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1119 - The History of Grayfields Recreation Ground.

Grayfields & its Pavilion

Grayfields was laid out in 1919 by Kent & Bryden of Darlington on the instructions of William Gray Ltd. On a 29 acre site, bounded by Jesmond Road and Gardens and cost the Company £6,500 and a further £23,500 was used for development with the bulk of the money, £28,000 coming out of Gray’s reserve funds.

In addition to the money injected into the scheme by the Company, the work force raised £5,000 between 1920 and 1925.

As a private concern Grayfields had a short life – it opened early in 1920 with the establishment of the enclosures playing fields, and it ended its days in April, 1926, when West Hartlepool CBC took over the running of the scheme.

Although the Council had secured the Recreation Ground for the town there was an outcry over the way the directors of Gray’s had, in the opinion of a number of townspeople, failed to take into consideration the interests of their workforce,

The Company had blamed the prolonged depression in shipbuilding for the winding up of the scheme, a view which was not accepted by the majority of employees, who claimed that the depression was used as an excuse to close down the Recreation Ground which was showing a loss of over £1,000 per year.  Furthermore, the workforce claimed it had a financial interest, and some employees went as far as to say that Grayfields had been a gift to them from Sir William Gray and his directors.

But n fairness to the Company there was a depression, and moreover no documents were produced stating that Grayfields belonged to the workers, and the Company had the right to claim that in exchange for the sum of money donated, members of the Gray’s Sports Association had made use of the facilities, virtually free of charge for 5 and a half years.

For the period 1920 to 1926 the Ground was run by a Committee managed initially by Colonel Grellet. Following the completion of the enclosure in 1920 this was quickly added to by the        provision of Tennis Courts, Rugby and Soccer pitches and a Cricket pitch.

Plans were put forward for bowling greens and the Oval Cricket site, the Greens were completed by 1921 and in the Summer of 1921 and inaugural cricket match was played between Grays and Castle Eden. In the absence of facilities for spectators, forms were placed around the ground.

Grayfields was getting more popular, and soon there were 31 soccer teams competing for a cup provided by Captain Jack Farmer, several Rugby teams, the Tennis Club had over 100 members and scores of Bowling and Cricket teams made Grayfields their venue.

In 1923 Quoit alleys were set up to bring another sport to Grayfields.

The need for a sports pavilion, providing player changing, hot and cold showers, plunge bath facilities together with spectator and tearoom facilities had been apparent for some time but due to the decreasing financial situation of the Grays Recreation Association it looked as if one would be not be built.

However, Captain F.C. Pyman, a director of Grays and Vice President of the Recreation Association approached Sir William Gray and the result was that the Gray family funded the building.

It was designed by the staff at Grays and built  by Mr. E.M. Tweddle at a cost of  approximately 2000 Guineas.

It was officially opened by Mrs Musgrove (sister of Sir Wm Gray) on the 10th May, 1924 and was considered at the time one of the finest in the North of England.

The pavilion is fondly remembered by many Rugby players over the years, its Spartan changing conditions (oil lamp lit until the early 1980s) housed almost every Rugby Club during their ups and downs. Hartlepool Rovers, West Hartlepool, Old Boys, and Athletic all played out of Grayfields, Grays Athletic were the first users and TDSOB are keeping the Rugby flag flying from the Grayfields Extensions on to Throston Grange Lane and Wilshire Way, created in 1972,




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