Roll Out The Barrell: Discovering the Huyton Cricket Club

Anyone who has been following our Twitter (@knowsleyarchive) posts over the past few months may have been bowled over by a sudden surge of cricket related tweets and images popping up on our timeline. As you may have spotted, the reason for them is because, thanks to our Heritage Lottery funding, I have been cataloguing and digitising the wonderful records of the Huyton Cricket and Bowling Club. Despite having always been stumped by cricket and my Dad failing to hand over his love of the game to me, this is a collection that’s really hit me for six (okay, okay, I promise that will be the last cricket pun).

HCC-1-4-7 team photo

Huyton Cricket Club First XI, c. 1886

Huyton Cricket and Bowling Club was formed at a meeting on 7 May 1860, with their first match taking place just a few weeks later against Bootle Cricket Club and they would go on to become a successful club in the Liverpool and District Cricket Competition (as it would become known). Nicknamed ‘the Villagers’, they were moderately successful at different points in their history, with the early 1920s an especially triumphant period. The club was established as a ‘gentlemen’s’ club and during the majority of its history the membership would have been regarded as of a higher social status than some of the other Huyton cricket clubs, such as the Huyton and Roby Working Men’s Cricket and Bowling Club or Huyton Recs.

The records in the collection include committee minutes, some very colourfully decorated scrapbooks (see slideshow below), photographs from across the history of the club, fixture books, and correspondence. The minutes, particularly from the first eighty or so years of the club, are filled with tantalising glimpses of some of the intriguing characters involved in the club, on and off the field. They also offer fascinating insights into how the club reacted to major events, both close to and far away from Huyton, including the First and Second World Wars. It is during the First World War that we have the first mention of a man who would become a central part of the cricket club’s most successful playing period and remain with the club, in various roles, until his retirement: Ben Barrell.

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Barrell was signed up as a cricket professional at some point close to the outbreak of the First World War and he is referenced in the committee minutes of June 10th, 1915:

“the secretary mentioned that he had received complaints about the club employing two men of military age. The recruiting sergeant had visited the two men in question and urged them to join. It was decided that Mr. H. Eccles [the Chair] should quietly tell the men it was their duty to join, but that no pressure would be put upon them.”

Barrell was one of those two men and he did indeed soon leave to fight in the war. Both men survived the war and Barrell would return to Huyton Cricket Club. It is easy to see from the club’s committee minutes and crammed scrapbooks of newspaper cuttings that Barrell was a very talented player and an essential part of the club’s greatest successes. He was often the only professional player at the club and was an asset they were proud of. It is rare to find a page in the scrapbooks of the 1920s and 1930s that doesn’t feature a headline or article proclaiming this all-rounder’s name, typically in the matter-of-fact and understated tones of sports journalism in this period: “Barrell Bowls and Bats Well” or “Barrell in Bright Batting Display.”

In photographs, Barrell has remarkable, intense eyes that could suggest he was an intimidating opponent and teammate, but the picture of him created by the records in our collection instead show him to be a popular and well-liked presence both on and off the pitch. According to P.N. Walker’s book The Liverpool Competition, Barrell was made “a life member of the Club, became 1st XI umpire and played bowls there until his death at the age of 80” and was also groundsman and a coach. Alongside these duties and being the club’s professional (and best?) player, Barrell’s other responsibilities included preparing and cleaning the team’s kits and packing their bags before matches.1

HCC-1-4-9 p115 a Barrell crop

Ben Barrell, 1926

Ben Barrell, and other professionals who were signed up by Huyton, may have had relatively humble beginnings, but most of the amateurs who played for the team (at least during its first 100 years or so) were solidly middle or upper-middle class. In many of the photographs we have from the club’s early days and most successful periods, players appear relaxed and confident, with an air of leisurely comfort; a cigarette may be hanging casually between the fingers of one or two, or they lounge at the side of a road on the way to a match, a beautiful motor car in the background. A selection of these photographs are in the slideshow below.

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When trying to get an idea of Huyton Cricket and Bowling Club at different points in its history, the many scrapbooks in this collection are excellent resources. Alongside the match reports, articles, fixture books, and photographs, there are a number of delightful newspaper caricatures of Huyton’s cricket players: a frequent feature of sports columns in local papers at the time. As well as being amusing to look at, they also offer an insight into which of the players were catching the eyes of the local sports reporters and, presumably, the spectators. Some of the cartoons make use of curious illustrations that may be references that would have made more sense to the readers of that period, or could be references to cricketing terminology that goes over my head! The donkey and teddy bear in the Bootle v Huyton cartoon in the slideshow below, for example, could be references to the players’ performances or something else entirely! And what of the white mice in the Wallasey v Huyton cartoon?

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The Huyton Cricket and Bowling Club collection is a wonderful and evocative set of documents. At some point during the next year or so, one of our Heritage Lottery funded community projects will be focused on Knowsley’s sporting heritage, so I am sure we will be making use of the collection and hopefully giving people the chance to see more of the treasures within it. To not make use of it when such an opportunity presents itself would be…well, it just wouldn’t be cricket, would it?

1Walker, P.N. 1988. The Liverpool Competition: A Study of the Development of Cricket on Merseyside. Birkenhead: Countyvise Limited, p. 77

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Mr. Clark’s Wonderful Album

If I tell people that we have Victorian family photographs in the ARK, many imagine they know what to expect: stiff collars, stiff backs, stiff upper-lips and stiff poses. Whilst there are indeed photographs in our archives that show Victorians staring firmly at the camera or looking as though they would rather be anywhere but in front of a camera; we are also lucky enough to have some wonderful 19th and early 20th century photos that gleefully disregard their period’s reputation for dour frowns and rigid stances. One such collection is Mr. J.R.J. Clark’s photograph album, containing pictures taken between 1899 and 1900, which has recently been catalogued and digitised thanks to our Heritage Lottery funding. To highlight the work done during the digitisation process of the album, a small exhibition of images from the album has been put together in Kirkby Library.

Mr. Clark’s group portraits are almost always of people laughing and enjoying themselves

Mr. Clark and his young family lived in Huyton during this period and were clearly a wealthy family. Mr. Clark’s father had been the proprietor of the Lancashire Gazette newspaper and his son, it seems, had trained and worked in law before retiring from the profession at a relatively young age. As our photograph album demonstrates, Mr. Clark used much of his free time to take holidays, enjoy sporting and leisure activities, and pursue an interest in photography. It should be noted that at least some of the pictures are likely to have been taken by other photographers, particularly as Mr. Clark features in some of the images.

CLAR-1-1 p38 a

This photograph shows three children with two adults who we assume to be household servants. Mr. Clark’s album unfortunately provides no information as to who they were or what their household roles were.

Mr. Clark’s photographs are all exterior shots (where the light, of course, was better) and so all of the images of his Huyton home are outside and usually in the garden. Judging by the fruit and vegetables growing in pots – not to mention the types of clothing people are wearing – these garden photos were taken on warm spring or summer days. As well as family members and friends, household servants weren’t safe from Mr. Clark’s roving camera. Amongst the photographs in the album, there are shots of servants on their own and some where they are shown alongside family members, especially the children. The handwritten captions within the album are unfortunately very erratic, with very few details provided beyond the odd date and location, so we cannot easily identify all of the individuals in the pictures, including the servants and their specific roles.

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Holidays, both overseas and in the UK, were clearly something of a regular occurrence for the Clark family. The majority of the photographs have been taken whilst on holiday although, as mentioned above, it isn’t always easy to identify locations because most of the pictures don’t have captions. Confirmed locations for holidays include: the Isle of Man; South Devon (Dartmouth, Dawlish, Teignmouth and Exeter were all photographed); York; Fountains Abbey, Ripon; and Paris. Holiday photography provided Mr. Clark (and any other unidentified photographers) with the opportunity to try their hand at landscape images and many of these are very interesting as compositions in their own right and for the wealth of historical information they convey. Despite this, however, the camera’s gaze is still normally focussed on the family and friends’ enjoyment of their time together and the varied activities they involved themselves in.

CLAR-1-1 p20 d

This photograph was probably taken somewhere in South Devon, c. 1899

An enthusiasm for sport and other leisure activities, including hunting, is evident from Mr. Clark’s photographs. There are pictures that have been taken of friends and family taking part in sports and images of sporting events, such as show jumping and cricket matches at Aigburth Cricket Club, Liverpool (including a match between Liverpool and District and an Australian team). In other pictures, people pose with golf clubs or croquet mallets, and there is a whole series of photos of people with their hunting guns.

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CLAR-1-1 p26 a

Children in Paris, c. 1899-1900

One of the other notable things about many of the photographs is their spontaneity and creativity. The photographer[s] tried to capture events and moments as they saw them, often resulting in some dynamic and impressive images, such as the photo (right) of children running along a street in Paris. Experimentation is also evident in some of the photographs. In particular, there is a photograph (below) that is a double-exposed image of Norwegian naval cadets in Dartmouth combined with a picture of a lifeboat in Teignmouth.

CLAR-1-1 p12 b

Double-exposed image, Dartmouth and Teignmouth, Devon, October 1899

The people in almost all the images in Mr. Clark’s photograph album always seem to be enjoying themselves, often laughing at some unknown joke or antic. Perhaps Mr. Clark, or whoever else was taking the picture, has said something to make everyone laugh or pulled a funny face. Whilst we will never know, I believe that seeing faces from the past showing their enjoyment of their environments and each others company is somehow more powerful and resonant than a formal photograph taken in a studio. It reminds us that whilst our surroundings, haircuts and clothes may have changed, when we’re snapping pictures of family, friends and holidays on our smart phones and digital cameras, we’re not really all that different from the people taking photographs over 100 years ago.

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The exhibition of images from Mr. Clark’s photograph album is currently on display at Kirkby Library during its normal opening hours.

From the front line…

There are many ways in which volunteers can get involved in activity in the ARK , whether it be through our HLF supported community projects or in a more behind-the-scenes role. Today, our longest-serving volunteer, Mark, gives us an insight into the invaluable work that he does in indexing volumes from the news cuttings collection. So, in his words…

Greetings and salutations! It’s your friendly neighbourhood Mark again with another post from the front lines. Today I’m going to tell you about what I do in greater detail.

It starts with a considerable book filled with newspaper clippings from years beMarkARKfore many of your parents were even born. I’m currently working on articles from 1951. I give each article a thorough examination, reading it
and re-reading it. Once that is done, I set about summarising it. It’s harder than it sounds. Trust me.

You wouldn’t believe the articles I’ve come across in my journey through 70 years of Knowsley history. There’s one I found from all the way back in 1949, detailing local rebuilding going on after the war. I’ve seen the early days of Knowsley Council, the rise and fall of the planned pavilion; I’ve even seen the early career of a future Prime Minister. Which PM? How’s about Harold Wilson?

There’s one ‘article’ (well, as series of articles would be more astute) in particular that really sticks out in my mind; a series of articles called ‘Municipal matters’ written by a man called Chris Perry. They’re not 100% focused on a single item, rather covering local council activities. I’ve never seen such a sarcastic, witty reporter.

And that’s what I do, roughly. Oh, sure, there’s a lot more I could talk about, but I could go on for ages about the things I’ve found. that would be, as the saying goes, ‘another article’!

Postcards from the Past

Collections of correspondence can be a fascinating source of historical information and provide a wealth of cultural and social context. They can reveal forgotten friendships, romances and feuds; or offer the evidence needed to piece together a family’s history or business dealings. For me, this sense of a family’s world pulling into focus is made all the sharper when much of the correspondence is conducted via greetings cards and postcards.

park rd huyton image

Many of the postcards capture Huyton as our correspondent would have known it growing up, such as this one of Park Road.

Here in Knowsley Archives, we have a collection of personal documents, currently being digitised thanks to Heritage Lottery funding, that belonged to a woman brought up in Huyton. Born in 1914, just as the small community (as it was then) of Huyton and the wider world was about to be forcibly and irrevocably changed by the First World War, she grew up during the inter-war years and was able to travel extensively across Europe during the mid to late 1930s, making friends in the different nations she visited and then keeping in touch with postcards written in French, German and English. We also know from correspondence that she became actively involved with the Liverpool Women Police Patrols. In 1939, of course, her life was again dramatically affected by war. This time, her younger brother joined up and was killed in 1944. The surviving correspondence allows us to see the warm, gently teasing relationship the siblings had and the terrible devastation wrought by her brother’s death upon herself, her family and their friends in Huyton.

Clearly, the information detailed above survives because of the written word, but it is often given extra meaning and can offer further levels of understanding when the correspondence has been conducted using postcards and greeting cards. The writing itself can tell us about the correspondent’s state of mind; we may wonder why some would write so much, often resorting to filling every available space on the back of a postcard, and others would keep their note to a brief, sometimes terse couple of lines. During the Tommy sleeping in the ruins postcard 1917First World War, our young girl’s father (who was serving in the Royal Flying Corps) would send very brief postcards to his wife, often with the message “letter to follow,” but much more detailed postcards to his young daughter, telling her his reaction to news she (or her mother) had passed on and how much he looked forward to seeing her again soon. There is a marked difference in the types of images used to illustrate the cards he sends to his wife and his daughter. For his wife, he often selects postcards that portray the ravages of the war upon Europe: bomb-damaged streets and buildings torn apart. Occasionally these may have a hint of humour to them, such as the card shown above that captures a Tommy resting on a bed amongst the ruins.

The postcards and greeting cards the father would send to his daughter are often chosen
because he hopes she will find them pretty. Towards the end of the war, we can gather
that they were exchanging cards that made them smile; each trying to outdo the other with cuter or more farcical images. We are very lucky that cards written by both the father and the daughter have survived to be part of this collection, so we can wonder if the “comical” card her father expresses surprise at receiving is the one of the girl dressing in front of her dog below. When he sends the card showing the girl floating in the tub he suggests that his daughter is more mischievous than the girl in the illustration and would pull the fish’s tail.

dog and little girl postcard c 1918

The caption reads: “Donald, you should look the other way when a lady’s dressin’!”

'any subtureens mr fish' postcard 1919

The caption reads “Any Subtureens Mr. Fish?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following the First World War (which her father survived), our correspondent enters into correspondence with people from across Europe. In particular, we have a number of postcards sent to her by a German man. These are interesting documents as pieces of correspondence (made all the more intriguing by the fact that we have no postcards from him following the outbreak of war, so do not know what happened to their relationship), and also offer a visual representation of the pre-Second World War Germany. It is a shame that we are not able to see the postcards that she was sending to Germany – what image of Britain did they present, I wonder?

postcard Bernkastel 1939

Postcard from Bernkastel-Kues, Germany, 1939

postcard from Goppingen 1937

Postcard from Goppingen, Germany, 1937

Unfortunately, our collection of correspondence peters out after the Second World War. Other family documents are included in the collection, but there is a special power to these postcards and greeting cards that give us a tantalising glimpse into the life of one family during the first of the twentieth century. A card that may have been selected randomly or with great care can be so much more than a simple exchange of words; it can help to present a far more detailed picture of the world these people lived in and the way that they, and others, perceived it.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…

It’s that time of year again: the leaves on the trees have turned autumnal gold, red and brown and the clocks have turned back, giving us a delicious extra hour to spend, whether it be a golden hour of additional sleep or time to get involved in leisure activities. Here at The ARK, our thoughts have turned to Explore Your Archive and we are busy making plans for some exciting events and activities which will take place throughout November.

The Explore Your Archive campaign is led by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association. This national  campaign gears up in mid-November, with archives from different sectors across the UK and Ireland taking part to raise awareness of the value of archives to society and of the rich variety of content that is held, preserved and made available to users. The campaign aims to encourage people to take a closer look at their local archives and to discover the treasures that reveal the stories, facts, places and people that are at the heart of our communities.

The ARK events are all free to attend and kick off on Tuesday 10th November with our ever-popular Family History Help Desk drop-in sessions. Find us at Prescot Library, 10:00am – 1:00pm and later at Stockbridge Village Library between 2:00pm and 5:00pm. The ARK, Kirkby Library will be the venue for the session on Thursday 11th November, between 10:00am and 1:00pm and on Friday 13th November we’ll be offering genealogical help and advice at Halewood Library between 2:00pm and 5:00pm. The final Help Desk of the month will be at Huyton Library on Saturday 14th November between 10:00am and 1:00pm.

The ARK holds a number of fascinating oral history interviews made during the 1970s, featuring local politicians as well as ordinary people who recorded their recollections of times gone by. This year, supported by HLF, we have been able to develop the collection through the Talking Kirkby project undertaken by Kirkby U3A, when local residents shared their memories of Kirkby in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s with members of the U3A. On Monday 16th November, we’ll be showcasing the audio collections, old and new, in The ARK through Sounding Out the Past. Sessions will run from 10:00am – 12:00pm and 2:00pm – 4:00pm. There’ll even be an opportunity for you to record your own memories!

Tuesday 17th November is Explore Your Archive Day, with an afternoon of exploration and information about how the archive ticks. From 1:00pm – 2:00pm and then from 3:00pm – 4:00pm, the cry is Your Archive Needs You! You will have the opportunity to find out how you can get involved in our HLF projects as a volunteer. Nestled in between these sessions, there will be a short presentation and Tour of The ARK – giving you a behind the scenes glimpse of how the archive works and a rare opportunity to view close up some of our most precious treasures.

Explore Your Archive has given us a wonderful opportunity to work with the Prescot Townscape Heritage Initiative and MATE Productions to engage local primary school children in an exciting initiative which will bring the archive alive through drama and interactive learning. Pupils from Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School, Prescot will be joining us on Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th November for A Morning (or Afternoon!) in the Archive, when they will discover the rich history of their home town.

Friday 20th November brings the focus back to The ARK and a spot of refection with the TV Time Travellers.  Join us from 2:00pm – 3:30pm for a single showing of 3 of our most popular local history films: Kirkby: Portrait of a Town; Knowsley Today and Bridge Over the Bluebell. There’ll also be a chance to chat to our HLF Project Co-ordinators about volunteer opportunities.

So: there’s lot’s happening this November, and all of our public events are free to attend – so go on: Explore Your Archive!

Just call us on 0151 443 4291 or email infoheritage@knowsley.gov.uk for more information or to book a place. We look forward to meeting you!

A seasonal image from the archive... A Kirkby farmer using a horse drawn plough to prepare for another year's crop [n.d. circa 1930]

A seasonal image from the archive… A Kirkby farmer using a horse drawn plough to prepare for another year’s crop
[n.d. circa 1930]

Welcome to our Blog!

The ARK store

Thanks for visiting our new blog. Here we plan to give you an insight into the work that goes on here at the ARK and a chance to find out more about the Heritage Lottery funded projects we do. We’ll also be writing about, and showing off, some of the amazing things in our collections.

Over the weeks and months to come, you’ll hear from different staff-members and volunteers about what they do, their favourite items from the archive, and things that have been happening at the ARK.

We hope you enjoy reading our blogs – let us know what you think!