In June of 1918 the manager of the Ashton’s Union Bank, George H. Cordingly an ex-Ashton player, came up with a idea of staging a cricket match between ‘Ashton Old Boys’ and the local ‘Police and Specials’. The aim of this proposed encounter was to raise funds for the Prisoners of War Fund. He proceeded to make arrangements with the Ashton Club, who fully backed his efforts and gave permission for the use of their ground for the game – which was planned for Saturday July 20th. By late June Mr Cordingly had organised a committee to help put his ideas into practice and he was soon encouraged by early donations which amounted to £130. A novel way of inviting the likely players to take part in the game was thought of, which no doubt surprised and amused the recipients, for it was printed in the style of an official ‘summons’ and was quite legal-looking in appearance. The wording went thus: “Members of our Town Council and others – We do hereby declare it to be our will and pleasure that on Saturday, the 20th July 1918 at 2 of ye clock p.m., prompt, the above-named well-tried, true, and trusty willow wielder, skilled in the art of retrieving and despatching to its destination the sphere needed in ye olde English playe and game of ‘Creequette,’ do present himself at Ye Arena, Reyner Lane, Sur La Mons, Assheton, to join with comrades of bye-gone days of glorious memory in engaging as ‘Ye Olde Boyes of many a feat’ in friendly combat with ‘Ye Blue Boyes of ye heavy feet’ to the intent that thereby the Prisoners of War Fund may be
replenished, and that there may be great rejoicing in the homeland and overseas” – Given at our Court at Bucking-em-up Palace, Rue-de-George, this 5th day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and eighteen, and in the first week without rain – George (Recks) H. Cordingly”.
On the morning of the game the sun shone brightly and a good sized crowd gathered early at Reyner Lane to enjoy the many side-shows before the main attraction got underway. A boxing competition drew large crowds as too did an auction sale which amongst its many lots included a goat. The goat which attracted a top bid of £16.12s had been donated by Councillor J. Broadhurst and helped swell the total raised by the auction to £59. 4s. 3d. Whether the goat took a dislike to its new owner is obviously unknown however, shortly after the bidding had ended the goat was seen ambling along on its own heading in the direction of the Gardeners Arms, Taunton Road. Prior to the teams taking to the field, the band from the local Hippodrome Theatre entertained the crowds - Indeed they actually had a busy afternoon for they also played appropriate tunes during the game to accompany incoming players. The police team was boosted by H. Pownall (Ashton CC), A.E. Lawton (Derbyshire excaptain) and Vernon Hope (ex-Cheshire County player). Alderman C.H. Waterhouse along with Oliver Isherwood acted as umpires and witnessed G.H. Cordingly win the toss and put his ‘Old Boys’ into to bat. The crowd gave a huge cheer as the police entered the field to the musical strains of ‘If you want to know the time ask a policeman’. Amongst the fun and good banter between players and spectators the ‘Old Boys’ provided some excellent cricket to declare on a total of 135.
Accompanied by the Hippodrome band’s rendition of ‘Boys of the Old Brigade’ the ‘Old Boys’ came out to field. The ‘Boys in Blue’ started badly with two players each dismissed for a duck and the team never really improved as the game continued. They were no match for the ‘Old Boys’ who soon took control and never let go running out easy winners. The whole affair proved to be light relief in a time of uncertainty and helped to raise a total of towards replenishing the Prisoners of War Fund. After the war had ended cricket eventually started to get back to normal and by 1919 almost all clubs were once again playing.
There can’t be many cricket clubs which have hired their local theatre for a full week to stage their own variety or revue show. However, this is just what Ashton did in 1921 to help raise funds for ground extension work at Reyner Lane. Club member Arthur Jones was the inspiration behind this bold venture. Having a theatrical background he was able to draw on his connections to recruit personnel to augment those from the club who featured in the show. After several gruelling rehearsals the revue titled ‘Some Show’ opened at the Theatre Royal, Ashton, on Monday 31st January 1921 and ran for six nights. The success of the show was a resounding one, so much so that over the next three years Mr Jones repeated the formula. The shows presented were ‘The Poets Dream’ in 1922, ‘Cheerio’ in 1923 and ‘Bubbling Over’ in 1924. All proved to be as successful as the first and as well as raising funds also maintained interest in the club during the closed season with the shows being presented in either January or February.
After their success on the local stage in the winter of 1921 the club was eagerly awaiting the summer and the start of the new season. Players recruited to represent Ashton in the newly named league (altered from ‘Lancashire and Cheshire Cricket Federation’ to ‘Lancashire and Cheshire Cricket League’) were A. Ferguson, J. Cooper, J. Beaumont, D. H. Coomber, C. Thornycroft, R. Wood, R. G. Owen, E. Hadfield, J. Humphries, H. Walls, P. Beswick, F. Harling, N. Wood, S. Ferguson, F. Nichols and J. Stansforth. As the season unfolded Ashton became one of the league’s leading lights and eventually despite a lean spell they recovered to finish runners-up. This runner-up position was to be repeated once again in 1923, but silverware was won when the side were the inaugural winners of the ‘Rhodes Cup’. This competition also known as the Stalybridge and District Knock Out Cup was to grow in stature over the on coming years, but in this its first season, it was contended by just four clubs. Challenging for the trophy donated by Colonel John Phillips Rhodes (MP for Stalybridge and Hyde 1922-1923), were Ashton, Stalybridge, Dukinfield and Flowery Fields. Ashton having beaten Dukinfield at Reyner Lane faced Flowery Fields in the final at Dukinfield’s Higher King Street ground on Wednesday 15h and Thursday 16th August 1923. The attendance on the Thursday evening topped 2,000 which delighted both clubs as gate money was divided between them. In a close fought encounter Ashton came out on top to take the trophy. In 1924 they retained the ‘Rhodes Cup’ and for the first time became champions of the Lancashire & Cheshire League. Of the twenty-two league games played Ashton won thirteen, drew eight and lost just one, a home game to Glossop on August 9th. Including cup matches the club reached a total of 2,379 runs with a loss of 124 wickets giving them an average of 19.18 per wicket. Their opponents ran up 1,639 runs for a loss of 203 wickets. Outstanding performances came from H. Pownall with 524 from nineteen innings, W. Holt 341 runs from eighteen innings and 237 runs from club professional Joe Chappell from fourteen innings.
The club kept in their possession the ‘Rhodes Cup’ by defeating local rivals Dukinfield. Played in front of a staggering 10,000 crowd at Reyner Lane, the final was a thrilling yet low scoring encounter, which at one stage seemed to heading Dukinfield’s way. However, urged on by the massive support Ashton recovered to win the trophy by 15 runs. A notable achievement was made by Joe Chappell during the game, when he bowled Dukinfield’s Taylor for his hundredth wicket. Ashton’s victorious XI were H. Pownall (captain), A.L. Taylor, W. Holt, D.H. Coomber, H. Mottram, A. Ferguson, H. Hilton, W.G. Taylor, R. Hadfield, J. Humphries and J. Chappell.
The Cheshire club acquired some revenge in the 1925 season when they pipped Ashton for the league championship – Ashton finishing second for the third time in the past five seasons. The 1925 season defence of the ‘Rhodes Cup’ saw Ashton involved in some controversy. The club had been drawn to play Gorton, at Gorton in their first round of the competition and at the end of the two nights play Ashton had reached a total of 189. Gorton took to the field and by 9.30pm the time the game was due to end they were eighty run behind Ashton’s tally with two wickets remaining. In order to avoid another night’s play the Hollinwood umpire spoke with both captains before deciding play should continue to its end. The match finally concluded around 9.40pm with Ashton the winners by 68 runs. A short time after the game the Gorton Club lodged a protest with the Cup Committee, insisting that play should have ended at the proper time of 9.30pm. Their complaint was upheld by the committee and by a majority vote it was decided that the whole match should be replayed. Representatives of the Ashton Club felt that in view of the fact they had already played the whole two evenings allotted time this decision was unfair. They also felt that the umpire’s decision to let play continue should be final. Nonetheless Ashton were agreeable to continuing with the game, on another evening carrying on from where the scores stood at 9.30pm – but this was not acceptable to the Cup Committee. Discussing the matter further at a special club meeting the Ashton committee decided that they could not comply with the ruling and wrote to the cup committee tending their immediate resignation from competition.
Championship success was achieved again in 1926 and 1927 with both seasons’ titles not being decided until the very last games. With three weeks of the 1926 season remaining six teams were still in with a chance of lifting the title with Ashton leading the pack. However, a number of surprise results left it a two horse race between local clubs Ashton and Dukinfield. On the last day of the season Ashton were just one point ahead with all to play for. Ashton had to travel to Prestwich while Dukinfield were at home to Stand. Dukinfield would retain the title a second successive season if they won their match and Ashton lost. A large crowd followed Ashton who batted first against Prestwich making a bad start as four wickets fell for just 16 runs. H. Pownall (14) and D. H. Coomber (19) steadied the ship bringing about a recovery. However, when the whole side were dismissed for only 73 the crucial victory was looking far from certain. Prestwich, however, never seemed likely to get runs, Chappell and Humphries unchanged dismissed them for a mere 20 runs - Chappell taking 7 for 5 his best performance of the season. As the last wicket fell the Ashton supporters went wild and more so when they Dukinfield last to Stand making Ashton Champions.
This success was repeated again in the 1927 season which involved another close finish this time with Gorton as the contenders. Both sides had ended their campaign jointly in top spot and a deciding game was to take place between them both on neutral ground at Swinton. Bad weather however, resulted in this game being abandoned and the championship trophy was awarded jointly to both clubs with each holding it for six months. Ashton however, were not happy about this as they felt a deciding match should have been rearranged no matter if the season had officially ended. They would rather have had a play off game even if they had lost, than share the trophy. Ashton believed that the league committee should have made it possible for there to be an outright winner. This, along with the Rhodes Cup fiasco of two years earlier, had caused great debate in the Ashton camp. Ultimately, after many meetings the Ashton club made a decision that for the forthcoming season they would make efforts to join a different league. As Moorside were leaving the Central Lancashire League, due to financial troubles, an application was made by Ashton to see if they could replace them. This move was acknowledged by members and supporters as being in the best interest of the club for they too had been unhappy – even though the team was in good form. Knowing how strong a league the Central Lancashire League was Ashton, if elected, would have to strengthen their side. Moves in this direction were being made even before the decision was announced on Tuesday 18th October that Ashton had been elected to the League.
1918 - Prisoner of War Fund
Ashton Cricket Club Old Boys v Borough Police and Specials
Winners Lt. Col. Rhodes Cup 1924
From left (standing) Henry Hilton; Arthur Taylor; Herbert Mottram; WG (Billy Taylor) E Hadfield
Seated: A Ferguson; Douglas Cammber; Joe Chappell (Pro); Henry Pownall (Capt); Jack Humphreys; Billy Holt