Back in the top tier: A look at the history of Carnforth Cricket Club

Carnforth Cricket Club - Westmorland Cricket League Division Two champions 2015.
Carnforth Cricket Club - Westmorland Cricket League Division Two champions 2015.
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With Carnforth Cricket Club back in the Premier Division of the Westmorland Cricket League next season historian John Glaister takes a closer look at the Lodge Quarry club.

It has been more than 100 years but next season sees the return of Carnforth Cricket Club to the Premier Division of the Westmorland Cricket League (WCL) for the first time since 1909.

They were the first ever Lancashire club to usurp the WCL but it was only to be a one year sojourn citing poor umpiring standards on quitting.

A Carnforth team first played on July 20 1867 at Burton-in-Kendal when the population was burgeoning at this time.

Carnforth was a backwater village in the parish of Warton but rapidly developing as a Victorian new town. The laying of railway track in 1844 heralded modernity.

In 1857 Carnforth became a railway junction and in 1866 the new blast furnaces smelting iron ore came on line.

Within a few short years the green fields had gone as economic migrants piled in from places like Dudley near Birmingham. In 1861 the population was 393. In 1871 it was 1,001. ‘Ironopolis’ was on the build.

The first cricket club was short lived due to “.... weaknesses of humanity”. In short the railwaymen and ironmen didn’t see eye-to-eye so each organisation formed its own club in 1872.

That too was a short lived experiment and come 1877 there had been no cricket for three years. It took the press to kick start Carnforth sport. “There is no cricket club nor football club .... and effort should be made for establishing some movement which would impart a more lively aspect to the town”.

By now the population was fast heading towards 2,000. The cricket club was immediately resuscitated and a football club formed which played both rugby and association rules.

In 1879 the cricket club played 17 games and Carnforth became a sought after fixture. All competition at this stage was club cricket. The first leagues started in 1892.

In 1894 Carnforth was recognised as a town with its own urban district rather than a township appendage of Warton parish.

It was a great day for the town but 1904 saw an even greater day as far as the town’s cricketers were concerned. The press report of the annual meeting read: “The club has been fortunate in buying the field which has been so long rented to them. In addition it is proposed to erect a new pavilion.”

Acquiring your own field is the rosiest of red letter days as far as a cricket club is concerned. All the top brass in the town wanted to see and be seen on the ground. The cricket club was now at the hub of the social scene. The pavilion followed in 1905.

The club borrowed £500 to buy the field, a huge sum in 1904, but then club and town came together and in a three-day bazaar just before Christmas raised £430.

Communal vigour like this bounded people which is in stark contrast to today whereby grants are available from a faceless benefactor with no group effort.

After the Great War it was all hands to the pump again and two teams were put out in 1919.

It was at this time the club became associated with T A Higson of Lancashire CCC and who in 1932 was a selector for what became the famous ‘Bodyline Tour’. This was the rarified atmosphere in which the Carnforth club now mixed. The evening KO competition similar to the 20-20 of today drew clubs from far and wide.

League cricket finally beckoned and in 1923 the first eleven joined the North Lancashire and District League almost certainly Higson’s encouragement.

The club’s first professional, Thompson was a revelation. It was another red letter day in 1966 when the club won the league for the first time along with the Higson Cup.

Carnforth 2nds joined the Westmorland Cricket League in 1928 and shared the 1939 championship. Carnforth 3rds have been continual members since 1981.

In 2005 the 1st XI finished third in the North Lancs Second Division and the 2nd XI champions of Division Three of the WCL.

The club’s decision to then join the Northern League proved a bridge too far. In 2013 both teams rejoined the WCL and were placed in Divisions Four and Five respectively.

Insult to injury many thought but having served their time the whole of the WCL will benefit next season.

Their ground has it all and boasts one of the best wickets in the North of England. The Ironmen are back. Bring it on – and their next red letter day is the 150th birthday celebrations in 2017.