HUGE MILESTONE FOR WIRKSWORTH CRICKET

It is 170 years since the first game played by newly-formed Wirksworth Cricket Club - and they intend to mark the occasion with a special game.

Wirksworth & Middleton Cricket Club will mark the 170th anniversary of their foundation this year by revisiting their well documented 1849 club v local school challenge match.

Wirksworth is 170 years old while Middleton CC was founded in 1879 – 140 years ago – and they became a strong, combined club in 2008, now flourishing with four senior teams, and a strong junior set up.

The anniversaries will been marked by 15th Wirksworth president Richard Needham reprising the cricket ‘challenge’ from Anthony Gell School of 1849 when club founder Francis Hurt, keen to encourage young players, arranged games against Wirksworth Grammar School, where his second son, Henry Francis Hurt was a pupil.

The 2019 version between club and school will be on Sunday, 1st September (2pm-6.30pm) at the Wirksworth ground and all are welcome, especially former players.

The 2019 school v club challenge is laid down

Needham said: “I will gather a powerful team of top players. These good young cricketers are the strongest cohort at the school in many years and have represented both school and club with distinction.

“Already they have won several trophies in junior cricket. It will be a cheerful and competitive afternoon.”

The club has always played on Broadmeadow, the picturesque ground donated by the Arkwright family and this century have had ground extensions, a new pavilion and community social area and a modern digital scorebox.

Historic action on the Broadmeadow ground

Club historian Roy Pearce said: “Wirksworth CC was established in 1849 by Francis Hurt, heir to the famous Hurt family of Alderwasley Hall.

“Francis himself, was a mad-keen cricketer, a member of the MCC, briefly MP for South Derbyshire and father of 15 children.

“Wirksworth men played cricket as long ago as 1757, but it needed the Hurt drive, enthusiasm, contacts, money and leisure to set up a formal cricket club.”

 Rev WH Arkwright President 1893-1901

In his diary Hurt records the great day – Wednesday, 3rd May 1849, saying “Afternoon the opening of Wirksworth Cricket Club. There was a good attendance and some better players than I expected.

“It was much too cold for cricket. A dull misty day and cold NE wind which increased almost to a gale in the night with showers.”

Pearce said: “We have records of several matches played in 1849.

“There were no fixture lists, but Francis had the temerity to challenge the top club, Derby CC.

“We were beaten, but a return match, played at home in August 1849 before a large crowd, was won by Wirksworth for our historic first victory - Wirksworth 81, Derby 47.”

Working on the ground in the 1950s.

In the 19th century the club had a major influence in Derbyshire cricket, especially through president EM Wass, wealthy owner of the highly profitable Mill Close lead mines.

Wass, as vice president, sponsored visits from the famous All England touring XI in 1866, 1868 and 1870 and reports tell of crowds of up to 3,000 spectators.

As a vice-president of Derbyshire, he also arranged for two County games to be played at Wirksworth in 1873 against Nottinghamshire and in 1874 against Kent.

Pearce recalled: “Wirksworth produced mighty cricketers in Victorian times with 11 local men representing Derbyshire between 1870, when the county club was formed, and the Great War .

Joe Flint - once took the wicket of the great WG Grace.

“Famously, Joe Flint, who was born and bred in the town, dismissed the great WG Grace in a Derbyshire match in 1873.

“The traditional ‘golden age’ of Wirksworth cricket was in Edwardian times when in 1904 we played a drawn match against a county side including the two great Derbyshire fast bowlers Warren and Bestwick.

“Rev WH Arkwright, legendary Vicar of Wirksworth between 1893 and 1901, was a wealthy and inspirational president of the club and a great supporter of cricket as a fine Christian pursuit.

“Those glorious days ended in 1914. We lost several cricketers in the conflict, notably the Taylor brothers, Charlie and Bard.

“Four Taylors fought at the front, all were wounded, and sadly only Frank and Will survived.

Wirksworth CC 1911

“Will returned as secretary of Derbyshire County Cricket Club - and he served for 51 years.”

The club played friendly cricket in the Dales for 20 inter-war seasons before they closed again in 1939.

During the Second World War the facilities were roughly used by the army, the field and surrounds overgrown, the pavilion wrecked and seats burnt for the 1945 victory celebrations.

Pearce said: “When players came home from war six years later, in discussion in 1945 the soldiers made their intentions clear.

“This is what we have been fighting for, proclaimed Arthur Killer the dedicated secretary.

The future is bright - club youngsters win a trophy in 2017.

“It was a hard job, but they worked devotedly to restore the ground, which they loved and to revive their cricket club post-war.

“They borrowed some cricket balls from the county club and played the first post war game in 1946 against traditional rivals Middleton, who won the match.”

Nowadays, Wirksworth's top class facilities and the work they do with young cricketers has gained them recognition as both a Community Amateur Sports Club and as a Focus cricket club.