Lord’s has witnessed more than 200 years of cricket.
For more than a century, it has also been home to formal coaching programmes, helping develop the stars of tomorrow as well as offering practice facilities to those of today. It all began in 1901, when the Club found itself receiving a growing number of enquiries from Members who, wishing to keep their sons entertained in London during the Easter holidays, asked that they might be allowed to accompany their fathers in the nets. A number of requests were granted, and in response to the success of this scheme, the Committee decided to host, from 9 to 23 April 1902, the first Easter Coaching Classes. The Secretary of MCC, Sir Francis Lacey, organised the event, which took place under the cover of the newly built Mound Stand. The coaches were drawn from the professional groundstaff at Lord’s whose normal duties included bowling to Members in the nets.
By the 1930s the Easter Classes attracted up to 200 boys daily, aged between eight and 19. Sessions normally took place in the fifteen nets erected on the Nursery Ground, but in the event of wet weather, under-cover nets were placed around the ground, and the arbours, covered tea gardens and bars were laid with coconut matting to provide makeshift pitches. Classes ran from 10.00 until 5.30pm with each boy receiving half an hour’s individual instruction.
In 1949, MCC set up the Cricket Enquiry Committee which, under the chairmanship of HS Altham, investigated many aspects of the game with a view to improving its future for players and spectators alike. The Club’s sitting President Prince Philip was keen to ensure that this included an examination of coaching facilities available to aspiring cricketers from all backgrounds. In response to the Altham report, MCC set up a National Coaching Scheme to oversee the training of suitably qualified coaches and help promote the teaching of cricket across the nation.
But there was still one thing missing at Lord’s itself - the provision of year-round indoor facilities. Aubrey Faulkner started the first ever indoor school in Hammersmith in the 1920s and numerous other establishments followed, including the well-known school run by Alf Gover in Wandsworth. In 1974, the Club Facilities sub-committee proposed that a covered school be built at the Nursery End. Aided by a donation of £75,000 from Sir Jack Hayward and contributions from the Sports Council and the Lord’s Taverners, the Club’s first Indoor School was opened on 28 November 1977.
The new facility was soon buzzing with cricketers of all ages and abilities, and MCC was able to extend its youth programme to many more schools and individuals. Such was the continued success of the Easter Coaching Classes that additional programmes were offered in the Christmas and summer holidays. MCC’s first Indoor School Head Coach, the Yorkshire and England cricketer, Don Wilson, led these with enthusiasm. When this school closed its doors in 1994, Wilson and his dedicated staff had conducted over 835,000 hours of coaching. Their work continues today in the state-of-the-art Indoor Cricket Centre which opened in 1995.