Northampton Croquet Club forced to find new home as St Andrew's Hospital wants to turn lawns into garden

Members upset after around 30 years at current home - but the search is underway with suggestions welcomed

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 12:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 12:22 pm

Northampton Croquet Club is on the hunt for a new home as the members have been told to leave their home of around 30 years in the summer.

St Andrew's Healthcare wants to use the croquet lawns on its land off Billing Road as a garden for its patients, meaning the club has to move by June.

Chairman Lionel Tibble, who is among the top 30 croquet players in the country, said the members were saddened to be leaving but have been working hard to find a solution.

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A typical scene when Northampton Croquet Club plays at the Billing Road lawns by St Andrew's Hospital

"We were very upset when they told us in November that we would have to leave where we've been playing for 30-odd years," he said.

"It's proving quite a task to find anywhere we can move to, especially in the confines of Northampton."

The croquet club was formed in 1986 and originally played in Beckets Park before moving to St Andrew's Hospital after five years, where there are four lawns, equipment huts and a small clubhouse.

About 60 members of all abilities and ages, including several national and international players, play all year round but mainly from April to October.

Mike Hill shows how it is done at Northampton Croquet Club's 25th anniversary party in 2011

Only having the ground until June means the club would have to move during its busiest period but is open to all options, such as ground-sharing with other sports such as cricket, golf or bowls.

The club needs around an acre of level and flat grass for four lawns, equivalent to about three bowling greens.

Secretary Mike Hills said: "For the past month or so we have been exploring possible sites in and around Northampton, ranging from public parks, golf courses, grounds of stately homes and other open areas.

"Although we have a couple of possibilities which look hopeful, we would welcome any suggestions for possible sites for our permanent new home.

Northampton Croquet Club members at Holdenby House for the 2015 Northamptonshire Food Show

"Also, as it seems unlikely that we will be able to do this in the short term, we are also looking for somewhere temporarily to allow our members to play after June."

St Andrew’s Healthcare is one of the biggest mental healthcare providers in the country, with its headquarters and several sites on Billing Road.

A spokesman for the charity said: "We need to utilise this space for the benefit and enjoyment of the patients we care for, as we are committed to improving not just their mental health, but their physical health too.

“We have therefore asked the croquet club to find an alternative location to play.”

The club hopes to give more people in Northampton the chance to play croquet, particularly youngsters as only over-18s could play at the Billing Road ground.

Croquet is also a great game for keeping active in retirement, according to Mike, as a previous chairman was still playing almost daily at the age of 96.

Anyone who may be able to help the club should contact Mike on 01604 467780 or [email protected]