Sale Sports Club is recorded as being founded in 1854 but a newspaper report of 50 years later states the first games were played in 1852. Those could have been games played by the local boys and young men before the Club was formalised on the Barn Field as it was known.
The first name was Sale Cricket and Quoits Club, and the extent of the ground was from the hedge near the flats to the edge of the new houses, where Clarendon Crescent then ran. The pavilion was a thatched cottage very close to the edge of the current square.
Cutting the grass was a major issue. The pasturage was leased off for the summer to a local farmer to be grazed by his sheep, and the wickets were cut and rolled using horsepower (and the horse rented out during the winter!) There was a Groundsman, of course, sometimes two. However, they were also professional cricketers and one of their tasks was to bowl to the Gentlemen in the nets.
The first 50 years can be regarded as the inaugural period in which the Club was building its playing strength and reputation, many players representing Cheshire and Lancashire.
Cricket and Quoits did not remain the only sporting interests. In 1860 Sale Rugby Football Club was founded at the Club and played on the ground up to 1865. This ceased when the cricket club decided to re-lay the ground. One of the Cricket Club’s most respected players and officials, Harry Thornber (1st X1 captain, Hon. Secretary and President) also became President of Sale RFC in the 1890s. Thornber resigned as President of both clubs and left Sale in 1898 in rather mysterious circumstances.
Lawn Tennis was introduced in 1879 for a trial period and was then accepted as a section of the Club, with some resistance from cricket “stalwarts”, and all references to “Quoiting” were officially removed from the Club paperwork.
Hockey was introduced in 1888, again with the hearty opposition of some cricketers and was not formerly integrated into the Club name until well into the 20th century. Other games - bowls, croquet, and lacrosse - were also played but did not stand the test of time.
The second 50 years was a period in which the Club made great advances in ground development and arguably enjoyed its most successful playing period. If the first 50 years were the era of Harry Thornber, the second 50 were very definitely the era of the Stocktons. Edwin Stockton and his brother Albert dominated the Club for 40 years in terms of cricket prowess, their contribution to the running of the Club in particular, and on the larger stage, of Lancashire CCC. Sale was the first winner of the Stockton Trophy when Sir Edwin presented the cup to the Sale captain, his brother Albert.
The ground was rented until 1911 when the Sale Cricket Ground Company Limited was formed with a number of shareholders and purchased the current ground (excluding ‘Rookwood’ but including ‘Bertie’s’ Cottage). This started a very productive growth of the Club in terms of increasing the size of the ground and the acquisition of the current clubhouse.
The ladies’ hockey pitch was agricultural land when it was purchased. However, the Club had overreached its resources and, in 1922, leased the land to Caleb Eden, a local farmer. Further financial measures were needed, and the plot was then sold to Caleb in 1926. It became known as Eden’s Land. It was repurchased in 1947, initially using an £1800 loan from Sir William Proctor Pearson who, within a very short time, made the loan over as a gift. Eden’s Land was initially used as allotments by members until it was finally levelled and incorporated into the ground. This area is broadly the same plot sold off in 2018 to fund the re-development of the club, thus returning the ground to its pre 1947 configuration.
Rookwood was built in 1880 and occupied until 1929 as a private house, when, through the ‘good offices’ of Mrs Proctor Pearson, the Sale Cricket Ground Company purchased it for £300. The Proctor Pearsons were great benefactors to the Club. Sir William was President of the club from 1930 until his death in 1963, truly the end of an era.
In 2001 the Club was officially renamed as Sale Sports Club to reflect our multi-sports ethos. Since then, Manchester Village Spartans RUFC and FC Sporting Sale have joined so that we now have a true multi-sport offer across five sports.
The celebration of the Club’s 150th anniversary in 2004 proved to be the catalyst for change as thoughts turned to improving the Club’s facilities and securing its future for generations to come.
Since then, the Club's fortunes have been reinvigorated, achieving much sporting success whilst investing heavily in turning the Club’s aging facilities into one of the best in the region. The initial focus was on improving the sporting aspects, including resurfacing the tennis courts, installing cricket nets, and relaying the cricket square.
From 2010 we have employed a Coaching and Development Officer to continue the development of all our sports at senior and junior level, as well as reaching out to the local community and delivering coaching in all the local schools. This also allowed us to introduce Multi Sports school holiday camps throughout the year that have quickly become very popular.
Alongside this the Club started to look at the feasibility of replacing the ageing clubhouse and pavilion with a modern purpose-built facility that overlooked the playing areas for the first time. An innovative agreement with a local developer saw a planning application submitted in 2017. Within two years the new building was opened to the local community, funded by the sale of surplus land the following year, grant and loan funding from the ECB and the generosity of many members (both financially and with pro bono professional support).
2018 also saw the Club convert from a private members club to a Community Benefit Society (a Co-op with charitable status) reflecting our commitment to improving the physical and mental wellbeing of our wider community.
Our next priority is to bring Hockey back to Sale. Following the move from grass to Astroturf for league hockey in the mid-nineties our hockey sections (men’s and ladies) have played their “home” games and trained at various locations in Greater Manchester ever since. We are engaging with the local community to find a new home in Sale, as well as improving the council owned rugby and football pitches on the east side of Clarendon Crescent that suffer from frequent flooding.