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Ground Guide by Cricket Tripper
St Lawrence Cricket Ground is based in Canterbury in Kent, and home to Kent Count Cricket Club. Since 2013, it’s been known as The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence due to a commercial sponsorship. Its claim to fame is it’s one of the oldest cricket grounds on which, first-class cricket in still played. It was first used in 1847. Adding to its age, it is the venue for the oldest cricket festival in the world, namely the Canterbury Cricket Week.
Its second claim to fame is the St Lawrence Lime – a tree within its boundary. This makes St Lawrence Cricket Ground only one of two grounds with a tree on its pitch that also hosts first-class cricket. The St Lawrence Lime is a notable feature of the St Lawrence Cricket Ground, making cricket played here, requiring special rules. For example, a ball that is hit, and hits the tree should be counted as 4 runs. Furthermore, a ball that hits the tree and ricochets off it, cannot be ‘caught out’ by a fielder catching the rebound. The original tree died in 2005 after high winds caused the trunk to snap in two, but a new one was planted 1999 and moved into the boundary in 2005 as a replacement.
The ground was established in 1847 on farmland owned by the fourth Baron Sondes. The site on which St Lawrence Cricket Ground is built on, has previously been home to St Lawrence Hospital founded in the 12th century, and a Tudor manor house in the 16th century. The ground was first laid out by Fuller Pilch. Her was a professional cricketer, who had also been a groundsman at the Town Malling ground and the Beverley Ground – the latter of which, was the previous home to Kent County Cricket Club. In 1847, Kent played England and the Gentleman of Kent played the Gentlemen of England, in what was deemed the first first-class cricket matches in England. This ‘cricket week’ was initially the only use of the St Lawrence Cricket Ground – the rest of the year it was left to pasture. Regularity of use increased in 1864 with the creation of St Lawrence Cricket Club, which further increased in the 1870 when St Lawrence Cricket Club, East and West Kent Cricket Clubs combined to form Kent County Cricket Club. The ground was purchased by the club for £4,500 in 1896.
During World War I, the ground was used by the military and occupied by the Field Ambulance detachment of the South Eastern Mounted Brigade. In World War II, St Lawrence Cricket Ground was used as an alternative civil defence control centre. Kent have played more than 950 matches on the ground including 550 first-class matches. The St Lawrence Cricket Ground can hold up to 15,000 spectators. It was upgraded to this capacity in 2000. Since then, four One Day International matches have been played there; in 1999 (part of the 1999 ICC Cricket World Cup, 2000, 2003 and 2005. The first day/night County Championship match was also played there in 2011. Despite all the upgrades over the years, the St Lawrence Cricket Ground still has The Iron Stand, which is the oldest building on the ground, originally built in 1907.
Visiting the Ground - Travel
Postcode for satnav is CT1 3NZ. There is no parking offered at the ground for matchday however there is an official Park and Ride car park (CT1 3EJ) which is just 15-minute walk or a short bus journey from the ground. There are also several car parks in Canterbury but they will fill up fast on match day, making Park and Ride your best option if you are driving in.
Train - Public Transport
Canterbury has 2 train stations, Canterbury East and Canterbury West, both with regular trains mainly from Kent and London. Canterbury East is about a 20 minute walk, while Canterbury West is about a 30 minute walk, so both are great options. There are of course buses and Taxis from the station for those who don’t fancy the extra walk.
Airports and Flying
There are no major international airports in Kent, so your best bet is going to a London Airport. London Gatwick is about 1 hours drive to the ground, but on public transport you’ll be rerouted to London, making it take you well over 2 hours. London Heathrow and Stansted would also be viable options, as it’s easy to hop on a train from London to Canterbury, but there journeys could take around 3 hours.