A century at Meadow Lane

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As every self-respecting Notts County fan knows, 2010 marks 100 years of play at Meadow Lane for the Magpies. This is, of course, if we disregard a brief spell in 2002.

In June of that year, the club entered into a sponsorship deal with a local company called Aaron Scargill Estate Agents, and part of this deal saw Meadow Lane renamed ‘The Aaron Scargill Stadium’.

However, Aaron Scargill went out of business before the start of the new season, and, much to the delight of the Notts County supporters, the name of the ground reverted to Meadow Lane.

The first match that Notts played at the ground they have called home for a century was a 1-1 draw, played out in front of 28,000 fans against local rivals Nottingham Forest on September 3rd 1910.

This got me thinking: County were founded in 1862, so where did they play for almost half a century before they arrived at Meadow Lane? I had no idea, so I decided to do some research into the illustrious beginnings, or otherwise, of the club and find out where they had played for the first 48 years of their existence.

My first clue came via the 28 November 1862 issue of the Nottingham Guardian:

“The opening of the Nottingham Football Club commenced on Tuesday last at Cremorne Gardens. A side was chosen by W. Arkwright and Chas. Deakin. A very spirited game resulted in the latter scoring two goals and two rouges against one and one.”

So Cremorne Gardens hosted County’s first ever game then.

Next question: How long did they play there?

I quickly drew a blank on that one. Further reading brought no more mention of Cremorne Gardens, but informed me that between 1862 and 1864, Notts played at Park Hollow in the grounds of the old Nottingham Castle, before it was decided that they needed a bigger venue.

After brief spells at The Meadows (1864-1877), Beeston Cricket Ground (1877-1880) and the Castle Ground (1880-1883), the club played the majority of its matches at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground for 27 years from 1883 until the owners of Trent Bridge decided not to renew the club's lease in 1910.

Fortunately, Notts managed to rent some ground from the council near to the cattle market on the opposite side of the River Trent, and this became the new ‘County Ground’, or, as it is commonly known, Meadow Lane.

So, back to Cremorne Gardens, then. It seems like after that first match featuring Messrs. Arkwright and Deakin, Notts picked up their boots and quickly moved on.

Maybe the Gardens were too small to build a stadium on? Maybe they weren’t permitted to buy the land?

Whatever the reason for not sticking around, I felt sure that nowadays there must be some kind of marker in Cremorne Gardens, maybe a plaque, or inscribed plinth or stone, informing all visitors that this is where it all began for Notts County, the world’s oldest football league club.

I was wrong. After some searching, I seem to have found that Cremorne Gardens no longer exists, so I can forget all about a memorial marker of any description.

I initially got my hopes up when I came across a ‘Cremorne Gardens, World’s End’, but soon discovered that these particular gardens are on the north bank of the River Thames in London.

I then discovered a pub called the Cremorne Hotel, which is in the same NG2 postal district as Meadow Lane, so I was confident that I might find some link between it and Cremorne Gardens. However, relevant websites gave me only one fact, namely that it ‘dispenses Real Ales’.

I soon also found a ‘Cremorne Drive’ in NG2, and CN Wright’s ‘History of the City of Nottingham’ revealed that, in 1920 at least, there was a ‘Cremorne Street’ and a ‘Cremorne Crescent’ amongst the principal streets of the City of Nottingham and the Urban Parish of West Bridgford.

So, it seems as if Cremorne Gardens have disappeared forever, which I find rather sad, given that they were the birthplace of league football. Sort of. I have a feeling that they were built over some time towards the end of the 19th century, and that streets like ‘Cremorne Drive’ now stand where the gardens once lay.

If anyone out there knows any different, I will be pleased to be proved wrong, if for no other reason than the name ‘Cremorne Gardens’ has such a nice ring to it. Much more so than The Aaron Scargill Stadium, anyway.

*Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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