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LOSTOCK CRICKET CLUB

The words "ground problems" and Lostock Cricket Club (or any of our previous names) seem to have been inextricably linked since the very formation of the club in 1938. Back then, the initial problem wasn't so much a problem with the ground, but more a problem because of the lack of a ground to play on !

The initial solution was provided by Brunswick Methodists who played in the local Horwich Churches League. Their home ground was adjacent to our current ground behind the old Bee Hive mill, and these days sadly lies beneath Greenhalghs' car park. In 1938, however, the ground was well established having first been laid in the 1890's and been in regular use ever since. The Ainscow family who owned the Bee Hive mill were keen cricket followers and over the years allowed other clubs besides Bee Hive to use the ground. Indeed such was their interest in cricket that when the Horiwch Churches League was formed in the 1920's they donated a beautiful silver trophy for the league runners up which is still awarded today. The ground share evidently benefitted both parties since new brick built changing facilities and new sightscreens were provided for the ground.

Although the ground share worked well, the sports club were ambitious and actively enaged in searching for possible sites for our own playing fields. Areas as far away from the factory as Doffcocker, and nearer home where the current Ingersoll Rand building stands on Chorley New Road were amongst those looked at, but none were to come to fruition.

The next problem arose in 1943 when the ground was unavailable to us for some reason and the club was forced to use Leverhulme Park for home games for a season. Although we returned to the Bee Hive for 1944 this was again the case in 1945. The problem in 1945 was overcome when it transpired that Daisy Hill were not running any teams that year and an agreement was reached to use their ground. Much hard work was needed to get the ground back into a useable state following disuse over the war years, but this was achieved and an enjoyable season spent at our adopted home. The following year Daisy Hill ran one team and we were able to share the ground again but in 1947 they were to run two, and with no grounds available the club folded in a formal sense. The next seven years saw some friendlies played on local grounds but to all intents and purposes the club lay dormant.

The sports club continued it's search for land for their own base, and, eventually, in 1951 a site was acquired behind what is now Barnstormers Pub where all the various sports could be accomodated, and work started in earnest. By 1954, they were ready for use but with the cricket section still dormant it was left to the sister factory in Farnworth to take "first knock". That winter the cricket section re-formed and after sharing the ground for a couple of seasons it soon became the sole preserve of Lostock. Gradually the ground acquired a fine reputation - particularly as phase II was developed which saw the provision of a new clubhouse and an extension to the playing area. (In 1962 an application to join the West Lancs League had been rejected as one boundary was deemed too short).

But all this was to change with rumours starting in 1967 of a possible compulsory purchase order on the ground. By 1969 the rumours had been confirmed that the Horwich link road for the new M61 motorway would cut through the fields - as would the proposed new industrial estate - and by 1971 the outlook appeared bleak. However, the company managed to purchase the existing land to the north of the factory from a local farmer and work began at breakneck speed to get the new playing ready for action. Amazingly the playing fields were deemed ready for use the following year, although in truth the square wasn't really ready and only the 1st XI played on it with the 2nd's once again playing on the old Bee Hive ground for the season.

All went well until 1979 when a combination of severe weather conditions and the fertiliser treatment used led to severe pre season damage to the square. Not for the last time as it transpired the BDCA grounds inspectors deemed it unfit for senior cricket and the 1st XI were forced to play away all year with the 2nd XI allowed to play only the 2nd half of the season and they too were to play away. As with the current problems, the club enlisted expert help - in this case Lancashire's Chris Hoskins - and then as now the grounds committee disagreed with the experts ! The next few years passed relatively quietly with extensive drainage work carried out after the 1987 season which obviously helped considerably - certainly up until the last couple of years anyway.

The next problems came with the dawn of the new millenium with the news that British Aerospace were to sell off all their land north of Hall Lane which included the sports fields. initial fears for the future of the club were allayed when it was revealed that to develop the playing fields the new owner would have to provide a new site for the sports club first. This was however to be the start of what is/was to be a long running argument with the BDCA who don't ever seem to have grasped the complexity of the situation. 2001 didn't start well with a damp area to the side of the square causing the first game to be called off - something that perhaps some people still use as a weapon against us.

The following year got off to an even worse start when news emerged of a disastrous fire that destroyed the clubhouse, and with it much of the memorabilia and equipment stored in it. Arson was suspected but to date has never been proven. Local company Amec stepped in to donate a sectional building which has since been develpoed into a functional if not pretty clubhouse. Clifton, Darcy Lever and Horwich RMI all generously donated furniture etc to help the club out too.

Could it possibly get worse ? Of course it could, and sure enough at the end of the 2002 season United Utilities moved in to renew the main Thirlmere water pipe and in doing so took about 1/3 of the playing surface up. Re instatement work was done poorly and so the 1st XI once again had to play away all year whilst the 2nds only had half a season at home. Hopes were high for 2004 but a combination of self inflicted problems and residual drainage problems led to failing the ground inspection, and once again the 1st XI had to play away, with the 2nds to play on neutral grounds. Mind you it doesn't help when the reason for failure changed from the outfield on the day of the inspection to the square by the time of the next meeting. Politics aside, the 2nds were soon back on Lostock after a couple of games and played out the rest of the season there. Any hopes of a 1stXI return though disappeared when the newly laid pipe sprang a leak and caused yet more disruption.

So to last winter (2004/5), and obviously the BDCA exec were as concerned as the club as to the prospects for 2005. The club committed itself to getting the ground fit (despite doubts from the exec) and thanks to a great deal of hard work, and the advice of an ECB pitch advisor which was followed to the letter (despite being told by an unqualified official that it was a waste of time and money), the ground passed it's inspection and by general consent been in it's best condition for years. Not good enough for some perhaps but none the less an excellent playing surface.

In 2007 things came to a head with us being forced to vacate the site in readiness for moving to our new ground - a one year move that looks likes finally ending in 2015! Without the help of Haydock CC at senior level, and Bolton School for the juniors who knows where we would be, but here we are, and the new ground is almost delivered.