The River Tees was the original boundary between the North Riding of Yorkshire and County Durham and so Middlesbrough, which lies south of the river, was a suitable venue in the northernmost part of the county for the staging of first-class cricket. Paul Dyson looks at the story of the first of the three grounds which the county have used in the town. The map comes by courtesy of Ron Deaton and the photo of The Swatters Carr public house was taken very recently by Martin F Peagam of the Cleveland & Tees-side Local History Society, the contribution by both being gratefully received.

Swatter’s Carr is a most unlikely name for a cricket ground but that is where Yorkshire played two matches in the 1860s. The original definition of a carr was that it was a wooded, waterlogged terrain but eventually came to mean any area af boggy flatland. It doesn’t sound particularly suitable for cricket but Swatter’s Carr (possibly Swather’s Carr) was the name of a farmhouse which was on a map dated as long ago as 1618 and where the surrounding fields had probably been well-drained and were, therefore, suitable for farming. The ground was also known as Linthorpe Road (East) Ground but Swatter’s Carr is more colloquial and that is how it was generally known.

There are records of cricket in Middlesbrough dating back to the 1830s but it was not until 1855 before Middlesbrough Cricket Club was formed. It originally played on an area off Albert Road (at its junction with Wilson Street) which, as it was a central location, was very convenient but it was very small. Two years later the Club was able to move to Swatter’s Carr; this was an eight-acre site on the junction of Linthorpe Road and Southfield Road and which the Club rented for £15 per annum. The ground was offically opened in early-June 1857, a stand was built six years later and a small pavilion in 1864.

Prior to this, however, came the first, in 1861, of five visits by the All-England XI whose matches at the venue were always against 22, or 18, of Middlesbrough. The local sides were usually reinforced by county players, Tom Emmett being a regular member of the team in the 1870s. That 1861 fixture went the way of the England side, Richard Daft making a half-century for the touring team although both Roger Iddison and ‘Ikey’ Hodgson each took four wickets for the locals.

The next significant non-first-class match was in 1868 when the Australian Aboriginals paid a visit. Those tourists – Britain’s first cricketing visitors from Australia – embarked on a five-month tour of England and Wales and played Middlesbrough in a two-day 11-a-side match which was drawn in favour of the home team. Another visiting team was the United South of England XI who came in 1871.

Yorkshire, meanwhile, had played what remain the ground’s two first-class matches. These were against Kent in 1864 and Lancashire in 1867. Yorkshire won both games defeating Lancashire by an innings thanks to the bowling of Emmett and George Freeman whose match figures were 10-66 and nine for 73, respectively. Although it was the third of three games against the Red Rose county that season, it was the only one staged in Yorkshire. It was the first year in which the two counties played against each other in official contests and was also the first time Yorkshire had been declared (unofficial) ‘Champion County’, with Emmett and Freeman playing the starring roles. Only once since, in 1959, have Lancashire played in Middlesbrough, but that fixture was not a Championship match.

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