At this time of year Paul Dyson usually embarks on his series of Memory Matches previewing upcoming games in the fixture list by looking back at similarly named fixtures over the past decades. With this being invalid at present he is beginning a series of Memory Grounds, at the suggestion of Peter Horne, to whom he is most grateful, and looking at those venues which the county side have used in the past but no longer do so. The photo comes by courtesy of Ron Deaton who has also assisted very thoroughly with other aspects of the article.
For those of ‘a certain age’ Harrogate will always be associated with the winning of the County Championship in the 1960s. On no fewer than four occasions – in 1960, 1962, 1966 and 1967 – Yorkshire clinched the title, often in dramatic style. The only ground on which this event has occurred more frequently is not in Yorkshire; surprisingly it is Hove, in Sussex, where the White Rose county have clinched the Championship title on no fewer than seven occasions, always at the end of, or close to the end of, their traditional southern tour..
Those familiar with Harrogate will know that the approach towards the town centre from the south, whether arriving by rail or road, as well as from the east and west by road, is dominated by 200 acres of grassland known as the Stray. Not surprisingly, this is where cricket was first played in the town at least by the 1820s. The earliest clubs in the town had a very chequered history, several being formed but only to disband after a short time. There is a record of a match between ‘Harrogate’ and Knaresborough CC (which had been formed in 1827) in 1846, as well as a return game. Not surprisingly the established Club won both fixtures.
The first significant match to be played in the town was at the Swan Hotel Ground (which was at some distance from the hotel on land now occupied by Harrogate Ladies’ College) when the All-England XI played against XXII of Harrogate; despite the home side being strengthened with some ‘Yorkshire’ players (this was the year prior to the formation of the county club) who had no connection with the town, it lost by an innings, being dismissed for 42 and 75. (Yes, 22 batsmen could not make more than these totals.)
The All-England XI visited again in each of the two following seasons but these games were played on a ground off Cold Bath Road. The team came in three more successive seasons (1865-67) and in each of these played at the Brunswick Station ground. (This former railway station was the main original town station and was situated close to Trinity Methodist Church – the building with the spire on the left just after the Stray starts, again when entering from the south.) The year 1867 also saw the first 11-a-side game in the town for which a scorecard still exists – on the same ground – when Harrogate and Leeds Zingari drew a one-day, two-innings game.
The next significant matches took place in 1874 and 1875 when the ill-fated Yorkshire United played against XXII of Harrogate. The hosts won the second of these two-day matches by 15 wickets, despite the appearance of eight Yorkshire players, needing just 21 to win. These two games took place on a new ground behind what was High Harrogate College, again on the Stray.
Harrogate CC was formed in 1877 – exactly 50 years after nearby Knaresborough – and, from the word go, played on the St George’s Road ground, still do so and it is this ground on which Yorkshire have played so many matches. The ground’s maiden first-class match was, remarkably, England XI v Australians in 1882 – only the second Test tour to take place in England. The visitors won by four wickets against a team which contained five Yorkshire players. The county team first visited in 1894 and played a non-Championship game against Leicestershire. From then on, in every year except for 1934, 1936, 1949, 1970 and 1973, Yorkshire played at least one first-class match until after the 1996 season.
The original pavilion was completed in 1897 and stood until 2009 when it was destroyed by an arson attack. The new pavilion – an excellent facility – was opened in 2011. Also in 1897 a stand seating 2,000 spectators was erected and other stands and seating areas were gradually added until the ground was ‘complete’ by the 1960s. During that decade – 1965 to be precise – was erected the Leyland Gates; these are in honour of Morris Leyland, the great Yorkshire and England batsman who is the best cricketer ever produced by Harrogate. They originally stood at an entrance to the ground from St Mark’s Avenue but, when that entrance became unusable due to a housing development, they were transferred to an approach from Norfolk Road which is also now no longer used but obviously available. (This would be the most convenient entrance for those travelling by train and approaching the ground from nearby Hornbeam Park station.) The gates which stand proudly at the main entrance to the ground date from 1977 and are the Jubilee Gates in honour of the Queen’s 25 years on the throne at that time.