The Lincoln League
By Ted Robinson
The first Lincoln Cricket League was formed in 1900 with just 5 teams and named The Lincoln Cricket Association. Newport United, Portland Street, St Peters Mission, St Swithins and Saxon Street were the pioneer members.
The Lincolnshire Chronicle carried a report of the league’s first AGM declaring the innovation an outstanding success. All the games had been played on the Cowpaddle and the South and West Commons on “sporty” grass pitches and it was resolved to send a strongly worded letter to the City Engineer requesting that the Lincoln Corporation (council) did something about them.
The Lincoln Cricket Association continued to expand and by 1908 it reached its peak with 5 divisions ABCD and E plus a Wednesday half-day closing league and knock-out competition, total strength 35 teams.
The league closed down for the duration of the First World War, reforming again in 1919 with just 2 divisions and a total strength of 11 teams. This was to remain the strength give or take a team until 1936.
From its formation in 1900 the Lincoln Cricket Association had continued to lobby the Lincoln Corporation to do something about the condition of the pitches on the commons, but they did nothing. In fairness to the Corporation the country had been through a crippling war and was just puling out of the great depression, levelling cricket pitches would not have rated too highly on its list of priorities, but it was these pitches that were to lead to the demise of the LCA.
In 1936 the works teams, who by now had got their own grounds with professional ground staff and changing facilities, wanted something better for their members than the pitches on the commons. Robeys, Rustons, Ransome and Marles, Co-op Sports, Barney Lincsgran plus Lindum and Barney village became the first members of the new Lincoln Enclosed Grounds League. This league was formed to exclude the teams who used the commons. Village teams and players began to drift to the LEGL and although the LCA problems seemed terminal it limped on until the outbreak of the war in 1939 never to re-emerge.
It was rather ironic that after years of badgering from the old LCA in 1937 the Corporation laid concrete pitches on the commons and provided coconut matting although there were still no changing facilities, this was a vast improvement! Whether the Corporation’s actions were triggered by the formation of the LEGL one can only speculate but it was too late the horse had bolted!
Cricket did not stop completely during the Second World War. With Lincoln being a principal engineering centre most of the workforce were in reserved occupations and exempt from call up, which enabled the Lincoln Enclosed Grounds League to continue throughout the war. The league was made up of the main works teams Bucyrus, Claytons, Robeys and Rustons supplemented by an Army team from Lincoln Barracks and RAF Wickenby.
In 1946, the first full season after the war, the growth in league cricket the LEGL anticipated did not materialise, and the majority chose to play club cricket (friendlies) where they could select which grounds they played on and in an odd sort of way cricket graded itself on the quality of facilities. Many clubs without grounds became nomadic, Southcliffe and Lindum Ramblers being prime examples.
There were 12 teams in two divisions of the LEGL in 1947 and these numbers were to remain static for the next twenty years. In 1948 having served the intended purpose the “enclosed” word was dropped from the league title and it became the Lincoln League.
In the late sixties the Lincoln and District League, which had been in a state of limbo since the war, received an unexpected boost. A campaign to get clubs playing league cricket combined with a National Playing Fields initiative to provide sports fields for villages sparked a growth in numbers from 13 teams forming 2 divisions in 1966. It grew to 33 teams forming 3 divisions in 1973. In 1981 the figure had reached 46 teams in 4 divisions and it peaked in 1992 at 57 teams in 5 divisions.
The amalgamation of the Burton Hunt League with the Lincoln League at the end of the 1990 season was responsible for this high number. They brought with them the Major Hoult Cup, a trophy with a long history. This is now used as a knockout cup by the League. The Burton Hunt League, which was founded in 1931, also gifted their considerable funds to the Lincoln League.
The league which has now become a Sunday League has never found it necessary to put a cap on the number of teams entering, provided they meet the criteria, and divisions and cup fixtures have always been adjusted to meet requirements. At the start of the 2015 season the league had 43 clubs forming 5 divisions.