Tyne and Wear HER(16930): Sunderland, Ashbrooke Sports Ground - Details
Sunderland, Ashbrooke Sports Ground
Opened on 30th May 1887 with a Whitsuntide Sports Meeting costing 6d.The Ashbrooke Sports Club, a Victorian members' club, covers nearly six acres. It has in the past been called 'the Lords of the North' and 'the home of sport in Sunderland'. Most multi-sports clubs came to specialise on two or three sports. Ashbrooke's objectives were 'the practice of cricket, football, gymnastic and athletic exercises, lawn tennis and quoits, the physical training and the development of the human frame' and 'the promotion of healthful exercises'. Six sports are still played at the club - cricket, rugby, bowls, tennis, squash and from 2010, football. In the 1830s Lord's catered for 7 or 8 sports and now only hosts 3 (cricket, real tennis and squash). The Ashbrooke Sports Club started with cricket (see HER 15701) when Sunderland Cricket Club moved here from Groves Field on Chester Road. The second oldest section at Ashbrooke is Sunderland RFC (see HER 15790). Ashbrooke's bowling green opened in 1889. On 18th May 1906 the current bowls pavilion was built, costing £267. The architect was Hugh Hedley (also designed the Londonderry Pub). The bowls pavilion was damaged during air raids in 1943 but still stands, barely altered. It has a wood panelled interior. It is the second oldest bowls clubhouse in Tyne and Wear. The entrance to the sports ground was on the corner of Ashbrooke Road and West Lawn. There were five tennis courts and a single storey cricket pavilion. This was replaced by a grander two storey cricket pavilion in 1899. The pavilion cost £600 and was designed by James Henderson of Sunderland. The clock was added in 1913. Two wings were added in the 1930 by Stanley Milburn and William and TR Milburn. The verandah has been glazed. The pavilion still survives and is the oldest sports-related structure in Sunderland. Athletics, cycling, baseball and boxing were only occasional sports. Bowls, hockey and squash were a permanent presence. Ashbrooke was a venue for occasional international matches and could attract over 20,000 spectators. In 1926 there was a two-day cricket match between Durham and Australia, which attracted 20,678 people. In 1951 the ground hosted a military tattoo. In 1955 a men's county tennis championship between Sunderland and Durham. From 1956 to 1961 Ashbrooke's tennis section staged indoor tournaments at Whitley Bay Ice Rink. In the 1970s and 80s during the squash boom, there were over 3000 members. In 2010 the number was around 700. In 2000 the club sold a piece of land on its west side for flats. But it has bought land on Ryhope Road for more rugby pitches. The ground is run by a limited company with charitable status. A squash court has been converted into a fitness centre and an office into a restaurant. The annual firework display attracts up to 7000 visitors. A hockey club and a running club (Sunderland Strollers) has a base in the pavilion, which also has a snooker room. In 2010 football has been played on the area formerly used for hockey.
Lynn Pearson, 2010, Played in Tyne and Wear - Charting the heritage of people at play, p 8, and chapter 6