A SHORT HISTORY OF ORMSKIRK CRICKET CLUB
Extracted from the books, " 175 years of Ormskirk Cricket Club" and "Brook Lane Diary 2011 - 2016"
The Club's foundtion in 1835 was based on very loose arrangements between small groups of cricket enthusiasts, which was common at the time. Known as "The Break -O'Day Boys", they met together early in the morning in order to practice their skills. Working conditions were hard and long, with Sunday the only day of rest. Their play would be held on any field made available to them and the pitch roughly prepared, if at all. It wasn't until 1853 that the newly established Southport Visiter reported a cricket match between the Ormskirk and St. Helens Cricket Clubs, which took place at Ruff Lane, Ormskirk, on July 15th. The field adjoined Mr. Fairhurst's Farm, ( later referred to as Woodlands Farm), and now forms part of the main entrance to Edge Hill University Estate. Ormskirk's Captain was Lord Skelmersdale who, in 1861, was President of MCC, whilst still President at Ormskirk. He brought with him several friends who entertained themselves in a small marquee. The purpose of the match was for the St. Helen's players to show the Ormskirk players how to bowl overarm, an indication of the Ormskirk players' talents.
Woodlands Farm was used until 1862, when play was transferred to Draper's field which lies directly behind the present Pavilion. There were no houses on the South side of St. Helens Road or on the North side of Altys lane, at that time. In 1868, the Club was reported to be playing on a field in Southport Road, on land likely occupied by The Civic Hall. The ground proved to be unsatisfactory for members needs, for they took over the cricket pitch in Parrs Lane, Aughton, at the rear of Island House, previously occupied by the disbanded Aughton Cricket Club, in 1870. Travelling from Ormskirk to Aughton for practice proved to be a burden for players so, in 1874, a new field was found adjacent to the railway line at the end of Elm Place. Once again, a pitch was prepared and The Tent erected, but the hope of a permanent home was shattered when, in 1876, plans for a new Cotton Mill were announced and the cricket club given notice to quit. However, Lord Derby, through his Agent, offered a field in Brook Lane for future use. This was gratefully accepted, much to the annoyance of Brierly, the farmer in-situ, who did all that he could to delay the transfer. As a result, no cricket was played in 1877, and the Contract with the Club's first Professional, JohnNichollls, was cancelled.
It is of interest to note that the Mill was never completed, only the footings were laid. Lord Derby was the only person to profit from the venture having sold a rich seam of clay to the brickmakers on the site.
In order to prepare the Brook Lane field, the Club's present site, for the coming season, much work was needed. In addition to preparing a pitch, fences and hedges required repairs. ( The Brook Lane and Altys Lane boundaries consisted of running brooks, hedged and fenced). The wooden hut, known as The Tent, was moved from Elm Place and erected on the site of the present Pavilion. (The Club's Brook Lane address stems from the fact that the field's only entrance was in Brook Lane. The Altys Lane entrance came much later). An Athletics Meeting was held early in May and the first competitive cricket match took place on May 18th. against Pemberton, and ended in a draw. The Membership in 1878 was 75. The senior cricket clubs in Liverpool, including Huyton, Bootle and Liverpool, would still not accept fixtures with Ormskirk until 1880, when Bootle agreed to play two matches.
A Professional, Huffen, was employed in 1881, but was not retained for a further year. It wasn't until 1887 that another Professional was engaged. The years between 1883 and 1890 were for consolidation, membership recruitment and improved fixtures. It wasn't until the four Ainscough brothers from Parbold, Tom, John, Hugo and James came to Ormskirk from the Wigan Club that other Clubs began to show an interest in playing at Ormskirk. (Tom Ainscough was the first Ormskirk player to score 1,000 runs in a season and play for Lancashire). Desperate for recognition, Ormkskirk joined the Lancashire Amateur Cricket Association in 1885, but resigned in 1887. The Liverpool Daily Post and Echo formed the Liverpool and District Championship Group in that year, but Ormskirk was not included despite protests from some Clubs. A new brick Pavilion was built on the site of the wooden structure (exactly where it stands today), in 1891, at a cost of £230. It wasn't until 1895 that the Ormskirk Club was included in the Championship, which then consisted of Liverpool, Sefton, Dingle, Birkenhead Park, New Brighton, Stoneycroft, Northern, Huyton, Rock Ferry, Bootle, Oxton, Formby and Ormskirk. The League table for 1896 shows Ormskirk as runner-up to Lancashire's senior club, Liverpool, and sporting four Ainscough brothers, W.P. Barnes and two fine Professionals. Ormskirk were Champions of the Liverpool Competition in 1903, 1905, and 1912. Further improvemnets to the cricket square and surrounding areas proceeded until the advent of World War One when ten Members died in action. No cricket was played between 1914-1918, although every attempt was made to maintain the ground and buildings, but much effort was required to rid the ground of weeds. The work was carried out by a small army of local ladies, working on hands and knees. The Championship was won again 1n 1923.
Confidence in matters financial and cricket ability was high during this period. Lord Derby agreed to sell the land to the Club in 1924, together with extra acreage which is now known as 'behind the boards'. The Committee agonised on what to do with it as it was a most important decision to make. Financial support from the Blundell family and Committee members allowed the purchase to proceed. Tennis courts and a bowling green were mooted but not acted upon. It wasn't until 1925 that two tennis courts were made, together with a small Pavilion. The venture was successful for a few years, but eventually fell out of use when Ormskirk Tennis Club was formed. (The Pavilion was moved and converted into a cricket Score Box). The 100th.
Anniversary of the Club's foundation in 1935 heralded some exciting changes. The Pavilion was extended with the construction of two wings to provide dressing rooms, at a cost of £869, and a new entrance from the road, to accommodate motor cars, was constructed in Altys Lane. (Previously, cars were allowed to enter through the Brook Lane entrance, by arrangement only!). The Championship Trophy came to Ormskirk in 1933, 1934, 1937, 1939, the Professionals playing important roles in the successes.Upon the outbreak of war in 1939, cricket was abandoned but revived on a much reduced scale from 1942 to1945. The Liverpool Competition continued during those years with clubs playing where and when possible. Each club ran one team on a competitive basis, but very many matches of a friendly nature took place including games which involved the Armed Forces, including The Home Guard. In fact, the very first game ever played on a Sunday at Brook Lane in 1942, was between Bickerstaffe and Aughton Home Guards. All those who played, bar one, were seasoned cricketers.
1945 - 2011
The Liverpool Competition resumed in its competitive form in 1945. Junior cricket began to flourish at Brook Lane, with Ormskirk Grammar School in the forefront of providing young talent. Senior teams met with little success, although the enjoyment of the game itself was undiminished. There was a great deal of work to be done both on and off the field. A new tea Pavilion was built on the site of the old tea pavilion, erected in 1910 at a cost of £30.
It survived a further 40 years as a Groundsman's shed. In 1975, new dressing rooms were built as an extension to the Pavilion, at a cost of £16,000, which was raised through donations, loans and social activities. A new combined Store and Score Box was erected in 1995. Lady members were recognised as full members with voting rights. The Club's 175th. Anniversary was celebrated in 2010. A book, " 175 years of Ormskirk Cricket Club", recounting and illustrating those historic years, was published, the proceeds from its sale passing into Club funds. Copies of the book were lodged with Lancashire County Cricket Club, The Library at Lord's Cricket Ground, Lancashire County Archives in Preston, Ormskirk Library and Ormskirk Historical Society.
Work was completed in 2012 on the complete refurbishment of the Pavilion's interior, the first serious and successful modernisation for many years.
However, further ambitious plans for a new building to replace the Tea Pavilion were presented to Members in 2016, culminating in the erection of a two storey building with a combined Players and Officials ground floor, and a first floor Bar, Viewing Balcony and Lounge. It was opened officially on Sunday, June 19th. 2017, and named 'The Tim Dickinson Lounge'. Successes on the field of play indicate the strength of talent and potential within the playing membership. A book, "2011 - 2016 Brook Lane Diary", published in 2017, provides statistical evidence and photographs of the Club's on field successes since being admitted to The Liverpool Competition. " The Honours Board", giving details, is included within the book.