An Archaeology of Cricket

Whilst sport has been played for thousands of years, mass sporting participation is one of the consequences of industrialisation, and like the classic industries of the Industrial revolution it has left a remarkable physical legacy, from football stadia and dog racing tracks to public parks the first of which was published on Manchester ten years ago,1 whilst other studies can be found in local and national journals. I mention this because January 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of Lancashire County Cricket Club, the successor to Manchester CC and a club dear to my heart. Lancashire’s Old Trafford ground, like many test venues, has been completely rebuilt in the last few years, and my Centre was fortunate enough to have been commissioned in 2012 to undertake an archaeological building survey of the old pavilion before it was rebuilt.

The Old Trafford Cricket pavilion before rebuilding work.

The Old Trafford Cricket pavilion before rebuilding work.

The Pavilion is probably the most iconic of the structures associated with the modern game, only rivalled by the score board. The earliest purpose-built cricket club houses and pavilions appear to date from the 1850s. The oldest surviving pavilions in Britain are the Grade II listed Green Pavilion at Rugby School, a single-storey wooden structure, and the listed Birkenhead Park pavilion designed by Lewis Hornblower. The cricket pavilion and club house emerged with the development of a national county championship competition and regular multi-day cricket in the second half of the 19th century. By 1936, over 136 club houses and pavilions had been built and in 2003 82 grounds were in use for county cricket and first class matches in Britain2 all of which were equipped with a pavilion.The difference between a club house and a pavilion in the 19th and early 20th centuries appears to have been one of scale and layout. Clubhouses tended to be built and used by local amateur clubs in local leagues. A brief survey of the listed examples and county and club cricket histories suggests that they were single-storey structures, often in wood, with verandahs and a covered raised viewing area. Pavilions were larger, multi-storey, structures in brick and often with Arts and Crafts detailing from the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. Their plan-form included, usually, a large room facing the pitch known as the Long Room, and dedicated viewing areas and team rooms. A feature of these bigger sites was a separation between the amateur and professional, men and women, reflected in the larger number of dedicated rooms. Such pavilions appear to have been used by public schools, the bigger amateur clubs and counties. These pavilion features can be seen at Liverpool Cricket Club, Aigburth, where the oldest surviving pavilion at any first class ground in Britain still stands. This brick and half-timbered pavilion was built in 1880-1 to a design by Thomas Harnett Harrison and along with other buildings around the pitch forms ‘the most complete Victorian sporting arena’ in south-west Lancashire.3

The current structure at Old Trafford is the fourth cricket pavilion to be built on the ground since it was first rented from Sir Humphrey de Trafford in 1857. These earlier separate structures were for members, amateur players, and professionals, the latter standing on the opposite side of the ground from the current structure. The new 1895 pavilion had a central viewing area which backed on to the Long Room with its wide arched windows and was flanked by first floor viewing balconies for the player so each team. It was designed by the North West architect Thomas Muirhead (1855-1924) who was a member of the Manchester Society of Architects with offices in Manchester and St Annes-on-Sea and was a keen sportsman with an interest in cricket and football. His most prominent commission was the design of the Oval cricket pavilion in London, completed in 1898 and very similar in style, plan-form and materials to the 1895 Old Trafford Pavilion. Muirhead was one of a handful of architects who design two or more pavilions before 1939. T G Jackson (1835-1924) designed three pavilions; at The Parks in Oxford (1880), Brighton College (1883) and at Giggleswick School (1900). Reginald Blomfield (1856-1942) designed pavilions at Haileyburty School (1885) and Salt Hill Park in Slough (1907) and according to Pearson probably also the Pink Pavilion at Wellington College in Berkshire. Finally, the London architect Richard Creed (c. 1846-1914) designed pavilions at the Essex county ground in Leyton (1886) and the Westminster School ground in 1889.4

The 20th century history of Old Trafford’s pavilion was surprisingly varied. In 1914 the structure was requisitioned by the Red Cross and used as a hospital for wounded soldiers until 1919. Between 1920 and 1939 the Pavilion was extended and redeveloped with the addition of a new committee room and additional dressing rooms. With the outbreak of the World War II, the Pavilion was once again requisitioned by the War Department and used as a home base for a Unit of Royal Engineers, a transit camp for troops who escaped Dunkirk and a storage facility for the Ministry of Supply. During the post-war years the Pavilion continued to be used as Lancashire County Cricket Clubs home ground and was subject to some rebuilding owing to damage caused by bombs dropped during air raids in 1940 and 1941. In 1957 it was extensively reconstructed and extended and in 1997 the building had a second extension constructed along its northern elevation.

In recent years English county ground redevelopments have seen a number of pavilions altered or demolished, including the late 19th century pavilion at Warwickshire’s Egdbaston ground in 2009-10 and the early 20th century pavilion at Worcester County Cricket Club in 2008.5 Both sites had plan-forms similar to that of the 1895 pavilion at Old Trafford, although both had been heavily altered.

The structure at Old Trafford is now the second oldest pavilion to survive at a test-ground in Britain (the façade and long room being incorporated into the new design); only the Grade II* listed structure at Lord’s being older. The latter was built in 1889-90 to a design by Thomas Verity which included the classic pavilion features seen at Old Trafford a few years later. Hopefully this historic gem will see a return to winning ways for the England cricket team when they return here this summer. If not, then I can always admire the structure and history of the pavilion rather than the horror out in the middle.

1 – Inglis S, 2004, Played in Manchester. The architectural heritage of a city at play. London: English Heritage.

2 – Powell W A, 2003, The Official ECB Guide to Cricket Grounds. London: ECB, 11.

3 – Physick R, 2007, Played in Liverpool: the architectural heritage of a city at play. English Heritage, Swindon; Pollard R & Pevsner N, 2006, The Buildings of England. Lancashire: Liverpool and the South-West. London: Yale, 84, 383.

4 – Pearson L, 2011, ‘The Architecture of Cricket: Pavilions Home and Away’ – online article

5 – Hewitson C & Kelleher S, 2009, Warwickshire County Cricket Club, Edgbaston Road, Birmingham. Historic Building recording. Unpublished client report, Birmingham Archaeology, Edgbaston; Wardle P, 2008, Worcestershire County Cricket Club. Building Recording. The Historic Environment Consultancy.

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  1. Pingback: Spectator Sport | shelteringmemory

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