Sunday, 10 August 2014

Courts and fields

A short while back I was posting about tennis courts which were once popular, including in some rear gardens, as well as those which appeared in parks and the grounds of certain businesses.

Large local businesses once acquired, on behalf of their employees, fields which could be transformed into sports grounds.  These organisations treated the facilities as investments in retaining a dedicated workforce; encouraging men and women to participate in healthy sporting events and gatherings.  No doubt employees contributed towards the cost of the clubs which made use of the spaces, and each firm would have arranged matters each in its own way.

Ballito Sports Ground from Alban Way in 2012
One of the largest companies in the East End of St Albans was Ballito at Fleetville.  Originally called Ballington Hosiery Mills, the company was highly successful at manufacturing its silk, and then nylon, stockings, as well as other garments.  It operated on the current Morrison's site from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Its social club had premises within the works, including a dance hall and games room.  Boxing matches were held regularly.  Large crowds homed in on the social club events, especially on Saturday nights.

The company purchased a plot of land between Boggy Mead Spring and the glasshouses at Smallford, where tennis, cricket and football events were held, either within the sports club or between it and those of other firms.  A pavilion was erected along one side, but never having had anything to do with Ballito, I had never ventured inside, so have little idea what its facilities were like.
A Ballito employees band

Ballito closed down around fifty years ago.  The sports facilities may have continued for a while, perhaps under the ownership of the factory's new occupier, Marconi Instruments.  But surprisingly the sports field is still there.  The trees and boundary hedging may have grown and the grass not in playing condition, but at least the site has not become another housing estate or more factories.  Yet.

You would never have spotted this while driving along Hatfield Road, even if you knew where the sports ground was; even a pedestrian needed a keen eye, especially as there is no footpath on the south side of the road.  But one such pedestrian noticed, languishing behind the fence and among the hedge shrubs, the sign which had once stood at the gate to announce the presence of the Ballito sports ground.

Spot the sign
Arrangements were made between Glinwell Ltd, owners of the adjacent glasshouses, and the Museum of St Albans, for the rescue of the sign.  Glinwell, because they had strong and willing employees, and the Museum, because it has a home for it in its stores.  There is therefore a part of Ballito which still exists in a corner of St Albans.

This week, a new question on the website's front page, has a question about the Ballito sports club – in this case cricket.  If you or your parents were employed by the firm in the 1950s you may have some interesting recollections.  Let's hope so.

1 comment:

  1. Vast apologies I posted this in the wrong section

    My father played cricket at Ballito sports ground in 1950s
    His name was Jack Bromley
    If any one has any information I would be only too pleased to hear

    I have photos and as soon as I work out how I will upload them