Pavilions in Splendour

Published: 2018
Pages: 247
Author: Wellsteed, Geoff
Publisher: Max Books
Rating: 3.5 stars

I have a lot of time for Geoff Wellsteed. His connection with my home town produced this splendid little volume, and he has also co-authored Inns and Outs, a book not entirely dissimilar to Pavilions in Splendour, dealing with cricketing themed hostelries up and down England. Here however the geographical scope is limited to the county of Cheshire, and the subject matter 133 cricket grounds within what traditionalists, as opposed to current administrators, consider to be the county’s boundaries.

Each of the featured grounds contains a photograph of its pavilion and, in many cases, more than one. For some there are also some historic images of the ground, well known players or other relevant material. The accompanying text is a brief history of the ground in question, the clubs who have played there and some of the individuals who have graced the turf. Many of those mentioned come from the distant past but there are some, like Liam Livingstone, whose greatest deeds we hope are still in front of them.

Some of the grounds featured are really rather grand, and either do or could host County cricket. Two examples are Winnington Park and Chester Boughton Hall. At the other extreme there are the small and unsophisticated village grounds like Rostherne and Glazebury, that on occasion will provide a backdrop for those whose cricketing skills are as limited as those of this reviewer. They are delightful places nonetheless, as of course is each and every one of the grounds featured, and indeed any location where life goes on to a backdrop of the sound of leather on willow.

The grounds are considered in alphabetical order something which, I have to concede, is entirely logical. The only slight drawback on this occasion is that such an approach might for some create unrealistic expectations. Certainly for this reviewer the single most attractive ground is Alderley Edge, which just happens to be the very first to be considered. I had to wait all the way through the alphabet to Tattenhall before coming across another that came close, although that was followed fairly swiftly by Wallasey. No one could accuse the pavilion there of being a thing of beauty, but there is certainly something compelling about it.

By virtue of its subject matter Pavilions in Splendour is of limited appeal, but at the same time it will be of interest to many more than might at first blush seem to be the case. Cricket tragics the world over will enjoy it, simply because the book is beautifully illustrated, well written and deals with an aspect of our great game. For those who have a connection with club cricket in Cheshire I would expect it to be a ‘must buy’, and indeed the list of subscribers at the back suggests that it is. Even without any current involvement anyone who has played cricket in the county will enjoy the book as well. Beyond those another group who should make the investment are Lancashire supporters, as there are snippets of biographical information about men who made their names with the Red Rose liberally sprinkled throughout the narrative.

One obvious but important point here is that any publisher whose book relies for its appeal to any significant extent on its pictorial content must ensure that the reproduction of its images is sharp, and that good quality paper is used in the printing process. For those who have other volumes produced by Max Books in their collections it will come as no surprise that Pavilions in Splendour is a very attractive large format hardback. I would call it a coffee table book, but it deserves to have a home in a glass fronted bookcase rather than lying around in the living room. The somewhat specialist nature of the book results in a 3.5 star rating for the general market, but make no mistake, to anyone who falls into one of the categories identified in the preceding paragraph it is worth a good deal more than that.

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