The twin demands of paying the rent for its Peverell Park ground and making the improvements needed meant that Plymouth Cricket Club’s finances were often a struggle. Part of the problem was its open boundary with the rest of Central Park which made it difficult to charge for entry. In 1935, a fence was erected which gave the ground a more contained and finished feel. However, it was not sufficient to deter some inveterate fence-jumpers and a story in the Western Morning News on 12 June 1937 reported four elderly spectators at the Home Park end of the ground disappearing into Central Park as the collection tin came around, and then re-appearing when it had gone.
After the war, the club was faced with escalating costs and declining crowds. The constant financial pressure was starting to take its toll on the over-burdened committee and they decided to attempt to maximise the use of their enormous Peverell Park site, by encouraging other sports to merge with the existing Cricket and Tennis sections to spread the financial and administrative strain.
After protracted negotiation, Plymouth Belair Hockey Club was finally absorbed into Plymouth Sports Club at the 1965 Annual General Meeting, changing their name to Plymouth Hockey Club. There were now three constituent sports sections and a new table tennis section, which although not a great financial contributor, was successful in competition in the local area.
Squash became a popular game during the 1960s and Plymouth Sports Club decided to build two courts. The first game was played in October 1969. The total Sports Club membership had risen to over 500 and the club appeared to have a secure future.
The ground at Peverell Park had been distinguished by large elm trees along its boundary. Dutch Elm Disease struck in 1971 and over the next two years a total of 20 trees had to be felled. It changed the way the ground looked, and some would say how it felt.
The mid-1970s were a turning point in the fortunes of Plymouth Sports Club. The Squash section pressurised the committee to build a third ‘show court’ to bring prestigious national events to the club. It took out a £16,000 loan but the cost of the loan soon spiralled out of control due to the economic recession in the early 1980s and the opening of other squash clubs.
Unable to repay its bank loan, the Sports Club accepted an offer from private businessmen in 1986/87 to take on the Peverell Park lease in return for clearing the Squash debt. Determined to make a viable business of their new asset, the new owners immediately installed and opened an Astroturf pitch in 1989 on the site of the present Goals five-a-side facility. Surplus soil from the development was used to build the large bank which still encloses the cricket field.
The new owners also encouraged new sports and Peverell Park became home to the Plymouth Admirals American football team. However, arguments within the sports club soon led to the tennis and hockey sections leaving for other venues and the Astroturf pitch falling into disrepair. Once the best squash courts in the county, the millstone that had caused all of the problems also fell into disrepair.
Plymouth Cricket Club continued as a tenant at Peverell Park but, hamstrung by loss-making owners and deteriorating facilities, its best players left for other clubs. The pessimism increased when the ground’s owners announced plans in January 1993 to develop the area into a sporting complex and then again in 1997 for an outdoor tennis and leisure centre. Eventually the committee persuaded the owners to hand over tenure and sole occupation of the ground to the Cricket Club, and once again, it was to some extent in control of its own destiny.
With a focus on community and youth development from 2000, Plymouth Cricket Club gradually strengthened again. However, it had no means to apply for any form of funding to maintain and improve the dilapidated facilities at Peverell Park and it faced an ongoing threat of eviction. It lost the lease in 2009 but, fortunately, property developers at Mount Wise in Devonport were looking for a cricket club to take over the old United Services ground and it was able to move there.
By contrast, the ground at Peverell Park, bounded by the Goals five-a-side courts, Venn Lane, Pounds Park and Argyle’s training ground, has remained vacant and increasingly neglected.