Darnall Cricket Ground Sheffield

Darnall New Ground Darnall, Sheffield, England

The site of the old Darnall Cricket ground former home of The Wednesday Cricket Club. By the 1840's Cricket had moved on to Hyde Park. There are one or two plate etchings of the old Cricket ground in the City Library depicting the ground in which it appears stands a mansion which may well have doubled as the pavilion.

Situated where Darnall cemetery is now situated. Extract from 'The Noblest Game', By Neville Cardus & John Arlott  North East View of the Cricket Grounds at Darnall, near Sheffield, Yorkshire. Sepia aquatint by Robert Cruikshank "the landscape sketched by R. Thompson Esq." 6.7/8 in x 11in (17.5cm x 28cm) Robert Issac. Cruikshank. (1789-1856) had not the great gifts of his brother, George, but he was held in some esteem as both illustrator and etcher in an age of intense competition in those fields. He illustrated Westmacott's 'The London Spy, Lessons of Thrift, and The Wit's Almanack' and, in collaboration with his brother, Pierce Egan's Life in London. 

It is indicative of the importance of Darnall Cricket Ground that it should be the subject of a plate by a fashionable London artist: indeed, the authoritative Bell's Life described it as "second to none" among English cricket grounds. That shown in the picture is the second at Darnall: the first was opened, by a Mr. Steer, in 1821, but in the following year the stand collapsed and two spectators were killed. Mr. Steer at once set about making a larger ground nearby: it was ready for play in 1824.The artificial terrace provided seating for up to 8,000 people and the ground was at first successful. Under the managership of W. H. Woolhouse it put on All England v Twenty-two of Yorkshire in 1825 and, two years afterwards, the first of the historic "Experimental" matches, Sussex v All England, which resulted in change in the laws to permit bowling from the height of the shoulder. All at once, however, for the simplest of socio-economic reasons, the ground failed. Darnall was three miles from the centre of Sheffield the Hyde Park Ground only a mile and a half, Hyde Park became the centre of Sheffield and Yorkshire cricket and no great matches were played at Darnall after 1829.

Another report adds a bit more information to that given by Cardus and Arlott

"A handful of important matches took place at Sheffield's Darnall ground in the early 1820s. The first venue was opened in 1822, the year after the land was bought, but the first major game, between 15 of Sheffield and XI of Nottingham, was marred when a stand collapsed injuring almost two dozen spectators. The owners then moved and opened a new ground close by in 1824, a well-appointed arena which could accommodate up to 8000 people. Early matches attracted large crowds - in excess of the official capacity - and within a few years it was described as the "finest ground in the Kingdom".
Several major matches took place in the late 1820s, including ones between Sussex and "England". But no sooner had it become established than its decline started, largely because of the opening of Hyde Park in the centre of the city. By 1830 the ground was put up for sale, in 1832 the grandstand was demolished, and although minor games continued until 1859 when the land was turned over for use as a cemetery".

I accessed the reports of the accident as I had a suspicion that these may have been the first fatalities to occur at a sporting venue in Sheffield. But as the report in the Sheffield Iris notes the 23 people injured when the stand collapsed all survived what must have been a frightening experience.  


Great Cricket match, and dreadful accident August 27th 1822

The great cricket match between 15 Sheffield and 11 Nottingham players, for which great preparations have latterly been making on the new ground at Darnall, near this place, commenced yesterday forenoon. The contest having excited a peculiar interest in and around the town, the concourse of spectators was proportionately great; never, perhaps, on any occasion, was witnessed an assemblage at once so numerous and respectable. Sheffield seemed almost to pour out the whole of its population, and roads being literally covered all the morning with crowds hastening to the scene of the expected enjoyment. Little was it then suspected, that before the expiration of the day the pleasure was to be dashed by one of the most afflicting accidents that we have had to record for some time back.

The playing commenced; the weather, with the exception of one shower, was highly favourable, and all went well till about four o'clock, when a large extent of scaffolding, which had been fitted up on the ground near the road side, for the accommodation of several thousands of spectators, having nine tier of seats, and being near 40 yards long, suddenly gave way, and precipitated itís unfortunate tenants one over the other on the ground. Shrieks, screams, and groans rent the air on all sides; and the scene of confusion which ensued was indescribably affecting. Every hand was instantly engaged in extricating the sufferers; every possible accommodation offered, and every vehicle put in requisition to convey them away to their respective homes. It is with painful feelings that we have to add, that two persons were killed upon the spot, and between 40 and 50 more or less maimed. We dare not vouch for our correctness, although we have endeavoured to gain the best information we were able; but amidst so much distressing confusion, the extent of the mischief cannot with accuracy be yet ascertained, and even the names of the parties we could not procure. Late last night 23 cases had been admitted to the Infirmary, four or five of which were pronounced very dangerous.

Sheffield Advertiser, Aug. 27.



The accident at Darnall

In our relation of this sad calamity last week we mentioned that two persons were said to have lost their lives; we are glad to find that the statement was not founded in fact, and we have now the satisfaction to make a much more favourable report. 

Seventeen persons were admitted into the Infirmary (several of whom were able to return to their respective homes the next day); 6 were made out-patients, and returned home after being dressed, etc., making 23 in the whole - 19 males and 4 females.

We are happy further to state, from undoubted authority, that the more serious cases are going on very favourably, and that all the other will most probably soon recover from the injuries received.

On the day following the accident many were bold enough to mount the scaffolding again: and the consequence of such temerity was, what might have easily been predicted - another accident. Some wretch was base enough to raise the false alarm, and in the scuffle and hurry of escape, one man had his leg fractured.

Sheffield Iris

Note

The greatest innings ever played there was when Tom Marsden hit 227 for Sheffield & Liecester against Nottinghamshire in front of more than 20,000 spectators

Sources

'The Noblest Game', By Neville Cardus & John Arlott

Sheffield Advertiser, Aug. 27.

Sheffield Iris

The Times 5th September 1822

The Times 9th September 1822

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