Sports Ground Pavilions: a potted history

Lymington Sports Ground Pavilions: a potted history

With the club finally moving into the redeveloped pavilion this weekend, we take a look back at its Sports Ground predecessors…

Old Pavilion sketch

Brian Down’s drawing of the original pavilion with the town’s water tower in the background

Formed in 1807, Lymington Cricket Club’s very first home venue was Pennington Common, but in 1836 the club moved to a site in the town centre. The area, just to the north west of St Thomas Church, was known as the Barfields and was originally designated as allotments for the townsfolk, but it seems that a plot of land was set aside for a cricket pitch. Before long, newspaper reports were referring to the site as ‘The Cricket Field’. Not a lot is known about the original pavilion. A contemporary sketch shows a long, low wooden building, probably situated a few yards north of the current building.

By 1913 it was decided to replace the old structure which was deemed no longer suitable. The new pavilion was funded thanks largely to the generosity of the ground’s owner Alderman J.P.C. Shrubb. Designed by architect Mr H. Bernton Benjamin and built by Mr W.H. Hackwell of Everton from brick, wood and tile, the handsome new pavilion proved to be a fine acquisition for the ground. Built four or five feet above pitch level, it offered a splendid view of the cricket. Steps led down to the pitch from a covered platform in front of the pavilion where players and spectators could watch proceedings from deckchairs. Inside the spacious main hall, meetings could be held or luncheon and tea taken around a long and heavy wooden table. Two changing rooms with lavatories were situated in the rear section of the building either side of a small kitchen with gas stove and “all necessary culinary accessories” as the newspaper reporter put it. (The kitchen doubled as a referee’s changing room in later years). Wooden seats and railings were later added in front of the building, as were plunge baths in the changing rooms. The building was approached by a “well-made” gravel drive with a nicely laid out flower garden at the rear, and the Chronicle reported that the Cricket Field was “one of the best and most spacious cricket grounds of the county”.

LSG pav 1913

The second Sports Ground pavilion is opened by Viscountess St. Cyres in 1913

The new pavilion was officially opened by the Viscountess St. Cyres of Walhampton who unlocked the door to the building with a specially cast silver key (which is now on display in the town’s St. Barbe Museum). Speeches were made by, among others, the Viscountess herself,  club President Mr Gerald Duplessis, Mr William Ingham Whitaker of Pylewell Park and club captain Rev E.E.S. Utterton. Much praise was heaped on the club’s Hon. Secretary Mr G. Cecil Vicary who had worked tirelessly throughout the previous winter and spring to prepare the ground for this day.

After the opening ceremony members of the Corporation were invited to take lunch with the Mayor in a marquee erected in the north eastern part of the field. More than one hundred members and supporters of the club also enjoyed the food and alcoholic beverages supplied by Mr Russell of the Angel Hotel. A commemorative match between twelve from East Lymington (including members of Pylewell Park and Boldre clubs) and twelve from West Lymington (including players from Brockenhurst, Milford, Milton and Sway clubs) was won by the former who made 160 runs before restricting the latter to 137-7. As might be expected, the Town Band was present at the ceremony and played selections throughout the afternoon and evening.

The much loved structure served the club and town well for the next 55 years and, as well as cricket and football, witnessed all manner of sports and events ranging from baseball, boxing, cycling, athletics meetings, Home Guard exercises and even political rallies. Sadly, the building was badly damaged by fire in 1968 and it was decided to demolish the remains and erect a new building. The cause of the fire is still the subject of some debate, but one theory suggests that it may well have been caused by pest controllers who had been attempting to smoke out rats from beneath the building. Others claim it was started deliberately by an arsonist. Whatever the cause, for a time players and officials were forced to change in beach huts provided by the council while a replacement clubhouse was erected a cost of £6,500 on the site of the former pavilion.

wobbly Middleton old frontage

A relic from the past, with the third Sports Ground pavilion in the background.

The new building was a functional, if somewhat bland, single-story affair, but did at least have a bar which would provide a vital source of revenue to both the football and cricket clubs over the years. During the 1990s AFC Lymington announced plans to extend the clubhouse to create a larger lounge area, but the scheme fell foul of a tree preservation order. Eventually a conservatory-style extension was added to the front of the pavilion. Built by Kingfisher, the extension not only provided an enlarged bar area but also made the clubhouse lighter and airier and much more welcoming, as well as providing an excellent viewing area for cricket spectators during the summer. A new paved area and railings in front of the clubhouse were designed, built and partly funded (along with a kind donation from the town council) by Brian Hobby. Portakabins acted as a scorers’ room and changing rooms for umpires and referees. To provide shelter from the rain for those manning the barbecue, an unusual sliding canvas canopy between the main building and umpires’ room was erected by Michael Hope.

playoff crowd

The clubhouse with the conservatory extension and railings, circa 2013

By 2016 the clubhouse, almost 50 years old, was starting to show its age and in desperate need of rejuvenation. The toilets were basic to say the least, and the building lacked disabled access and facilities. There was no kitchen, so all catering had to be undertaken off-site. Consequently, plans were drawn up to create a new larger clubhouse around the shell of the existing building. Work began in late 2016 on the development which included an extended lounge, new kitchen, toilets and scorebox, as well as improved changing facilities for players and officials. The project ultimately cost around £350,000 which included major grants of £100,000 from the Football Association, £50,000 from the English Cricket Board, with the remainder of the cost being generously funded by Lymington & Pennington Town Council. The project will ensure that Lymington Sports Ground remains as one of the best local multi-use sports facilities in the South of England.

DSC08662 (2)

The redeveloped pavilion is open for business, July 2017

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