Extracted from 'History of Cricket in the Heavy Woollen District and the Central Yorkshire League' 

by Jack Hampshire and Tony Woodhouse

Early Days in the Spen Valley

There is probably less known about the history of Yorkshire cricket than any other county. It is an area that the cricket historian has tended to neglect; possibly because the size of the county has resulted in a conglomeration of mills, pits and steel-works that have produced workers who have put in long hours and perhaps have tended to move from one district to another whereas the many agricultural workers in York-shire have stayed in their own area. This development of cricket was much slower than in the south but the arrival of the railways and the Factory Act of 1850 which shortened the working week giving labourers a half day holiday, resulted in organised cricket clubs from that period onwards. The development saw the game mentioned more and more in newspapers and in the pages of the Spenborough Guardian of 1868 were such names as Spen Victoria, Thornhill, Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton — all names of note to-day in the cricket world. Other names some quaint and some glorious-sounding have long since disappeared into oblivion. Littleton Young Alma, Hightown Young England, Clifton Britannia and Bowling Napoleon were amongst the latter. At this very early date we see clubs who in due course will join into groups to form four senior cricket leagues, such as the Yorkshire Council, the Bradford League, the Huddersfield and the Central Yorkshire Leagues. The latter developed in three phases beginning with the Spen Valley League, then the Heavy Woollen League and finally the Central Yorkshire Cricket League. Thirty years were to pass before cricket in the valleys reached the high status of the Senior Cricket Leagues and the game was to pass through many very interesting stages. During this same year of 1868 there is notice that a match will take place at Dewsbury Savile Town on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, June 1st, 2nd and 3rd between the All England Eleven and the United All England Eleven; the proceeds to be for the benefit of Carpenter and Hayward the Cambridgeshire batsmen and arguably the two leading batsmen of the decade. This fixture apart from Gentlemen v Players matches was the most important of all games of cricket and all the leading professionals of the day took part. George Freeman, Trueman's chief rival as Yorkshire's greatest fast bowler, took 6-44 and included George Parr and Richard Daft among his victims. When the two sides met again at Savile Town in the following year it was the last such match ever to be played between the two rival elevens. The game was evolving and the growth of county cricket was changing the face of the game. It is significant that Savile Town should have been the venue for such a match and even more significant that two players from a county some 150 miles away should have a benefit match there.

This same year the Sunday Schools took up the game and there is a record of a match played between Cleckheaton St. John's and Providence Place Sunday School which resulted in a win for the latter:— St. John's 30 and 92: Providence Place 92 and 33-5. It is believed that the match was played at Hartshead and was soon followed by many more Sunday School matches resulting in due time in the formation of a Sunday Schools Cup Competition and a Sunday Schools League.

The Heavy Woollen District Cricket Challenge Cup

The Heavy Woollen Cup competition was born in 1883 and was an instant success and has gone from strength to strength as the years have passed. It is recognised as the oldest cup competition in the country and the original trophy is a very ornate piece of silver worth a great deal of money at today's price. Dewsbury and Savile won the cup three times in succession in 188--59 under the captaincy of Sam Shaw and thus won the trophy outright. What happened to the trophy in the years that followed is something of a mystery and is a question asked many times with no answer forthcoming. Then in 19-- the competition secretary, Mr. Ken Windmill was sorting out bits and piece, in the Savile pavilion when he found a strange lump of metal, covered in grime and cobwebs behind a cupboard. As he cleaned away the grime and cobwebs he was over', fund he had the original Heavy Woollen Cup in his hands. A second trophy was in due course won three times in a row by Ossett from 1916-18 after which the rule was changed so that the new cup could never become the winners' property. This proved to be a wise decision for Dewsbury won it again from 1924-26 and Heckmondwike won it from 1936-38 when captained by Arthur Brearley; for many years President of the Heavy Woollen Cup Louis Hall
committee. Mr. Louis Hall, Secretary of the Heavy Woollen Cup Committee was a great character and the first of a long line of worker for local crur.ket. He played for Yorkshire from 1873 to 94 and must have been a remarkable cricketer. An obstinate opening batsman, he carried his bat through the innings for Yorkshire on fourteen occasions and was a teetotaller and non-smoker as w ell as a well-known local preacher. He was regarded as a sobering influence at both club and county level in an era when such abstention was rather an exception to the rule. Hall was too very influential in rugby circles and must have had a great deal to do with the change from Rugby Union to Northern Union (part-time payments and all at the time of the great rugby schism. Reverting to cricket, Louis Hall besides playing for Batley for a further decade after his playing career with Yorkshire finished. was in 1909 President of the newly formed Heavy Woollen District Second Eleven League which was for second elevens of those clubs who were members of the Yorkshire Council. Until the Health Service was nationalised in 1948 the Heavy Woollen Cup was played for as a hospital charity competition. Even now, the competition retains that connection for some portion of the proceeds of the Fund are devoted to the Heavy Woollen Hospitals Broadcasts Association. The Cup was played for by "clubs situate within 6 miles of Batley Town Hall" which was extended to its 15 mile boundary in 1929.

Early Leagues in the District

By the end of the century the idea of clubs banding together into leagues had taken a firm hold, each member club playing home and away fixtures with all the other members. The fixture list was more easily compiled and more secure than the club system of arranging fixtures, sometimes being refused by better clubs not wishing to play clubs of inferior status. Rugby Union clubs know all about this for their fixtures have to be arranged many seasons in advance. The early leagues seemed to consist of groups of between eight and ten clubs, this gave a reasonable number of fixtures and also left open dates which the clubs could use to arrange fixtures with old friends. For a few years the situation seemed a bit confused and there was quite a bit of movement of clubs into the leagues, and of clubs moving from one league to another, not to mention the demise of some leagues after only a very few years, and the rising of new leagues out of the ashes of the old. During the last few years of the nineteenth century the West Riding Cricket League consisted of nine clubs, all town teams, Barnsley, Bradford, Dewsbury, Halifax, Huddersfield, Keighley, Leeds, Skipton, and Wakefield. At a meeting of this league held at the Green Dragon Hotel in Leeds on April 6th 1899 a resolution was moved by Mr. F. A. Woodhouse of Bradford and seconded by Mr. T. S. Ward of Leeds that "the West Riding Cricket League be abandoned at the end of the present season." This resolution was carried by 6 votes to 3. Mr. W. Carr of Barnsley who was the chairman then submitted ideas for the formation of a new association of cricket clubs and the Yorkshire Cricket Council came into being. At first it was to consist of not more than 24 clubs and during the first year of 1900 twenty two clubs were in membership. These were the nine clubs from the West Riding League who joined by Bingley, Bowling Old Lane, Idle, Saltaire and Yeadon from the West Yorkshire Cricket League which had also abandoned its activities. Also joining the Yorkshire Cricket Council from further afield were Brighouse, Elland, Harrogate, Hull, Ilkley, Otley, Rotherham and Sheffield United. Thus was launched the Yorkshire Cricket Council which was to grow to a total of almost 100 clubs. In 1899 the West Riding Central Cricket Association was formed to look after the interests of the chief clubs in the Heavy Woollen District and included Birstall, Staincliffe, Mirfield, Cleckheaton, Liversedge, Batley, Spen Victoria, Ossett, Chickenley and Thornhill and the League's meetings were held in the Railway Hotel in Dewsbury. The West Riding Central League had only a short life for on April 7th L 1905 at a league meeting the President, Mr. W. H. Steward noted that only five clubs were represented and Mr. R. Tonge, the Secretary reported that Cleckheaton had withdrawn and intended playing all their fixtures with Yorkshire Council clubs for they had been accepted into Council membership in 1903. Mr. Tonge added that the other clubs had not replied to his question about whether they required neutral umpires for the coming season.

It was agreed at this meeting that the scoring system for the coming season should be 2 points for a win and 1 point for a draw. This seems to be the first time ever that a draw merits any attention. Up to this time drawn games were ignored —like disreputable relatives, everyone knew such things existed, but they were never mentioned. Now it became respectable to have taken part in a drawn game and in 1911 the County Championship followed suit. It is interesting to note that when club representatives went to the Railway Hotel to the meeting of the West Riding Central League to arrange their fixtures they did so with the names of their clubs displayed in their hat bands. It didn't seem to do a great deal of good because for more than forty years the problems of fixtures bedevilled the relationship of club and club, and that of club and league and directly or indirectly caused the break-up of three of the leagues in line of descent of the Central Yorkshire Cricket League. At a further meeting of the West Riding Central League held on 5th May 1905 Mr. Tonge stated that there seemed a complete lack of interest and the season's league table would probably be something of a farce. Opinion was expressed that the newly formed Spen Valley Cricket League would considerably interfere with the Association. This is the point where the West Riding Central Cricket Association begins to fade away and is replaced by the Spen Valley Cricket League. Many of the same clubs are involved, breaking away from one league and causing its demise and joining a newly born league. The reasons for such a course of action seem to me to be a bit obscure, but always the clubs retained a point of anchorage in their membership of the Yorkshire Cricket Council. As we have seen Cleckheaton became members in 1903 and they were followed by Batley and Chickenley in 1904 and Spen Victoria, Ossett, Birstall, King Cross and Morley in 1905. Most of their fixtures were arranged with other Council Clubs. The Spen Valley Cricket League was formed in 1905 and the secretary announced at a meeting held in July 1905 that home and al.vay fixtures had been arranged by the following member clubs: East Bierley, Hartshead Moor, Liversedge, Rastrick, Gomersal, Mirfield, Heckmondwike, Scholes and Staincliffe. The scoring system was to be the same as that used by the Yorkshire Council and not the one just introduced by the West Riding Central League. Losses were deducted from wins and the resulting figure is turned into a percentage of the completed matches, drawn games being ignored. The to-ing and fro-ing was not over yet by a long way for at the July meeting of the Yorkshire Council in 1907 Mr. Louis Hall put forward a proposition to form an Inner League of the Council to be called the Heavy Woollen League. The proposition was rejected by a large majority, but the idea of Inner Leagues within the framework of the Council was born. The following year Louis Hall and Richard Wheatley formed the Heavy Woollen District Second Eleven League, with Louis Hall as President and R. N. Wheatley as Secretary. This league was specifically for the Second Elevens of those Heavy Woollen clubs who were members of the Yorkshire Council and who’s First Teams played all their fixtures within the Council. At the Yorkshire Council's September meeting in 1909 Mr. R. N . Wheatley of Hopton Mills again introduced the proposition to form a Heavy Woollen League within the framework of the Council. At the same meeting Mr. F. W. Elam of Leeds had come with the express purpose of asking permission to form a West Yorkshire Cricket League also to operate within the Council. It was expected that better gates would result from these Home and Away fixtures.  With this added support for his proposition Mr. Wheatley was very hopeful. A vote was taken and by a majority of 17 votes to 10 it was decided that two Inner Leagues should be formed. So in 1910 the Heavy Woollen Cricket League came into full operation playing first and second eleven matches and the following clubs were the founder members:—Batley, Dewsbury, Birstall, Morley, Spen Victoria, Cleckheaton, Hopton Mills and Chickenley. This was a league which was to grow and to last for some thirty years. By 1909 the Spen Valley League table had introduced points for a win and draws were recognised at last, earning a point. In 1910 the Spen Valley League and the Heavy Woollen League continued to serve the clubs in the area but the latter were a section of the Yorkshire Council whereas the Spen Valley League continued to be independent. Clubs applied for and left each of the leagues from time to time until the approach of the Great War. Soon after the outbreak of hostilities, the Yorkshire Council decided to suspend all competitive cricket. This allowed the Heavy Woollen League to run its own competition even though some clubs in that league such as Morley and Dewsbury also decided not to play on a competitive basis. Several of the Spen Valley League clubs had become members of the Council and their outlook was not as satisfactory.

The Central Yorkshire League and demise of the Heavy Woollen League

The cessation of hostilities caused the Yorkshire Council Management Committee to attempt to return to the old system of the Council changing back to Sections in which the clubs met each other but also played matches with other Council clubs outside their Sections. The Heavy Woollen League wished to go it alone and claimed they would resign en bloc unless they could become an independent body within the Council. The crisis was averted but in 1925 Wakefield intimated that they wished to return to their colleagues in the "Towns" Section of the Council while Dewsbury wished to play only the stronger sides in the Heavy Woollen League. For a time it seemed that the Heavy Woollen League would break up but fortunately Wakefield returned to win the Heavy Woollen Championship in 1926 and only Dewsbury and Savile actually resigned. The end of the season 1937 saw an upheaval in League affairs in the Heavy Woollen Area resulting in a period of subtle change, no doubt prolonged by the War years. Subtle change because all that really changed in the end was the name of the League and the League's elected officials. The 1920's and 1930's saw a tremendous interest in League Cricket. Heckmondwike with a large vociferous following felt very strongly about its fixture difficulties and resigned from the Heavy Woollen League on the 28th July 1937 and one can only imagine the hum of political manoeuvring at this time. To understand the events of the next few weeks one must set out the facts of the set-up of the Heavy Woollen Cricket League at the end of season 1937. The League was presided over by Mr. Tom Harrison of Morley and the Secretary was Mr. Solomon Mounsey of Cleckheaton. Mr. Harrison was also President of the Yorkshire Cricket Council from 1936 to 1944. The Heavy Woollen Cricket League consisted of sixteen clubs and they were all in one league not in two separate divisions so obviously the clubs could not all play each other, hence the fixture problem. The Spenborough Guardian and the Dewsbury Reporter who have very kindly given us access to their archives may now take up the story. Beginning with the report at the start of the season. April 9th 1937 Spenborough Guardian:—"A new scheme of arranging fixtures for the 1938 season was decided upon at a meeting of the Heavy Woollen Cricket League on Wednesday over which Mr. T. Harrison (President) presided. The scheme appears to be very rigid which jeopardises the derby matches of the top clubs." How much grumbling went on in the dressing rooms and committee rooms one can only guess, but by the end of the season the pot was beginning to boil. July 30th 1937 Spenborough Guardian:-"The resignation of the Heckmondwike Cricket Club from the Heavy Woollen Cricket League was accepted with little comment at a meeting of the League on Wednesday at the Scarborough Hotel in Dewsbury." The League's fixtures for the season ended on August 14th but the Guardian printed on Friday the 13th read:- "New Cricket League Proposed — Sequel to the resignation of Heckmondwike from the Heavy Woollen Cricket League — Secrecy after last night's meeting." Obviously clubs involved and prospective officials of the new league had no intention of declaring their hands until the final league table was compiled. Only Heckmondwike and Mr. J. Smith were apparent and Heckmondwike were already League Champions. August 20th the Guardian again takes up the story:-"For many years the question of arranging a suitable fixture list has been the most difficult the League has had to meet, and it is no exaggeration to say that members and officials have spent many hours in trying to get at a satisfactory solution of it. The real problem lay in the fact that some clubs insist at all cost on arranging fixtures with certain others, irrespective of the other members of the League. The argument is that these derby matches and certain other fixtures bring in so much revenue to the clubs that they cannot afford to do without them. The Heckmondwike club is in a particular strong position in this respect, for it is an acknowledged fact that it takes with it more supporters than any other club. For this reason alone Heckmondwike is assured of a full fixture list.- In that same day's paper, April 9th, was another article in which a statement was made whereby Heckmondwike, Batley, Dewsbury & Savile, Staincliffe. Cleckheaton, Birstall, Liversedge, Ossett have withdrawn from the Heavy Woollen Cricket League. These clubs with Wakefield who recently resigned from the York-shire League have decided to form a new league under the title SPEN VALLEY & CALDER CRICKET LEAGUE. All the clubs will still retain their membership of the Yorkshire Cricket Council. The resignations are now in the hands of Mr. S. Mounsey, secretary of the Heavy Woollen League. The clubs will play each other home and away, and will be entitled to arrange fixtures with other Yorkshire Council teams if so desired. Mr. J. Smith secretary of Heckmondwike C.C. has been appointed Acting Secretary, and Mr. Frank Morton of Cleckheaton is Chairman pro-tern. It is understood that the new league is hoping that Morley will join in due course, but there are certain reasons why they were not invited to the meeting referred to in last week's Guardian." The Dewsbury Reporter of September 4th 1937 added a little more to the story when it reported that Mr. Tom Harrison of Morley who is President of the Heavy Woollen League and also President of the Yorkshire Council had said at the Council Championship Final of that year that the matter was not outside the bounds of settlement and suggested that it should be referred to the Yorkshire Cricket Council. How poor Tom Harrison must have suffered at the thought of the possibility of his own club, Morley, joining the rebels. But he did go on and become the longest serving president of the Yorkshire Council, a total of 9 years ending in 1944, a long and very much respected partnership with new secretary Norman Stead. Norman was Council Secretary for an amazing 35 years right up to the time of his death in 1971 – a truly remarkable man. On Wednesday September 15th as reported in the Cleckheaton Guardian on September 17th "Meetings of both the Heavy Woollen Cricket League and the recently formed Spen and Calder League were held at the Scarborough Hotel in Dewsbury." There was only one piece of secret intrigue left. The Heavy Woollen League was presided over by Mr. Tom Harrison and supported by Vice Presidents H. Brooke (Hartshead Moor), A. Barraclough (Dewsbury & Savile), C. H. Sheldrake (Ossett), T. Lee (Cleckheaton) and Mr. S. Mounsey (Secretary) and representatives of the following clubs:— MORLEY, Thornhill, Gomersal, Hartshead Moor, Drighlington, Chickenley, Hanging Heaton and Scholes." One would like to point out to Messrs Barraclough, Sheldrake and Lee that their clubs' representatives were at the meeting next door, and wonder if the Morley representative had wandered into the wrong room, for at the conclusion of the new League's meeting Mr. Joe Smith gave a statement to the Press. It stated that "Mr. Frank Morton had presided at the meeting and it had been decided to call the new league the Yorkshire Central Cricket League . . . and . . . MORLEY have been admitted to membership." At this stage two questions could well have been asked but one doubts if the answers will ever be known now:—a) Why did the name SPEN & CALDER CRICKET LEAGUE only last for a month before being replaced by another name, YORKSHIRE CENTRAL CRICKET LEAGUE which quite obviously could not last, as it was already being used by another cricket league? A couple of meetings later the matter was put right and the present name CENTRAL YORKSHIRE CRICKET LEAGUE emerged. It would have been better if the job had been done right in the first place. and b) What on earth was happening in committee at Morley Cricket Club in the late summer of 1937? In the middle of all this intrigue a voice from the past made itself heard by means of a letter published in the Guardian on August 20th:—"An old cricketer who was in his prime in the days when groundsmen for local clubs were unknown, when players had to prepare their own wickets, carry the team's tackling bag between them and more often than not walk several miles to fulfil their engagements with other clubs, points out that if the attempt to form a new league in the Heavy Woollen District succeeds it will, within his recollection, be third league to be formed in which the teams in the Heavy Woollen District have been concerned. In each case the procedure has been the same — the league went on more or less smoothly until some of the clubs considered themselves better than the others and broke away. All through the question of fixtures had been the bugbear. In the days when the West Riding Central League was in existence Club representatives went to the meeting for the arrangement of fixtures with the name of their club displayed in their hats. Even this did not result in smooth working and eventually the league was broken up and the Spen Valley League was formed. In those days there was also a Spen and Calder Valleys League in existence. Much the same thing happened there and again the league was disbanded. In 1910 the Heavy Woollen District Cricket League was formed and for many years the committee has had to contend with the same problem of fixtures. The effort made by some members of the Cleckheaton Club a few years ago to induce certain clubs to break away from the Heavy Woollen League was unsuccessful. It remains to be seen what will happen in the present position." Mr. Fred Elam, a noted Leeds cricketer who had been President of the Yorkshire Council in 1919 and 1920, wrote an article towards the end of the 1937 season in which he urged that a small league of about 10 clubs playing each other at home and away was far more preferable to a larger league in which a percentage system was used and which had in the past introduced clubs of a lower calibre. When this had happened in the mistaken idea that the status of the league would be improved, the best clubs had become dis-satisfied with the set-up of having to play clubs of a lower calibre. The 1939-45 War provided the final change that was to see the Spen Valley League go into oblivion and the Central Yorkshire League evolve into the league that it has become to-day. There were the usual differences between individual members before trophies which had belonged to the Heavy Woollen League finally became the property of the Central Yorkshire League.

Central Yorkshire League— The Formative Years Ten clubs entered the Central Yorkshire League in 1938, Ossett finally winning the title with 2 points to spare from Dewsbury and Savile.

Ossett 1940

OSSETT CC 1940

Meanwhile the rival Heavy Woollen League was operating with only six clubs — the final tables of both competitions being below:–

YORKSHIRE CENTRAL CRICKET LEAGUE

Played

Won

Lost

Drawn

Points

Ossett

18

10

2

6

36

Dewsbury & Savile

18

9

2

7

34

Cleckheaton

18

9

4

5

32

Heckmondwike

18

7

3

8

29

Wakefield

18

6

6

6

24

Birstall

18

6

9

3

21

Batley

18

3

5

10

19

Morley

18

4

7

7

19

Liversedge

18

4

10

4

16

Staincliffe

18

0

10

8

8

HEAVY WOOLLEN LEAGUE

Played

Won

Lost

Drawn

Points

Scholes

10

7

1

2

23

Hartshead Moor

10

5

0

5

20

Thornhill

10

4

3

3

15

Hanging Heaton

10

3

4

3

12

Gomersal

10

1

6

3

6

Drighlington

10

1

7

2

5

Hanging Heaton who had wished to leave the Heavy Woollen League at the end of 1937 but had left their resignation too late, their fixtures for 1938 having already been arranged; had again applied to resign. In order to again stall their departure, the Fixture Committee of the Heavy Woollen League met even earlier to arrange their 1939 fixture card and again refused Hanging Heaton's application to resign from that league. Hanging Heaton wished to join the Leeds Central League and took their case to the Yorkshire Cricket Federation which was virtually the equivalent of the Yorkshire Cricket Association of to-day. The Federation gave the club permission to leave the Heavy Woollen League and as a result of this decision, the Yorkshire Council resigned from the Yorkshire Cricket Federation. There was one more important change to be made after the 1938 season had ended. At the A.G.M. on October 27th, their present title was adopted in place of the Yorkshire Central League. The war years that followed seemed to have a strengthening affect on the Central Yorkshire League and by 1944 Hanging Heaton, Chickenley and Gilder-some from the Leeds Central League, all joined the Central Yorkshire League along with Drighlington, Gomersal, Hartshead Moor, Scholes and Thornhill from the Heavy Woollen League to form a second division. All 18 clubs retained membership of the Yorkshire Council and arranged fixtures with other Council clubs outside their divisions if and when spare dates were available. Commonsense reigned at last. Dewsbury & Savile did not take part in competitive cricket in either 1943 or 1944 and actually wound up its activities in 1943 when the Dewsbury Corporation acquired the ground and lease. The ground would continue to be used by the Dewsbury club — they dropped the Savile on their return to the league in 1945 —but the Education Department and police would also have use of the ground. There were other changes in the League with Blakeborough's Sports playing for one season in 1947 while Wakefield left after the 1946 season to play for four seasons in the Yorkshire League before returning to the fold. In 1948 Gildersome left after rive uneventful seasons and did not return until 34 seasons had elapsed — the longest period that any club had before reappearing. Further additions to the League were East Ardsley and Huddersfield I.C.I. in 1949 while the re-formed Mirfield club entered three years later. In 1957 an Evening Cup was instituted and there was an unsuccessful attempt to introduce avers cricket which was finally accepted in 1963 by the Yorkshire Council so that the Central Yorkshire League had to follow suit. King Cross and Sowerby Bridge joined the League in 1961 followed by Brook Motors in 1964 and Lofthouse and Hunslet Nelson brought the League up to a strength of 24 clubs in two divisions of twelve. This perhaps was unwisely increased to 26 in 1976 when Altofts and Slazengers  became members.