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Student shares historical insight into sports charity with new book

12 December 2023


A new book tracing the long history of the Norton Sports Complex has been written by a Teesside University student who researched the organisation’s past.

Jake Milner
Jake Milner

Jake Milner started looking into the organisation’s past, including activities and people associated with the site from 1878 to 2021, as part of a three-month graduate internship as a historical researcher. This progressed into publication of the new book.

Norton Sports Complex is owned by Norton Sports Charity, which provides sports, recreation and social facilities for use by people across Teesside and beyond. It is also home to a range of successful sports clubs, including archery, athletics, bowling, cricket, football, hockey, squash and tennis.

Jake, who is currently completing a PhD in the University’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Law, applied for the graduate internship role after completing postgraduate history studies at Teesside University in 2020.

“I noticed that a graduate internship was advertised by the University for a historical researcher. It was a perfectly timed opportunity,” said Jake.

“The internship was in association with Norton Sports Charity, and I was employed as a historical researcher, as they wanted an official history of their site and facilities.

“Having been a huge sports fan all my life, the opportunity to conduct research into local sports history and the way sport has shaped Norton's local identity, was an opportunity I could not pass up.

“The research project was to trace the developments and moments in history that developed sport on the current site. Originally, the idea was to simply compile a historical catalogue, rather than a whole manuscript, but due to the charity opening up access to a wide range of materials, it quickly became clear to me that a complete history was begging to be written.”

Alongside being able to pore over reams of historical material, Jake also set up scores of interviews with people associated with the many clubs on the Norton Sports Charity site.

Jake, who is originally from Darlington, said: “The book traces the 143-year history of the sports complex at Norton, from its initial role with the blossoming of cricket in the village, to the eventual founding of Norton Sports Charity, capturing pivotal points in time which had a fundamental impact on the complex.

I noticed that a graduate internship was advertised by the University for a historical researcher. It was a perfectly timed opportunity.

Jake Milner

“Approximately nine generations have existed since its creation and throughout that time, the site has continued to provide the village of Norton and surrounding areas with a space for playing sports. It has grown into a bastion for sporting activity.”

Jake added: “Getting to talk to and learn from members of the local community who have been involved in building such an impressive facility from the ground up was incredibly rewarding. It is crucial that our local history is documented before it is lost, and this was a shared aim with the charity.

“You never know what sort of stories you will uncover. In the case of Norton Sports Complex, this included stories such as the site's association with cricketing legend W.G Grace, to Middlesbrough Football Club's former star striker Fabrizio Ravanelli once getting lost on the site by mistake!

“History is about investigating and recovering the past, and it has been immensely exciting to bring together a collection of documents, interviews, and pictures to create a narrative that reveals sport to be at the centre of Norton's identity. None of this would have been possible without the opportunity the graduate internship provided.”

Honorary President of Norton Sports Charity, Dr Peter Frost, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the work done by Jake and the excellent book he has produced. It was very important for us to capture our history before it was lost and the fully referenced book does this extremely thoroughly.

“We would also like to thank Teesside University for setting up and securing funding for Jake’s internship and are very pleased with how he has so clearly developed since we were first associated with him back in 2020 and he now has a published book to his name.”

The book, Norton Sports Complex: The History 1878 – 2021, is available, priced £10, by contacting Norton Sports Charity on

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