Kirkmanshulme Cricket Club
The original pitch was clearly not appropriate for a side keen to develop, and so St. Mark''s moved to a more appropriate playing surface at the Kirkmanshulme Cricket Club ground. This was positioned on the southern side of Hyde Road on Redgate Lane, close to the St. Mark''s Church Hall, and the ground gave the side terrific opportunities. This was a five acre site and had a pavilion in one corner of the ground. Sure there were no facilities for spectators, however this really was a major improvement.
The ground was next to Tank Row where Edward Kitchen – a key player and committee member – was known to live in 1881. It is believed Kitchen encouraged the move.
At the cricket ground, the club are known to have played five games out of twelve matches that season, including the club's first home meeting with Newton Heath (present day Manchester United) on 4th March 1882. This attracted an attendance of around 5,000 – some 2,000 more than the away fixture the previous November - with these spectators positioned along the touchline, stood on the outer edges of the cricket pitch. It seems incredible that somewhere in the region of a sixth of Gorton's population at the time would have been able to attend a game which, at that point, was not regarded as a 'derby' or an important fixture whatsoever. However, it is clear that football was gaining popularity all the time and St. Mark''s, because of their roots and the work of Beastow, Goodbehere, and Anna Connell were a very worthy cause to support.
St. Mark''s overturned Newton Heath 2-1. Gorton had managed to take the lead as early as the eighth minute, and then had to hold off the Heathens who had been awarded a couple of consecutive corners. The second actually lead to Gorton's second goal. J. Collinge obtained possession in front of the Gorton goal then proceeded to run the full length of the pitch, before sending the ball flying between the Heathens' posts amid loud cheering. The score remained 2-0 until late in the game when, according to reports, the Heathens baffled the home 'keeper Kitchen by performing several good passes before the ball entered the goal. Exactly how baffled Kitchen was is unclear.
At the end of the season the Kirkmanshulme C.C. asked the footballers to find another ground as their playing surface had been badly damaged, or at least they felt that it was no longer the perfect pitch you would expect for a gentlemanly game of cricket. Maybe the damage had been caused by the large attendance at the Newton Heath game, West Gorton's last at the Cricket ground, or maybe it was simply because of the general wear and tear on the pitch, who knows. It is highly possible some cricket officials were concerned that the football club was becoming more popular than the long established cricket club.
Eventually the cricket club disappeared as the area became more industrial and the popularity of the neighbouring Belle Vue Pleasure Gardens increased. During the 1980s the site became derelict and today is still mainly in the same state, although the ring road, which ultimately leads to the City Of Manchester Stadium, cuts through the site as it makes its way from Longsight, across Redgate Lane, and on to Hyde Road.
All history and statistical material has been produced based on the research and writing of Manchester football historian Gary James (www.facebook.com/GaryJames4). It is maintained by Ric Turner & Gary James. All text remains the copyright of the original contributors.
Gary's book, Manchester - the City Years: Tracing the Story of Manchester City from the 1860s to the Modern Day, is available to order on Amazon.