Going Over Old Grounds

With such famous professional sporting teams as Nottingham Forest Football Club, Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, and Notts County FC, there have been numerous grounds and stadiums used throughout the years by these sides, some of which are regular now and known worldwide as monuments of sporting prestige and valour. We take a look at some of the major venues from the very early days, pre 1900s, right up to the present day.

Forest New Ground  

A first-class cricket venue based in Nottingham and used in the early days by Nottinghamshire Cricket Club as far back as the late 18th and early 19th century. It was situated within the old Forest Racecourse and was referred by some as the aforementioned name. The first recorded match took place in 1771 between Nottingham and Sheffield, and was used for cricket up till 1979. It was replaced by Trent Bridge for the club’s main first-class matches from 1840 onwards. The ground was eventually owned by the Nottingham City Council and is used for local football and the annual Goose Fair.

Trent Bridge   

Now recognised as one of the premier international cricket grounds in the world, Trent Bridge is located in the town of West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, just across the River Trent from the city. It is the headquarters of Nottinghamshire CCC, having first played there in 1840. Apart from the usual Test match and One-Day international games on a regular summerly basis, the venue has also entertained the finals day of the domestic Twenty20 Cup twice and the final of the One-Day Cup for the last three years. It also hosted the World Twenty20 semi-final between South Africa and Pakistan in 2009.

Trent Bridge was first used as a cricket venue in the 1830s, and the first documented match took place in 1838, and then its first test match in 1899 versus Australia. An electronically-operated scoreboard was installed in 1950, making it at the time the world’s largest of its kind at any cricket stadium. The £1.9 million Fox Road stand opened in 2002, and with a few other modern developments, the stadium capacity was boosted to 17,500. The county’s highest team total at the ground is the massive 739 for 7 declared made against Leicestershire in 1903, which included an innings of 294 by John Gunn. The best individual score is by Arthur Jones, 296, made in the same season.

In test matches, England have the highest total, 658-8 declared, made against Australia in 1938. Denis Compton smashed a high-score of 278 in 1954 against Pakistan, but the most memorable moment came in 2015 when the county’s own Stuart Broad mesmerised the Australians with a spell of 8 for 15 which included his 300th test victim. Notts County FC also used the ground for their football fixtures from the 1860s, and an international football game was played in 1897 as England defeated Ireland 6-0.

Brackenhurst Cricket Ground  

Situated near to the town of Southwell, in Nottinghamshire, the venue was used by the Nottinghamshire Gentlemen and other local clubs in the area. In 1846 the Gentlemen of Southwell played England in the ground’s only first-class game. There were six Second Eleven championship games by Nottinghamshire Seconds between 1967 and 1995. It was eventually purchased by the Nottinghamshire County Council in 1947 and used by Southwell Cricket Club for their home games.

Kelham Road   

The home of the Newark Ransome & Marles Cricket Club, Kelham Road is situated in the market town of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire. The first mention of a match was in 1849 when the team of Newark hosted an All-England XI, and in 1856 the only first-class game took place as Nottinghamshire faced an All-England Eleven.

Field Mill   

As the oldest ground in the Football League, Field Mill is the home stadium of Mansfield Town FC, and is located in the town of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. In use since 1861, some have said football was played there since around 1850. With a capacity of just over 9000, its name originated from a large water-powered textile mill next to the ground. The employees of Greenhalgh & Sons Work, a cotton-doubling business, played various football and cricket games on it before it was used just for football from 1894.

Another team to use the ground in its early days was the Mansfield Mechanics FC, who competed on it from 1912 to 1916. Mansfield Town initially started to play from the 1919/20 season and the first grandstand was erected in 1922, whilst the terraces were built in the 1930s. The first known competitive match to be played under artificial lights in this country took place in 1930 when Welbeck Athletic played Ollerton Forest in the final of the North Notts League Senior Cup. Floodlights came into effect in 1961, as well as a new grandstand put in during the decade. Between 1984 and 1986 the field was used by the Mansfield Marksman rugby league team. It was eventually decided to demolish the old stands and have new ones built, and the overall redevelopment of an all-seater stadium was completed by July 2001. Field Mill suffered from safety issues throughout the mid-2000s which reduced the ground capacity, but it did benefit from a concert in 2010 by the pop group Westlife. Town were evicted from the premises in late 2010 due to an unpaid rent dispute.

Meadow Road 

A cricket ground based in the town of Beeston in Nottinghamshire, the first recorded game took place in 1867 when the Gentlemen of Nottinghamshire took on the Gentlemen of Lincolnshire. The one and only first-class match came in 1870 when the Gentlemen of the North played the Gentlemen of the South, and the final game on the ground was in 1961 between Nottinghamshire Juniors and the Derbyshire Juniors. The area is now inhabited by a technology park.

Castle Ground

Located in the Meadows area of Nottingham, Castle Ground was used for both football and cricket, with Nottingham Forest FC hosting their games between 1879 and 1881, and then played on by Notts County between 1880 and 1894. County, one of the founder members of the Football League in 1888, competed in their inaugural League game at the ground in March 1889 as a crowd of 3000 saw them defeated by Bolton Wanderers. A record attendance of 12,000 in September 1892 saw County draw 1-1 against Derby County. The club’s final game came in September 1894 as 10,000 fans saw them beat Darwen 2-1. A part of the site was later purchased by the Great Central Railway to combine a railway line with the Nottingham Victoria Station with the rest of the plot having houses built on it.

Parkside Ground  

Home to Nottingham Forest for three years, 1883-1885, Parkside was a football ground in the Lenton area of Nottingham. Having left Trent Bridge, Forest used the new pitch which suffered from a slope and an uneven surface. A crowd of around 3000 saw the home team win 3-2 versus Small Heath Alliance when Parkside opened in September 1883, but two years later the ground was closed off in 1885.

Gregory Ground  

Another venue in Lenton, near to the railway station, and used for both football and cricket, Forest played their games on the Gregory Ground from 1885 to 1890, after leaving the Parkside Ground premises. Cricket was played on it by local side Lenton United from 1888 to 1969. Forest’s inaugural game on the ground came in September 1885 as they defeated Stoke on Trent 4-1 before an attendance of over 2000. Nearly 10,000 turned up for the visit by Notts County in November. Lit up by large paraffin-fuelled blowlamps named the Wells light, a floodlit game took place in March 1889 against the Notts Rangers.

Town Ground  

As the first ground to host a football match with crossbars and goal nets, Town Ground in Nottingham was the home of Nottingham Forest FC, having opened in October 1890 with a 4-2 friendly win for the home side over Queen’s Park in front of around 3500 people. The North v South game in 1891 had the revolutionary crossbar and nets, and the first ever league match was in September 1892 as Forest joined the Football League, in a 4-3 loss to Stoke in front of around 9000 in attendance. A record 15,000 saw the Forest versus Burnley game in April 1897, whilst the same number attended the local derby in September, as the game with Notts County ended in a 1-1 draw. The final league game took place in April 1898 in a game against Bury, before Forest moved to a new home venue in September. The area was eventually used for new housing.

City Ground   

In West Bridgford on the banks of the River Trent, City Ground has been the home to Nottingham Forest FC since 1898. With a capacity of just under 30,500 the venue has been used for the Euro 96 competition, and is only 300 yards from Meadow Lane, the home of Notts County. It became the seventh and final home –to date- for Forest, having played most of their first 14 years of football at the Forest Recreation Ground which was an area of open space and common land. The site situated on the South side of the river was offered to Forest by the city council, a 21-year lease which the club agreed to at their annual meeting in December 1897.

The ground was officially opened in 1898, and the inaugural game was a Division One game versus Blackburn Rovers in September in front of a crowd of around 15,000. The FA Cup first round tie against Aston Villa in the same season attracted an amazing 32,070. The stadium was considered one of the best in the country and a year later it hosted an FA Cup semi, holding a total of four such games up until 1905, as well as a full international game between England and Wales in 1909. Notts County also used the ground for their home matches during the 1900s, with the stadium having gained its name after Nottingham was granted city status in 1897.

It was the first football ground to have elliptically shaped goalposts in 1922, and during World War Two it held some events for entertainment, but was badly bombed in 1941. The ground suffered from flooding in 1947 when the River Trent burst its banks. However, redevelopment work took place during the 1950s, and with some good football, Forest won promotion to Division One of the league, with their first game versus Manchester United in October 1957 attracting a new record crowd of 47,804. The same opposition saw the all-time record attendance of 49,946 in 1967 as Forest won 3-1. More refurbishment took place in the early 1960s, with floodlights being installed in 1961.

After Forest had achieved success by winning the League title and consecutive European Cups, the stadium benefitted from an executive stand being built in 1980, and more modern development work during the 90s saw the city host three games in Euro 96. The Women’s FA Cup final was played at the City Ground in both 2007 and 2008. Despite talks of building a new stadium away from the City Ground the club managed to get an extended lease on the premises, and plans were put into place in 2019 to improve the Peter Taylor and Brian Clough stands.

Town Ground 

A cricket venue in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, the ground hosted both first-class and List A/one-day matches for Nottinghamshire CCC between 1921 and 1998. It was established in 1901. After the Second World War, Notts returned to the venue in 1959 after an absence of 20 years. Geoff Boycott of Yorkshire CCC enjoyed batting at the ground, averaging over 100 and scoring over 900 runs. In total, Notts played 47 first-class fixtures at the ground. The county scored 540 runs in a day against Worcestershire in 1934.

Welbeck Abbey Cricket Ground  

Based at the Welbeck Abbey mansion grounds in Nottinghamshire, two first-class games took place at the venue in 1901 and 1904, both against the same opposition, Derbyshire.

Meadow Lane 

The permanent home ground of Notts County FC since its opening in 1910, Meadow Lane has a current capacity of just under 20,000, despite a record 47,310 attending an FA Cup match in 1955 versus York City. Apart from County, the stadium has also entertained a series of football games between Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham, as well as being the home of Notts County Ladies FC from 2014 to 2017. The historic first game in September 1910 was a local derby with Nottingham Forest, where around 27,000 saw a 1-1 stalemate. The ground became badly dilapidated during the 1970s and 1980s, but was aided by redevelopment work during the early 1990s, and had new LED floodlights installed recently. One of the stands was named after legend and former manager Jimmy Sirrel.

West Park   

A cricket ground in the West Bridgford area of the city, the venue was constructed by Sir Julien Cahn, a businessman & philanthropist. The first recorded match was in 1928 when the Sir J Cahn’s XI hosted the touring West Indies in a non first-class match. In 1932, the first first-class game was contested by Cahn’s team and the touring South Americans. Two more first-class fixtures were played in 1935, and the final ever match took place in 1941 against a British Empire XI. The land was then owned by the local Borough Council.

Elm Avenue  

A cricketing ground in the town of Newark-on-Trent, the first game of note was played in 1930 when Elm Avenue was opened by the Ransome & Marles Company, makers of ball & roller bearings for aircraft and other engines. There were a total of 24 fixtures as Nottinghamshire Second Eleven competed in both the Minor Counties & Second XI Championships. Nottinghamshire CCC played 11 first-class games on the ground from 1966 till 1978. Elm Avenue also hosted four List A games from 1970 to 1976, and local domestic cricket took place in the form of home team Newark Ransome & Marles CC.

Steetley Company Ground  

Situated in the parish of Shireoaks, Nottinghamshire, the first cricket match took place in 1955 as Nottinghamshire Second XI took on Yorkshire Seconds. It went on to hold further matches in the championship and limited-over trophy matches. In 1961 a County Championship game saw Notts take on Sussex, as Norman Hill smashed an unbeaten 201 for the county. The venue also held one Women’s One-Day International in 1979 as England entertained the West Indies, with the visitors coming out on top chasing a target of 168.

John Player Ground   

The teams of Midlands and East of England Women and the North and West of England Women competed in the first ever game on the ground in Nottingham in 1955. The inaugural List A match saw Nottinghamshire take on Hampshire in 1970 in a John Player League 40-over contest. There were four one-day matches between 1970 and 1973. Nottinghamshire Seconds used the venue for their Minor Counties and Second XI championship competitions, and there were also three Women’s One-Day Internationals played on by England and Ireland, and a World Cup game between India and the West Indies in 1993, which India won by 63 runs. The ground was eventually redeveloped and occupied by a leisure centre.

John Fretwell Sporting Complex  

A recently built cricket ground in Nettleworth near the small parish of Warsop in Nottinghamshire, it is the home of Welbeck Cricket Club and has been used by Nottinghamshire CCC for List A games since 2015. The complex was constructed in 2006 by local businessman John Fretwell. Known back then as Welbeck Colliery CC, the local club first played on the ground in 2007, and eight years later Nottinghamshire played a home game away from Trent Bridge in the county after more than a decade. The inaugural ‘Welbeck Weekender’ took place in July 2015 as back to back Royal London One Day Cup games saw the county entertain Warwickshire and Glamorgan. The county Seconds have also used the ground since 2008, and the Notts Women’s team played their first County Championship game in 2009, and have used it regularly since 2013.

With such famous professional sporting teams as Nottingham Forest Football Club, Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, and Notts County FC, there have been numerous grounds and stadiums used throughout the years by these sides, some of which are regular now and known worldwide as monuments of sporting prestige and valour. We take a look at some of the major venues from the very early days, pre 1900s, right up to the present day.

*Article provided by Hitesh Darji (Historical Correspondent)

*Main image @TrentBridge an early twentieth century photo of Trent Bridge & the City Ground.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *