The view of the Sports Ground from our terrace has not changed a great deal during the last 100 years although there were times when it might well have done, but more about that later.
The first written record of the ground that I have noted was in connection with its use by Nottingham High School. From 1885 the school had limited use of the Forest on which to play cricket and football. It was not a very happy arrangement and in 1896 the Headmaster wrote to the school Governors reporting that ‘when we do play we are instantly surrounded by a crowd of unemployed persons who sometimes steel our clothes and always use the vilest language’. In 1897 the School secured a short lease on the Cricket Ground in the park land of Mapperley Hall and they played their first cricket match there on 30 June 1897. The school was decisively beaten by Newark Grammar School who scored 90, bowling the High School out for only 29. In defence of the High School, Newark had three masters playing for them who took all the wickets. In June 1899 the Governors decided to purchase the ground but at the last minute the owners refused to sell. In 1903, 129 acres of the Mapperley Park Estate were sold off by the Wright family, who had owned it since 1777, to a syndicate of local businessmen. The sale included the cricket ground and it was essential that the future of the land, some 6 acres, be secured to prevent houses being built on it. Alderman Bright, one of the school governors, bought the land and offered it to the school at the price he paid of £5,800. The perimeter was slightly re-aligned after the surrounding area was sold for housing.
The first appearance of the ground on a map is the Tarbotton map of 1877 where it is designated as a Cricket Ground in the park land of Mapperley Hall. The map was produced under the direction of Marriott Ogle Tarbotton who had been appointed Borough Surveyor in 1859. It also appears on the Ordnance Survey map of 1901. W B Starr’s map of 1903, produced for the sale of the Mapperley Park Estate shows the position of the ‘beautiful cricket field’. Up to this time there were no houses in this part of Mapperley Park. The first houses to be built overlooking the ground were authorised on Esher Grove in 1905 and on Carisbrooke Drive the first house received planning consent in 1906. For a number of houses bordering the field their often splendid rear elevation was noted on plans as ‘Elevation to Cricket Ground’.
Ordnance Survey Map 1901
John Dane Player was a major benefactor of the High School and the first of his many gifts was a cheque for £300 which in 1910 enabled the school to increase the usefulness of the ground by levelling a further portion of it. By 1928 the School considered the ground to be too small and with a further donation from Mr Player they purchased their present playing fields on Valley Road which were ready for use in 1931. The school sold the ground to the Nottingham Corporation for the sum of £6,750 and it became the City Police Training Ground.
We moved into 12 Esher Grove in 1971, at which time the ground was well used and well maintained by the police, with occasional matches played by Nottinghamshire 2nd XI. The ground had the original High School timber pavilion with extensions and a fine scoreboard in the S/E corner. On one occasion Princess Anne on a visit to Nottingham landed in a helicopter on the ground.
With the Local Government Reorganisation in 1974 the Police Authority moved out of the jurisdiction of the City Council to that of the County Council. The police continued to use the ground but their requirements were reduced as they also had facilities at the County HQ at Epperstone.
In 1976 the City Council was required to determine areas of the City that were of special archectural or historic interest and the Mapperley Park Conservation Area was designated. The boundary was extended in 1977 to include the sports ground.
In April 1988 dark clouds appeared over the future of the ground when the County Council put in an outline planning application for residential development.. There is nothing like a common enemy to bring people together and an Action Group of locals on Esher Grove and Mansfield Road was quickly set up. After much activity lead by the Action Group, the Residents Association and the City Council, in September 1988 the City Council formally objected to the proposals. Subsequently the Department of the Environment confirmed that the Development Proposals should be the subject of a Planning Application which would be decided by the Secretary of State and a Public Enquiry was held in June 1989. In the September the Planning Inspector’s report was accepted by the Secretary of State and outline planning permission for residential development was refused.
For the next decade an air of uncertainty hung over the future use of the ground. The Police discontinued using it and the County Council only provided the minimum of maintenance resulting in a very unkempt appearance. Attempts were made by the County Council to sell the ground and eventually Conservation Area Consent to demolish the derelict pavilion was granted only for it to be set on fire by vandals. In 1997 Planning Permission was granted for a somewhat overlarge pavilion but this was never built.
The future of the ground started to look up early in the new millennium. A lease was granted by the County Council to the Hyson Green Carrington Sports Club and in 2004 a well designed new pavilion was built mainly through the sponsorship of the English Cricket Board and Channel 4. They also funded the complete relaying of the cricket square and provisions for practice nets. Ownership of the land has recently passed from the County to the City Council and it is well maintained by the hard working groundsman. It would appear that the long term future as a quality cricket ground is now more certain than it has been for many years.