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Club Focus: Hazel Grove

Judging from the blistering, hostile accuracy of Iain Hayward and Tony Harrop, the explosive batsman-wicket keeper Simon Cook, the splendidly nicknamed opening partners “Doc” Shallot and “Chopper” Harris, and a powerful middle order comprising Malcolm Rowbottom, Chris Williams and Allan Bennett, any sensible debate concerning the good and the great of the Derbyshire and Cheshire League, would inevitably feature the Hazel Grove First XI from the mid-80s.

Allan Bennett remembers the period, and in particular, the 1985 season, when in addition to the names already mentioned, the club also boasted Brian Miles, Dave Jones, Jim Salt, Paul Gibson, Graham Brookes, Rob Turner, and the aptly christened Peter Whitehead.

“The First XI won the League and lost the Cup Final, whilst the Second XI won the League and Cup double”

A truly halcyon period, but interestingly Allan also believes that Hazel Grove are now in better shape than ever.

“Primarily, the club had survived on the herculean efforts of the unsung heroes such as Ken Daniels and Malcolm Rowbottom. However, in recent years the club continues to thrive, both on and off the field, made possible by valued contributions from so many dedicated people, and in particular Ian Halford”

A Founder Member of the Derbyshire and Cheshire League, the facilities had originally included a Bowling Green and Tennis section, and the club was officially still known as Hazel Grove Wesleyans until 1958. Indeed the Grove continues to pay rent to the local church for the use of Wesley Park.

The original Hazel Grove Team can be traced to the 1880s and thanks to some fascinating documents recently unearthed by the Club Secretary Steve Fellows, we can now enjoy the anecdotal richness of nineteenth century village cricket.

Steve’s Father-in-Law, Ken Daniels had compiled a brief history of the club in the late 1960s, after firstly listening to verbal recollections from his father, John “Jack” Daniels 1888-1970, and then also acquiring the notes from the anecdotes and memories of Mr Ewart Jackson 1893-1963 (provided by his niece Betty Phythian) after Mr Jackson had given some talks in the 1950s.

As a young boy, Ewart had experienced the joys of Hazel Grove playing home matches behind the Rising Son Hotel, at the junction of London Road and Macclesfield Road. They were members of the North Derbyshire League (comprising teams such as Hayfield, Whaley Bridge, Strines and Birch Vale), but the highlight of the year was undoubtedly the Wakes “Holiday Monday” when Bollington were the annual visitors, and each team engaged a professional for the match.

“The Hazel Grove Silver Band were always in attendance, and all the people of the village seemed to be there. Nobody thought of going away on holiday until after the Wakes Monday Cricket Match”

In those days the players used to hire horse-drawn wagonettes for away matches, and usually from a legendary local character called Sam Stubbs who apparently owned a horse with a very long neck which people called “Stubby’s Giraffe”

The first problems emerged with the construction of the Cheadle Heath-Chinley railway line which passed directly through the cricket field. The club then moved to a new location, somewhere between the railway embankment and Norbury Church, but disbanded in 1906 after losing a number of players. Another local team known as Hazel Grove “Rec” (who played on Green Lane) had also disbanded, and subsequently the two sets of remaining players, including John Daniels, Willie Ridgway, Ernest Hallworth, and John Marsland, formed Hazel Grove Wesleyans, and played their home fixtures at Old Fold Farm on Grosvenor Street.

The Wesleyans joined the Stockport and District League, which mainly consisted of clubs from the Denton area such as Heaton Norris and Reddish Vale, but later admitted Bredbury and Buxworth in 1913.

John Daniels recalled one particular match at Buxworth: “The match at Buxworth was celebrated as an annual picnic, and a wagonette was carried by three horses conveying all the players and supporters. At Bridgemont all the occupants had to get off because the road was dangerous, but later they all got back inside, after paying the required toll at the Toll Bar between Bridgemont and Buxworth”

The Landlady at the Navigation had originally resided in Hazel Grove and Tea had been provided for a party of around 30, as the Wesleyans scored a remarkably high 130 (in those days 50 was considered to be a good score) As a sign of the times, the Grove “ladies” had gone off to make the teas, and the landlady had later insisted on everyone singing the old Methodist hymns which she had previously learnt whilst living in Hazel Grove.

There was no regular cricket played during the First World War, and by 1919 the ground on Grosvenor Street had become overgrown and unusable. The Wesleyan Recreational Society decided to purchase a plot of land adjoining Hazel Grove Railway Station and Hatherlow Lane for the purpose of sporting activities, and it was subsequently renamed Wesley Park.

After lengthy preparations of the playing surface, and a number of friendlies against local opposition, Hazel Grove Wesleyans eventually enjoyed their first season at Wesley Park in 1921, initially as Members of the Manchester and District Federation, and playing fixtures against Swinton, Urmston, Flixton, Heaton Norris, and Openshaw. They could even boast their own pavilion which had literally been dismantled and transported directly from Marple Cricket Club.

The season was fairly successful, and John Daniels narrowly failed to win the Federation Bowling Prize after taking 75 wickets at 3.5 runs per wicket.

The exact motives remain unclear, but in 1922, the Wesleyans were admitted to the newly formed Second Division of the High Peak League, together with Mirlees, Whaley Bridge, Buxworth, Buxworth, Newton, Hawk Green and High Lane.

The club were promoted in their first season, and from 1929 until the formation of the Derbyshire and Cheshire League in 1952, Hazel Grove were always in the High Peak First Division. They were Runners-Up in 1933, and the players often featured highly in the individual averages. Indeed, despite finishing 3rd in 1936, the First and Second Places in the League Bowling Averages were taken by Bill Price and Don Tildesley respectively.

Meanwhile, the longevity of John Daniel’s cricketing career was celebrated in Hazel Grove CC documentation in 1969

“The career of Mr John Daniels started in 1903 when “Jack” as he was popularly known, was 15 and continued until the outbreak of the Second World War. From 1923 to 1940 his name appeared in the High Peak Averages a dozen times, winning the League Bowling Prize in 1922, 1928, and 1935. To have played cricket for forty years is not itself unique, but to have played continuously for the same village club, and in that time to have nearly 2000 wickets as a left arm medium paced bowler is something remarkable”

As new travel links emerged it became relatively easier for players and supporters to travel to a Derbyshire and Cheshire League fixture.

Allan Bennett: “My first recollection is of 5 hours “timed” cricket. I recall travelling as a child with my dad and grandad to watch a game at Hayfield on the bus, probably during the late 1950s”

Evidently, this period wasn’t as successful, and when asked about titles, he answered dryly: “There used to be a space reserved in the Post Office window for the wooden spoon”

Gradually, the Grove became more competitive and their finest exports Nick and Iain Hayward both featured for the successful Stockport Cricket Club that subsequently flourished in the Central Lancashire League. Wesley Park also produced Chris Ashling who later made his debut for Glamorgan in 2009.

The First Division was won in 1984 and 1985, whilst the depth of the Grove’s cricketing talent could also be measured by the Second XI league title in 1985, 1989 and 1990.

A new pavilion was constructed after fire had destroyed the original building in 1991.

Allan reflects: “It’s functional and easier to maintain, but it also lacks the aesthetic character of the previous pavilion”

Socially, the club remained buoyant and Hazel Grove Cricket Club celebrated their 25th anniversary on August 14th 1983 with a Celebrity Cricket Match Charity Fundraiser for Christie Hospital.

The quality remained high, but by the mid-90s, the shifting sands of youth culture were impacting, not just on local cricket, but on village life in general.

Suddenly the world was a smaller place, and Hazel Grove weren’t the only D&C club to find themselves with an ageing squad of players, and less commitment from the younger generation.

Clubs reacted in different ways and at different speeds, whilst others seemed to drift into the 21st Century without any concrete vision or strategy.

Marc Wilkinson recognized the need for urgent action: “There was a general attitude of LET’S JUST GET THROUGH THIS SEASON and it simply had to stop”

Mark successfully assembled and nurtured a youthful Second XI through a painful dark journey of heavy defeats whilst continually encouraging and promising that results would eventually improve.

In 2021 the First XI were crowned Second Division Champions, whilst the Second XI won the Hawke Cup Final after a thrilling encounter v Chapel. They also reached the T20 Finals Day, finished Joint Top in the inaugural Derek Slack Sunday League, and as a sign of things to come, were also U15s Champions.

Hazel Grove are a shining example of how a club can reinvent itself with sensible visionary planning and a dedicated team of hard working volunteers. They thrive on a self-perpetuating social buoyancy and I can only see more success on the horizon.

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1 Comment

David Jones
David Jones
Mar 14, 2022

Infamy at last! Great article but surprised our Bissenden win wasn't mentioned.

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