- Keith Gregson
1987 – A Hundred Years On – The Club
May 30 1987 marked the hundredth anniversary of the opening of Ashbrooke. In 1887, the new combined home of Sunderland Rugby Football Club (founded 1873) and the older Sunderland Cricket Club celebrated the event with a big athletics event. Bowls, Tennis and Hockey joined up soon after, leaving squash (and to a certain extent road running) until the twentieth century.
Fortunately we have been left both written and pictorial evidence for the opening day. A fine photograph taken from what is now the main pavilion shows it to have been a pleasant summer’s day. Everyone seems to be wearing headwear of some sort and many of the ladies are sporting parasols. A short paragraph in the ‘Echo’ gives the names of some of the athletes.
A hundred years on and the centenary year in 1987 provided a good opportunity for celebration and also for putting a little cash in the coffers. A centenary committee was thus set up to organise events and members quickly decided to spread the celebrations across the year.
The main focus was, naturally, the end of May and, to that end, a centenary fete was organised. Invited guests were told that the club had been ‘founded in 1887’ and had ‘continually occupied the present site’. Features of the fete included the Police Band, a Dog Show, Morris Dancers, Shetland Ponies and a display of martial arts. BBC Radio Newcastle also had a live presence.
A week of festivities was also organised for the later summer. In July there were separate displays of flower arranging, a jumble sale, barbecue, children’s party, antiques fair, ceilidh and quoits night. The band for the ceilidh ‘Flop Eared Mule’ later developed into a serio/comedy act called ‘The Old Rope String Band’ which was to become universally popular at folk festivals.
The centenary was also celebrated by the sharing of Ashbrooke’s unique history with the general British public. Articles on Ashbrooke sport appeared in Wisden Cricketer, Tennis World, Hockey Field and Northern Athlete. There was also a huge historical feature in the Sunderland Echo and a series on BBC Radio Newcastle bearing the title ‘’Great Days at Ashbrooke’. (Copies of the articles and the radio series have now been deposited in the Ashbrooke archive). An exhibition of Ashbrooke memorabilia was also displayed in a glass case in the Central Library.