Isle Of Axholme League 

The isle of Axholme cricket league was an evening cricket league formed in 1935 and ran up until the mid-1990s, with the cup competitions continuing to this day. 

Beginnings and formation 

There is history of cricket played in the Isle of Axholme going back to the mid-1800s. Clubs would tour to other villages and would play a full day, sometimes several days, of cricket, usually with more than one match being played or more than one innings played. Due to the cost of travel and difficulties in organisation there was not much league cricket played or recorded until the 1930s. 

 

With travel becoming easier along with communication local league cricket began in the area in the 1930s and in 1934 the Scunthorpe and District league started. In the following summer clubs in the Isle of Axholme decided to start their own league, played on evenings.  

The format for the league pretty much stayed the same from the first season until the last at the turn of the century. Matches were 16 8 ball overs with no restrictions on the number of overs a bowler could bowl. Clubs in the early years of the league had to register players and the norm was for players to play for the village they were from (the exception to the rule being Outcasts who was formed to give players who didn’t associated themselves with a village to play). In later years registration of players ended but players still tended to play for their village, even if they played for another team on a weekend. 

The first teams to play in the league was Epworth, West Butterwick, Owston Ferry, Haxey and Crowle Brickworks with West Butterwick winning the first 2 seasons. In 1938 Epworth posted a league record score to beat West Butterwick of 151 to win the league, this was the higest score in the league and stayed that for nearly 50 years. With the prospect of war coming in 1939 a home guard side entered the league in 1939 and by the end of the 1939 season most organised sport was cancelled. 

Post War and 1950s 

Once the 2nd world war ended there was a push around the country to continue sports and to also push community spirit and togetherness. The government funded playing fields and facilities all around the county and also offered grants to sports teams starting back up. The Isle league resumed in 1946 with 5 teams – West Butterwick, Sun Engineers (Crowle), Crowle Brickworks, Belton and Epworth, with a 6th team The Outcasts joining a year later.  

The league grew from strength to strength with teams up and down the Isle joining and by the mid 1950s 12 teams took part in the competition. This was despite the fact that teams in the north of the Isle of Axholme, notably Luddington and Eastoft, played their cricket in the Goole and District league. 

 

West Butterwick were the dominant team in the league, winning the first 6 league titles post war before Epworth became the first team to beat them for a league title in 1952. Epworth went on to win the title 2 more times in the 50s Before Sun Engineers began their era of dominance in the league.  

1960s – Low numbers in the league 

By the end of the 1950s league cricket had really started to boom in the area. Weekends became the normal time to play cricket with the North Lindsey league starting up, the Scunthorpe league still going strong and the Grimsby and District league inviting teams from the Scunthorpe Area to play in their league. A big turning point for cricket in the area came in 1961 when the Lincolnshire League was formed which went on to be the dominant cricket league in the area over the next 50 years. 

Because of all the above reasons the Isle league Suffered. The village teams that were started post war from war grants almost all folded, teams like Outcasts decided to go down the route of playing friendly cricket and some big teams such as Eastoft also folded. 

By the end of the 60s the league was back down to 6 teams and that included Luddington who moved to the league in the middle of the decade after quitting the Goole League. 

Sun Engineers was the dominate side of the decade, winning the league title 5 times. In the middle of the 1960s the Sun Engineers name was retired and the club renamed themselves Crowle Sports. 

Revival in the 70s and 80s 

In 1971 the league started to grow again with Outcasts re-joining the league after a 10 year break. new teams such as Keadby Power Station and Keadby CC joined the league, teams from further afield such as Misterton joined the league and old names returning such as West Butterwick. 

 

 From the mid-70s to the late 80s the league always had 10 or more teams and the league had a big resurgence. Interest in the league grew with papers from Scunthorpe and the surrounding areas publishing weekly results and tables and players from further afield started to take part in the league. 

 

Misterton, a team from the southern most point of the Isle, joined the league in 1973 and went on to become the dominate force in the league in the late 70s and 80s, winning the league 5 times including 4 in a row from 1985 to 88.  

Around this time the league also moved into junior cricket, with an intermediate league for under 19s running alongside the main league. This proved popular in the 80s but with the move to centralise junior cricket along the county in the late 80s the league stopped. 

Decline and Belton Dominance 

By the early 90s the league had fallen into a decline with the league going down to only 6 teams by 1992. West Butterwick, Misterton and Gunness all left the league and along with the reduction in games the league voted in to play games home and away in an effort to increase matches. 

In 1993 the league secured a major sponsorship with the Epworth bells newspaper agreeing to sponsor the league in a 5-year deal. The deal meant that the league could continue with its financial rewards to the winners and also meant the league went back to having coverage as the previous 2 years had no results published. This started a small revival in interest in the league with the paper giving full page spreads in its weekly “isle cricket roundup” section. 

At this time Belton cricket club had become the dominant force in cricket in not only the Isle of Axholme but the whole of Lincolnshire, winning the Lincolnshire league division 1 and premier league title in this time. In 1991 they became the first club in the histoy of the competition to win all 4 trophies associated with the league in the same season and also went undefeated in the league. 

Their dominance continued until the end of the league, winning the league 5 times in the 1990s. 

End of the league 

While the league did have an increased interest, the number of clubs in the league never went up. With only 6 teams taking part now, Outcasts, Belton, Luddington, Haxey, Epworth and Owston Ferry the club couldn’t afford to lose any more teams.

In 1997 the league was pushed into further doubt when after the 2nd week of the season Belton withdrew from the league, being the first side to resign from the league mid-season. Despite being one of the top teams in the area at the time the club was struggling and was unable to find players to play Wednesday evening cricket. The league made the decision to carry on the season with the 5 remaining teams and after an EGM allowed ex Belton players to join any of the other clubs in the league. At the end of the 1997 season Belton Cricket club folded Altogether. 

By the end of the season the fate of the league looked set as Owston Ferry, one of the teams that played in the original season in 1936, folded leaving only 4 remaining teams. The league made the tough decision to end the league but continue to play for the 3 cup competitions. 

The following year in 1998 Luddington applied to join the Snaith and district league to continue to play evening cricket. They had moved to their home ground in 1996 and wanted to continue playing cricket and decided to put a side in featuring players from both Outcasts and Luddington. They played in the league all the way up to 2011 when Outcasts decided to join the league and Luddington agreed to move to play in the newly reformed Broughton evening league. Outcasts continue to play in the league to this day. 

Haxey decided to go in the other geographical direction and entered the Gainsborough evening league where they played their cricket for several years before playing a couple of seasons in the Doncaster evening league. They now no longer play evening cricket, but some players turn out for Outcasts in the Snaith league 

Epworth played in the cup for the first 2 seasons but declined to enter post 2000 and folded as a club in 2002. The club did briefly return in the North Lindsey league in 2010 when Isle League Chairman of the 1990s Martin Thompson resurrected the club but after one full season the club renamed themselves to Isleonians before folding again in 2011

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Cup Competitions – Ashmore Cup, Norman Axe Cup, T. E. Johnson Cup 

From the first season the league always ended the season with a league winners vs a league selects XI, this tradition continued until the end of the league and was always played the week after the season ended. It wasn’t until 1951 that a cup competition was added to the league. 

League chairman at the time Mr A. H. Ashmore proposed the Ashmore cup to be played each season between the teams participating in the league. He proposed that the cup was used to create a fund for the league, whereby the money made from the competition could be used to help out clubs that needed funds for various reasons. The first cup final took place in the July 1951 between Epworth and West Butterwick, the 2 biggest teams in the area, and was won by West Butterwick. The cup competition took place every season after that and the final became a major match that used to draw large crowds to watch. 

In 1975 a second cup competition was added, the Norman Axe Cup. Norman Axe was league chairman after Mr Ashmore and was chair of the league until he passed away in the 1975. His son presented the league with the trophy and proposed that the first-round losers of the Ashmore cup play for the Norman Axe trophy so that clubs could play as much cricket as possible. 

Outcasts cricket club won the first final and went on to win in 3 times in the first 6 years of the competition. By the end of the 1970s the league changed the format of the cup and opened it up to all teams as a means of giving all teams 2 cup competitions to be a part in. Because of this Belton became the first team to make both finals in the same year but missed out on winning both trophies.  

When the league folded in the late 1990s it was agreed that both cup competitions would carry on. The 4 teams left in the league, Luddington, Outcasts, Haxey and Epworth continued to play for the trophies until 2002 when Epworth folded. At this time the cups continued but started to invite pub and friendly sides in to make up the 4 teams.

  

The league was also associated with a 3rd trophy, the T. E Johnson cup.

 

This was an invitational cup that had the winners of all the local evening leagues take part in. Usually, the cup was a 4-team competition with teams representing the Trent valley league, the Doncaster league, the Gainsborough league, the Goole league, the Scunthorpe league and the Broughton evening league taking part over the time

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The cup was successful with the final attracting a big audience as it usually involved 2 teams playing that don’t usually play each other but sometimes the cup didn’t work out the way it was intended. Games were sometimes hard to organise, incredibly hard to re-arrange if the match was called off. The cup is still played today and it is now usually played as a competition when touring sides come to the area to play.  

Luddington won the cup twice in the 1960s before they entered the league with Belton also being a successful side from this area. 

Previous Winners