The scene at Benwell Hill in 1945 would be unrecognisable to anyone under eighty today . Everything has changed except the colour of the grass ; even that could be greener due to the care it gets today from our excellent Grounds staff, Mark Charlton and John Chambers who has taken over the mantle from his father Geoff (now in semi retirment but who I believe still helps out when needed). Funny I always remember Geoff as a very good batsman yet he gave the impression he was too modest about his true ability.
In 1945 there were few cars perhaps a motorcycle or two and a some bicycles . The Bank slope was more pronounced , with a narrow level plateau strip for the ‘ square ‘ . The top half was bigger and not many fours and sixes were hit up the hill . It could have been a psychological barrier . Certainly the hill was a physical barrier when pulling the heavy roller and pushing the clumsy site screens up the slope .
Practise net frames were wobbly and the nets with holes like those in the heels of your socks - only bigger . Wickets were ill prepared and manual rolling by players was spasmodic . The poor state inhibited some batsmen if not on bowlers . Senior players at the time were bowlers and maybe subliminally they did not push hard enough to seek improvement . It was years later , when the Machine Age reached the club , that these wickets improved .
There was a confrontation between two first team players , one a batsman the other a bowler . On a rough practise pitch the bowler delivered all short pacy stuff that physically threatened the batsman . It was unplayable . He got no practise , ball on bat . He lost his temper and confronted the offender with raised bat before tempers calmed down . I suspect the bowler was out to impress and cement his place in the team . It misfired . The batter went on to have a prominent career . The bowler was on the second team .
Practise equipment ,stored in the ‘ catafalque ‘ in the home dressing room, was mainly in poor condition - tape bound bats , soft split balls , and pads missing a strap a bit ragged , bulky and heavy . Batting gloves were cloth with green rubber spikes on the back or leather with a wrap around thumb , all well worn . I should say this was largely due to economics rather than neglect . Occasionally we would blanco a dirty pad or fix a strap or dispose of a bat and ball that were too far gone . Money was tight in these post War years . There was no Bar subsidy ; income came from subscriptions , donations and the occasional fun raiser - a coffee morning or a cheese and wine party held in someone’s house .
The huge box we called called the ‘ catafalque ‘ has its own story for another day ; the same applies to the original wooden Pavilion that had been dismantled in the Village ground and brought by horse and cart to Denton Bank in 1926 .