My Christmas presents this year included the recently-published Britain’s Lost Cricket Grounds, written by Chris Arnot and which – with abundant whiffs of nostalgia and some evocative images – takes a look at a host of grounds which have disappeared from the county calendar.
After delving into this delightful book, I decided to compare the number of venues which will be used in 2012 with the number fifty years ago in 1962.
The provisional fixture list for 2012 includes at the moment (with some venues still to be confirmed) 29 grounds with the vast majority of County Championship games this coming summer being staged at headquarter grounds.
Indeed, five of the nine teams in Division One are set to play all their home fixtures at headquarter venues. Surrey will be taking a game to Guildford while Sussex will be playing at Hove, Horsham and Arundel. With re-development work continuing at Old Trafford, Lancashire will continue to stage matches at Liverpool, while Middlesex will travel to Uxbridge when Lord’s is being used for the Olympics.
In Division Two, however, only three of the nine counties will play all their home fixtures at their headquarters, with six others heading to outgrounds. Derbyshire will visit Chesterfield, Essex will play at Colchester, while Glamorgan will hold one match at both Swansea and Colwyn Bay. Gloucestershire will have their Cheltenham Festival, Kent will play once at Tunbridge Wells, and Yorkshire will visit Scarborough.
Fifty years ago it was a very different picture with several counties staging games at four, five, six or more different grounds. The picture above shows Colin Cowdrey walking out to bat for Kent at Blackheath, and the list below shows the 50 towns and cities which staged matches in the 1962 County Championship but which have subsequently disappeared from the first-class calendar:
Derbyshire – Buxton, Ilkeston.
Essex – Brentwood, Clacton-on-Sea, Ilford, Leyton, Romford, Westcliff-on-Sea.
Glamorgan – Ebbw Vale, Llanelli, Margam, Neath, Newport, Pontypridd.
Gloucestershire – Gloucester, Stroud.
Hampshire – Bournemouth, Cowes, Portsmouth.
Kent – Blackheath, Dartford, Dover, Gillingham, Gravesend, Folkestone.
Lancashire – Blackpool, Southport.
Leicestershire – Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Hinckley.
Northamptonshire – Kettering, Peterborough, Wellingborough.
Nottinghamshire – Worksop.
Somerset – Bath, Glastonbury, Weston-super-Mare, Yeovil.
Sussex – Eastbourne, Hastings, Worthing.
Warwickshire – Coventry, Nuneaton.
Worcestershire – Dudley, Kidderminster, Stourbridge.
Yorkshire – Bradford, Harrogate, Hull, Middlesbrough, Sheffield.
Of course, the cricket world was very different back in the Swinging Sixties, with the County Championship seeing each team play either 28 or 32 three-day games, with each having an allocation of either 14 or 16 home fixtures, compared with eight four-day fixtures as today.
To see a full listing of matches in the 1962 County Championship, please visit http://www.cricketarchive.com/Archive/Seasons/ENG/1962_ENG_County_Championship_1962.html