Monday, 30 January 2023

Cricket in Newcastle: A Brief History

Newcastle, being a walled and vulnerable town for much of its history, didn’t have much room for the likes of cricket in yonder times. And, as it quickly exploded during the Industrial Revolution and beyond, there was barely enough living space, never mind the large expanse of level grass needed for the game. Besides, cricket was slow to catch on up here in the North-East, of course.

By around 1800, cricket looked pretty much as we know it today: straight bat (instead of curved), three stumps instead of two, and match statistics were being properly recorded. It was especially popular down south, with the MCC, for example, being formed in 1787. Up here, it took a little longer to infiltrate society’s leisure time; though town historian Mackenzie, writing in 1827, says that “one or two cricket clubs” were playing on the Town Moor. 

Before the formation of a national ‘England’ team, the famous ‘All England XI’, formed in 1846, toured the country widely, popularising the game. Between 1847 and 1850, this pioneering team played several matches across the North-East, including Newcastle. They were usually three-day affairs, and were a mixture of amateurs and professionals, the sides often being of unequal numbers to even up the match. In those early years, the All England team won all their games in the region, bar a match played at Newcastle in 1847 against the Northumberland Cricket Club, which ended in a draw (the local side used 20 players including a couple of Yorkshire pros and a handful of leading Scots). By this time, the Northumberland Cricket Club itself had existed for a while (it reportedly played its first match on the Town Moor on 11th July 1838) and had around 150 members. Come the late 1840s – and that prestige match against the All England XI – this club had what would be the only ever ‘real’ cricket ground in the town centre, immediately to the east of the present-day Northumberland Baths (which themselves had been built in 1839). The attractive site was known as the Bath Road Ground – being named after the nearby thoroughfare, which is now known as Northumberland Road – and  overlooked the now filled-in Pandon Dene. It was thrown open to the public on match days, and attracted young men in their hundreds. Just to liven things up, they also had their own band … which even exercised their talents during play. Talking of bands, there was also a shadowy cricketing outfit known as ‘Newcastle Clayton’, of which little is known, who also played along to the music!

Northumberland CC's Bath Road Ground, c.1850

In time, this ground was swallowed by urban sprawl. In 1881, the land was sold to make way for several notable institutions, including Dame Allan’s School. The club remained in being, but moved around a bit, including playing at Heaton, until it was dissolved in 1895. It was almost instantly reformed, and in 1896-7 set up afresh on Osborne Avenue, Jesmond, taking over an existing ground – and where it remains to this day. From 1877 until 1887, an outfit called ‘Newcastle Cricket Club’ played on a ground subsequently occupied (from 1888) by the Fleming Memorial Hospital in South Jesmond, just off the Great North Road (and not too far from the town/city centre). Many minor clubs continued on the Town Moor, and many more teams represented churches and the like.

Gosforth seems to have been a centre of early sporting activity. Organised cricket  began there in the mid 1860s, though South Northumberland Cricket Club emerged as the main force in the early 1880s. ‘South North’, as they came to be known, even had a pro bowler at an early stage and went on to become (and still are) quite a force in the sport. The Town Moor and various other open spaces scattered among the suburbs hosted clubs such as ‘The Mechanics’, ‘The Claremont’, ‘The Newcastle’, ‘The Press’, etc.; and further afield in places such as Benwell, the sport found what often proved to be, eventually, well-established niches in people’s lives. It is worth remembering, too, that Newcastle United FC’s roots lie in South Byker and the ambitions of Stanley Cricket Club, who founded Newcastle East End FC in 1881 (and Newcastle West End FC were also formed by a cricket club a year later, namely West End Junior CC, originally known as the Crown CC). 

By 1900, there were around a dozen active Newcastle clubs of substance – all of which, by this time, though, were scattered throughout the suburbs.

[main source: Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Its Growth & Achievement by S.Middlebrook (1950)]


Perhaps the Bath Road Ground’s most noted cricketing fixture was that which spanned 1st-3rd July 1880 between an “18 of Newcastle” (or “Newcastle & District”) and The Australians. It was not classified as a First Class match, but was one of 40+ minor fixtures of the visitors’ summer tour. The three-day match took place amidst dull and occasionally showery conditions, on a “fast and true wicket” in front of what was considered to have been a poor attendance. Newcastle batted first, the elongated batting line-up making 115 (Watson top-scoring with 31, and famous Aussie, Fred ‘The Demon’ Spofforth, taking most of the wickets). The Australians replied with 222, including the tour’s first individual century: Murdoch scoring 117. In their second innings, Newcastle managed a highly respectable 202, leaving the visitors a modest 90-odd to win … but the weather hindered progress on the third and final day, leaving The Australians on 48 for 4. Who knows, we might have won … though we did have more players! 

[source: various newspapers of the day]

[ This article first appeared in my book Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Fragments of the Past, Vol.2 (see left-hand column), and I have been inspired to reproduce it by the efforts of Kieran Carter's excellent North East Heritage Library's 'Sports Archive' ]

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Newcastle's Public Toilets

Those of you who follow me on Twitter - or just generally browse the platform for any mention of Newcastle's history - will have noticed a recent thread on the subject of the city's provision of public toilets. It's not something I've really taken notice of over the years, but the number of council-run 'conveniences' has been on a fairly dramatic decline of late, and the current total of such essential facilities is precisely ... ZERO!

Instead, the need to 'spend a penny' - which, let's face it, can catch us all unawares at any time (and at very short notice) - may only be satisfied by calling in at, say, the City Library, a shop's toilet, or by sneaking into a pub. I think Eldon Square still have loos, but they're not council-run. This just doesn't seem right, really.

Anyway, if you want to follow the Twitter thread on the topic see here. And amidst the chatter therein you will find a link to this excellent article on the topic by Maud Webster. 

Thanks to the North East Heritage Library's Twitter feed for provoking to whole debate. Very interesting (in a weird sort of way).

Oh, and whilst you're reading the abovementioned article, you will spot an online petition to get things put right!

Saturday, 7 January 2023

The Siege & Storming of Newcastle, 1644

Before I began self-publishing on the Amazon KDP platform, I spent several years using another print-on-demand service, namely, . This website has been around for many years and is an excellent option in its own right for those interested in self-publishing - and it's free to use.

You can also purchase books via Lulu - simply browse their site and click away to your heart's content. I've published about a dozen books via them, and they can easily be found by searching their website under 'Michael Southwick' and 'Mick Southwick'. As for those of you interested in the history of Newcastle then I guess the above effort is the one most likely to catch your eye.

The Siege & Storming of Newcastle, 1644 is basically a reprint of an 1889 booklet which I have lightly edited to make it a little bit easier to read. The work is an amalgam of the many and varied sources on the great event, and provides the interested Novocastrian with an easily accessible account of the town's greatest moment of peril.

However, the Victorian scribe's turn of phrase did nothing to ease the readers' way through the labyrinth of archaic terms and phrases of the original sources in question, so I thought I'd try to make the text a bit easier to follow - hence the publication of this 40-page effort.

If you'd like to order a copy, then follow the links below. If you are prompted to set up an account with Lulu to do so, then don't worry: they're a kosher business and are easy enough to deal with.

Thursday, 29 December 2022

Bamburgh St.Aidan's (+ a little walk)

We spent Christmas in Seahouses this year. My son, having wisely begun a relationship with a lass from the village whose family run a number of holiday cottages, well, we were offered a two-night freebie. So why not. So a big thank you to Hannah and her parents Bryan and Caroline.

On Christmas Day itself we embarked on another leg of our North-East coast walk. Angie wasn't feeling too well, so we kept it to a modest stretch between Bamburgh and Waren Mill, then back across country to Bamburgh. Here are a few snaps:

Bamburgh Castle, of course

Stag Rock

Info panel, Waren Mill (click to enlarge)

Heading back

After we got back we had a quick scout around St.Aidan's Parish Churchyard. The light was starting to go, but we quickly checked out the Grace Darling Memorial (more later) and had a look inside the crypt, which is accessed from the outside of the church. Here's a couple of pictures of the interior:

Crypt viewing platform


Interesting to note that the remains of the many unearthed skeletons in the nearby Anglo-Saxon cemetery were placed in the crypt/ossuary a few years ago. Anyway, the fading light forced us back to the car, and thence to our mountainous Christmas Dinner. 

Next morning (Boxing Day) we were supposed to be heading home fairly sharpish. However, I was keen to have another quick look at the church and churchyard to see what was what, and was somewhat overwhelmed by what I found. I left Angie in the car (still a bit poorly, and keen to get home) with the promise that I'd be back in "ten minutes or so". It was more like half an hour, really, which didn't please her - but I could have spent hours there. 

Anyway, I got the customary photo of Grace Darling's Memorial, the nearby burial site itself (about 40 yards to the south) and a few snaps of the church interior...

The original stone effigy that once graced the outdoor memorial 

St. Aidan's Shrine

Tomb of the mysterious medieval knight

The forked beam over the font - Aidan was supposedly leaning against this when he died in 651AD (though it wasn't in the ceiling at the time!)

There are loads of booklets and leaflets to buy, too, so take some cash with you if you do decide to pay the place a visit. And don't forget the crypt!

And that was about it. On Christmas Eve night we'd visited The Victoria Hotel in Bamburgh and The Black Swan in Seahouses (very nice they both were, too) - which all helped us to familiarise ourselves with a corner of the North-East which we didn't really know very well.

Very nice indeed. Get yourself up there ASAP.

Tuesday, 20 December 2022

An Appeal: Local History Bookshops.

If you're like me you're always on the lookout for local history books, whatever your geographical area of interest. This was never much of a problem a couple of decades or so ago when there seemed to be loads of second-hand bookshops around. Now there are virtually none, with charity-based concerns filling the ever-widening gap in the market. And these are usually poor affairs, with fiction books dominating the sparsely-populated shelves of disorganised outlets. Oxfam and Amnesty International have shops dedicated to books, of course, but, oh, how we all miss the old-fashioned book dealers of yesteryear!

Obviously, the internet - eBay and Amazon, primarily - is now the main option when it comes to sourcing old tomes, and a few second-hand bookshops have there own websites, too. But things are pretty desperate for us bookworms, so I thought I'd dedicate a section of my blog to trying to compile a list of all our options - both online and offline! 

So can you help?

What we're looking for is websites and shops who stock local history books pertaining to the North-East of England. I am really only especially knowledgeable about Newcastle and immediate area, but would love to learn of more options from anywhere in the region. I will include shops, large and small, who sell new books (Waterstones, etc.), as well as the second-hand dealers - so get thinking and contact me either via the comments below or at micksouthwick @ (without the gaps!).

And a little description of the shops would be nice, too! (including those below, actually, as I haven't been to most of them).

Here's what I have so far...

Keel Row Books, North Shields
Barter Books, Alnwick
The Next Chapter, Bellingham
Books for Amnesty, Newcastle
Cogito Books, Hexham
Bookwyrm, Durham City
Forum Books, Corbridge
Accidental Bookshop, Alnwick
The Bound, Whitley Bay
Blackwell's, Newcastle
Berrydin Books, Berwick
Humford Mill Books, Morpeth
Head Bookshop, Darlington
BDC Antiquarian Booksellers, Darlington
Jeremiah Vokes, Darlington
Needful Things, Hartlepool
Book Corner, Saltburn
Oliver's Bookshop, Whitley Bay
St. Oswald's Hospice Bookshop, Gosforth
Tyne Bridge Publishing, Newcastle City Library
The Drake Bookshop, Stockton
The Guisborough Bookshop
Darlington Lions Club Bookshop
Tynedale Hospice at Home Bookshop, Hexham

Oxfam Bookshops at:
Durham City

Waterstones branches at:
Durham City

WHSmith branches at:
Durham City

Abe Books
Oxfam Online
World of Books

When I've got together what I think is a pretty comprehensive list I shall dedicate a tab of my blog to the cause. Thanks for any help you can offer!

Monday, 12 December 2022

Ouseburn Heritage

For those of you with even a passing interest in the Ouseburn area of Newcastle, then you really need to spend an hour or three on the Ouseburn Trust website. The organisation has been around for nearly 30 years (I remember a certain amount of interaction with it when I ran The North-Easterner Magazine during 1994-2004), and it strives to bring to the public's attention the sheer existence of this uniquely interesting corner of the city as well as suggesting ways in which it can be protected and enhanced.

In the pre-internet days the organisation made itself heard primarily through its Ouseburn Heritage magazine. I remember this well, and most of the old articles therein can be accessed via their present-day website. There are also links to many, many other articles concerning the area - including, of course, a regular blog.

There are walks and talks to involve yourself with, including info on the famous Victoria Tunnel. It really is a fantastic effort. I have no direct connection with the Ouseburn, but regularly dip into the website for pure entertainment's sake. Oh, and if you still don't really know your way round this curious little valley then this website will force you into a proper real-life visit ... and there's lots of pubs down that way, too!

Friday, 2 December 2022

The First Official Boat Race on the Tyne

Anyone who knows anything about the history of sport on Tyneside will be aware of the great nineteenth century tradition of boat-racing. Huge crowds would gather on the banks of the river to cheer on the likes of Harry Clasper, Robert Chambers and James Renforth against the world’s best rowers – and usually beat them – in big-money events. But when exactly did it all begin?

Well, rather than rattle on about it myself, I thought I'd point you towards an excellent online article I read recently entitled The First Official Boat Race on the Tyne. It's a fine effort by Ian Whitehead, and relates to an event which occurred a little over 200 years ago ... and led to what you might call a 'boat-load' of controversy!

Check the piece out here

And whilst I'm referring you to articles about Newcastle and its environs, can I ask you all to let me know of anything you yourself may pick up along the way which you think may be of interest to us local history fans? As long as it relates to Newcastle or the North-East in general then I'll take a look and pass it on to the rest of you. You may, in fact, have written an article yourself which you'd like to publicise.

I'm going to start putting together a list of relevant articles on one of this blog's supplementary pages in the bar above, so do get in touch at micksouthwick @ (without the gaps) if you can help out.