THE CONTENTS of a suitcase, gathering dust in the bottom of a cupboard, have revealed hidden secrets about the history of Stayley Cricket Club.
It contains a copy of the original lease negotiated with Enville Estates when the club was formed in 1872, drawings for the ground and a new clubhouse built in 1966.
Another find were contracts given to professional Harry Pilling who went on to become a Lancashire legend.
Had life member Billy Bird not been moving home in Millbrook, the suitcase will have been left undisturbed.
Billy, whose Cricket View home overlooks the ground, explained: “When former secretary George Flitcroft died about 30 years ago, his family were clearing his house.
“I was lumbered with the suitcase that had been in my cupboard since then. I had never opened it and thought it contained junk.”
How mistaken Billy was as the suitcase contained precious information about the 145-year-old history of the club.
The original lease between the Earl of Stamford and Warrington and Harry Hall, who was the club representative, was for a rent of £4 per year.
And it contained a 21-day clause that permitted the Stamford Estate to terminate the agreement.
Pilling, described as one of the best players never to appear for England, and John Sullivan were two cricketers who began their playing days at Stayley before going on to greater things at Lancashire.
The contracts for Pilling to be Stayley professional were for 1961, 62 and 63.
Pilling, who lived on Manchester Road, Mossley, was paid £2 10s per match in 1961 and an additional two shillings for every wicket claimed and 2s 6d for every innings of 50 or more.
In the contract for 1962, Pilling received £3 for match, 10s for five wickets in an innings and 2s 6d for each wicket over five and 10s for every innings over 50.
And in the one for 1963, Pilling, then living at Gorse Avenue, Micklehurst, received £3 per match with a benefit and a guaranteed minimal of £25 from that.
Harry Pilling in action
Club officials intend to mount some of the documents so they can be displayed in the recently refurbished clubhouse.
And with the club celebrating its 150th anniversary in five years’ time, there are suggestions of a book to mark its history – it was once known as Stayley Cricket and Athletic Club as there was once also a bowling green on the ground.
President Martin Harvey is asking villagers in Millbrook to check their attics to see if anybody else has cricket club memorabilia that may have been hidden away for generations.
Stayley was originally a club formed the Oakwood Mill owner and they were founder members of the Saddleworth and District Cricket League.
These are exciting times for Stayley after last season’s promotion from the Championship to Premiership in the JW Lees Pennine Cricket League.
Five years ago, the club negotiated a 25-year lease from the Stamford Estate – before that they only paid a peppercorn rent.
Securing the lease was important as it enabled the club to apply for grants as the club has undertaken considerable improvements in recent times.
The work included a new perimeter fence at an outlay of £40,000 with the cost split between the club and Stamford Estate.
Stayley officials were delighted to also be founder members of the JW Lees Brewery Pennine Cricket League in 2016.
Some club members wanted Stayley to join the Huddersfield and District League, but Martin believes it would have been a mistake.
“Micklehurst went into the Huddersfield League and their officials have told me it was a disaster so we are happy where we are,” he said.
And in a busy close season, Stayley have been busy working on and off the ground.
Club officials, members and supporters have done levelling to remove hollows from the playing surface while also doing work inside the clubhouse.
And before wickets are pitched for the 2017 season, a new scorebox is being built by students from Ashton Sixth Form College with the English Cricket Board providing the materials.
Stayley invite new players to their pre-season nets currently taking place at West Hill School, Stalybridge, each Saturday between 4pm-6pm. They are running until the end of November.