Rugby, Football, Cricket
1 Jun 2023
Hartlepools FC (1876), Hartlepool CC, Hartlepool FC (1877), Hartlepool Rovers (1881 - 1948)
NEHL - The Friarage Field was the home of Hartlepool Rovers between 1883 and 1948, but was used previous to this for various sports.
The field was previously the land of the Friarage, which was a manor house, workhouse and hospital before the advent of sport as a semi-professional activity.
Hartlepool Rovers were formed in 1879 as Hartlepool Albion but adopted the famous name in 1883. They also amalgamated with Hartlepool Town that year and moved formally to the Friarage, having previously played at the Old Boys Field on the Central Estate as well as a site that Galleys Field School now occupies. Their name likely comes from their nomadic nature until a permanent home was sought. Records do state Rovers played at the Friarage Ground much earlier, much may not have been formally leased at this time.
Rovers were dominant through much of their time here. They won the Durham County Senior Cup in 1905 and 1909, and broke the world record for the highest number of points scored in a season - 860, including 122 tries, 87 conversions, 5 penalties and 11 drop goals.
International matches were also hosted here. Barbarians in December 1890, The New Zealand Maoris in November 188, and the All Blacks who played against a combined Rovers and West Team in October 1905.
Rovers left the ground for the New Friarage ground, the site of the Greyhound Stadium, post-war after playing on the ground during the war. This is likely to be related to the proximity of the Heugh Battery which is immediately next door.
The ground was used earlier though. Matches took place from 1878 between West Hartlepool Football Club and the original Hartlepools Football Club. In 1881, The old club "maintained its supremacy" after a closely contested game. Hartlepool FC are noted to have been played here as early as 1879 against Sunderland. The original Hartlepools FC had contested here from at least 1876, with a match noted against Stockton.
Hartlepool CC also utilised the field, with a match noted against Dearness Wanderers in September 1880. Hartlepool scored an easy victory. They also played a team from the Middleton Ironworks in 1879. A newspaper report states their formation in 1879 by Mr William Todd, J.P and other gentlemen. They secured the Friarage Field in the April of May, which had advantages such as a high stone wall so can charge admission to make revenue. A club at West Hartlepool was formed around the same time. Cricket was also played here in 1881 in aid of the Hospital next door. The match was between the butchers of the Hartlepool was contested. The Hartlepool side won.
The ground is shown on the 1890s map fully enclosed with a grandstand on the north side and a small stand on the south end. These appear to have remained until the ground was closed as the stand is shown on a photograph in 1937. The ground is still in use today though for amateur rugby.
Ordnance Survey, 1897
Photograph of the Friarage Field in 1937. Unknown original source.
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The Friarage Field in 2023
Historic Environment Records
Durham/Northumberland: Keys to the Past
Tyne and Wear: Sitelines
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