Hundred Years of Penrith Cricket on Tynefield Park
In the beginning it was simply a field among fields, just south-west of town, approached by a narrow, bumpy lane. Today Tynefield Park is encased in school buildings and a housing estate and alongside a bustling road which links Penrith with the M6 motorway - soon to become even busier because of a shopping development, due to take place nearby.
But Tynefield itself - "home" of Penrith Cricket Club for exactly 100 years - is virtually unchanged, still an area of athleticism, endeavour, excitement and, most of all, perhaps, memories and nostalgia.
Although cricket has been played in the town since about 1834, and the present club dates back to 1866, it was in 1907 that activity switched to Tynefield Park from the nearby Foundry field, which was deemed inadequate and unsatisfactory for a club of Penrith's standing.
The Cumberland and Westmorland Herald commented on the shortcomings of the old field: "Taking into consideration the size of the town, the Penrith ground was about the worst in the two counties... When the summer was well advanced, the outfield resembled a hayfield, making it a most unpleasant business for the fielders, while to the batsmen it was equally unsatisfactory, for it was impossible to reach the boundary without slogging."
Newspaper reports said that the Rev. James Fell, Vicar of Christ Church, was the driving force behind the transfer to Tynefield, but the move would have been impossible without George Arthur Rimington, a barrister and cricket enthusiast, living at Tynefield House. As the owner of the ground, he made it available at a reasonable rent and became the club's landlord.
In 1947, Penrith CC bought the field for £750 - a real bargain, especially as many local people gave fivers, pound notes and half-crowns, all acknowledged by means of a list in the Herald.
The club's decision to play at Tynefield met with widespread approval, typified by the words of Tom Sarginson, editor of the Herald. He wrote "The field, like Mount Zion, is beautiful for situation, with its background on the north side of the Beacon and the rising tide of red masonry where the residential houses creep up the hillside."
George Arthur Rimington considered Tynefield "the most beautiful cricket ground in the county".
The first match on the new field in May, 1907, was against Keswick, the home team comprising S. Sinkinson, J. Harrison, W. Sowerby, A. Ruell, G. A. Rimington, E. G. Brown, H. Chapplehow, the Rev. J. Fell, J. Hutchingson, R. H. Dixon and T. H. Richardson.
Keswick won a low-scoring game by 78-61 and it was left to Penrith's second team to record the first victory by a club side, defeating Hutton-in-the-Forest.
An innovation of the early years at Tynefield was the "medals" competition, first played in 1911. The quickfire brand of cricket, otherwise known as the knock-outs, drew big crowds and teams, some representing pubs and clubs. As the years passed, work organisations, such as the police and "Birkett's Hot Cross Buns" (the town bakers) joined in the fun.
Village clubs like Temple Sowerby, Stainton, Edenhall, Shap and Gamblesby often entered sides - and then there were the "pothunters", teams made up mainly of Penrith club members, some seen as stars, and always hot favourites.
The "medals" were probably at their peak in the 1950's when top teams included the Scroungers (captained by "Bunny" Thompson), Penrith police, the Elizabethans (old boys of the grammar school) and the Barrackers (led by Jack Lancaster, who added to the entertainment with his shouted wisecracks from the Wetheriggs Lane wall when his team were not taking part).
The finals, played over two evenings, often provided lively entertainment and tense finishes. Six-hits flew and the bowling and fielding were keen.
Everybody bar the purist enjoyed the zest of "medals" cricket at Tynefield Park, especially when "Jackie Lank" was in good voice.
Another "character" was Jimmy Kilgour, the town's markets inspector, who umpired many matches with distinctive flair.
For well over half-a-century, the other evening competitions, which tended to draw many Mums and Dads, was for the Molyneux Shield, a trophy originally given in 1932 by J. G. (Jack) Molyneux, later to become a long-serving president of the Penrith club, as well as doing much for Cumberland CCC as a team manager running junior sides.
Among the youngsters who played in shield matches in the 1930's was Harold Millican, later to captain both Penrith and Cumberland.
The 1950's were years of impressive achievement, both on and off the field.
Playing success centred on the decision to join the Cumberland Senior League - a move which was marked with immediate success, with five championship wins in eight seasons, a run ended in 1959 when Penrith stepped up a standard by entering the stronger North Lancashire League.
As well as glory days on the field, the club improved its status impressively by building a new pavilion, largely by means of a "do-it-yourself" initiative, led by one of the players, Jim Bowman. The story of how fast bowlers and big hitters became builders' labourers, pushing wheelbarrows and mixing cement, has been told many times, but no article about Tynefield Park would be complete without a mention of the successful venture.
The new clubhouse increased the social membership, with householders from the nearby estate making use of the bar. More importantly, the much improved facilities encouraged Cumberland to stage a Minor Counties match at Tynefield each season. The second elevens of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Warwickshire, then in the competition, all played at Penrith.
The writer recalls being the scorer for Cumberland in a match when the Yorkshire opposition included Geoffrey Boycott, Jack Hampshire and Brain Bolus (the last-named making a century).
Over the years, Tynefield has been professionally levelled, the original pavilion has been extended and a new scorebox, built in 1960, has been modernised.
Perhaps the biggest change in the ground's appearance was the loss of a massive tree, which overshadowed the south-east corner. The monster gave character to the field, prompting the committee of 50 years ago to seek a tree preservation order from the urban council. Alas, before the document could be secured, the imposed tree was blown down in a storm!
The men of Tynefield are many in number, beginning in 1907 with George Rimington, the landlord, W. P. Bewley, the secretary, and players like Sep Sinkinson and William Sowerby. In 2007 they included Tim Sykes, the president, Andrew Hall, the chairman, Colin Melvin, the secretary and players like Nick Burns, Colin Parker and Thom Sarjeant.
It is mind-blowing to contemplate all the men and women who have sustained cricket at Tynefield over 100 years - be they players, officials, committee-members, groundsmen, umpires, scorers or numbers boys.
Written and reproduced by kind permission of John L. Hurst (2007)
TWENTY/20 Cricket - Penrith Style
A crumpled sheet of paper, unearthed from a dusty drawer, sparked memories of more than half-a-century ago and the heyday of Penrith Cricket Club’s once-popular knock-out competition, the “medals”. During the 1950s Penrithians headed for Tynefield Park in big numbers to watch local teams in action on the greensward.
Penrith footballers versus Birkett’s Hot Cross Buns, perhaps? Or the Bulldogs (old boys of the National School) doing battle with the Beacon Wheelers? Penrith Police were formidable opponents in the evening matches of 20 overs batting a side, with town and village clubs like Alston, Appleby, Shap, Edenhall and Gamblesby sometimes joining in the fun and excitement of close contests.
Encouragement and insults, shouted by spectators perched behind the Wetheriggs Lane wall, were part of the entertainment, with a character named Jackie Lancaster the most witty and persistent of the barrackers. He was chided by several players for not knowing what he was talking about. “We’ll see about that,” said Jack. He formed his own team, who reached the final of the “medals” at the first attempt and won them a year later, beating the Old Staintonians.
The recently-found team list from the final recalls some well-known local cricketers, with several lesser lights!
Barrackers: Jack Lancaster (captain), Harold Millican, Horace Billing, Bert Newton, Jack Rose, Eric Foster, Gordon Ellwood, Walter Bracken, Terry Mullen, John Hurst and Paul Capstick.
Old Staintonians: Peter Reynolds (captain), Maurice Priestman, Ken Brown, John and Hugh Allison, Bert Kitching, Larry Geer, Bob Lockery, John Bewley, Harry Cowper and L. W. (Bunny) Thompson.
The Barrackers won the two-innings final, played over succeeding evenings, by 97 runs, way back in 1956.
The Twenty/20 competition, now watched by vast crowds in India, is on the same format as Penrith “medals” — but instead of Jackie Lancaster’s barracking, the Indians have dancing girls in tasselled skirts.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald