History of Crook Cricket Club




The formation of Crook Town Cricket Club can be traced back to 1875, however there is an earlier recorded mention of cricket in Crook in September 1863 when a two day game between 22 of Crook and District and T.W. Hornby’s North of England XI took place at Crook, although it is not known where in Crook the game was played.  Hornby’s XI, including a number of first-class cricketers, won easily by an innings and 29 runs as the 22 could only put together 132 in two innings after Hornby’s XI had scored 161.  Thomas Hornby was a former Yorkshire left handed bat who between 1849 and 1861 had been a leading figure in bringing an All England XI to various parts of the country.  He had also played for the MCC at Lord’s.

Crook Town CC began in 1875, formed by a group of local men with Mr. T. Woodhall as Secretary.  The original ground was Catron’s Field, the site on which was later built the Alderman Cape Secondary School (now Crook Primary School).  The earliest photo dates from 1878.  The club played only friendlies until in 1888 Crook were one of 24 clubs invited into the new Durham County Challenge Cup, being given a home draw against Barnard Castle which was lost.    In 1891 the club moved to the Dawson Street ground which has been home ever since.  The field was owned by the club Treasurer, Mr. Arthur Lax, a prominent local businessman. A pavilion was built in 1892 at a cost of £43. 7s. 0d.   In 1893 Crook joined the Durham Junior League in which they played until 1900.  Crook reached the final of the Durham County Cup in 1895 losing to Consett at the Durham University Racecourse Ground.

In 1897 tragedy struck the club when one of the players, 20 year old Fred Coulthard, was killed falling off the coach returning from an away fixture at Stanhope.  In 1898 W.D. White scored 164, still the record first team individual score. 

During this period Crook also played in the Durham County Wednesday League and were champions in 1895, 1897, 1898 and 1899.

In 1901 Crook moved from the Durham Junior League into the Durham Senior League playing in it for two seasons before in 1903 becoming founder members of the Wear Valley League, becoming champions in 1906 and 1912.

Between 1915 and 1918 all league cricket was suspended during the First World War, resuming in 1919.  The Northern Echo and Sports Despatch Cup was won in 1920 and 1921.

In 1920 the Council commenced tipping of waste on the East side of the ground which enlarged the playing surface considerably.  Also in 1920 a wooden clubhouse was erected.

The Wear Valley League was re-named the Mid-Durham Senior League in 1923 and

in that year Crook scored 314 for 4 in only 29 overs in one game.   Also in 1923 the pavilion was destroyed by fire and rebuilt at a cost of £115.

1927 saw the first appearance in the Second team of 17 year old JMS ‘Murray’ Lax.  He was to be one of the outstanding and most influential figures in the club’s history both on and off the field.  The son of Arthur Lax,  he scored 10130 runs between 1927 and 1952 including five centuries and was the first player to score 1000 runs in a season, doing so twice in 1935 and 1936.  He represented both Durham County and Durham County Colts (equivalent of today’s Second XI), although he was never selected by Durham for a Minor Counties game.  He also took 255 wickets and served as Treasurer of the club between 1934 and 1967 apart from the war years when he saw active service in the RAF.  He was first team Captain from 1931 to 1934 and again in 1949 and remained an active supporter and life member of the club until his death in 1983.

Mid-Durham Senior League titles were won in 1928, 1929 and 1932 and further success in the Northern Echo and Sports Despatch Cup came in 1929, 1932 and 1933. In 1933 a new scorebox was built and seeking a higher standard of cricket the club applied for, and was accepted into, the North West Durham League in 1934.

The North West Durham League title was won at the first attempt in 1934 when the club record total of 329 for 5 was set on June 16th of that year in a match v Leadgate.  Harry Pratt top-scored with 103 in this innings.  The League was retained in the superb season of 1935 when Crook won the league undefeated and also won four cup competitions, the Horner Cup, George Mann Cup, Walton Bowl and the North West Durham League KO Cup.  Harry Pratt captained the side in which five players scored more than 500 runs.  Murray Lax (1006), Harold Askew (735), Harry Pratt (590), J. Moses (555) and JA Close (548).  JA ‘Arnie’ Close and TA ‘Tucker’ Taylor also took 165 and 155 wickets respectively in one of the most feared fast bowling combinations in the county.  Both players went on to play for Durham, Close as a Crook player before moving to Bishop Auckland and Taylor after going to Boldon as Professional. 

In 1936 Crook were founder members of the Durham County League, retaining the George Mann Cup and also winning the H. McMillan Cup.  The George Mann Cup was also won in 1937 and 1938, four years in a row.  The Durham County League sadly folded after only two seasons and Crook returned to the North West Durham League in 1938.

League cricket continued during the Second World War, unlike the First World War, but to keep costs to a minimum Crook returned to the Mid-Durham Senior League and only fielded one team between 1940 and 1945.  The only success during these dark years was winning the Tom Burn Cup at Chester-le-Street in 1940, defeating Murton in the final by 6 wickets.  Two Crook players, AK Smith and J. Robinson were killed in action during the war.

Cricket attempted to get back to normality in 1946 and Crook returned to the North West Durham League for two seasons before in 1948 joining the reformed Durham County League.  The Second team won a title for the first time in 1947, being champions of the North West Durham League Division B.  In 1949 the wooden clubhouse had a brick extension added onto it.

In 1949 the club engaged a Professional for the first time, this being the Hylton and Durham batsman and Middlesbrough professional footballer Harry Bell.  Bell scored 1266 runs in two seasons and was selected for Durham whilst at Crook.  A brilliant fielder he also took 33 wickets with his occasional bowling.  Subsequent professionals were Bobby Davison (1951 and 1952), Tom Hounsome (1953), Ronnie Smithson (1954 and 1955) and Norman Owen in 1959 after four years without a professional.  Both Davison and Smithson later played for the club as amateurs.  The Durham County League title was won in 1951and the Horner Cup in 1954.  In 1952 a front was built onto the scorebox which had automatic roller numbers and was able to show individual batsmen’s scores for the first time.  

The second team won the Durham County League Division B title in 1956, 1957 and 1958.

Long serving players who first appeared at this time were GW ‘Billy’ Hewitt whose playing career at the club was 1950-1986 and Roy Coates, who first appeared in the second team in 1951 and apart from four years at Peases West CC 1960-1963 played until 1982, the last 13 years as first team captain, scoring almost 8000 runs with three centuries and taking more than 300 wickets.  Roy also served the club as Chairman, Treasurer and Groundsman and was Secretary of the Durham County League for 20 years from 1989-2009 before his sad death in March 2010.  Roy’s brother Arnold, an England Amateur International footballer, played for the club from 1954-1982 following their father Sid who had played from 1934-1954.  

Left-arm bowler Doug Hopper took 906 wickets between 1950 and 1964 including 111 in 1958 at an average of 9.49.  WH ‘Harry’ Godsland, a hard hitting batsman, scored over 5000 runs for the club between 1958 and 1968.  George Williams, a fine opening bat, came from Peases West CC in 1958 and scored over 6000 runs over 12 seasons, returning to Peases West for one year in 1961, before his retirement in 1971.  Outstanding fast bowler Jack Ayre came to the club in 1959 from Stanley CC and he took more than 1000 wickets for Crook playing in the majority of seasons until 1977.  In 1960 he took 138 wickets at an average of 8.70.  Fellow fast bowler Brian Walker also took 308 wickets in three seasons, 1962-1964 before moving to Ushaw Moor CC.  He took 151 wickets in 1964 at an average of only 6.13.  Ian Hodkinson played between 1962 and 1982, his best season being in 1972 when he scored 700 runs.

In 1964 Stan Crosby became the only Crook first team bowler to take all 10 wickets in an innings when he recorded figures of 10 for 14 against Dean and Chapter.

In the 1960’s further success came with winning the Horner Cup in 1960, Durham County League KO Cup in 1962, the Durham County League championship and John Saunders Cup in 1963 and the league title again and the Tom Burn Cup in 1964 with the second team winning the Division B title in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966 and the Division B KO Cup in 1962.  In 1962 Ken Harrison became Secretary, holding the position for the next 35 years.  During the 1960’s a licensed bar was opened in the clubhouse, still operating out of the half wooden and half brick building.

In 1967 Crook returned to the North West Durham League staying until 1973 but the only success came with two League Cup wins in 1972 and 1973 and winning the Henry Foster Shield in 1970 and the Tom Johnson Cup in 1972.  Fast bowler Ken Stephenson joined the club in 1967 from Dean and Chapter CC and between 1967 and 1975 took over 600 wickets, his best season being 1973 when he took 125 wickets.  He left to join Coundon CC as professional in 1976.  The second team were more successful winning the North West Durham League Division B title in 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970 making it eight league titles in a row.  The stalwarts of the second team during these years included Harry Longstaff, John Haygarth, Dick Peacock, Ronnie Tinkler, Ray Richardson, Jimmy Thexton, Barry Richardson, Doug Burnham, Kenny Winter and Neville Hind amongst others.  The H. Samuel Cup was also won by the second team in 1971, the first outside cup ever won at this level.  

In a move to safeguard the future of the club a junior section was formed in 1971, operating a team at Under 18 level.  This side joined the Coxhoe and District Junior League for two seasons before joining the North West Durham Junior League in 1973, winning the league under the captaincy of Adrian Dunn.  

In 1974 the club returned to the Durham County League and won the title in their first season back.  The Under 18s won the junior section in this year as well, captained by Steven Hewitt.

Apart from a League Cup success in 1976 the rest of the decade was uneventful although the second team won the Division B title in 1976, the H. Samuel Cup in 1977 and 1978 and the Division B KO Cup in 1978.  The Under 18s won the Bob Hay Cup in 1976, captained by David Hutchinson.

In 1974 Adrian Dunn took six wickets in six balls, all clean bowled in a second team game at Dean and Chapter.

In 1977 the Bishop Auckland and Durham batsman Keith Hopper became the club’s first Professional for 18 years, serving as such for three seasons 1977-1979 and remaining as an amateur in 1980.

1979 saw the clubhouse renovated and extended and in 1984 the old pavilion was closed and new changing rooms were added above the clubhouse in a now totally brick building and in 1985 the club made the important step of buying the ground.  It had been offered to the club by Murray Lax in the 1960’s but the club were not in a position to purchase then so it was sold to the local authority with provisions that the club had to be allowed to purchase it if ever in a position to do so.  A new scorebox was also built in 1984 on the site of the old one.

The 1980’s saw the most successful period ever in the clubs’ history coinciding with the appointment of overseas professionals and also the proliferation of cup competitions, which in a very short period of time increased from five to sixteen.  The first overseas professional was Indian all-rounder Suru Nayak in 1980 and 1981.  In 1980 Nayak became the first player ever at Crook to score 1000 runs and take 100 wickets in the same season.  (1431 runs and 127 wickets).  He was due to return in 1982 but was selected in the Indian touring party to come to England where he appeared in two test matches.  His replacement was Pakistani fast bowler Jamshed Hussain.  

Then in 1983 came Andrew Lyght.  The stocky right handed bat from Guyana served Crook for six unforgettable seasons, taking records to new levels.  He scored 12036 runs at an average of 50.78 including 14 centuries and scoring over 2000 runs in a season five times.  He also took 467 wickets at 14.17 with his right arm fast medium bowling.  Sadly Andrew was stricken with cancer in 1988 and although he initially recovered he sadly died in 2001 at the age of 44.  In any other era apart from his own when he was up against Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, Andrew, a West Indies B International, would have played test cricket for the West Indies.

The league title was won in 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983 and the League Cup in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1984.  The Triple League Shield was won in 1980, 1984 and 1985 and the North East Region of the William Younger National Club KO Cup in 1985 when the club reached the last eight in the country, losing at home to the Lancashire club Leyland.  

Under the captaincy of Gary Purcell from 1986-1991 the club hit new heights, winning the league title in 1986, 1987 and 1991, Tom Burn Cup in 1987 and 1991, Captain Ramsden Memorial Shield in 1986, 1987 and 1990, Matthew Oswald Cup in 1989 and 1990, John Saunders Cup in 1989, JW Wood Cup in 1986 and 1987, Alf Smith Memorial Trophy in 1987 and the Durham Section of the Smith Print Cup in 1990.  

Andrew Lyght’s best year was 1987 when he scored 2507 runs and took 141 wickets as the side mirrored the 1935 team winning the league and four cups.  Two further finals were lost and another four semi-finals were reached.  Other players at this time included Gordon Pratt, Billy Whithorn, Colin Robson, John Gregory, Colin Walls, Lloyd Conaway and Alan Reeve.  West Indian fast bowler Ricky Toussaint replaced Lyght as Professional from 1989-1991 as the success continued.  1988 saw teenage all-rounder Calvin Stephenson, a hard hitting bat and hostile fast bowler come to the club from Etherley CC and he was to become the club’s most successful all-rounder ever.  A genuine match winner and big occasion player, Calvin scored 9143 runs and took 1134 wickets from 1988-1993 and 1996-2001.  He returned to Etherley in 1994 and 1995 and left Crook to become Professional at Murton CC from 2001-2008 and then Professional at Castle Eden CC in 2009 and 2010 before moving to Willington CC. He was Professional at Crook in 1997.

Another record holder who came to Crook in 1988 was Ian Williams.  Ian, the nephew of George Williams, had played Junior and second team cricket at Crook but had left for spells at Bishop Auckland and Willington.  He returned to become the highest first team run scorer ever, scoring 12855 runs between 1988 and 2002.  An aggressive opening bat, he hit seven centuries and scored 1000 runs in five consecutive seasons from 1989-1993 and in 1990 was only four runs short of 2000.

The second team also had success in the 1980’s thanks to some excellent players including Michael Wright, David Greener, Ralph Ord, David Hutchinson, Steven Thexton, Graham and Michael Tinkler, Brian Hewitt and Donald Brown, all of whom were capable of stepping up to the first team and performing well.  The Division B title was won in 1980, 1984, 1986 and 1989, the Division B KO Cup in 1982, 1984, 1985 and 1986 and also the Sid Lumley Cup in 1980, 1982 and 1990 and the George Coates Cup in 1989.  In 1980 Eli Ord, a former long serving first team player who had retired in 1979, came out of retirement to help out the second team and took all 10 wickets in one game, returning figures of 10 for 60. In 1987 David Hutchinson scored five second team centuries, a club record.  The 1989 side won the league unbeaten captained by Michael Wright and included a teenage Steven Chapman, the future Durham first class player and much travelled club professional and coach, who returned to play at Crook in 2010 after playing professionally in both England and Australia for many years, and took over as Chairman of the club at the end of 2018.

During the 1980’s the junior section expanded to include sides at Under 13 and Under 15 level as well as Under 18s and continued to produce players, with the Under 18s winning the John Dee Cup in both 1980 and 1981 and the Under 15s winning the Gavin Pattison Trophy in 1987 and the Under 13s winning the Bob Pendlebury Cup in the same year.

Further overseas professionals have been Indian all-rounder Santosh Jedhe (1992-1996), Pakistani One Day International all-rounder Shahid Anwar (1998-2001) and Australian all-rounder Joe Barnes (2002).

The League title was won again in 1992 and the League Cup in 1992, 1993, 1994 and 2002.  Other honours were Matthew Oswald Cup 1992, Alf Smith Memorial Trophy 1992, Banks Group Trophy 1993, Queen Elizabeth Cup 1994, Clavering Cup 1995, National Club KO Cup Regional winners 1996, Horner Cup 1998, MDK Roofing Trophy 2000, Triple League Shield 2001.  

The second team won the RS Pratt Cup in 1992, 1997 and 2000 and Sid Lumley Cup in 1997 as well as the Division B title in 2000 unbeaten under the captaincy of Neil Davies and the Division B KO Cup in 2001.  In 1998 Philip Walker scored 197 in a second team game at Ushaw Moor, the highest ever individual score for the club.  The Under 18s were League Champions in 1992.

Other professionals the club have employed have been Stephen Ball, who played at Crook in 1991-1992 and was professional 2004-2005, Pakistani batsman Hammad Tariq (2006), Australian batsman Mick Higgins (2007), Pakistani all-rounder Arsalan Mir (2008-2009) and Australian all-rounders Stuart Plunkett (2010), Aaron Morrison (2011), Clive Rose (2012), David Embleton (2013-2015),  Tearan Gleeson (2016) and Liam Stevens (2017).  David Embleton continued to play for the club as an amateur following his marriage to a local girl and his settling here full-time.

A lean spell was endured by the club in the early 21st Century until the appointment of long serving all-rounder Andy Burgess, a Crook player since 1994, as captain in 2007.  After six years without a trophy 2008 saw the Carlsberg Cup and the Ray Clish Trophy won and the Clavering Cup in 2009. The Carlsberg Cup was won for a second time in 2010, the John Saunders Cup in 2011 and the Peter Metcalfe Memorial Trophy in 2013.

Apart from the first and second teams, the club now runs sides at Under 18, Under 15, Under 13 and Under 11 age groups, the Under 11’s having been added in 2008, the year in which Crook was given ‘Clubmark’ status by the England and Wales Cricket Board.  2010 saw both Bret Upton and Danny Thexton score first team half centuries at the age of 15, the youngest players ever, whilst Lewis Formosa, the 14 year old Grandson of Roy Coates, scored 78 for the 2nd team v Tudhoe, emulating Bret Upton in 2009 and Neil Pratt in 1986 by scoring a senior half century in the second team at 14.  This was surpassed by Josh Holmes in 2013 who scored 61 not out against Mainsforth for the second team at the age of 13.  Also in 2013 14 year old Liam Burgess twice took six wickets in an innings in the first team bowling left arm spin.

Greg Upton in 2009 became the club’s youngest senior century maker scoring a century at Willington in a second team game aged 16.

An electronic scorebox was installed in 2007 and in 2010 the club made a big stride towards future development with the installation of three static practice nets at the ground.

In 2010 the Under 15s won the Bob Pendlebury Cup, the first trophy at this age group since winning the Barry Hicks Memorial Trophy in 2001 and the Under 18s were Under 18 League champions in 2011.  

In 2011 the former Durham first-class wicketkeeper-batsman Andrew Pratt, who had retired from the  first-class game in 2005 to concentrate on his business, decided to come back and play for his home town club. SInce then he has become an integral figure in the club coaching the Junior sections and serving on the Committee. He took over as first team Captain in 2015.

The Under 15s again won the Bob Pendlebury Cup in 2013.

The club entered a new era in 2013 with the formation of a new league, the Durham Cricket League.  This was formed with an amalgamation of the remaining clubs in the Durham Senior League, Durham County League and Durham Coast League which all folded following the formation of a 2nd tier of the North East Premier League.  All the Junior sections came under a new umbrella as well becoming members of the Durham Cricket Board Junior League, South West Division.

In the first season in the Durham Cricket League the club finished 12th and thus qualified to play in the League’s First Division in 2014.  However the season had a dramatic end with Crook needing to win the final game of the season at Ryhope to ensure a top 14 finish.  Needing 20 to win off the last over this was brought down to needing 9 from one ball when fate and an overstepping bowler intervened.  Skipper Andy Burgess hit a no-ball for 6 and the winning runs were obtained from the extra ball.

The Junior section enjoyed an outstanding season in 2014 with the Under-11s and Under-15s both becoming League Champions for the first time and the Under-13s and Under-18s both finishing as runners-up. 

The Under-13s won the RS Pratt Cup in 2015.  2015 also saw the club have an Under-19s side for the first time, playing in the NatWest Under-19 T20 competition.

2016 was an extremely disappointing season for the club with a 2nd bottom finish in the Durham Cricket League Division 1 meant relegation to Division 2 for 2017.  On a much brighter note the Under-13s were Champions of their League for the first time in 2016.

However the club returned to Division 1 as Division 2 Champions at the first attempt in 2017.

In 2017 the club had the honour of four players being selected together for the Durham County Under 14's side ,  Daniel Pratt , Will Barnham, Jamie Wills and Thomas Hodgson.  We also had a girls team introduced and four girls , Eve Hodgson ,Molly Macleod,Toni Cummings and Katy Hutchinson were all selected in the Durham Cricket League Under 15's girls team.  An Under 9's team was introduced in 2018.

Major work to the clubhouse was undertaken in 2016-17 following an Inspired Facilities grant from Sport England.  A new upstairs lounge was built above the existing lounge with a viewing balcony and the kitchen was moved and modernised. The driving force behind this was David Nevins who was Chairman from 2013-2018 before becoming President of the club.

In 2018 the club appointed Dutch International Daniel Doram from Sint Maarten, a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean as Professional and he had a successful season scorIng 888 runs and taking 66 wickets with his left arm spin as Crook finished as Runners-up in their first season back in the first Division and qualified for promotion to the North East Premier League 1st Division for the 2019 season. The club also won the Roy Coates Cup in 2018.  The Under 15's did the double of league championship and Bob Pendlebury Cup in 2018. Girls teams were run at Under 13s and Under 15's in 2018.

The club has existed now for more than 140 years and has seen its share of ups and downs in that period but while there are willing workers and helpers and of course players the club will hopefully continue as an important part of the community for many years to come.

Only a certain few people have been mentioned in this brief history.  However there are many others whose contribution to Crook Town Cricket Club is no less and thank you to everyone who has played, worked and helped out at the club over more than 140 years.