Past grounds uncovered

Edale's cricket team playing just after the war in 1945, showing the slope of the ground, which today is a campsite. Photo: Roger Cooper.
Edale's cricket team playing just after the war in 1945, showing the slope of the ground, which today is a campsite. Photo: Roger Cooper.

WHAT is now Cooper’s Campsite at Edale was once one of the most steeply sloping cricket pitches in England.

Not a good place to have to face terrifying fast bowler Brian Cooper with ball in hand. Nor indeed groundsman “uncle” Isaac Cooper when he had a shovel in his hand and he thought any small child or large cow was encroaching on his hallowed turf.

Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds by Chris Arnot

Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds by Chris Arnot

Coopers made up the majority of the team, and you can read about them in a new book on Britain’s Lost Cricket Grounds.

Edale is one of nigh-on 40 featured and the entry includes an evocative photograph of play resuming there at the end of the Second World War.

Part of what makes cricket nostalgia so special, be it a magisterial innings or an unplayable spell of bowling, is the recollection of where that bravura feat took place.

Those blazing centuries Barry Richards used to score before lunch; that 17th hundred of the season Denis Compton scored in 1947 to break Jack Hobbs’ record; that spell by Frank Tyson that was the fastest anyone in the ground had ever witnessed: it wasn’t just that you were there, but where that was.

All the more poignant, therefore, the knowledge that there will be no more centuries by either a Compton or a Richards, because even the historic Priory Meadow ground in the centre of Hastings and Hampshire’s Northlands Road home in Southampton that provided such decorous arenas for their talent are themselves no more, and indeed submerged under a shopping mall and a housing estate.

The halcyon days of the lost grounds are evoked in the reminiscences of players and spectators, as are the sad histories of decline, dereliction and, all too frequently, re-development.

Sometimes, Arnot finds, there is literally nothing left to remind the visitor of the tranquil stretch of greensward that played host to memorable cricket matches - and we have to be content with the plangent photographs collected in this endlessly readable book.

* Britain’s Lost Cricket Grounds by Chris Arnot, published by Aurum Press, is available now, priced £25.