The 3rd most populous city in England, Sheffield, is famous for two rival football teams, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday. Both teams are steeped in history and both play their home games just over 3 miles apart at Bramhall Lane and Hillsborough.
An interesting fact about the worlds oldest stadium, Bramhall Lane is that it once used to be a cricket ground.
Bramhall lane cricket ground history: 1855 onwards
In 1855 the Duke of Norfolk leased the ground to a local Micheal Ellison. The site was deemed suitable because it was built well away from the smoke and smog of industrial Sheffield, which isn’t ideal for a game of cricket.
Bramhall Lane played host to a number of cricket matches, satisfying the demand of locals and entertaining huge numbers of fans. Although officially, Yorkshire County Cricket wasn’t founded for another 8 years, a team was formed to represent the county, who played against Sussex. Yorkshire were heavily beaten by an innings and 117 runs.
In 1902 the ground also saw an international test match. Competing for the Ashes, England faced a strong Australian side, who dominated proceedings. They eventually won the contest by 143 runs. It was at this point, there was talk of smoke and smog hampering the match and the players struggling to see the ball properly. This was the only international to be played on the ground.
We all associate Yorkshire playing their county cricket at Headingley, a wonderful ground that has played host to some memorable matches. It is surprising however that Yorkshire played an incredible 391 matches at Bramhall lane, between 1863 and 1973.
Bramhall lane saw some true legends of the game. Players such as Len Hutton, John Tunnicliffe and John Brown senior all graced the ground with their cricketing expertise. Men such as these were the founding players of the county cricket championship that we know so well today and the ground played a huge part in shaping the modern-day game.
The stadium has an incredible history, serving both cricket and football is quite special, with only one other ground in England, the Oval, featuring the Ashes and Fa Cup final.
Bramhall Lane has been instrumental in carrying sport forward. It was the first ground to have floodlights for a football match and has hosted many other sports including boxing, rugby, basketball, baseball and cycling.
Money talks and Football took over at Bramhall Lane
County cricket was regularly played at Bramhall Lane and continued to do so until the 1970s. It became apparent, to the then owners, that football was much more profitable than cricket. If Sheffield United were to compete in top-flight football, it needed a stadium to match its ambitions.
The last cricket ball was bowled against Yorkshires arch-enemy Lancashire with the match ending in a draw. Further stands were added to Bramhall Lane and with Yorkshires permanent residency now at Headingley, football completely took over at the famous ground.
Since Bramhall Lane made Sheffield United its permanent and sole occupier, the ground has seen more transformations. The famous south stand was built and the ground currently sits well over 32,000 spectators.
The Future of Bramhall Lane
Cricket is unlikely ever to be played again at Bramhall Lane; the pitch is too small. The future for this old famous ground looks promising though. Sheffield United FC has been reasonably successful, gaining promotion to the English Premier League, where the financial rewards are huge.
The club is desperate to redevelop the ground, modernising facilities and increasing capacity. The local council looks to be on board, so changes to some of the stands may happen sooner than expected.