The Wednesday Cricket Club
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Darnall cricket ground|
The Wednesday Cricket Club was founded in 1820 and soon became one of the pre-eminent cricket clubs in the Sheffield area. The Wednesday club was the direct forerunner of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. The club was reformed in 2011 and has risen from section 7 in the Mansfield District League to section 2 in 2017. Its midweek side will play in division A of the Sheffield Alliance Midweek League in 2018 having won division B in 2017.
Six local tradesmen - William Stratford (the first President), John Southren, Tom Lindley, William Woolhouse, George Dawson and George Hardisty, formed The Wednesday Cricket Club, so named because that was their day off, and therefore the only day they could play. One of the club's first grounds was the Darnall New Ground (parts of the old one had collapsed during a big game between Sheffield and Nottingham), which was more than capable of hosting a big game, perhaps the biggest of them all coming in 1828 when a combined Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire XI faced a Rest of England XI in front of a sell-out crowd of 8,000.
Sheffield had been the home of cricket in the north of England during the first half of the nineteenth century, and Sheffield Cricket Club had played under the guise of a 'Yorkshire' side for many years prior to the formation of Yorkshire County Cricket Club in 1863.
Some great local cricketers appeared for the Wednesday club, men like Michael Ellison (who later helped form Yorkshire CCC), William Slinn, Tom Hunt, George Pinder, Tom Armitage, (selected in the England team that took on Australia in the first ever test match in 1877), and possibly the greatest of them all, Tom Marsden. Marsden was for many years the best single wicket cricketer in the north of England, and, not short on confidence, he put up a £50 reward for anyone to beat him. The great Southern cricketer of the time, Fuller Pilch, did just that, in 1828, and when a rematch was organised, over 20,000 crammed into the Old Darnall ground hoping to see their man gain revenge. However Marsden was defeated once more, and it proved to be the beginning of the end for a player who, aged just 21, had hit 227 in a game for Sheffield & Leicester versus Nottingham, at that time only the third double century seen in England. In 1841 he finally lost his northern single wicket crown to Harry Sampson, another Wednesday man who later that year scored 162 against Sheffield on ice!
The town was awash with multi-talented sportsmen around the mid-Nineteenth century, and a few even managed to appear for both the cricket and football sections of the Wednesday club, William Stacey and Lance Morley, among them. However the most famous man to appear for the club in both sports was one of Sheffield's greatest ever characters - George Ulyett. Ulyett made his only competitive appearance for the football club when keeping goal against Notts County in an 1883 FA Cup tie, but the Pitsmoor man was far more renowned as a top class cricketer. After playing in the first ever test match alongside Tom Armitage, his most famous moment came in 1884, when claiming a wicket against the Australians at Lord's. Having bowled to renowned hard hitter George Bonner, the batsman smashed it straight back down the wicket, and to the amazement of the crowd, Ulyett caught it. The great W.G. Grace even labelled him 'foolish' for attempting such a catch, as he believed it would have broken his arm should the bowler have misjudged it.
- William Stratford was the first president, followed by Richard Gillott.
- William Woolhouse, one of the six founders of the club, and his father-in-law George Steer, were the men behind the Darnall cricket ground which was built for 1822 and the new Darnall ground (which was built after parts of the first collapsed during the first important match there - Sheffield v. Nottingham attended by 2000 people.).
- The new Darnall ground had seating for 8000.
- Wednesday played their home matches at Darnall. However the Darnall ground wasn't destined to lord it for long as by Date ? a new ground had been built nearer the town. This ground, Hyde Park, attracted big matches immediately but even Hyde Park only last 10 years before starting to lose its shine.
- When Wednesday played Nottingham in 1833, George Dawson was the victim of a disputed run out decision which was recorded in the score book as "cheated out".
- In 1841 Harry Sampson scored 162, the highest ever score on ice, while playing for Wednesday against Sheffield Town.
- As Hyde Park fell from grace, local cricketers began looking for yet another venue. A new ground at Newhall was used for a United England XI versus a Sheffield XV however Newhall was too far from the town, seating was limited and the wicket was poor.
- A group of local cricketers including W.O. Stratford representing Wednesday, managed to lease an area of land on Bramall Lane to build a pavilion and rent some land around it. So just a few months after the Charge of the Light Brigade two teams picked from Sheffield, Wednesday, Broomhall, Milton, Caxton and Shrewsbury clubs met on the Bramall Lane wicket.
- Wednesday had a wicket at Bramall Lane until 1893.
Disbandment and reformation
The cricket club was disbanded just four years after its centenary due to financial difficulties, but in 2011 a group of Sheffield Wednesday football supporters re-formed the club, entering the side into a local Sheffield league in time for the start of the 2011 season.