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Last innings for former home of Norfolk cricket at Lakenham

PUBLISHED: 17:47 18 November 2013 | UPDATED: 17:47 18 November 2013

Ian Bishop, the fearsome West Indian fast bowler, comes out to bat in August 1996 during a match between a Norfolk 
Select XI and a Rest of the World XI.

Ian Bishop, the fearsome West Indian fast bowler, comes out to bat in August 1996 during a match between a Norfolk Select XI and a Rest of the World XI.

Archant

It is a grand thatched building overlooking a prime open space which has been dismissed by a planning inspector as having no “historic significance” and one which can be destroyed.

And that looks likely to be the end of the former, once majestic, home of Norfolk cricket which could torn down to make way for a new housing development on the old county cricket ground.

For several years now the once-proud building has been left in limbo as the debate over the future of Lakenham site rumbled on.

Locked and boarded-up it was a sad sight. The people who once loved it could only look on as an “old friend” decayed.

It was dying a slow death – a lovely building hich played a role in so many lives. Where there was once the sound of laughter now – there was nothing. Just memories of happy times.

There were those who want to keep the building. It could be turned into a centre for the whole community – one serving any new homes built on the land where bat once hit ball and fun-filled family events took place.

But the developers wanted to see it gone and following a public inquiry, planning inspector Tim Wood agreed with them saying: “I find there is very little significance in the pavilion or its setting.”

He went on: “Although the proposals would result in its complete removal, I do not see this as a reason to resist the proposal.”

Let’s take a look at the history of this building which has been treated with such disdain.

Replacing one dating from the mid-19th century, the “new” Lakenham pavilion was officially opened in front of big crowds on Wednesday June 10 1936 by Russell Colman, the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk.

The pavilion had been built as a memorial to Captain Geoffrey Colman, Russell’s son, who had left a sum of money to be spent for the benefit of the employees of J & J Colman’s Carrow Works.

Geoffrey had died in March 1935 at the age of 43, mainly from endocarditis which had largely resulted from a wound he received during the First World War. A German bullet hit him in the chest and at the time he had been a captain of a machine gun corps in the 7th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade.

At the time of its opening the pavilion had all mod-cons complete with balcony and large electric clock placed just below the thatched roof.

It was a place the people of Norwich and Norfolk loved with a passion.

Over the years some of the best cricketers the world has ever seen visited Lakenham. Before the war the West Indies and New Zealanders played Norfolk, while after the conflict there were visits from the South Africans, the Indians, the New Zealanders and the West Indies.

Many cricketers enjoyed the Lakenham lifestyle. Mike Atherton and Brian Lara were there in 1998. Others who enjoyed the comforts of the iconic pavilion included Peter May, Geoffrey Boycott, David Gower, Nasser Hussain and Lance Gibbs.

Norfolk also had some fine players over the decades, the brilliant Bill Edrich along with Michael Falcon, Peter Parfitt, Clive Radley, and that dear old thing, Henry Blofeld.

The bails were taken off for the last time on August 10 2000 when Norfolk played its last game at Lakenham. The county lost to Cheshire.

It closed seven years later.

Despite objections from the Lakenham Cricket Ground Residents’ Association, the Norwich Society and the city planners, the inspector has ruled the pavilion can go, paving the way for developers to build around 75 homes on the former ground.

Henry Blofeld said he was “appalled” by the decision, while Stephen Fry described the demolition as “sacrilege.”

Sir Timothy Colman had written to the residents association saying: “This has been a valuable green open space in Norwich for over 150 years and the city, I fear, will be a poorer place if the area is lost.”

• My thanks to Phillip Yaxley for his help with photographs.

• Do you have any memories of Lakenham pavilion? If so, drop me a line at derek.james2013@gmail.com or write to me at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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