Chesterfield Cricket Club
Early days at Queen's Park
Chesterfield Cricket Club has a history stretching back to the 18th century, when it played matches at various locations in the town. Prior to its current headquarters in Queen's Park, the club played at the New Recreation Ground on Saltergate, which was later the home of Chesterfield FC. 'Spireites' fans may be surprised to discover that their team was formed by cricketers wanting to keep fit in the winter months.
In February 1894 the exclusive use of the new cricket ground at Queen's Park (built to commemorate Queen Victoria's jubilee) was granted to Chesterfield Cricket Club on their match days, and the first game was played there on 5 May 1894.
Unfortunately, the inaugural match against a team from Clay Cross did not live up to its billing as the visitors were dismissed for just 35, with no batsman reaching double figures. Chesterfield's Harry Wilson took seven for 13 in the Clay Cross innings, and Chesterfield reached 92 for seven when they batted.
Chesterfield recorded their first home Derbyshire League victory on 16th June 1894 against Morton. It was noted that Mr W.E. Harvey, now immortalised in a statue outside the former NUM Offices on Saltergate, "received many an applause for cleverness in the field".
After the move to Queen's Park the local press recorded that many more spectators were attending matches compared to the old Recreation Ground. However, there is some doubt as to whether this was due to the "altogether more attractive and pleasanter surroundings" or the abolition of the entrance fee! Whatever the reason, the Queen's Park Ground was considered to be one of the finest in the country at that time.
Within two years Chesterfield Cricket Club won its first Derbyshire League title, and in 1899 the impressive pavilion was built. The building cost £499 18s 6d, and apart from a few refurbishments and extensions in later years its structure remains largely unchanged to this day.
Between the wars
From the early years at Queen's Park a number of famous cricketing families have played for the club. There were a number of generations of the Middletons and Cantrills in the early part of the last century, but undoubtedly the most famous family to grace Queen’s Park is the Popes.
First in the line was Fred Pope who came to Chesterfield in 1913 and played for the 1st XI in 1919. His sons Eric, Harold and Jack all had long connections with the club, but it was son George who went the furthest in cricketing circles, playing county and Test cricket.
George Pope made an impact in the Chesterfield sides at an early age, and one of his earliest memories was as a fifteen-year-old when he scored 77 and took 8 for 12 against Beighton, winning himself a new bat in the process.
He played for the club until the beginning of his full-time contract with Derbyshire, and later went on to play for England in Test matches including the Victory Tests and a tour of India with Lord Tennyson. George's nephew John was the third generation of the Pope family to play for Chesterfield in the 1960s.
The golden years
The 'Golden Years' of Chesterfield CC were between 1947 and 1957 when the 1st XI won the Derbyshire League six times in ten seasons. Led by Geoff Attrill (Captain 1939-1959), the stalwarts of the side were George Lowe, Jack Enion, wicket-keeper Bob Naylor and Arthur Revill. The famous combination of Lowe and Revill in the slips with Naylor behind the stumps was particularly renowned for its catching and little got past them.
With regular Championship success behind them the club left the Derbyshire League in 1958 to face the stronger challenge of the Bassetlaw League, and promptly moved up from Division 1C to 1A in two seasons.
One home-grown player who learnt his trade in these successful years and went on to achieve honours at a higher level was F C (Jim) Brailsford. He joined the club at 14 and after several successful years with the 1st XI took over the Chesterfield captaincy in 1960.
Jim had a spell as a professional in the Bradford League and played first-class cricket for Derbyshire. Though primarily an opening batsman, one of his most famous achievements was taking the wicket of England Captain Ted Dexter with his first ball for Derbyshire.
Jim captained the club for a second spell from 1975 to 1982 and recruited many existing and former first-class players to his side. One of his best acquisitions was off-spinner Edwin Smith, who with 1209 first-class wickets is Derbyshire's sixth most prolific wicket taker ever.
Over the 1970s and 1980s, Chesterfield were a strong force in the Bassetlaw League but never won the Championship title, despite coming very close. The closest was in a 'final ball of the season' thriller against Bridon CC.
To set the scene, Chesterfield were top of the league with their opponents needing 25 to win off the last two overs. Unfortunately, a disasterous 18-run penultimate over left Andy Bowers to bowl the final over with Bridon needing seven runs to win with one wicket left. The quick bowler restricted Bridon to three runs off the first five balls, leaving them requiring a boundary off the last ball in very bad light to win the game and the Championship.
Bowers decided a quick bouncer was the best policy in fading light, but Bridon number 11 Paddy Phelan had the luck of the Irish with him as an improvised pull shot looped over the wicket-keepers' head as he stood 30 yards back from the wicket. The ball rolled over the boundary to win the match and snatch the title at the last gasp.
Other notable personalities and players who represented the club during this time were Geoff Miller (Derbyshire, Essex and England), Mike Hendrick (Derbyshire and England), Clive Baxter, Alan Bonsall, David Edmunds, Tony Borrington (Derbyshire), Alan Morris (Derbyshire), John Walters (Derbyshire), David Webster (Derbyshire), Dave Brightmore, Kim Barnett (Derbyshire, Gloucestershire and England), Roger Finney (Derbyshire) and Dean Hopkinson.
Another high point of the late 1990's was the emergence of local talent Ian Blackwell. Prolific scoring, including a League record-breaking individual score of 213 not out against Bolsover confirmed his place as one of the best stroke-players in the Bassetlaw League for many years.
After two years contracted to Derbyshire Ian moved to Somerset where he enjoyed great success and represented England in one-day internationals. He has recently been appointed captain of Somerset but retains an interest in the Chesterfield club by attending club events and playing the occasional match.
In 1999, Chesterfield CC moved to the Derbyshire Premier League in its inaugural season, marking the clubs return to a Derbyshire league competition after 41 years. The accreditation of the Derbyshire Premier League to full ECB status in the year 2000 confirms its position as one of the best club cricket leagues in the country.
In 2003 the club appointed ex-Derbyshire player Andy Brown to be Director of Coaching and Youth Development, to work alongside Club Captain and former Derbyshire player Simon Lacey. Both appointments have been successful as the club builds for the future.
The club is intending to build on its successful youth development policy which currently involves over 1,200 young people on coaching courses and includes a number of junior players in senior teams. At a time when it is common for Premier League clubs in the country to have an overseas player and as many as four or five professionals, Chesterfield have put their faith in young players who have progressed through the club’s junior ranks. The club intends to continue with this policy and to achieve success for the club and the local youngsters so that more will follow in the footsteps of former club players who have played for England.