The first major game of cricket took place at Marchwiel Hall in September 1924 when Lancashire met a team raised by Sir Alfred David McAlpine, the son of the Scottish-born civil engineer who established the construction company which still bears the family’s name. Sir Alfred had been the resident at Marchwiel since 1919 but cricket had been played in the grounds of the Hall, situated two miles south-east of Wrexham, for at least the previous fifty years.
The country house, which is currently a Grade II listed building, had been built in 1740 for the Broughton family, with the substantial 12-bedroom property also having a ballroom, five reception rooms, stables and various outbuildings, besides being surrounded by a series of lawns and areas of woodland as part of a 150-acre estate.
The first record of cricket being played at Marchwiel date from the 1860s when Townshend Mainwaring, the Conservative MP, lived at the Hall. However, the number of games increased during the 1880s following its purchase in 1881 by Benjamin Piercy, a railway engineer who was a member of the MCC. He laid a cricket pitch in the grounds in front of the Hall, besides overseeing the construction of a small pavilion, with the new wicket and facilities being used for the first time in 1883, with the Wrexham and Denbigh Advertiser reporting that a game had taken place “on the newly laid out grounds” between Marchwiel Hall and Gerwyn Hall on 13 September with three members of the Piercy family appearing in the Marchwiel side, and with Benjamin opening the batting.
The ground and Hall became the property of Sir Alfred McAlpine during 1910 with the McAlpine family moving into the Hall after the Great War following its use as a military nursing home for injured soldiers.
Sir Alfred relished playing the role of a sporting country gentleman by staging a series of matches at Marchwiel from 1923 onwards, besides acting as President of both Wrexham FC and Manchester City FC. Some of the cricket matches at Marchwiel were quite light-hearted and involved his political and business friends, very much in keeping with his standing of High Sheriff of Denbighshire in 1923. Others such, as the match in September 1924 against Lancashire (see below) included a number of notable cricketers and was organised to raised funds for the Wrexham Infirmary.
The pavilion was also extended after the Great War and dedicated to the memory of Mrs. McAlpine’s brother – James Williams, whose family hailed from Aboyne in Aberdeenshire – who had been killed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
Sir Alfred himself was not a great cricketer, but a great supporter of team activities. To him, cricket represented teamship and his belief that that was the way successful companies performed, much the way that he ran the construction company. His son Jimmie was a fine cricketer – an opening bowler of some repute and a hard-hitting middle order bat – who represented Denbighshire in the Minor County Championship.
The first match of country house cricket at Marchwiel Hall was game in 1923 between Sir Alfred McAlpine’s XI and the Vale of Clwyd Club from the Denbigh area. The Marchwiel Cricket Week continued each year, apart from 1940-1945, until 2005 with a number of famous cricketing personalities taking part, including Gubby Allen, as seen below.