Cricket in Southport

Brief History

Organised cricket first began in Southport in 1859 with the formation of Southport Cricket Club on a ground in York Road near Birkdale station.

A few weeks ago we made an announcement to the effect that many parties were desirous of forming a cricket club in the town, and we are happy to say that they are still persevering in their endeavour to do so. We understand that a meeting will be held on Saturday evening, May 14th in the Temperance Hall in London Street for that purpose, and all who feel interest in the same are invited to attend.

Southport Visiter, 12th May 1859

There were a phenomenal number of private schools in the Sixties in Southport, most of which played cricket, to the considerable benefit of the local clubs. Chief of these were Sandringham, Southport College, Bickerton House, Sandfield School, Somerville House, Albert House, Royal Balmoral, Sandhurst House and Southport Lodge and from them came plenty of youthful talent.

In these fledgling days of organised sport, Cricket Clubs were essentially gathering places for members to socialise with friends and family, network with business contacts and develop opportunities that might not otherwise exist. It wasn’t the matches that necessarily that made the clubs so different to any other social clubs and establishments that might have existed, it was everything that was associated with them. Where else could you find such a diverse mix of opinions, topics of conversation and viewpoints on different matters of economic, political, health and trade matters than at the side of the field amongst the differing peoples of class, education, and privilege. Where else could the working class man and the professional meet and participate in a common interest that bound them together. Historian Richard S. Young, in his book “As the Willow Vanishes”, sums it up simply as “venue + resources + players = game + networks + opportunity”.

The first President was the Reverend J.H. Carlisle, Headmaster of the Royal Balmoral School, and another local Schoolmaster W.B.Leeming, a useful all rounder captains the side for the first few years while T.M.Hope was the first Secretary.

The first match was played on 2nd July 1859 against Preston.

As cricket grew in popularity over its first decade in the town it was hardly surprising that more clubs should be formed and so it was that ‘The Alexandra Cricket Club’ was born. On 12th May 1863 the Southport Visiter reported on the formation of this new venture and included a handy description of the location of its facilities.

The Southport Alexandra Club

It is our pleasing privilege to state that a Cricket Club has been established in this town by a few gentlemen anxious to add to many attractions, that a most successful opening match was played on Saturday last. A large number of ladies were on the Ground, enticed there partly by the weather, but mainly no doubt to present, personally, their gift of a huge and richly worked flag which when hoisted by a fair hand, floated gaily in the breeze amid the hurrahs of the assembled Cricketers. I it hoped that the club so auspiciously opened will form the nucleus of a strong and successful one, and with it matches will conduce the credit of the Members and the town. The Ground, a large portion of which was been levelled, is situated at the top of Manchester Road between Hartwood Road and the Railway.

Southport Visiter, 12th May 1863

It is perhaps of little wonder that so many men of influence within the town had such an interest in its sporting institutions, nor that such effort should be made to ensure that in the winter months where Cricket could not be played, other sporting activities might be found to keep the membership together. It is through the existence of Alexandra that a football club would be founded nine years later after its formation. Adding a football section to a cricket club would have been seen as an attractive way of maintaining or increasing their membership.

The clubs became focal points for local populations to frequent, free from the toils of labour and providing access to recreation whilst conforming to the expectations of Victorian Society.

In the midst of industrialisation, colonialisation and expansion, an explosion of enthusiasm for sport had occurred. Rowing and cricket were the recreational super-powers of the day, and cricket had inadvertently provided the opportunity for the experimentation of alternate sports for the winter months.

Richard S. Young, As the Willow Vanishes, 2013)

The original Southport club disbanded in 1865 probably due to the building development at Birkdale which was expanding. It was not until 1866 there was any further reference in the local press, when they had re-established themselves at Manchester Road, next to the Alexandra club.

On 25th May 1874 the Birkdale Cricket Club played its first match at a ground on Trafalgar Road in Birkdale.

The Southport Cricket Club ground on Manchester Road was lost for housing in 1875 and the club had one further troubled year at Scarisbrick New Road, near to the Cemetery before disappearing until 1885, when Thomas Blundell Burnett, the man credited with starting the town’s first association football club, was part of a small group attempting its revival. It restarted on the recreation grounds near to the Olympic football field, where Falkroad Road and Rutland Road currently stand, but lasted only un 1888.

In 1890 the Alexandra Cricket Club changed its name to that of the defunct club and thereafter became known as Southport Cricket Club, a name they played under until losing their ground in 1901.

Southport Cricket Club and Birkdale Cricket Club combined to become the Southport & Birkdale Cricket Club in 1902, playing out of the same Trafalgar Road home that they still use today.