Hesketh Park has been home to the Club since the start of the 20th century. The current ground occupies land that once formed part of the original Dartford Brent site ensuring that DCC retains its historical origins.
Until 1876 the whole of the area to the east of Dartford had been known as Dartford Brent, an area of open land the public could freely use. Towards the end of the 19th Century, private companies rapidly laid claim to the land and parts were sold off for housing.
This eventually led Everard Hesketh, a local businessman, to purchase two and a half acres (one hectare) of the land and donate it to the town in order to preserve it for the use of the local people forever. The town council recommended that the ground be called Hesketh Park as a mark of gratitude and the grand opening took place in April 1904.
A year after the opening Everard Hesketh provided additional land adjacent to the park to be used as a sports ground and in 1905 he bowled the first over in an inaugural cricket match. Hesketh’s donation allowed the tradition of playing cricket on the Dartford Brent, which began several centuries before, to continue uninterrupted to this day.
County cricket was once played at Hesketh Park. The first match, Kent v Essex, was played here in 1956 following the building of a new pavilion and an increase in the size of the outfield.
A further 32 first-class matches were played at Hesketh between 1957 and 1990, the largest attendance at any match being 3,750 when Kent played another local derby against Essex in 1985. The last county match was played in 1990 when Kent faced Leicestershire.
21st Century Redevelopment
With the support of Dartford Council & the ECB, the facilities at Hesketh Park underwent a total redevelopment during 2015 which included a new pavilion, nets and scoreboard.
These artist impressions were unveiled to members at the AGM in December 2013. We were then formally awarded a grant from the Council for the necessary funding for the build in the Spring of 2014 and we finally broke ground in September 2014.
Despite some initial delays, building work moved very quickly, mainly due to the modular nature of the design, and the main structure of the building was all but complete by the turn of the year. New Year saw work start on the fitting out with much of the work being done by local tradesman. You can watch a video that charts the full project here.
February saw the demolition of the old Pavilion which some may not realise is the second cricket pavilion at Hesketh Park, with the original Victorian building being destroyed by fire in the 1980s.
We suffered a number of setbacks during the build, but the biggest and most challenging was a break in which set us back four weeks with just seven weeks to go. However, with a monumental effort from all involved, the building was duly ready for the ‘topping off’ ceremony at the end of March with Jeremy Kite, Tony Martin and Mayor Avtar Sandhu doing the honours.
It was important as part of the redevelopment to remember our history. It was with great pleasure that we were able to remember stalwarts of the Club, like Graham Dilley, Paul Stanford, Don Wykes, Gordon Morris, Les Knapp, Derek Ufton and our current Club President Mike Cullingham. It was also fantastic that some of these people and their families were able to join us to mark the occasion.
Work then continued to complete the build ahead of the Club’s opening dinner on 11th April. 150 members and friends donned black tie and ball gowns and were royally entertained with fireworks, dancing and guest speakers ex-England captain Alec Stewart and Strictly Come Dancing Winner and BBC presenter Chris Hollins under the stewardship of Club Chairman Jim Lowrie.
The new four lane net facility, which sits on the footprint of the old pavilion and was funded by an ECB grant, was opened for the last few weeks of the season and by the start of the 2016 season the landscaping around the pavilion and nets was completed.
This is not the end of developments though as we are seeking further funding for an irrigation system that will use rainwater from the roof, collected in a 25,000 litre tank already buried to the side of the pavilion, to help keep the outfield lush and green throughout the summer months.
Check out the Kent Messenger article about the project.