Golden Hill Sports is one of the Bristol’s oldest sports clubs having been founded 130 years ago in 1878 by the Bristol YMCA.The club’s original name was YMCA Rangers and played its matches on Bristol’s Durdham Downs before relocating to a cricket field connected to Gloucestershire County Cricket Club’s famous County Ground thus beginning a long history between the two cricket teams.
YMCA Cricket Club finally moved to its current home at Golden Hill in North-West Bristol in 1905. At its peak, in the late forties, the ground boasted no less than five cricket pitches that were used to support the five Saturday teams that the Club ran each week and a long wooden hut that provided the changing and tea rooms. The open surroundings provided ample space for a line of mature trees that divided the two existing squares and even a duck pond that was situated near to the current score box. Many former players can recall the site of squirrels and ducks walking onto the square on matchdays!
100 not out at Golden Hill!
For over a century YMCA Cricket Club maintained Golden Hill and constantly improved the facilities including, most notably, a cricket pavilion, the foundations for which were laid in 1934 but not completed until 30 years later in 1964. Further improvements included an elaborate score box that was the envy of Bristol cricket. Such was the expense of the score box, the club held numerous events to raise money for the ‘mechanical bicycle chain’ system used to operate the display. Unfortunately, the score box burnt down one bonfire night and was replaced with the structure that stands there today.
The YMCA’s historic links with Gloucestershire County Cricket Club have paid dividends over the decades and the club is proud that several world famous cricketers have appeared at the ground including the father of modern cricket, W.G. Grace, Gloucestershire’s Arthur Milton and in 1946, perhaps most memorable of all visitors, Wally Hammond one of England’s finest ever batsmen who was greeted by nearly 4000 spectators.
A Cricket Club for all the Community
YMCA has played a large part in the local community for nearly a century and many charity events have been held at Golden Hill over the years. As well as the cricket club, many other local amateur sports clubs have taken advantage of the facilities in order to raise vital funds for good causes. Occasionally the ground has played host to professional teams, the most memorable of which were the YMCA benefit matches against a Gloucestershire County Cricket Club Eleven and a Bristol Rovers Football Club Eleven.It is estimated that, during the clubs 125-year existence, over 6,000 senior and youth cricketers have represented the YMCA in over thousands of cricket games and many former members still live in the area to this day. Indeed, one of the cricket club’s most well respected former players was the first team captain from the mid fifties, Rev. David Johnson who, at 87, still takes an interest in the teams progress on Saturdays.
Bristol’s top club
It was under the guidance of Johnson that YMCA enjoyed, perhaps, its most successful years on the field and, during the years shortly after WW2, the club was regarded as Bristol’s top cricket team. Such was the high standard set by David and his players in those days that David and, arguably the Club’s greatest ever player, Roy Davies both appeared for Gloucestershire County Cricket Club.