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Let's make Middlesbrough the home of croquet

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A photo of members of Middlesbrough Croquet Club at Albert Park with Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston and Deputy Mayor Cllr Mieka Smiles

A membership drive is underway at Middlesbrough croquet club with the physical and mental health benefits promoted.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston, his deputy Cllr Mieka Smiles visited the club to hear about the wide-ranging paybacks from the sport.

Currently the Middlesbrough Croquet Club is based in Albert Park and has four lawns, the most to be found at any croquet club between Edinburgh and Nottingham.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "We've got the basis of something which could be absolutely fantastic and I think with a little effort and a bit of work we could make Middlesbrough the home of croquet - I think that'd be brilliant.

"There's a massive history of the game in Middlesbrough and Albert Park has the capacity to host big national events so we're going to look into what we can do to help get the site as good as it can be.

"The game is great for physical and mental health so there's loads of benefits to be had by giving it a go."

Dennis Scarr, Chairman of Middlesbrough Croquet Club, said: "Our ambition is to expand the sport. It's very enjoyable and some say it's addictive.

"The image of croquet is not correct, it's a game which has physical skill and mental skill - it can be described as ‘snooker on a lawn'.

"We have some 40 members and would welcome the opportunity to attract new members. Croquet provides physical exercise and mental stimulation and has seen a growth in interest in some parts of the country following Covid lockdowns."

Many Middlesbrough residents will be unaware of the long and proud history of the game in the town going back more than 150 years and also that the town has long played host to major national championships.

The croquet court now even overlaps the area of Albert Park where two croquet lawns were sited when the park originally opened 153 years ago in 1868.

Croquet disappeared from the park after the First World War but returned to Teesside in the late 1940s with the development of ICI staff social clubs at Norton Hall and Wilton Castle, however these were not full size lawns and were not open to the public.

Middlesbrough Croquet Club was formed in 1988 at Ormesby Hall as a single lawn club and when the aforementioned ICI staff social clubs closed in 1999, croquet playing members joined the Middlesbrough club.

The club relocated to Prissick Sports Complex in 1998 with two full size lawns and from there to Albert Park, initially taking over two of four bowls lawns. Over the next five years as the Bowls Club went into decline and then folded the Croquet Club gained the use of all four lawns.

Sadly the ground has suffered with issues in recent times with anti-social behaviour and damage to the lawns, problems with getting the grass cut short enough have all combined to cause issues with Middlesbrough hosting major national and regional tournaments.

One, the annual Croquet Association vs the Scottish Croquet Association held every year at Albert Park has this year had to be moved to York.

Anyone interested in taking up croquet or joining the club can visit the Middlesbrough croquet club website.

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