Old Lancashire Cricket League Footage from 1902
As the 2015 Ashes summer enters its second day, I stumbled across this archive footage of a Lancashire League cricket match between Accrington and Church earlier, which was filmed in 1902. This is a contest from the league that myself and Bharat play in. As far as I can tell, it is at the same Accrington ground that we play at each summer, though much has changed.
The stands have long gone; there have been newly built scoreboards, training nets and pavilions erected in their place. The size of the crowd on the film is similar to that which only usually attends the yearly Worsley Cup final (the League's knockout cup format. One of the oldest running cricket competitions in the world) and it evokes memories of tales from my Grandad Billy. He used to tell me that 'hundreds of people used to watch the players practise' and even more would come to watch the matches. Week in, week out. This testifies to that, a tale which always fascinated me, and shows how this amateur cricket league, formed in the late 1800s to entertain the mill workers on their day of rest in the summer months, was wildly popular.
In the decades which followed the filming of this game, the League went from strength to strength and greats from around the world of test cricket came to play in the Lancashire League; Learie Constantine, Charlie Griffiths and Viv Richards; and later, Shane Warne and Alan Donald, to name just a few. The league also boasts having a hand in producing two major players in the current Ashes series; Burnley CC, produced the all-time leading England wicket taker, James Anderson; and one of the other 14 League members, Ramsbottom CC, employed Australia captain, Michael Clarke, as their overseas professional.
Nowadays, a healthy crowd for a league game is somewhere between 50-150 spectators, with spikes for local derbies and crunch games, or even just if the weather is nice. What the film shows though, is that there is something quintessentially English and timeless about spending an afternoon down at the cricket, whatever the level.
Watch the video on the BFI website, here.
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