The official founding of Guisborough Cricket Club is not known despite a great deal of research, and it has a very vague beginning due to the lack of available records. There is evidence however in the Parish Registers that some form of cricket was played in the town as far back as 1820 when the game was banned on Sundays, and is recorded that the “Parish Constable was paid nine shillings for assisting in detecting players who played on Sundays.”
The ground, known as Fountains Garth is leased from the Gisborough Estate and in the early days the club had a gentlemens agreement, paying just a nominal rent, and it wasn`t till the 1960s that a long term lease was agreed with a rent review every seven years. There are reports of organised matches been played in 1850 against other local teams in the Cleveland area, and prior to the railway coming to the town, the ground was reputed to have been one of the largest in the North of England, stretching back to the beck before Fountain Street was built. The building of the Middlesbrough to Guisborough Railway passenger service by Joseph Pease, was opened in 1854. It divided the ground from the town, and with the trains running within yards of the boundary as they approached the station, which was close to the ground`s entrance, it almost appeared as though the club had its own private railway. From been one of the largest grounds it resulted in becoming one of the smallest. Indeed, writing in Fry`s Sporting Magazine in 1906, C.L.Townsend, the England, Gloucester and Norton player, described it as follows:
“Guisborough, the County Club of the League, lying nestling among the Cleveland Hills, is a quite lovely place to visit and the glorious scenery quite makes up for any shortcomings in the ground. It is in fact too small for cricket, but the wicket is always so good, that one forgets this fact.”
The North Yorkshire League – later to become the North Yorkshire & South Durham League was formed in 1893. Guisborough were admitted in season 1895 and were an immediate success by winning the championship in the first year of membership and became one of the leading clubs in the early part of the 20th century by winning the title in 1905 and 1907 followed by four successive championships in 1909, 10, 11 and 1912.
The 1912 championship coincided with the official opening of a new pavilion built at a cost of £350 – the money raised by several fundraising events with the major event being a Grand Bazaar in the Priory Grounds. The traditional style building was recognised as one of the most splendid pavilions in the league, with tiered seating and a members enclosure between the two changing rooms.
After the 1912 championship, 30 years elapsed before Guisborough won it again in 1942 and a further 30 after that before winning it again in 1972. Since then, Guisborough have again been one of the most successful clubs with championship wins in 1976, 1981, 1989 and 1996 followed again by four successive wins in 2001 to 2004 to become the first club to win four successive championships on two occasions.
Guisborough have also enjoyed many cup successes. They have been finalists in the League’s major cup competition introduced in 1920 on 19 occasions, winning it 9 times, and are proud to have had extended runs on the national stage in the ECB National K.O.Cup which attracts around 700 entries each season. In 2000 Guisborough reached the quarter final stage and were narrowly defeated in two semi-final appearances in 1986 and 2002.
A number of ground improvements have taken place over the years, with extensions on the west and south sides and a further one on the northern side when the club purchased a strip of land when the railway closed in 1964 making it a much larger playing area. In 1988, a major improvement scheme was carried out when the renowned “Guisborough slope” rising from the square to the southern boundary, was levelled out at a cost of £33,000 to make a flat playing surface. Another feature of the improvement was that the earth removed, was used to create an embankment, providing a car park for about 50 cars from which play can be viewed – a welcome facility for spectators on cold days.
A licence to sell alcohol was granted in 1961 and a small bar was opened in the centre part of the pavilion which had an extension added to the front in 1966. Six years later a portable classroom type building was erected alongside the pavilion at a cost of £6000 and used as a social room. As the membership increased, a new brick building was built in 1979, providing lounge bar facilities, and two squash courts with ladies and gents changing rooms.
In December 1996, the town had to come to terms with three fires all within the space of a month when along with the Town Football Club which lost its social club and bar – the Library which was totally destroyed – and the Cricket Club where fire partially destroyed the 1912 pavilion. The only consolation was that the pavilion and the 1972 social building were due to be demolished to make way for a new National Lottery backed development costing £470,000. In the meantime temporary buildings were erected which served as changing rooms. Work finally started on the demolition in July 1999 and a year later the official opening of a new pavilion, committee room and function room took place. Further improvements since then have been the completion of a five year programme involving the total enclosure of the ground with a steel fence making the ground more secure, and enabled us to purchase pitch covers for the first time. A new electronic scoreboard system has been provided along with new practice net facilities and improvements to the drainage system have been carried out.
Over the years, Guisborough have employed top class professionals who have helped raise the standard of cricket for both club and league, many of them ex Test and County players. They have assisted the clubs own team of coaches in developing the Junior Section which has age groups from 7 to 17 and this continues to flourish, with ECB Clubmark Accreditation being awarded in December 2006. Guisborough is also registered as an Amateur Community Sports Club. The present membership comprising playing members of cricket, squash and hockey, together with social members, is approximately 800 and fulfils a great need in the town, playing a most important role liasing with schools and the community.
Club Historian & Trustee