Today soccer rules supreme; organised cricket on Nottingham's Public Parks is all but dead. The change from Parks cricket to games on private grounds is as fundamental as the switch from friendly to league cricket in the same period. Most forest clubs died when the pitches they used fell into disrepair - or was it the other way round? A few such as Forest Wanderers moved on, but the enthusiasm they possessed seemed to drain out of them. They either merged or folded.
Ellerslie have survived and effectively reinvented itself. Today it is one of the most progressive and best run clubs in the Nottingham district.
The story of its trials and tribulations, as its officials fought to overcome one setback after another, is worthy of an epic by Cecil B de Mille Himself. In these few pages however we are forced to content orselves with a mere synopsis for larger work. It is a tale of what can ve achecived by dedication and perseverance.
Facing the Forest Recreation Ground across Gregory Boulevard stands Ellerslie House. In 1916, a Mr Blackburn, the owner, died and the Duke of Portland bought the property in order to convert it into a hospital for severly disabled soldiers and saliors.
The early years
About 1922 or 1923, the male nurses working at the hospital formed a modest cicket club and appropriately hired the pitch opposite Ellerslie House for their home matches - the patients could therefore watch the games and the house could be used as the'pavilion'.
The club was a minnow - not for them the matches against such fellow clubs as Christ Church, Carrington Robin Hood, Wayfarers, Gregorary and the like.
Their early games did not feature prominently in the Guardian or Journal. The first mention I could find comes in the 1932 NCA Handbook, when the secretary (uncle of the present incumbent) was Arthur Hickling.
The Fifties and Sixties
The earliest Minute Book dates from 1950. At this time the club had just 26 members, Jim Messum was secretary and Gilbert Ulph, Tresurer.
Messumwon the batting prize that season; David Hill was the leading bowler. The club had a single XI, just 12 matches were played and apart from the ShipstoneCup, all games were friendlies.
Theses were statistics which marked the club as still being among the lesser lights on the Forest. However as the 50s turned into the 60s, the club, instead of progressing, slid steadily downhill. In 1963, Bill Steele, who was Captain, Treasurer and leading batsman, resigned - the Minute Book notes that there were just eleven 'active' members. The 1963 AGM demonstrates just how low the club had sank, ''scorebook lost - no results available''.
Seven members met in the Peach Tree opposite the Empire. Most had resigned themselves to the idea that the club should be wound up. Ron Lafbery however persuaded the pessimistic group to make an effort to revive the club. He volunteered to take on the Secretaryship and the task of building a fixture list for the coming season.
He was fortunate to find help from John Williams, the Treasurer of Notts Cricket Association and David Shepherd agreed to captain the side, while David Hill held the Treasurer's post. Ron's wife Joyce, assumed the scoring chore - no more lost scorebooks!
The fixtures list and the membership gradually improved - it was no, overnight, transformation, but Ellerslie were in a good enough shape that they could join the Nottingham Evening League, when that was founded in 1968.
It seemed as if the club was sailing into calmer waters - some thirty matches were now being played each summer. However problems with the quality of pitches on the Forest and the rather dire outfield was preventing the club from entertaining a better class of oppoent.
Complaints from clubs fell largely on deaf ears. The number of clubs playing on the Forest dwindled - most simply just faded away, whilst the better off moved to more pleasent pastures. Ellerslie looked for alternative accomodation.
They found a new home at the BRSA Ground at Netherfield (currently occupied by Morrisons Supermarket). Saturday and Sunday matches were played on the new ground for the first time in 1974, though the Evening League side stayed on the Forest.
One of the reasons for the move that season was that Ellerslie joined the SOuth Notts Cricket Union - a Saturday League.
The following year saw the club gain its first major honours - the Nottingham Evening League title and the Minute Book notes the making of an individual hundred for the first time, Andrew Jackson's 103 not out.
A sad event that same summer was the death, whilst playing for the club at West Bridgford, of Frank Bladder. A fund raised £337 for his widdow. A third member of the Lafbery family took office in 1979, Ron's son, Phillip was appointed captain - he marked his promotion by heading the bowling table.
In order to maintain a flow of youngsters into the senior side, Ellerslie gingerly dipped their toes into youth cricket, initially running an Under 17 team in conjunction with Broomhill Road Meths in 1977. This moved blossomed under the direction of Brian Holland; by 1980 ther were teams at Under 17, Under 15 and Under 13. The last were named County Champions that year.
In the senior side, Alan Fish was the best batsman of the mid-70s and recorded several hundereds the highest being 141 v Le Willows in 1978. Back in 1969, Andrew Jackson had performed the outstanding bowling feat of taking all ten wickets - against Stoke Bardolph.
The Forest was finally abandoned 1980, when the Evening League side moved to Highfields. 1980 saw a second major honour, when the team were Notts Union Champions. In 1981, Ellerslie joined the Amateur League.
Ground problems still haunted the club. Having spent a great deal of time and effort renovatingthe Netherfield Ground during eight years, the councilannonced that the ground was to be sold for building: A new ground was promised off the Colwick Loop Road. In the interim Ellerslie moved to Stoke Lane, Gedling.
This 'temporary' move was frustrating for the club, since in terms of membership and youth policy progress had been exeptionally bright. In 1984 the 1st XI moved again, this time to Player's Ground at Aspley.
Holland's efforts with the youth side were bearing fruit, so that a 2nd XI was launched for the first time. A social committee was also in full swing, among its functions was an annual traip - Blackpool, Scarborough and Skegness were visited in successive years.
1986 saw promotion to the top division of the Notts Amateur League. Notable players of the 80s included Paul Keeton, Ian BAncroft, Chris Allen and Richard Henson. The Gedling Council Colwick Loop Road Cricket Ground scheme collapsed, so the club took the unusual step of moving its 1st XI to Carlton Le Willows School. A 3rd XI competed was started and played on the Rectory Field, Colwick; it competed in the Combination. Phillip Lafbery retired as captain but retained his position as Tresurer, having held it since 1978 when he had inherited a credit balance of £33.60. George Hornbuckle was appointed captain for 1987.
Ron Lafbery, whose 25 years as Secretary had been marked by a special presentation in 1988, now led the 3rd XI; he had captained the senior side in 1975-76 and then skippered the Seconds.
By the end of the eighties, the club was staging more than 100 matches each season and all three adult sides were in the Amateur League.
Richard Henson marked the start of the 90s, with a record run aggregate of 1,297 for the club. The nomadic existence however persisted.
In 1991 the 1st XI found itself at Highfields, the seconds and Thirds were at West Bridgford Comp and the Evening League team on the Gedling Village pitch at Lambley Lane. It was quite astonishing that the Club flourished and grew under these very arduous circumstances.
The Cimmittee were determined to find a permanent home and in June 1992, an extraordinary General Meeting was held to discuss a proposal, that the club take a 21 year lease on 'Little Bounds' - the former school recreation field in Wilford Lane. It meant a large financial commitment, but the motion was carried.
After a great deal of work - both on the playing surface and in the preperation plans, finance and grant aid, the new ground, complete with brick pavilion, was officially opened by the Mayor of Rushcliffe in August 1994. Phil Lafbery resumed the captaincy that year in place of Chris Allen and the club regained its place in the top division of the Amateur League. In 1992, Phil Lafbery had achieved the milestone of taking his 1,000th wicket for the club.
Having settled into their new home, a hiccup occured in 1995 when no less than six of the 1st XI left, but such was now the strength of the club overall that the vacancies did not go unfilled for long.
The Amateur League disbanded in 1997 and the club switched to the Gunn and Moore Alliance for 1998. Andrew Footitt was now the principle organiser of the youth section which had more than 100 members. It was agreed to build an extension to the pavilion and to install a bar. A newsletter 'Middle Stump' was produced.
The club had one of the best playing surfaces in Nottingham, Mick Wakeling having been in charge ever since the club moved to Little Bounds. The social activities, led by Ian Perry and supported by Kevin Holt, became ever more important as the costs of running the club rose.
In 1999 club cricket in the County was reshaped. Ellerslie had two sides in the South Notts League whilst the 3rd XI played in the NCA 3rd XI competition. The club continued to take part in the Evening League.
John Leaver is the Club Secretary and President, having succeeded long serving Ron Lafbery in December 2007. Mrs Shirley Charlesworth is the Treasurer. The Club Captain and Cricket Manager is Alan Harrison and the Chairman is Martin Charlesworth.