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Jalgos Sports and Social Club: From Avenham Park to Rose Street

Stephen Poleon

At a first glance, Jalgos Sports and Social Club is an obscure building on a nondescript backstreet in Preston, Lancashire. A plaque above the entrance to the club bar provides an intriguing clue regarding the history of the venue, which contains a wealth of hidden social, sporting, and cultural history. This plaque, naturally, only tells a partial story. Behind this straightforward commemoration of the club’s founding is a deeper story about the journey undertaken by the Jalgos Cricket Club years earlier.

Jalgos Sports and Social Club grew out of the need for the cricket club to have facilities to entertain visiting teams. An idea that was first formed in 1962 led to the creation of a community hub. Just like the club’s physical location, its history is also mostly hidden from public view. If the Jalgos Cricket Club was the catalyst for the Caribbean community in Preston to flourish and thrive, can it be the cornerstone in bringing this hidden history to life? Moreover, if this history has been obscured, how was it uncovered?

Shades of Memory, a collaborative oral history project, conducted by NHS Central Lancashire; Preston, and South Ribble Age Concern; and students from the University of Central Lancashire uncovered a vivid story of mass immigration to Preston in the 1950s and 1960s. Nine oral testimonies were utilised to form an exhibition showcasing the first micro-history of Preston’s West Indian community. It also served to uncover the rich historical narrative of Jalgos. Three recordings shed light on the founding of the cricket team and the search for a permanent home. Several informal conversations also reveal a precious seam of information held by club members about their memories of Jalgos.

These conversations reflect the informality of this community. Verbal permission was sought and given to use these conversations to form part of an exhibition in 2008 and again in 2010 as part of a campaign to save Jalgos from compulsory purchase. These conversations are now part of the obscure secondary literature regarding the history of this club. The men involved in these conversations have since died, and many more stories passed with them.

One of the most regaled stories recorded relates to Tommy Meade. Acting as the Jalgos secretary at the time, he heard that the Hibernian Club on Rose Street was for sale and approached them with an offer to buy. He failed, however, to disclose that Jalgos were £1000 short of the asking price and cheekily asked the sellers to loan Jalgos the shortfall. The rest, as they say, is history. Yet, this story does not end and begin with the purchase of the Rose Street premises. The oral testimonies from the Shades of Memory project reveal that it began in Avenham Park.

Formed by a group of young Jamaican men who played cricket together all summer, Jalgos became a beacon of hope for Preston’s small but vibrant West Indian community. Founding member Gladstone Afflick, on his daily journey to Mr. Heaton’s Newsagents on Stanley Street, never envisaged how important or momentous his decision to heed Mr. Heaton’s advice to form a team and apply to join the league would be.

Mr. Heaton, the proprietor of Heaton’s Newsagents, was a board member of the Preston District Amateur Cricket League. All of the teams in the league were Church-affiliated. If this informal group of Jamaican cricketers successfully joined the league, they would not only be the first West Indian team but also the first non-Church team to play in the local cricket league. The next step in this process would be to form the official team.

A meeting was held at 172 London Road and proposed team names were put into a hat. Jalgos, the name suggested by Justin Morlese, was drawn. After a successful application to join the league Jalgos made history playing their first match against St Pauls in 1963.

In a 2017 documentary called Race and Pace: The West Indians in East Lancashire, it was revealed that the team took the league by storm and played a vital role in community cohesion. They brought the West Indian community together as spectators who came in their droves to watch them play. Cricket helped break down barriers with the indigenous community and long-lasting friendships that stood the test of time were formed. Jalgos, however, did not have facilities to entertain visiting teams and spectators.

Mr. Lewis Walker’s testimony reveals that a room was rented from the St. Peters Club at 53 Fylde Road in Preston. Due to the racial discrimination prevalent at the time, when the committee at St. Peters realised this room was for the use of Jalgos Cricket Club, they sought a deposit of £200 and charged £25 a week in rent. The money was raised between eight of the team members. For these members earning an average wage of £7 a week, this was a colossal task. Not only did it become a place for the cricketers to entertain visiting teams, but it also became a vital hub for West Indians in Preston- a place to socialise where all regardless of colour were welcome. Due to the prohibitive running costs, this venture would only last until 1964.

Jalgos, whilst still playing cricket, would endure embarrassment over the next twelve years whilst searching for a new home, as it is customary for the home team to cater to and entertain the visiting team. Without a permanent clubhouse, the cricketers could not perform this function or provide a base for the wider West Indian community. The cricketers and community members utilised the Foxton Centre and Arkwright house for various occasions and functions: christenings, birthdays, marriages, funerals, and fundraising dances. Lune Street Methodist Church, with the assistance of John Daley, Rev. Marshall, and Councillor Bunker, became the venue for bring-and-buy sales raising money to buy a permanent home, which they found on an obscure road just south of Church Street.

This Jalgos Sports and Social Club at 172 Rose Street became a hub for community activity. It was a venue where plays written by the cricketer Lewis Walker were performed. Beauty pageants, birthday parties, christenings, and weddings were held here. It is home to the Jamaican National, Montserrat, and Barbados Associations and Isles in Harmony carnival troupe. During the 1980s it was a vital hub for Preston’s Punk scene and gave debuts to local bands and legendary Scottish bands playing their first English gigs. Preston’s Scooter Club running under constant police harassment at that time also found a home in Jalgos.

As time marches on and the remaining cricketers from 1962 approach the end of their final over, it is imperative to capture more memories relating to Jalgos journey from Avenham Park to Rose Street and beyond. This journey is a microcosm of the Windrush Generation not only in Preston but within the wider United Kingdom. This narrative belongs at the forefront of history, not in an obscure, nondescript backstreet.


Additional Resources

In 2010 Stephen researched the history of Jalgos in order to run a PR campaign to help save Jalgos from the redevelopment of Preston. The Save Our Club campaign t-shirt and the story of the campaign will be on display in UCLAN's PR1 Gallery during Black History Month 2021.


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