Wirksworth Recreation Ground Derby Road Wirksworth Derbyshire DE4 4AS
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Organised football in Wirksworth can be traced back to at least 1880, with a number of teams active at the turn of the 20th century. It is recorded that a number of Wirksworth players were included in the Matlock select team who played a friendly match against Newton Heath, I wonder what became of that team from Lancashire ?.
The true origins of the Wirksworth Ivanhoe Football Club can be traced to the period immediately after the Great War, an organisation within the then very much quarry orientated town was set up to help returning servicemen to re-adapt to civilian life. The Federation for Discharged Sailors and Soldiers organised a number of sporting events on Wirksworth Recreation Ground. One of the events held during this sports day was the first recorded wheelbarrow race in the town.
Wirksworth Ivanhoe F.C. were formed prior to the start of the season 1921 -1922, they had a very successful first year winning the Derbyshire Cup in 1922. The early years were spent playing in various different leagues including those centred on Matlock and Derby. It may seem that travelling to Derby in those days before private cars were popular would have been to say the least arduous, but it must be remembered that in that period up to 1947 there was a direct rail link between Wirksworth and Derby. One thing that we cannot truthfully identify is why the name Ivanhoe was adopted, it would seem logical to presume a link to the Walter Scott literary character ‘Ivanhoe’, but that may be a lazy assumption.
Other notable achievements during the early years were successful campaigns in the locally prestigious Cavendish Cup in both 1927 – 1928 and again in 1930 – 1931. The Cavendish Cup was presented by the then Duke of Devonshire and was first played for in 1905 – 1906.
The home pitch from those early days until today has been Wirksworth Recreation Ground, the highest gate remembered by anyone was an estimated 800 in 1951 for the local final of the Festival of Britain Cup against local rivals Middleton.
Probably the most exciting and certainly the most rewarding period for the club were the 1960’s. At that time there were still individuals who had been involved with the club since its inception. In 1961 – 1962 the Cavendish Cup was again won. The 1964 -1965 Cavendish Cup saw the club involved in a very unsavoury appeal by Ashover the team defeated on the day. The incident was finally resolved by the FA at Lancaster Gate, the letter ‘handing down’ the judgement is signed by Ted Crocker, the infamous FA secretary.
The recreation ground had no changing facilities, the local cricket club declining from allowing a sharing of resources. For a number of years changing took place in the living room of club secretary Arthur Spencer and his very tolerant wife Iris.
The shell of the current changing rooms was erected during 1966 and for some time an electric cable was run from the Spencer’s kitchen.
Following the fall-out from the Cavendish Cup incident the club moved to the Sutton and Skegby League were they were initially very successful winning a league and cup double.
Wirksworth Ivanhoe have for many years thought of themselves as the community club of Wirksworth, there are a number of current players and committee members who can point to 4th generation of involvement with the club. We like to think ourselves to be the natural home for players graduating from the Wirksworth Colts Junior teams
Although there have been long periods of not winning things and changing leagues, the club still remains strong and active. Over the past six years since getting promoted from the Midland Regional Alliance division 2 there has been a continuous improvement in on-field achievements. During this first season in the Central Midlands League on the field efforts have been generally steady, with some of the best performances being reserved for cup competitions

Kevin Vallance.

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