst Cheshire lost, Jason Whittaker, who later joined the Club in 2008, received the Man of the Match Award. The MCC plays regional matches here and the Club regularly hosts MCC dinners.

 

The early cricket matches were never English village cricket as it is known. Membership was restricted to the business and professional classes, and playing similar teams in Bowdon, Hale or Didsbury, reflected the extreme polarisation of Victorian society at the time. Indeed, any locals wishing to watch could only look through the slats of a fence on Mottram Road, but were then graciously allowed up to an old oak tree about a third of the way down the outfield from Mottram Road. However, for those who were allowed in, the club was main centre of social activity in the village.

 

After WW2 all day matches were played against visiting ‘Gentlemen’ teams. It was probable that at that time there was only one team, self selected. The Club Umpire at that time, Tomlinson (still no first names used for club servants in those days of course) seemed to be around forever and was very popular, a lovely man. He was a teacher and coach at Ryleys, the local Prep School. Later a 2nd XI was added but it was essentially a completely different set off players from the 1st XI with no movement up or down – rather like today at many Clubs!  More recently matches were played against local clubs such as Styal and Holmes Chapel in what was referred to as the Cheshire Association.

 

Then, following a couple of years in the Manchester Association where Clubs were placed in the ‘league’  table based on percentage of wins rather than points, the Club joined 11 others as founder members of the Cheshire County League winning the 1st Division in the inaugural season 1975. It was only from then that we played for points. Since 1975 with the help of overseas players and a wealth of home grown talent the Club has maintained its status as a leading Club in Cheshire for senior cricket winning the top division again in 1983 (jointly with old rivals Bowdon) and more recently in 2008 and 2016. Since humble beginnings in the 70s the junior section founded by Roger Hutchinson with help from Mike Roff and John Usher now boasts numerous teams for children aged 6-18 with Trophies galore.

 

Mike Roff our longest serving AECC Member reminded me the other day that in the early 60s R.D. (Dudley) Bailey took two hat tricks during two spells in the same innings. Maybe that’s as rare as two holes in one in the same round of golf?

Within living memory the Club has seen many fine cricketers (including David Bailey, Hugh de Prez, Tony Good, Bob Simpson, Ian Jerman, Chris Sheppard, Jon Bean, Mark Currie, Alan Day and even me)  some of whom have played First Class and Minor County Cricket. We even had an international, Jim McConnon (Two Tests 1954) – a real gentleman. Of all our great and many players through the passages of time, Noel Darrah (a big hitting all rounder immediately post war), Roger Pearman (1970s - as good a batsman and captain as any in the game), and my mentor and friend Patrick Kelly (PACK – the quintessential AECC member of his day) are debatedly my choices as the most noteworthy. If PACK were with us now he would wax lyrical about Alderley Edge and its pavilion for hours.

 

As I first experienced over 50 years ago the ground, pavilion and surroundings retain a magic every time I visit.

 

David Sharp

AECC Member 1964 to present day