Mosslake Club site.
The Pavillion at Liverpool Cricket Club
Liverpool Cricket Club was first formed in 1807. It is the oldest existing club within the area. Any history of local cricket on Merseyside must start with Liverpool. The club at its present site within the Aigburth district of Liverpool came about seventy four years later in 1881.
The original site of Liverpool Cricket Club or Mosslake Club as it was then known, was on the site of Mosslake Fields, now a central part of the city of Liverpool. This was a very damp area extending from Hope Street in the west, Crown Street in the east, Oxford Street in the north and Parliament Street in the south
'Liverpool v Manchester'
The exact postion of the cricket club lay between Chatham Street and Crown Street and was later occupied partly by St. Catherine's church in Abercromby Square.
The earliest reference to the now known Liverpool Cricket Club was in 1807 as the Mosslake Club, however there is no firm record of this. However, in the Liverpool Record Office there is reference to a small booklet called 'The Laws of Cricket as revised by the St. Mary-le-Bone Club 1809'. This booklet was printed in Liverpool for the use of 'Liverpool Cricket Club established May 1811'.
Further evidence of a cricket club calling itself Liverpool Cricket Club is held within a copy of the Liverpool Mercury on October 18th 1811. When a poem dedicated to Liverpool Cricket Club was printed. Within this poem were the clues to the identities of some of the players of the time.
Whether the Mosslake Club had by 1811 ceased to exist or had indeed assumed the name of Liverpool Cricket Club, or the only other possibility, that Liverpool Cricket Club was a completely new venture, will probably never be known. The local newspapers at this time had no reference to or reports of cricket games within the Liverpool area.
The first known filed report of a match involving Liverpool Cricket Club was in the Liverpool Mercury on 21st August 1824. By then the club was playing at a new site in Crabtree Lane, (now known as Falkner Street), whence it had moved in 1820. The boundaries of this site were Myrtle, Crown and Falkner Streets.
The report of the match is also the first account of Liverpool playing against opposition from outside its own club.
'On ground of the former in Crabtree Lane from 11 till late in the evening'
60 - 50
105 - 27
165 - 77
In favour of Liverpool 88.
The Club's stay in Crabtree Lane was a short one and by 1829 they were once again on the move, this time to the Edge Hill district, where they were to stay for over half a century.
Edge Hill site.
The first of the Edge Hill grounds was on the south of Wavertree Road beyond Tunnel Road. Next to the ground was a small tavern known as 'Half-Way House', its situation being about between Edge Hill and Wavertree village. This tavern served as a storeroom for kit, changing rooms and committee room as well as providing refreshments both during and after the game. With this move the Club seems to have extended its fixture list playing in addition to Manchester four other clubs on a home and away basis in 1829.
'An unkown writer describing cricket at this ground says'
By 1845 the railway network was expanding and the land was required by the Railway Company. The Club was therefore forced to look for alternative accomadation. A suitable site was found in a field situated near Edge Hill Station between Sandy Lane and Spekefield Cottages. This ground was opened on 22nd May 1847 and a scorebook for part of this season still lies in the committee room at Aigburth. It dates from 7th August of that year and gives details of matches against Manchester and Edge Hill together with two inter-club games. The first real opportunity to take stock of the status of the Liverpool Club is provided by the playing records of the 1848 season contained in this same book. By this time it had been in existence for over 40 years. Despite its having had to move on several occasions it could be considered as established.
Most of the fixtures of that time took place mid-week beginning at 11.00 a.m., ending at 6.30 p.m. and lasting two days. The players wore white flannel trousers, linen shirts, tall black hats and their normal day boots.
'In those days the ground was reached either by omnibus, cab or railway to Edge Hill Station, then, after jumping over innumerable railway lines, carrying a heavy carpet bag and hurling it over a wall, which had to be climbed, the enthusiastic cricketers arrived at a low rambling structure which served as a pavillion. This was in charge of by a man and his wife, who on match days provided a meal, consisting of ponderous joints, beefsteaks, fruit tarts and massive cheeses. One hour was allowed for this meal, but with luck the game was restarted not earlier than 3.15 p.m. by which time the younger members of the team had returned from a hasty visit to their respective offices, where after having exhibited an invoice or account sales to their seniors, as proof they had been working, they had jumped into a fly or cab and returned to the ground. On rare occasions a dinner was given to the visitors and the evenings usually closed in singing or even dancing.'
Although clearly the Club was a going concern with a quite impressive fixture list, the individual results of the 30 players in that year indicate either their lack of proficiency or more probably the less than perfect nature of the pitches. The highest batting average for 1849 was a mere 15.4 and indeed only 6 of the 30 averaged double figures.
It would seem that this second Edge Hill period of the Club's history is the one which saw great strides made in establishing the Club's importance and its position as part of the recognised social life of the ever growing city.
By 1859 the standard of the facilities of the Club had improved considerably. In August of that year they were sufficiently established to stage a match between the Gentlemen of the South and the Gentlemen of the North. By 1859 it had almost first class status and certainly would not have come to Liverpool had it not expected both good opposition and more importantly the opposition of gentlemen of the right social standing.
It was within the second 11 fixtures for 1860 however that a pattern of local Merseyside clubs began to emerge. Clearly for the new, younger clubs, fixtures at whatever level would have proved to be something of a recognition and would have influenced both the way these clubs were run and the manner in which they played. Even in those clubs which still awaited an invitation, the influence of Liverpool was evident.
Croxteth Hall site.
Despite the growing importance and influence of Liverpool Cricket Club, it was still powerless against the wheels of commerce when once again the railway needed to expand in 1877. This event does, however, underline how influential the members of the Club were. No less a person than the Earl of Sefton came to their aid and allowed the club the use of his grounds at Croxteth Hall for many of their matches, although the members practiced at less exalted sites within the city, even travelling as far as Birkenhead. There is no record of the Earl playing cricket himself, although his interest went further than merely providing facilities. On occasions during the 1880s he appeared as President as committee meetings.This use of the Croxteth Hall grounds continued for three years but it was always seen as a temporary measure.
Aigburth or Grassendale site.
The Pavillion at Liverpool Cricket Club
By 1880 plans were well advanced to acquire what was to prove the club's finest and final home as Aigburth or Grassendale as the precise area was then called.
'A letter from the Company makes clear their intention:'
The Liverpool and South West Lancashire Cricket Ground Comapny Limited was formed to buy the land. Each share cost £25 and £15000 was raised both to purchase the land and build the pavillion. Nowhere is there more striking evidence od the esteem which Liverpool Cricket Club had by then, in the city, for the list of shareholders read like a Who's Who of Victorian Liverpool.
The company was not purely a philanthropic one; it expected in time to make a profit whilst providing the best possible facilities for sport primarily for cricket. From a letter read to the committee in June 1885 containing minor alterations to the lease, the Club had to pay a minimum rent of £200 per annum, £100 of which had to be paid by 1st August. This was met by 10 shillings of each member's £2.2/- annual subscription automatically going to the Company. The Company was also entitled to 25% of any gate money without it being liable for any loss which might be made there. The Ground Company still exists today although its shares were bought at their face value by the Club after the Second World War and are now controlled by three trustees appointed by the Club.
Costs in these early days at Aigburth were of course very high. Apart from the building of the magnificent pavillion by Cupitts which still stands today, there was in the years 1882-1883 almost £1000 spent on improving the ground. £459 of this came from a loan from the Bank of Liverpool, £250 from the company and £281 in loans and donations from 173 different members.
It is clear that the Company and the Cricket Club, despite many of the shareholders also being members, were by no means one and the same thing. In 1887 a covered stand had been built at a cost of £200 with money loaned by the Company. The intention seems to have been to charge admission to the stand and for three- quarters of the receipts (less the cost of collection) to go to pay off the Company's loan. Thereafter the Company would receive a quarter of the receipts. Adispute arose as to whether members should have to pay this admission charge.
'...as the free admission of members would seriously curtail and indeed, owing to their number, might absolutely put an end to the earning power of the stand, the Directors of the Company consider that members should be charged for admission... and that their free admission would be distinctly contrary to the original intention'. From the very beginning at Aigburth it was clearly no longer simply a club for gentlemen interested in playing cricket. It was a business which was to grow rapidly year by year.
In 1883 there were over 600 members, of whom no more than 45 actually played cricket. A full time secretary was employed at a salary of £200. Five 'ground bowlers' (professionals) were engaged 'at £3 per week each for the months of May, June, July and August'. A full time groundsman Mr G. Ubsdell worked probably most of his time on the aquare and practice wickets. Ubsdell appears to have been paid about £3 a week, but was a permanent member of staff, being employed for the whole year. Simply because he was so seldom mentioned in the minutes, he appears to have been a very satisfactory employee and this is confirmed by his being granted a quite substantial wage increase in May 1889 of seven shillings a week.
Most of the other Merseyside clubs at this time employed only one professional. Very often, he was chosen as much for his ability to bolster up the team as for his coaching and bowling ability. Such does not appear necessarily to have been the case at Liverpool. Indeed, there seems to have been some resentment expressed by the members of the professionals playing and thereby presumably taking the place of a member who had paid his subscription. Throughout the 1880s there were many debates over a number of matters, including fixtures, player selection and match expenses.
These match expenses themselves became another bone of contention and may have prejudiced the committee against selecting the professionals. As early as 1883 it was decided, presumably after the professionals had been taking advantage of the system...
'that the ground bowlers should have dinner provided at the Expense of the Club, only when the matches began at a time when an interval for Luncheon was deemed necessary. At all other times, those who were actively engaged in the match were to leave their work early to have dinner and get back on the ground in time for the commencement of the match. As this did not appear to have been understood by the ground bowlers, the following claims for dinner money were allowed'.
These claims varied from 7/6 to 2/6 presumably at 2/6 a day.
Such practices probably went on all the time, being checked occasionally when they became excessive, as presumably they had done by May 1889.
'The professionals' match expenses were brought before the committee by the secretary who considered them to be very excessive and it was resolved that when away from home 2/- each be allowed for tea and refreshments and on whole day matches the Captain pay for their dinners and the Professionals were also informed that the porterage charges must be considerably reduced. With regard to the loss of practice balls... recommended that each Professional should have 6 balls and to account for the to Ubsdell at the end of each day.'
The other source of pressure on the committee probably came from the mass of club members who would be divided in their desire for the Club to perform well, which they were more likely to do with the assisstance of the professionals and a wish for the game to be played by amateurs in the true amateur spirit.
Prior to 1887 the catering had been leased out to the licensee of the Aigburth Hotel for £25 a season. Either he had proved unsatisfactory or he was unable to cope with the growing demand. Whatever the reason, in 1887 it was considered necessary to employ a full time steward and a Mr Flay was engaged who had previously been in the employment of the Honorary Treasurer, Mr G.C.H. Dunlop.
So by 1887, the Liverpool Cricket Club with 850 members had a staff, in the playing season, of at least 8, a secretary, a steward, a groundsman (plus occasional assistants) and 5 professionals. The decisions on staffing the pavillion and ground lay very much under the control of a handful of men who formed the General Committee. The size of this committee varied from year to year, but seems to have been comprised of between 12 and 15 members.
Committee Meetings and Members
There is little doubt that the 15 who served as committee members in 1882 were men of considerable means and held positions of influence in the city. Only two cannot be traced through the Directory of that year. The others are listed below with both their occupations and home addresses. The latter were largely either in the city or in that growing residential area around Princes and Sefton Parks.
Liverpool Committee Members of 1882.
George C. Dunlop - Cotton Broker - 13,Rumford Street
Thomas Hornby J.P. - Merchant - Olive Mount, Mill Lane, Wavertree
John F. Collier Esq. J.P. - Judge of County Court - 45, Canning Place
Danson Cunningham - Cotton Broker - 31, Falkner Square
Charles Laughton Esq. J.P. - Bark Hill, Aigburth
William H. Porter - Shipbuilder - Blundell Sands
Henry B. Parr - Stock and Share Broker - Rodney Street
Arthur Maples - Wine Merchant - Peel Street, Toxteth Park
Arthur Isaacson - Merchant - 76, Huskisson Street
Edward Roper - Gentleman - 43, Kingsley Road (some doubt)
A.J. Steel - Shipowner - 2, South Hill Grove, St. Michaels
D.Q. Steel - Solicitor - 28, Greenheys Road, Princes Park
E. Kewley - (not listed in 1882 Gore's Directory)
P.J. McCullogh - (not listed in 1882 Gore's Directory)
George Bird - Merchant - Grange Lodge, Gateacre
There were seldom more than 5 or 6 who attended any given committee meeting, the venue which varied depending on the time of year. In the summer months they took place at 5 o'clock in the evening in the Committee Room in the pavillion, but in the winter there seemed to be no set time or place. Generally, they were held at the offices in the city of one of the committee members. The times at which they were held also varied but as a general rule were around 2 o'clock in the afternoon on a day presumably mutually acceptable. This would suggest firstly that most of the committee either worked in the city or lived close enough to be able to attend and secondly that they were in a sufficiently elevated position in their firms to enable them to take time off in mid-afternoon to attend to the affairs of a cricket club.
These early minutes tell us much about the problems of the Club and the decisions which the committee came to, but they give little indication of the way in which the meetings were conducted and the type of personalities who formed the committee, whether they worked hard at a job or whether it was more of a 'divertissement' and a useful social prop to be associated with the Club.
It does seem however, that the committee members ran the Club as a pastime. The irregularity with which most of them attended meetings, reflected the seriousness with which they viewed their duties. But, of course, it did work; they merely needed to keep a hand on the rudder, to steer the Club along th right lines. Little more was required. Any problems could easily be solved by the affluence of the members, by the ease with which they could raise loans and through the assistance of the Land Company.
Not only were Liverpool Cricket Club financially secure in the last years of the 19th century, but they were also immeasurably stronger than any other club for miles around. So strong in fact that in the 1880s they fielded two 1st XI sides each Saturday.
Their most famous player was A.G. Steel, the most illustrious of the five brothers who all played for Lancashire and arguably the best cricketer ever to come from Merseyside. A.G. like W.G. Grace, was known by his initials and at the height of his fame, no England team was complete without him. He holds a record in English cricket when at the age of 19 in 1878, he headed the English bowling averages taking 164 wickets for 9.40 each. He was also a splendid batsman, who scored 148 against the Australians at Lords in 1884 and captained England on three occasions.
From the time of its acquisition of the Aigburth ground, Liverpool has always staged at least one county game, not quite as of right, for there has been several attempts by the Manchester club at Old Trafford to have all the county matches played there. In one particular county match played at the Aigburth ground in the 1902 - 03 season against a Gloucestershire side, came the mighty hitter Jessop, who in one innings compiled 140 out of 174 in 90 minutes and from E.C. Hornby's bowling he hit 17 in one over, including one terrific drive on to the pavillion verandah, just missing the clock. No one nowadays can remember a hit carrying anywhere near this distance and it is a ground which has seen the best of the modern day hitters such as Ian Botham and Clive Lloyd.
Of the clubs which ultimately became the Liverpool Competition, Birkenhead Park, Sefton, Huyton, Boughton Hall, Northern, Bootle and New Brighton had already been granted 1st XI status, whilst Oxton, Formby and Southport were accorded 'A' XI games. So by 1888 the majority had contacts with Liverpool and one would imagine that for all of them their seasons would be complete if they beat the mighty Liverpool or even avoided defeat. For Liverpool, however, one had the feeling that these matches were of far less significance than those against say the Public Schools or the Free Foresters.
We have, as we enter the 20th century, a picture of a Club arrogant in its self confidence, as well it might be. A Club, not only possessing the finest players, the wealthiest members, but also facilities incomparably superior to those of any of the other local clubs and serving as an example and a guide to all these smaller clubs around it.
The Liverpool Competition
'A study of the development of Cricket on Merseyside'