Leisure and culture
Sport after 1700

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Victoria County History

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Author

A T Thacker and C P Lewis (editors), J S Barrow, J D Herson, A H Lawes, P J Riden, M V J Seaborne

Year published

2005

Supporting documents

Pages

260-269

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'Leisure and culture: Sport after 1700', A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 part 2: The City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions (2005), pp. 260-269. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=57331 Date accessed: 22 August 2014.


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SPORT AFTER 1700

The sports played and watched in modern Chester have been influenced by the city's social character and by two natural assets, the Roodee and the river. (fn. 1) The Roodee was the setting not only for horse racing, (fn. 2) but also for bowls, and in the 19th and 20th centuries for amateur athletics, soccer, cricket, hockey, and polo. The stretch of the Dee above the weir enabled rowing and later canoeing to develop to a high standard, while skating was possible in the occasional winters when it froze over, as in 1822, 1895, 1917, and 1929. (fn. 3)

Among the sports long established in county towns bull baiting and cock fighting (the latter closely associated with Chester races) were in decline at Chester before they were banned in the earlier 19th century. From the 1840s the city's numerous middle classes gave an early impetus to amateur rowing and beagling. In the late 19th century and the Edwardian period the typically suburban games made a strong showing, especially golf, hockey, badminton, and lawn tennis. (fn. 4) The small size of the city's industrial working class did not prevent the growth of amateur soccer or working-class participation in swimming and rowing, and there was even pigeon racing, (fn. 5) but it did affect the provision of commercial mass-spectator sport. Chester's professional football club was a weak latecomer; there was little professional boxing; and the greyhound track was built late in the pre-1939 boom. In the later 20th century aquatic sports and middleclass team games like hockey and lacrosse were relatively popular, but otherwise Chester's sports lost something of their distinctiveness, for instance with the appearance of newly fashionable minority sports like squash, basketball, and American football.

Public Facilities

The city council allowed the Roodee to be used for team games from the mid 19th century, (fn. 6) but did not have the power to let any part of it for permanent occupation. In 1900 it thus turned down a proposal from Chester Football Club and Chester Cycling Club for the council to build an enclosed football ground within a banked cycling track, to be rented to the two clubs. (fn. 7) The council opened swimming pools at the Union Street baths in 1901, and from 1911 it and Hoole urban district council provided public bowling greens and tennis courts. (fn. 8) From 1968 the Chester Area Sports Advisory Council organized an annual sports week (later a fortnight) during which clubs held their own events. The event was run after 1986 by the Chester Sports and Leisure Association, to which individual clubs were affiliated. (fn. 9) After 1966 the River Dee Water Sports Association co-ordinated the interests of rowers, sailors, canoeists, anglers, and motorboat enthusiasts. (fn. 10)


Figure 160: Northgate Arena

The city council was concerned about playing fields by the 1920s. (fn. 11) In the 1970s it opened a floodlit allweather pitch and a 9-hole golf course at Westminster Park, (fn. 12) public squash courts, (fn. 13) and the Northgate Arena leisure centre. The last, a striking building opened in 1977, included an 1,800-seat sports hall and practice rooms, but its pools did not meet the needs of serious swimmers. (fn. 14) The Arena was mainly used for practice and leisure activities: in 1994 the only competitive sports played there regularly were netball, squash, and professional basketball. (fn. 15) In 1991 the city council appointed a sports development officer for the first time. (fn. 16)

Chester's main sports ground in the late 20th century grew out of Cheshire County Officers' Sports Club, which began by 1936 on a large site off Newton Lane (fn. 17) and provided for soccer, hockey, cricket, tennis, and bowls. In 1975 the county council reopened Brookhirst Switchgear Ltd.'s former private playing fields in Upton as Cheshire County Council Sports Club, for the joint use of a nearby school, the County Officers' Club (which moved from Newton Lane), and the public. It provided for a wide range of competitive sports and attracted existing hockey, soccer, athletics, fencing, and lacrosse clubs. By 1994 the county netball and badminton teams were also based there. Outdoor pitches for cricket, soccer, hockey, tennis, and netball were supplemented in 1993 by a floodlit all-weather artificial pitch. (fn. 18)

Association Football

Soccer was played at Chester College and on the Roodee by 1867 (fn. 19) and was well established in the city by the early 1880s, when several clubs used playing fields on the Roodee provided by the council. (fn. 20) Two of the clubs, Chester Rovers and King's School Old Boys, amalgamated in 1885 as Chester F.C. The club at first played in Hoole, moving to Whipcord Lane in 1904 and Sealand Road in 1906, when a limited company was formed. The first board of directors included a corn merchant, a baker, a butcher, an accountant, a stationer, a doctor, a clock maker, and an insurance manager, (fn. 21) but the largest shareholder was Alfred Mond of Brunner, Mond & Co., M.P. for Chester 1906–10. (fn. 22)

The club was a founder member in 1890 of the Football Combination, turned professional in 1902, and was admitted to the stronger Lancashire Combination in 1910, being promoted to the first division in 1911. After a hiatus during the First World War Chester resigned from the Lancashire Combination in 1919 to help form the Cheshire County League, which it dominated throughout the 1920s. After a new grandstand was opened in 1920 matches against local rivals Connah's Quay attracted crowds of over 6,000.

From 1930 Harry Mansley as chairman and Charles Hewitt as the first full-time secretary and manager improved the ground and the club's finances and playing staff, and Chester were elected to the Football League (Division III North) in 1931. The club's most successful years followed, marked especially by a 5–0 win over Fulham in the F.A. Cup 3rd round of 1932 before a home gate of 14,000, a feat regarded by some as 'the greatest thing that had happened since the Romans evacuated the city'. (fn. 23)

Promotion from the bottom division (IV after 1958) eluded the club even in its heyday, and the years after 1946 saw poor results, falling attendances, a retrenchment to part-time professional players, and two reelections to the League. (fn. 24) Chester won promotion to Division III in 1975 and a new stand was opened in 1979. (fn. 25) Its name was changed to Chester City in 1983. The club's finances, however, continued to deteriorate, and in 1990 it sold Sealand Road for development, shared Macclesfield's ground for two seasons, and returned to Chester in 1992 to the new 6,000-capacity Deva Stadium in Bumper's Lane. In the 1980s and earlier 1990s the team fluctuated between the bottom two divisions, but in the later 1990s the standard of playing and the club's finances both took a turn for the worse. The club was rescued from financial administration in 1999 by a new American owner with a controversial approach to management, team selection, and coaching, and was relegated to the Football Conference in 2000. (fn. 26)

Amateur soccer in Chester was represented by a Hospital Saturday Cup competition, organized intermittently from 1890, (fn. 27) and by the Chester and Runcorn Football Association and the Chester and District Football League, formed in 1893 and 1894 respectively. The latter included nearly 60 clubs in 1949. (fn. 28) In the 1990s the league had three divisions with 33 teams, and a Sunday league catered for 48 teams. (fn. 29) One of the strongest amateur clubs in the city was Chester Nomads F.C., formed in 1904, which settled at Boughton Hall in 1913 and was still playing there in the 1990s. (fn. 30) A women's team connected with Chester City was playing league soccer by 1994. (fn. 31)

Athletics (fn. 32)

Foot races for prize money were staged in the 18th and early 19th century, commonly on the Roodee and often attracting large crowds. (fn. 33) Amateur athletics were first organized on a large scale during the 1860s boom in the form of the Chester Autumn Sports, held annually on the Roodee from 1863 and owing much initially to the support of W. Maysmor Williams, a prominent councillor. The event lapsed after 1893, was revived in 1925, and continued in 1993. Attendance in the 1930s and 1950s (when it was held on August Bank Holiday) occasionally topped 30,000, and the meeting was once regarded as one of the foremost in the North, (fn. 34) but the creation of proper athletics stadia in other towns had greatly reduced its importance by the 1990s. One of several 'athletic' clubs existing in the later 19th century (catering mainly for an interest in gymnastics), St. Oswald's, formed a group for runners ('harriers') in 1889. (fn. 35) Chester and District (later Chester and Ellesmere Port) Athletics Club, formed in 1967, at first used the track at Chester College, (fn. 36) moving to the County Sports Club at Upton in 1992. (fn. 37)

Bowls

There was a bowling green in what became the Groves by 1630 and another on the Roodee in 1636. (fn. 38) A third at Bowling Green Bank at the east corner of the Gorse Stacks was new in 1700. (fn. 39) The Roodee green was restored to use after 1660, (fn. 40) and was still in use in 1800. (fn. 41) Those at the Gorse Stacks and in the Groves continued into the 20th century. (fn. 42) The Groves bowling green was used in 1910 by Chester Bowling Club. (fn. 43) That at the Gorse Stacks was attached to the Bowling Green House (later Hotel) by 1750. (fn. 44) In the 1860s and 1880s its members included city councillors, professional men, and successful tradesmen. (fn. 45) The green remained in use in the 1960s but was neglected when taken over and restored in 1975 by a Roman Catholic social club. (fn. 46) Other greens were attached to hotels or public houses. One at Flookersbrook in Hoole existed c. 1750, (fn. 47) and by 1818 the extensive grounds of the Albion Hotel in Lower Bridge Street included a green which continued in use until 1852 or later. (fn. 48) The Queen Hotel in City Road had a bowling green in 1889, (fn. 49) and the Egerton Arms in Bache (later the Bache Hotel) by 1923. The Deeside Bowling Club, established in 1868, had a green in Souters Lane, (fn. 50) and the Hoole and Newton Bowling Club played at Vicarage Road, Hoole, by 1910. (fn. 51) Apart from the Catholic club they all fell out of use during the mid and later 20th century. (fn. 52)

The first municipal greens were opened in 1911 by Chester city council near the Hermitage in the Groves and by Hoole urban district council at Alexandra Park, (fn. 53) and others followed at Buddicom Park in 1921, (fn. 54) Tower Fields in 1922, (fn. 55) and Cherry Grove in 1925 (moved to Stocks Lane 1974). (fn. 56) Buddicom Park closed during the Second World War. (fn. 57) The Hermitage green closed after 1966, (fn. 58) but a new green was provided in Upton (Wealstone Lane) and two at Westminster Park. In the 1990s Chester and District Bowls League included teams representing the five municipal greens, Bache, and the Catholic club, besides others from outside Chester. (fn. 59)

Cock Fighting

The place name Cockfight or Cockpit Hill at the north end of Frodsham Street was recorded from the late 16th century. (fn. 60) A circular thatched cockpit was built in 1619 by William Stanley, earl of Derby, near the walls south of Newgate. (fn. 61) By 1789 it had been replaced by an oval cockpit north of the same gate, (fn. 62) which in turn was succeeded by a brick building on the old site, put up as a commercial speculation in 1825. (fn. 63) There were also cockpits in the yards of inns, including the White Talbot, Eastgate Street, in 1738, (fn. 64) the Elephant and Castle in the same street, which probably closed before 1796, (fn. 65) the Ship, Foregate Street, in 1776, (fn. 66) and the Feathers, described as new in 1815. (fn. 67) The inn cockpits presumably held matches all year round, but the high point of the cocking year was race week. By the 1730s matches took place on the mornings of race week and until c. 1760 were contested by individuals or between the gentlemen of Cheshire and Flintshire. From c. 1760 to 1800 gentlemen representing other counties in the North-West, north Wales, and the Midlands also participated. Private matches were again the rule from 1800 to 1834, but the last three race-week cock fights (1835, 1837, and 1839) were between Cheshire and Lancashire. From c. 1800 cock fighting by the gentry in connexion with race meetings was in decline, leaving Chester among the strongholds of a sport restricted to south Lancashire, Cheshire, and north Staffordshire. (fn. 68) The keeping of cockpits was made illegal in 1835 and cock fighting itself in 1849. (fn. 69)

Throwing at cocks was a traditional Shrove Tuesday sport which survived until the 1710s or later. (fn. 70)

Cricket

Cricket was played on the Chester club's ground at Blacon Point by 1820, (fn. 71) on the Roodee by 1850, (fn. 72) and at Chester College before 1867. (fn. 73) The strongest club at first was Chester C.C., which went out of existence in 1898; (fn. 74) others included the Cestrian club by the 1840s and the Deva club by the 1860s, with annual subscriptions in the 1870s respectively of 1 guinea and 5s. reflecting a difference in social tone. (fn. 75)

Boughton Hall C.C. was formed in 1873 by John Thompson as an invitation eleven playing in the grounds of his house, Boughton Hall. (fn. 76) By the 1880s the club was financed by its members and had become the leading team in the city, dominating the short-lived Chester and District League (1894—c. 1900) and playing fixtures against teams in Cheshire and south Lancashire. Its early members were drawn from Chester's professional and commercial élite. In 1923 it joined the Liverpool Competition and made a consistently good showing in its unofficial rankings until 1939. The club became a limited company in 1925, bought its ground in 1945, and changed its name in 1955 to Chester Boughton Hall C.C. After 1945 the season was dominated by the Liverpool Competition (which evolved into a regular league) and from the 1960s there were also Sunday and evening matches in a variety of knock-out competitions. A second pitch was in use from 1974, allowing the club to field four teams in the 1990s. The club never employed a professional but in the 1990s had the services of a succession of junior players from the West Indies, several of whom graduated to Test cricket.

Cheshire first played at Boughton Hall in 1910 and held an annual minor counties match there between the wars and again from 1969. The county team often included Boughton Hall players.

City teams representing churches, offices, and commercial and industrial firms played in an annual knock-out competition at Boughton Hall from 1913. Crowds up to 1,000 before 1939 fell sharply in the 1950s and the competition was discontinued in 1966, though it had been resumed by 1994. Chester Women's Cricket Club played at Boughton Hall by 1994. In the 1970s the council provided pitches at Blacon, Hoole, and Westminster Park. (fn. 77)

Golf

The first Chester Golf Club began playing in 1892 on an 18-hole course 6 miles from the city in Sealand (Flints.); it disbanded in 1940 when the land was taken for agriculture. Its namesake at Curzon Park began in 1901 as Bache Golf Club on a 6-hole course north of the county lunatic asylum in Bache, but moved the following year to a 9-hole course on the Bache Hall estate, then occupied by one of the club's founders, Major John MacGillicuddy. The club had over 200 members and employed a professional by 1906, and had a ladies' section by 1909. A search for a new site began in 1910 when the owner of the Bache Hall estate proposed to sell the land to the asylum, and the last round was played there in 1912. In 1913 the club bought 108 a. at Brewer's Hall from Earl Howe, built a 9-hole course, removed its existing clubhouse from Bache Hall, and adopted the name Curzon Park Golf Club. The course was enlarged to 18 holes in 1920 and was modified several times thereafter. The club was called Chester (Curzon Park) Golf Club from 1923 and Chester Golf Club from 1964. (fn. 78)

Upton-by-Chester Golf Club was founded in 1934 by C. J. F. Owen on a 9-hole course, enlarged to 18 holes in 1937. (fn. 79) An 18-hole course opened at Blacon Point by T. B. Gorst was played only in 1937 and 1938; after it closed the land was used for an Army camp. (fn. 80) A 9-hole municipal course at Westminster Park was opened in 1976. (fn. 81)

Rowing

By the earlier 18th century fishermen and boatmen were racing professionally on the Dee, (fn. 82) and rowing for prizes continued into the earlier 19th century as a popular spectator sport. A regatta first organized in 1814 to celebrate the Peace of Paris became an annual event; prize money was offered in races for men, women, and boys, watched by crowds reckoned up to 10,000 strong. (fn. 83) Races for amateurs in 1832 still excluded only those actually employed on the river, (fn. 84) allowing other working men to take part, while the 1843 regatta included a race for 'mechanics or fishermen' besides one for gentlemen. (fn. 85)

From the 1840s, however, rowing became a principal focus of the cult of amateurism, (fn. 86) and in common with other rowing venues Chester soon had separate clubs for gentlemen amateurs and working men. Its distinctiveness was that the amateur club was especially early among provincial towns (fn. 87) and that it clung tenaciously to social exclusivity into the 1950s. (fn. 88) That club, formed in 1838 as Chester Victoria Rowing Club and renamed Royal Chester Rowing Club in 1840, (fn. 89) was the earliest gentlemen's boat club in the North. (fn. 90) It drew its patrons from landed society, (fn. 91) went in for elaborate banqueting, (fn. 92) and in 1843 even had its own chaplain, (fn. 93) but the rowing itself was also taken seriously, albeit at first by small numbers: 70 joined the club in 1838 but there were only c. 20 rowing members in 1841. (fn. 94) Crews competed on the Dee, widely in other northern regattas, and at Henley occasionally from 1855 and regularly after 1874. (fn. 95)

The club built a boat shed on the north bank of the Dee upstream from the Groves, (fn. 96) moving in 1877 to a new boathouse near by. (fn. 97) It bought the site in 1959. (fn. 98) The club's regatta was first held on coronation day in 1838; a committee separate from the club took it over in 1840, and it was revived in 1862, becoming a regular event thereafter. (fn. 99) The regatta course was fixed c. 1851 from Heronbridge downstream to the boathouse. (fn. 100) The Royals hired a professional trainer from the Thames in 1841 (fn. 101) and another from the Tyne in 1854; while at Chester the latter, Mat Taylor, was influential in the development of shell racing boats and in training oarsmen in the new style of rowing which they required. (fn. 102) Standards of rowing fluctuated: there were several strong periods up to the 1890s, but not again until the 1930s. (fn. 103)

In 1876 the Royals were counted among only 10 rowing clubs catering exclusively for the 'upper class of amateur', (fn. 104) though the ethos was only then being finally refined: in 1872, for example, completely against the spirit of gentlemanly amateurism, there was heavy betting on the outcome of a race with the Mersey Rowing Club of Birkenhead. (fn. 105) In 1882, however, the Royals were a founder member of the Amateur Rowing Association, designed as and long remaining the guardian of a strict amateur code. (fn. 106) Chester was the only provincial club with a member on the A.R.A.'s management committee. (fn. 107)

The club remained exclusive until the mid 20th century. In the 1930s it was said to interpret A.R.A. rules 'to the letter' (fn. 108) and stood firmly against allowing ladies' rowing clubs to use its boats or premises. (fn. 109) It lifted an outright ban on manual workers and weekly wage earners in 1950 only in order to secure a grant towards a new eight from the Ministry of Education. (fn. 110) In the 1950s new members were closely vetted by the committee (fn. 111) and the main annual social event was a white-tie ball. (fn. 112)

The tone of the club began to change in the 1960s. Boys from the King's school had begun to row for the Royals in the 1950s, (fn. 113) but in 1963 the club was still refusing to train oarsmen from scratch, (fn. 114) presumably as a means of excluding those thought socially undesirable. The demand for junior rowing and its importance in maintaining the club soon led to change, and a coaching scheme was put in place in 1968. (fn. 115) In 1975 the club admitted women and comprehensive-school boys as rowers. (fn. 116) In the 1980s the vitality and success of the club was largely dependent on student rowers from local schools and Chester Law College at Christleton. (fn. 117)

There were many other boat clubs in Chester besides the Royals. The Cestria club existed by the 1830s, had a boathouse behind Sandy Lane, and survived to the 1940s. (fn. 118) The Deva club competed for prize money in 1840, (fn. 119) and the True Blue Rowing Club was a rival of the Royals in the 1850s. (fn. 120) Small working-class rowing clubs based on a trade or a workplace flourished until the 1930s, (fn. 121) and there was an annual watermen's regatta in the 1920s. (fn. 122) The Grosvenor Boat Club was founded in 1869 for clerks and others who were barred from the Royals (Fig. 161, p. 266). (fn. 123) It had a boathouse in the Groves by 1892 (fn. 124) and long remained the Royals' fierce rival, (fn. 125) surviving in 1994. The Athena club for junior women rowers was formed c. 1977. (fn. 126)

Competitive rowing events on a large scale were at first confined to the boat clubs' own regattas, of which the Royals' was the most prominent. From the mid 20th century other events of at least regional importance were devised: the North of England Head of the River for eights (1935), the Dee Autumn Fours (1948, organized by Grosvenor B.C.), and the Long Distance Sculls (1955, by the Royals). The Head and the Sculls were both rowed over 3¾ miles from Eccleston Ferry to the Royals' boathouse. (fn. 127) The new events kept Chester, if not always its own clubs, at the forefront of provincial rowing in the later 20th century.


Figure 161: Grosvenor Boat Club members at their boat house

Other Sports

American Football

Chester Romans American Football Club was formed in 1986 and from 1987 played in the national league, initially in Westminster Park but from 1994 at Wrexham. (fn. 128)

Badminton

A club representing Chester affiliated to the Badminton Association in 1911. (fn. 129) It remained a strong sport in the city: the Chester and District Badminton League was formed in 1948 with 12 teams, growing to 78 by 1974. (fn. 130)

Basketball

In 1993 the semi-professional men's team Cheshire Jets and its sister women's team Cheshire Cats moved from Ellesmere Port to the Northgate Arena and were renamed Chester Jets and Chester Cats. (fn. 131) The venue was highly regarded but the men's team was initially weak and poorly supported. (fn. 132)

Beagling

Beagling attracted a small but well-heeled following after the formation in 1854 of the Scratch Beagle Club, which had kennels in Brook Lane and social meetings at the Hop Pole Inn. The club was renamed the Chester Beagles in 1856 and Cheshire Beagles in 1890. It originally hunted over most of western Cheshire and eastern Flintshire, though gradually abandoned its outlying meets. New kennels were built in Lache Lane in the 1880s, from where they were removed outside the city to Dodleston in 1957. New members and subscribers after 1918 were overwhelmingly from outside Chester. (fn. 133)

Boxing

Pugilists performed in the city in the early 19th century (Fig. 162), probably mainly at the Exchange. (fn. 134) Amateur boxers trained at a gym under St. Paul's church in Boughton in the later 19th century. (fn. 135) The Manchester fight promoter Harry Furness included the American Roller Rink among his venues c. 1940, (fn. 136) and there were contests at the Northgate Arena in the 1990s. (fn. 137)

Bull Baiting

A civic bull bait took place at the Cross as part of the annual mayor-making ceremonies in the early modern period. The corporation withdrew its sanction from the event in 1754 and ceased to attend in its official capacity, but failed in an attempt to suppress it in 1776. The Chester Chronicle came out against bull baiting in 1796, and in 1803 a clause in the Chester Improvement Act banned it within the city boundary. In October of that year, the first time that the ban was imposed, the police commissioners also printed and distributed a handbill warning against bull baiting, concentrating on Cow Lane (later Frodsham Street) and the flesh shambles, an indication that butchers from Chester and the countryside remained prominent in its support. 'Bull Bait Monday', however, was revived at Boughton heath just outside the corporation limits in 1811, and evidently continued there until the sport was made illegal by national legislation in 1835. In 1822 a bull was baited on the foreshore of the river Dee below the high-water mark, also outside the mayor's jurisdiction. (fn. 138)


Figure 162: Pugilism advertised at the Cross, c. 1820

Canoeing

Chester Sailing and Canoeing Club was formed in 1957. The canoeing section produced several worldclass competitors. Its main annual event in the city was the Chester weir slalom, held during Chester sports week from 1968. The national canoe marathon championship was held in Chester in 1992. (fn. 139)

Croquet

Hough Green Lawn Tennis Club also played croquet until c. 1920. (fn. 140) Chester Croquet Club was formed in 1977, playing at first on the former municipal bowling green at the Hermitage before moving to a purposemade lawn in Westminster Park c. 1980. (fn. 141) Both were still in use in 2000.

Cycling

Cycle races were part of the Chester Autumn Sports on the Roodee in the later 1870s, when the city was also a popular venue for touring cyclists to visit. The Chester Cycling Club was established in 1888 at the Coach and Horses Hotel; its members toured the countryside and took part in an annual cycle parade to raise money for the Chester infirmary. (fn. 142)

Fencing

Fencing was taught as a social accomplishment in Chester until the 1850s. (fn. 143) It was re-established as a sport after the Second World War. A club formed in 1957 met for many years in the cathedral refectory, (fn. 144) moving later to Overleigh school and in 1993 to the County Sports Club in Upton. (fn. 145)

Fives

There was a fives court at the castle in the later 1850s. (fn. 146)

Greyhound Racing

A track was opened in Sealand Road next to the football stadium in 1935 (fn. 147) and closed after 1986. (fn. 148)

Hockey

Chester had a hockey club by 1895, and by 1900 a second club was based in Hoole. Both played on the Roodee, but the Chester women's team had faltered by 1912 and the men's followed suit c. 1920. (fn. 149) During the First World War staff at the Army Pay Office played mixed matches, leading in 1919 to the formation of Chester Casuals Hockey Club. About 1926 its men's teams disbanded and the women formed Chester Ladies Hockey Club, which moved to a new ground in Panton Road, Hoole, in 1930. Other clubs were the Chester and District Ladies from 1922 and a men's team representing Chester United Banks from 1925. (fn. 150) By 1964 the clubs which belonged to the county hockey associations were the County Officers (men and women), Chester and District (women), and Chester Ladies. (fn. 151) By 1992 there were two clubs catering for both sexes, Chester and County Officers. (fn. 152)

Hunting

In 1750 the Chester Hunt had as its kennels a building outside the Northgate which it rented from the corporation; the hunt master at that time was apparently Sir Richard Brooke, Bt., of Norton. (fn. 153)

Lacrosse

Chester Lacrosse Club had begun playing by 1975 at Boughton Hall cricket ground, moved to Cheshire County Council Sports Club at Upton in 1991, and in 1994 was the only club to have a team in both divisions of the Northern League. (fn. 154) An international match was played at Upton in 1995. (fn. 155)

Lawn Tennis

Chester Lawn Tennis Club was founded as Hough Green L.T.C. in 1890 in Wrexham Road, where it built a substantial wooden clubhouse. Its original three shale courts were later supplemented by tarmac and then by artificial grass courts, numbering seven in 1994. (fn. 156) Hoole L.T.C. began in 1896 in Vicarage Road and moved in 1904 to Hoole Road. (fn. 157) By 1908 other private clubs with their own courts included Glan Aber in Hough Green, Brookside in Sealand Road, and one in Liverpool Road. The last two did not survive. Other courts appeared between the wars in Newton and Upton. (fn. 158) In the 1930s ten clubs had their own courts (fn. 159) but the number later fell and in 1964 and 1993 only the Chester, Hoole, and Glan Aber clubs were affiliated to the county association. (fn. 160) Public courts were opened in Tower Fields in 1922, (fn. 161) and later in Hoole Alexandra Park and Wealstone Lane, Upton. (fn. 162)

Netball

Chester had a strong netball club in the 1990s. (fn. 163)

Polo

Chester County Polo Club was formed in 1874 and polo was still played regularly on the Roodee c. 1900. (fn. 164)

Quoits

Quoits was played by a club on a ground in Westminster Road, Hoole, in 1910. (fn. 165)

Rackets

There was a rackets court at the Brewer's Arms in Foregate Street in 1822; (fn. 166) another had been built by 1872 in the grounds of Arnold House school, Parkgate Road, but had gone by 1898. (fn. 167)

Real Tennis

A real tennis court on the south side of Foregate Street was probably in use between the 1680s and the 1710s but apparently fell into disuse before 1735. (fn. 168) The building, afterwards used as a theatre, survived in the 1860s. (fn. 169)

Rugby Union

A club existed from the late 1870s to 1884. The game was introduced to Chester College in 1889 and the college club affiliated to the Rugby Football Union, but none of the schools in Chester took it up and there was thus no firm basis for club rugby in the city. Chester R.U.F.C. was formed only in 1925, playing successively at Sealand Road, Blacon Point, and Bumper's Lane before moving to Boughton Hall alongside the cricket ground in 1932. (fn. 170) In 1959 it moved to its own new ground at Hare Lane off the Tarvin road, (fn. 171) outside the city, and after the creation of a divisional structure for the English game in the 1980s played at first in NorthWest Division One.


Figure 163: Opening gala at Union Street baths, 1901

Squash

The first squash court in Chester was built at the castle by the Army and remained in use in 1994. (fn. 172) The 1970s boom led to increased provision of both private and public courts. The West Cheshire Squash Club opened in 1974 in Wrexham Road with six courts and became the base for the Cheshire county team. (fn. 173) Two private courts were built by the rugby club at Hare Lane before 1978, two public courts at the County Sports Club in Newton in 1976, and four more at the Northgate Arena in 1977. (fn. 174)

Swimming

Nude male bathing in the Dee and the canal was regarded in 1822 as a nuisance which the mayor and J.P.s intended to eradicate. (fn. 175) In 1901 Chester Amateur Swimming Club was playing water polo in a roped-off section of the Dee near the Groves. (fn. 176) Swimming was popular in the Edwardian period and several workplace- and church-based clubs used the Union Street baths opened in 1901. (fn. 177) Chester Swimming Club had a successful water polo team in the 1920s. (fn. 178) The baths, managed after 1977 by Chester Swimming Association, continued in use for training in 1992, when Chester Swimming Club had over 500 members and was reckoned one of the strongest in the NorthWest. (fn. 179) Competitive events had to be staged outside the city, however, as neither the city baths nor the pool at the Northgate Arena met the standards required by the Amateur Swimming Association. (fn. 180)

Footnotes

1 Mr. K. Sykes, Frodsham, kindly provided a number of additional references for this chapter.
2 Above, Chester Races.
3 G. Huxley, Lady Elizabeth and the Grosvenors, 34; Archives Photographs Series: Chester, comp. M. Day and P. O'Brien (1996), 96–7.
4 J. Lowerson, Sport and Eng. Middle Classes, passim.
5 C.C.A.L.S., DDX 272.
6 Below, this chapter: Association Football, Cricket; Chester City Cl. Mins. 1919/20, 43–4.
7 Chester City Cl. Mins. 1899/1900, 420–2.
8 Below, this chapter: Bowls, Other Sports (Lawn Tennis, Swimming).
9 Chester Sports Week, 1968, 3; Chester Sports Fortnight, 1969, esp. 3, 9, 27; and later edns. (copies in Chester public libr. pamphlet colln.); C.C.A.L.S., TS. list of ZCR 842.
10 W.J.C. Todd, Royal Chester Rowing Club, 1939–88, 63; River Dee Water Sports Association, 'Cal. of Major River Events, 1973' (TS. in Chester public libr. pamphlet colln.).
11 Chester City Cl. Mins. 1923/4, 296–7; 1937/8, 71–5.
12 Chester City Sports Week, 1970, 28 (copy in Chester public libr. pamphlet colln.); below, this chapter: Golf.
13 Below, this chapter: Other Sports (Squash).
14 NW. Cl. for Sport and Recreation, Dir. of New Facilities (1977), 1; Northgate Arena, Chester (brochure for opening: copy in Chester public libr.); Official Chester Guide Bk. (1989 edn.), 52–3; local inf.
15 Inf. from Mr. J. Kelly, Northgate Arena.
16 Inf. from Ms. J. Peace, Sports Development Officer.
17 O.S. Map 1/2,500, Ches. XXXVIII. 7 (1936 edn.).
18 Inf. from Mr. M. N. Fearon, manager.
19 J. L. Bradbury, Chester Coll. 136; Gresty and Burghall's Chester Guide [1867], 34.
20 Acct. of soccer based, except where stated otherwise, on 'Bevys', Chester Football Club, 1885/6–1935/6: Reminiscences (Chester, 1936); [Chester Football Club], 21 Years of Chester Football Club Ltd. 1931–52 (copy in C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 546/27); Rothmans Football Yearbk. 1992–3, 163; 1993–4, 159.
21 Memorandum and Articles of Association of Chester Football Club Ltd. p. 17 (copy in C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 242/1); Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1906) for directors' occupations; cf. Lowerson, Sport and Eng. Middle Classes, 226.
22 D.N.B. 1922–30.
23 Quotation from 21 Years, 15.
24 Cf. 'Playing Rec. of Chester A.F.C. 1931–59', comp. J. H. Cunnington (C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 546/25).
25 Chester City F.C.: Forward to the 80's (copy in C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 546/32).
26 Independent, 3 May 2001, p. 26.
27 e.g. 135th Ann. Rep. of Chester General Infirmary, 31; 138th Ann. Rep. 42–3; 142nd Ann. Rep. 39.
28 Sportsmen's Evening at Town Hall, Chester, 21 Feb. 1949 (programme in C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 546/32).
29 Chester Chron. 9 Oct. 1992, p. 23.
30 A. Robinson, Century at Boughton Hall: Hist. Chester Boughton Hall Cricket Club, 1873–1973 (priv. print. [1973]), 8; inf. from Mr. Robinson, Waverton.
31 Chester Chron. 5 May 1995, p. 28.
32 Several additional references for this and the following sections were kindly supplied by Mr. Sykes.
33 Diary of Henry Prescott, i. 159; Hemingway, Hist. Chester, ii. 253; 1 Sheaf, i, p. 165.
34 e.g. Chester Autumn Sports and Carnival Programme (1954) (copy at C.H.H.); ibid. (1950–5 and 1957) (copies in Chester public libr. pamphlet colln.); for Williams's role: Gresty and Burghall's Chester Guide [1867], 34.
35 P. & G. Dir. Chester (1871), 11; Chester Chron. 14 Sept. 1889.
36 e.g. Chester City Sports Week, 1970, 18.
37 Inf. from Mr. Fearon.
38 Cal. Chester City Cl. Mins. 1603–42, 164, 200, and map 1; Chester: Contemporary Descriptions, ed. D. M. Palliser (1980), 13; C.C.A.L.S., ZAF 11/24.
39 P.N. Ches. v (1:i), 65; 3 Sheaf, xx, p. 91; C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 3, f. 78.
40 C.C.A.L.S., ZAF 39A/13.
41 Ibid. ZAB 5, pp. 147–8.
42 e.g. ibid. ZAB 4, f. 4v.; Lavaux, Plan of Chester, J. Hunter and S. Weston, Plan of Chester (1789); Murray and Stuart, Plan of Chester (1791); Brit. Atlas (1805).
43 C.C.A.L.S., NVA 1/2, no. 3622.
44 3 Sheaf, xi, p. 69; C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 119/20.
45 G.T. Burrows, All About Bowls (1948 edn.), 19; White's Dir. Ches. (1860), 101; Chester Chron. 31 July 1869, p. 8.
46 Inf. from Mr. J. S. Callister, Chester, who is thanked for advice on the history of bowls in Chester; above, Roman Catholicism.
47 3 Sheaf, xiv, p. 49; xx, p. 90.
48 Georgian Chester, ed. A. M. Kennett, 38; Bagshaw's Dir. Ches. (1850), 72; Burrows, All About Bowls, 13; J. Romney, Chester and its Environs Illustrated, [32].
49 O.S. Map 1/2,500, Ches. XXXVIII. 11 (1875 and 1899 edns.); Chester Chron. 8 June 1889.
50 P. & G. Dir. Chester (1923/4), 24; (1933/4), 22.
51 C.C.A.L.S., NVA 1/7, no. 1311.
52 P. & G. Dir. Chester (1935/6), 22; inf. from Mr. R. G. Dawson, Chester and District Bowls League.
53 Chester City Cl. Mins. 1910/11, 472; C.C.A.L.S., ZTRH 84, pp. 319, 352–3, 401.
54 Chester City Cl. Mins. 1920/1, 471.
55 Ibid. 1921/2, 473.
56 Ibid. 1923/4, 60, 297, 553; 1925/6, 408; 1974/5, p. 268.
57 Ibid. 1942/3, 197; 1944/5, 397, 445–6; 1945/6, 57.
58 C.P.S., Groves (neg. N 14/12).
59 Inf. from Mr. Dawson; Chester Chron. 21 Apr. 1995, p. 25.
60 P.N. Ches. v(1:i), 73.
61 Simpson, Walls of Chester, 67–8.
62 J. Hunter and S. Weston, Plan of Chester (1789)
63 Hemingway, Hist. Chester, i. 381–2.
64 1 Sheaf, i, p. 132.
65 Chester Chron. 23 Sept. 1796, p. 3.
66 Hughes, Chronicle of Chester, 127.
67 3 Sheaf, vi, pp. 40–2.
68 Hist. List Horse-Matches, 1739 and later edns. to 1770; Racing Cal. 1779 and later edns. to 1841.
69 Cruelty to Animals Act, 5 & 6 Wm. IV, c. 59, ss. 1, 3; Cruelty to Animals Act, 12 & 13 Vic. c. 92, ss. 1, 3.
70 Diary of Henry Prescott, i. 269; ii. 619–20, 677.
71 Chester Chron. 28 July 1820; cf. ibid. 10 July 1839.
72 Bagshaw's Dir. Ches. (1850), 72; 3 Sheaf, xviii, pp. 80, 84–5.
73 Bradbury, Chester Coll. 136.
74 A. Robinson, Century at Boughton Hall: Hist. Chester Boughton Hall Cricket Club, 1873–1973 (priv. print. [1973]), 3, 6.
75 Chester Chron. 30 July 1847, 26 Nov. 1870; P. & G. Dir. Chester (1871), 11; (1878/9), 10.
76 Rest of cricket based on Robinson, Century at Boughton Hall; inf. from Mr. Robinson, Waverton.
77 Chester City Cl. Mins. 1974/5, p. 831.
78 Chester Golf Club Centenary, 1901–2001 (copy at C.H.H.); Golfer's Handbk. (1902 and later edns.); Chester City Cl. Mins. 1905/6, 639–40; for location of first club: P. Abercrombie, S. Kelly, and T. Fyfe, Deeside Regional Planning Scheme, map 1; P. & G. Dir. Chester (1919/20), 25; cf. Chester Chron. 20 Dec. 1890.
79 Upton-by-Chester Golf Club: Official Handbk. 6 (copy in Chester public libr.); Chester City Sports Week, 1970, 25.
80 Golfer's Handbk. (1937 and 1938 edns.); Chester City Cl. Mins. 1937/8, 75; C.C.A.L.S., ZDS 3/600; Blacon Past and Present (Blacon Hist. Group, 1990: copy at C.H.H.); Blacon Community Nature Park (1989) (leaflet at C.H.H.).
81 Inf. from Mr. J. P. Snead, Westminster Park.
82 N. Wigglesworth, Social Hist. of Eng. Rowing, 24; J. V. S. Glass and J. M. Patrick, Royal Chester Rowing Club, 1838–1938, 47.
83 e.g. Chester Chron. 10 June 1814, p. 3; 17 June 1814, p. 2; 23 May 1817, p. 3; 2 June 1820, p. 2.
84 Glass and Patrick, R.C.R.C. 1838–1938, 9–10; Hemingway, Hist. Chester, i. 379 and n.
85 Illustrated Lond. News, 19 Aug. 1843, p. 122.
86 Lowerson, Sport and Eng. Middle Classes, 157–62.
87 Wigglesworth, Social Hist. of Eng. Rowing, 130, 201, 205–6.
88 Below, this section.
89 Glass and Patrick, R.C.R.C. 1838–1938, 10–12, 19.
90 Wigglesworth, Social Hist. of Eng. Rowing, 118.
91 Ibid. 122; Glass and Patrick, R.C.R.C. 1838–1938, 12.
92 Glass and Patrick, R.C.R.C. 1838–1938, 14–15, 23.
93 Ibid. 88.
94 Ibid. 12, 22.
95 Ibid. passim. esp. 28–31, 41.
96 Ibid. 13; Hughes, Stranger's Handbk. (1856), 121; O.S. Maps 1/2,500, Ches. XXXVIII. 11 (1875 and later edns.).
97 Glass and Patrick, R.C.R.C. 1838–1938, 42.
98 W. J. C. Todd, Royal Chester Rowing Club, 1939–88, 46—7.
99 Glass and Patrick, R.C.R.C. 1838–1938, 11, 13, 18, 35–6.
100 Ibid. 19.
101 Ibid. 22.
102 Ibid. 26–9, 34.
103 Ibid. passim, esp. 70; Todd, R.C.R.C. 1939–88, passim.
104 Wigglesworth, Social Hist. of Eng. Rowing, 130.
105 Glass and Patrick, R.C.R.C. 1838–1938, 39.
106 Todd, R.C.R.C. 1939–88, 38, 131; cf. Lowerson, Sport and Eng. Middle Classes, 158–9.
107 Wigglesworth, Social Hist. of Eng. Rowing, 131.
108 Ibid. 135.
109 Ibid. 78.
110 Todd, R.C.R.C. 1939–88, 29.
111 Ibid. 39.
112 C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 419/3.
113 Todd, R.C.R.C. 1939–88, 42.
114 C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 419/4, cuttings of 21 Dec. 1961 and 4 May 1963.
115 Todd, R.C.R.C. 1939–88, 66.
116 Ibid. 78–80.
117 Ibid. 96–111, 120.
118 Ibid. 15; Wigglesworth, Social Hist. of Eng. Rowing, 64; King's School Chester, Rowing Club Centenary, 1883–1983, ed. A. G. Evans and others, 9, 17; P. & G. Dir. Chester (1919/20), 26, and later edns.; Kelly's Dir. Chester (1941), 292; not listed in Brit. Rowing Almanack (1950).
119 Wigglesworth, Social Hist. of Eng. Rowing, 122.
120 Glass and Patrick, R.C.R.C. 1838–1938, 25.
121 Wigglesworth, Social Hist. of Eng. Rowing, 157.
122 Chester City Cl. Mins. 1921/2, 608; 1922/3, 554; 1923/4, 630; 1924/5, 684; 1925/6, 705.
123 Wigglesworth, Social Hist. of Eng. Rowing, 160; Chester Chron. 31 July 1869, p. 8.
124 Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1892), 220.
125 C.C.A.L.S., ZCR 419/3–4.
126 Chester Chron. 5 May 1995, p. 30.
127 Glass and Patrick, R.C.R.C. 1838–1938, 74; Todd, R.C.R.C. 1939–88, 23, 26, 37, 39.
128 TS. 'Hist.' kindly supplied by Mr. L. Dillon, Whitegate, general secretary.
129 Official Edn. of Laws of Badminton and Rules of Badminton Association (1898 and later edns. to 1911/12); cf. Lowerson, Sport and Eng. Middle Classes, 109–10.
130 Chester Sports Fortnight, 1969, 19; Chester City Sports Week, 1974, 23 (copies in Chester public libr. pamphlet colln.).
131 Inf. from Mr. M. Burton, coach of Chester Jets.
132 Chester Chron. 21 Apr. 1995, p. 25; 21 July 1995, p. 30.
133 Anon. Ches. Beagles, 1854–1954 (copy at C.H.H.); Country Life, 28 Mar. 1985, pp. 822–3; for Dixon and Walker: Bagshaw's Dir. Ches. (1850), 107; White's Dir. Ches. (1860), 134, 141.
134 e.g. Hemingway, Hist. Chester, i, facing p. 409; H. Hughes, Chronicle of Chester, 116–17; Compilation of Papers Relating to Election for City Officers in 1809 and Parl. Representation of Chester (1810, publ. J. Monk), p. vi.
135 3 Sheaf, xviii, p. 90; xix, p. 10.
136 D. Fleming, Manchester Fighters, 64.
137 e.g. Chester Chron. 21 Apr. 1995, p. 28.
138 Above, Plays, Sports, and Customs before 1700: Sporting Customs (Civic Bull and Bear Baiting); Hemingway, Hist. Chester, i. 222–4; G. T. Burrows, Ches. Sports and Sportsmen, 11; Hughes, Stranger's Handbk. (1856), 50–1; Browns and Chester: Portrait of a Shop, 1780–1946, ed. H. D. Willcock, 67; C.C.A.L.S., ZTRI 3, f. 18; Cruelty to Animals Act, 5 & 6 Wm. IV, c. 59, ss. 1, 3.
139 Chester Sports Week, 1968, 19; Chester City Sports Week, 1972, 29 (copies in Chester public libr. pamphlet colln.); inf. from Ms. Peace.
140 P. & G. Dir. Chester (1919/20), 28; (1922/3), 28.
141 Inf. from Mr. R. Croston, Chester Croquet Club.
142 Chester Chron. 14 July 1877; 7 June 1879; 9 July 1888; 31 Aug. 1889.
143 Bagshaw's Dir. Ches. (1850), 116; cf. White's Dir. Ches. (1860), 133.
144 Chester City Sports Week, 1970, 27 (copy in Chester public libr. pamphlet colln.).
145 Inf. from Mr. Fearon.
146 C.C.A.L.S., QAB 6/49, datable by Army List (1861), 91, s.n. Elphinstone, Howard C.
147 Chester City Cl. Mins. 1935/6, 495.
148 Chester Observer, 3 Jan. 1986, p. 27.
149 Chester Chron. 30 Mar. 1895; 31 Oct. 1896, p. 6; 3 Nov. 1900, p. 3; Ches. Observer, 11 Jan. 1902; Chester City Cl. Mins. 1899/1900, 481; 1900/1, 218; 1902/3, 917; 1906/7, 506; 1922/3, 615–16; Gamages Hockey Annual and Club Guide (1911/12 and later edns.).
150 Chester Sports Fortnight, 1969, 21; C.C.A.L.S., TS. list of ZCR 517; Gamages Hockey Annual and Club Guide (1922/3 and later ends.).
151 Ches. Sports Guide, 1964, 19, 21.
152 Inf. from Ms. Peace.
153 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 4, f. 137.
154 Inf. from Mrs. M. Black, club secretary, inf. from Mr. A. Robinson, Waverton.
155 Chester Chron. 21 Apr. 1995, p. 28.
156 Subscription form, 1994, in possn. of V.C.H.; P. & G. Dir. Chester (1919/20), 28; (1922/3), 28.
157 Inf. from Mr. J. Cadman, citing club records.
158 O.S. Maps 1/2,500, Ches. XXXVIII. 7, 10–11, 15 (1911 and 1936 edns.); C.C.A.L.S., NVA 1/6, nos. 10463, 10492.
159 Chester City Cl. Mins. 1937/8, 74–5.
160 Ches. Sports Guide, 1964, 29; Lawn Tennis Association Handbk. (1993), 157–8.
161 Chester City Cl. Mins. 1921/2, 473.
162 Official Chester Guide Bk. (1989 edn.), 53.
163 Chester Chron. 6 Oct. 1995, p. 30.
164 Ibid. 13 Sept. 1884, 26 May 1894; Chester City Cl. Mins. 1906/7, 506.
165 C.C.A.L.S., NVA 1/7, no. 1117.
166 Hemingway, Hist. Chester, ii. 276.
167 O.S. Maps 1/2,500, Ches. XXXVIII.11 (1875 and 1899 edns.); for the school: P. & G. Dir. Chester (1871), 92.
168 W. C. Braithwaite, Second Period of Quakerism (2nd edn., 1961), 138, 548, 708; Georgian Chester, ed. A. M. Kennett, 37; cf. J. M. Heathcote and others, Tennis, Lawn Tennis, Rackets, Fives (1890), 20.
169 Gresty and Burghall's Chester Guide [1867], 57; below, Places of Entertainment: Theatres and Music Halls.
170 Chester Chron. 1 Nov. 1884; Rugby Union in Lancs. and Ches. ed. W. B. Croxford, 54–5; Rugby Football Annual (1913/14), 126; Bradbury, Chester Coll. 170.
171 Inf. from Mr. A. Robinson, Waverton.
172 Local inf. and personal observation.
173 Inf. from Mr. T. Sewell, West Ches. Squash Club.
174 NW. Cl. for Sport and Recreation, Dir. of Facilities, 1978 (copy in Chester public libr.).
175 Browns and Chester, ed. H. D. Willcock, 68–9.
176 C.C.A.L.S., ZCCB 130, p. 243.
177 e.g. Chester City Cl. Mins. 1901/2, 78, 562; 1903/4, 213, 621; 1905/6, 302, 402, 605, 863, 974; 1906/7, 55, 560, 719, 798; 1907/8, 54, 361; above, Public Utilities: Baths and Wash-Houses.
178 Chester Sports Fortnigh, 1969, 23 (copy in Chester public libr. pamphlet colln.); P. & G. Dir. Chester (1919/20), 27.
179 Inf. from Ms. Peace; Chester Chron. 22 Sept. 1995, p. 27.
180 Chester Chron. 21 June 2002, p. 28.