Marple Cricket Club came into existence at least as early as 1864, when the first reported match was against the 14 players of Marple Academy. The latter’s team consisted of 2 masters, 3 old pupils and 9 present students. The game was played on the Marple CC ground, which was sited below the ‘Railway Hotel’, Stockport Road, now occupied by Oak Drive, Kays Wood Road, Beech Avenue and Hawthorn Avenue.
In 1874, Marple (80 runs) staged a local match on Bank Holiday Monday v Brabyns Hall (49) before a large crowd. An early example of a scorecard being published in the Stockport Advertiser in May 1879, reflects their match away to Poynton, who scored 108 to Marple’s 57. In 1882 the club appears to be referred to as Rose Hill (Marple), in another game to Poynton Vernon.
In 1898, Marple played one of their first matches against Compstall – not surprisingly, Marple (90) were far too strong for Compstall (37).
An old scrapbook shows a photograph of the Marple team as ‘League Champions in 1904’. There is also a Menu Card of a Dinner held in the Jolly Sailor pub in 1908, to celebrate another League Championship win. At the onset of the Great War (1914 – 1918), eight players enlisted immediately to fight the Germans, and in 1915 league cricket barely survived, play being suspended in 1916, and in March 1918. The ground was ploughed up by the tenant farmer to help the war effort. The pavilion, sight-screens, nets and playing equipment were all sold, but the heavy roller was leased first to Strines Cricket Club, and eventually to Buxworth, from whence it was retrieved in 1951.
After the war, the surviving committee, under the chairmanship of Mr Fred Hoole, made numerous attempts to obtain a suitable new ground from 1919, right through to 1949, but found that the prices asked were too high, or the ground was unsuitable in some way. Applications to use the new ‘Memorial Park’, or the ‘Recreation Ground’ were opposed by the Marple Urban District Council on the grounds of public safety. Even a proposal to merge with Hawk Green was rejected by the members of that Club!
After the Second World War (1939 – 1945), returning warriors still lamented the lack of a local club. The manager of the District (now NatWest) bank, Mr Tim Newton, and local Estate Agent Harry Roberts (of I. Roberts & Sons), were aware of the Clubs healthy bank account, and were professionally aware of opportunities as they presented themselves. Harry Roberts found the present (Bowden Lane) site, and explored the feasibility of purchase or rental, and on the 18th July 1950, a ‘spontaneous meeting, without notice’ of twenty two like-minded people, including several members of the old Club, met in the Jolly Sailor Hotel, and resolved the pursue the project of restoring a Cricket Club to the District. An action committee was formed with Tim Newton as Chairman and Harry Roberts as Secretary, and it was resolved to call a public meeting to publicise and legitimise the project. Two days later they formally met with the committee of the old Club, who for thirty six years had closely guarded it’s assets, and received it’s support.
The public meeting took place at the Willows School (now Ridge Danyers Sixth Form College), on 3rd August 1950, attended by about 200 people. The case and facts were put and discussed, and the Club was re-born. 130 new membership forms were completed, giving an initial membership over over 150. Now new officers and committee were elected. Messrs Newton and Roberts became Chairman and Secretary, John Rothwell became Treasurer, the Trustees of the old Club, Messrs W. Waine, C.S Marlowe, F. Hoole and J.G Roberts, were elected to the committee en-bloc, together with the remainder of the ‘action’ sub committee. Four local councillors and other worthies made up a committee of twenty-four, including one H.U Smith.
The astonishing energy created by these events resulted in resumption of High Peak League second division cricket in 1951. Two Nab Top hospital chalets were donated to create the first pavilion in the Seven Stiles / Bowden Lane corner of the ground, and the cricket square was created by progressive re-turfing. Largely this was achieved by voluntary labour, spured on by the ambition to “put Marple on the cricket map”. An amateur cinefilm, now recorded on videotape, shows scenes of the opening day of the 1951 season, together with other scenes from Marple life at the time. This was the work of inter-wars chairman Fred Hoole. At the end of the first season the adult membership was 324, and there were a further 93 junior members.
The ground was levelled in 1955 and a new square laid, more central to the ground. In 1956, a second pavilion – a long wooden hut which had previously been a work canteen, was erected on the site of the present brick building. Fairly perpetual “working parties” were a feature of life at the time. A former Captain and Chairman of the ground committee, Harry Smith, was always in the thick of it, subsequently becoming groundsman until his death in the late 1980’s.
On the playing front the High Peak League was weakened by the defection of the entire first division to form the Derbyshire and Cheshire League in 1951. Marple gained in strength by the acquisition of players from Hawk Green and Compstall, and further afield, and in 1956 achieved almost a clean sweep of the league trophies – the exception being the first team knockout, The Hewitt Cup.
It was time to move on. The club was accepted by the Lancashire and Cheshire League for the 1957 season. An early disaster occurred when the first team was bowled out for 13 by Glossop, and earned the league’s wooden spoon trophy at the end of the season. The higher standard, however, attracted new players, and the township was growing apace with new housing springing up everywhere. Under the hardworking captaincy of George Booth (captain 1954-1961), the club became runners up in the competition in 1959. Junior members began to infiltrate the teams. A strong club was emerging.
In 1963, under the influential captaincy of Jack Tighe this was transformed into a winning club. League champions 1963, runners-up 1964, champions again in 1965. His winning habit was passed onto a succession of captains and lasted until 1971. Eight championships in nine years – a proud record, the more so since there were often as many as six or seven Marple born or ex-Marple juniors in the first team. Foremost junior was Frank Hayes, the eldest of four sporting brothers whose talent took him to Lancashire in 1970, thence to a century in his first Test against the West Indies at the Oval, and on to the captaincy of Lancashire. From 1962 the club fielded a third team in the Glossop & District League and in 1963 secured a ground at Pikes Lane in Glossop for the purpose.
Men’s and mixed hockey was introduced (Mellor Ladies Lacrosse team, which had used the outfield from the very beginning during the winter months), fell by the wayside. Men’s hockey expanded rapidly, and in the early 1970’s there was a call for four men’s teams, which would have meant hockey pitches encroaching on both sides of the sacred cricket square. The resulting acrimonious relations between the sections led to the mass resignation of the men’s hockey members, who found a site in Disley and formed the now thriving Disley Sports club (including cricket!). Ladies’ hockey soldiered on at Bowden Lane until the end of the second millennium.
The domination of the Lancashire and Cheshire Cricket League came to an end in 1972, following the loss of key players, and after the expansion of the league in 1973, the club was duly (but only just), relegated to a second division. The third team was allowed to lapse. Off the field, financial pressures – the need for more income – led to the sale of the Glossop ground to help to pay for the building of three squash courts as a commercial venture. These opened in 1975, and blossomed into a thriving squash section with a keen social membership. Unfortunately the sport has declined in popularity, but in the year 2001 the squash section was still hanging in there. Now, at the start of the 2009 season, the squash section is slowly receiving more requests about membership again, both by visitors from the club, and through the website.
The cricket section became founder members of the Cheshire County League in 1975, all the other clubs having come from the Manchester Association in search of league cricket. Third team cricket was restored, playing home games on Sundays. Against the odds, the first team were runners-up in 1976, but had to wait until the captaincy of Chris Lees (captain 1984-1991), before achieving a league championship win in 1987. Since then there have been many disappointments. The expansion of the league led to the formation of an ECB premier division, Marple were left to compete in the ‘First Division’, without notable success.
The place on the cricket map is currently very marginal, but a change in fortunes is due.