History of Leycett Cricket Club
Leycett Cricket Club 1870 - Present
The name Levershede can be traced back to Roman times in English history, but over the years the spelling was corrupted to Leasitt, Leysitt and then the spelling we see today. On the edge of a medieval deer park which covered the Madeley area, the prefix ‘Ley’ meaning a clearing in the wood appears to have been reversed with that of many of its neighbours – Audley, Betley and Onneley etc and is the only village with the prefix as opposed to the suffix of ‘Ley’ in its title. The village however owes its early name and fame not to mention some notoriety to being a mining village.
The cricket club is situated on the edge of an old coal mining village in North Staffordshire, the first mine shaft being sunk in 1710 but by 1860 had grown considerably larger with three shafts. The village of Leycett was built for the miners families in 1869 with a church being added the following year, then sometime around 1871 as a way of taking their minds off the dangerous working conditions they endured, miners set up a cricket, football and later a bowls club. Unfortunately only the cricket club survives today. If you lived in the village you tended to work at the mine and play either football or cricket for the village or sometimes both. It was very much a tight knit community.
Colliers built a tramway initially to transport coal from the colliery down to the old wharf in Madeley Heath with an actual private railway line being built by Thomas Firmstone who leased the colliery at the time so it would link in with the Audley to Market Drayton line to help transport coal around the country. At the cricket field an extensive hole was dug where all the shale and ash was buried that was brought up out of the mine and this formed the bedrock of the cricket square.
Those early years for the club were a struggle playing non-league cricket until 1897, which is when we applied to be members of the Potteries & District League with one team initially, then two and then later the North Staffs Combination league with two teams in 1906. We had our first piece of silverware in 1899, winning the 1X1 league title but just to be sure it wasn’t a fluke we won the league again in 1901. Having then entered into Combination League we won league titles in 1911 and 1912.
The First World War though put a halt to all cricket in the area as well as the country so that when the war had finished we found ourselves back in the Combination League, but for just one season as we applied in 1921 and were successful in joining the main league in the area, the North Staffs & District League. We played in the league for three years until the miner’s strike led to a lot of people not playing cricket at the time, so we asked at the league meeting in October 1923 if we could just enter one team for the following season. This was refused and surprisingly our membership of the league was completely revoked for both teams. This meant the club were on the look-out for a new league to play in. Feb 1924 we applied and were successful in joining the Fenton League which our 1st X1 played in until 1927 winning league titles in 1925 and 1927. In this era we also won our first cup competition which was the Sentinel Shield in 1926, a competition played between all clubs in North Staffordshire and Cheshire.
The 1928 season saw our 1st X1 join the Tunstall and District League and our 2nd X1 with enough players now took the 1st X1 spot in the Fenton League. This brought instance success as the 1st X1 and 2nd X1’s both won their respective leagues for the next two years and in 1930 the Sentinel Shield was won again. This period of dominance continued with our 1st X1 winning titles in 1933, 1934 and 1935 and the Sentinel Shield again in 1931 and 1933. Our 2nd X1 in this time finished runners-up in 1930 and 1934 and won the Cope Knock-out Shield in 1933 and 1935.
In this period between the two World Wars we also won the Woore Knock-out on four occasions.
Sadly though in 1931, one of our brightest young stars wicket keeper batsman Albert Bytheway who has had relatives playing before and after him at club was hit with a cricket ball in a match and died a few months later. The 1930s began with death and finished with it as World War Two started meaning once again cricket was halted everywhere.
After the war men and boys were returning to their clubs keen to play cricket again, but the ground had been totally unattended for six years and with no money available to buy much needed equipment the task was pretty formidable.
Cricket started again in 1947 but this was only achieved by the leadership and organisation skills of Jack Hill.
Jack was an overman at the Colliery and was Leycett through and through first playing for the club in 1905 aged 12 and helping captain the side and run the club in the 1920s and 1930s. He arranged the clubs first sponsorship after World War Two to buy much needed equipment to get the club moving again. The post war side, now playing in the newly formed Stone and District League was an extremely useful one as the 1st X1 won the top division in 1950 and again in 1953, we won our first Bailey Shield cup competition in 1952 with the 2nd X1 also winning their respective league in 1951 and 1953 to make it a particularly good period.
By the end of the decade though the club started to suffer, the reason was pretty simple, the Colliery which had been the heartbeat of the village for all of its life had been struggling for the last couple of years and finally closed in 1957, the first one to shut in North Staffordshire, meaning that people left the village to seek other work.
We won our second Bailey Shield in 1957 but then at a poorly attended club meeting in 1958 many players stated their intention to play elsewhere leaving many thinking the club had played its last game. We continued through the 1958 and 1959 seasons before being relegated in the 1960 season as expected and the following season saw us nearly relegated again surviving on the last day.
What happened next though still puzzles some people to this day. The club had one team, no money, no income and no supporters but for the next ten years we dominated the Stone League winning the second division and promotion back to top league in 1962 and then went on to win the top Division in 1963, 1966, 1967 and 1969 also winning two more Bailey Shields in that time, but that wasn’t all. By the end of the Sixties we had a 2nd X1 set up, a junior team and we replaced our wooden Victorian building with a changing facility and club room.
The 1970s was a really exciting decade as we moved league’s again into the North Staffs and District League, the first time we had been in that league since the early 1920s and we stayed in the league for ten years finally winning a league title in our second to last season in 1979. We carried out a massive ground levelling operation in 1971. The ground which used to be shared with the football team, which had long since gone, had fallen away quite badly where the football pitch used to be, and we were fortunate in gaining tipping rights as Keele University built new Halls of Residence and we had thousands of tonnes of soil tipped on the low side of the ground. We added a bar to the Club room in 1973 and in 1975 purchased the ground from the Crewe Estate which enabled us to apply for grant aid, and at the end of the 1977 Season with planning permission in place, we began to build a brick pavilion which was eventually ready for use for the start of the 1980 season. The under 18 team also won back to back Cup titles in 1975 and 1976,
That 1981 season saw us enter the newly enlarged North Staffs and South Cheshire League which was the top league in the area and still is to this day, after a massive upheaval of cricket in North Staffordshire which saw us get swept up in the wholesale changes.
The 2nd X1 won a league title in 1982, but it was not until 1990 that the 1st X1 made their mark in the new league by winning promotion to what is now the Premier league and the same year being the first club outside of the old Division 1 to win the Talbot Cup. Unfortunately the 1st X1 were relegated after just one season finding that the standard was incredibly high. It would be another eighteen years before the 1st X1 got to those heights again.
In the late nineties early two thousands we went about setting up junior teams at under 9’s, 11s, 13s and 15s level which complimented the under 18 team. This would be so valuable as years went by as we could no longer call on the people living in the village to play for the club, because after the Colliery closed the houses in the main part of the village had all been demolished by 1967, leaving just Park Terrace, a couple of cottages and farms dotted here and there still standing.
By 2001 such were the amount of players we had at the club we decided to set up a 3rd X1 on a Sunday and later a second Sunday team was set up. The 3rd X1 won there league in 2010 and were runners-up in 2011 and 2014 to demonstrate how strong our Sunday team was. The 1st X1 won promotion in 2007 to the Premier League but as in 1990 this was short lived. The 2nd X1 having struggled to achieve mid table respectability through the nineties and 2000s suddenly came good in 2012 and won their Division.
Ahead of the start of the 2015 season, the club has four senior teams, seven junior teams, own our ground, a new scorebox, new bar, new netting areas and gained club mark accreditation which recognises us as an area of excellence particularly for junior cricketers. We are always looking to move forward and improve our facilities. We are currently building a substantial extension for a new equipment store, changing rooms and ancillary accommodation, including facilities for the disabled which will be ready for start of the 2016 season.
The end of the 2015 season saw the future of the club in good hands as our junior sides had excellent seasons, our U17s (formally U18s) won their league, the U13s won their league as did our U11s.
The full history of the club, its players and supporters will available in the form of a book by late 2016 early 2017.