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Club histories
Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2016 21:08
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HOPTON MILLS
 
by Reg Nelson

 

 

 Hopton Mills CC was formed as the ‘works team’ for the nearby Hopton Mills in either 1895 or 1896, depending on which historian you believe.  The cricket club was a recreational facility for workers, and they paid a shilling a year to the company in the form of a peppercorn rent.

 Later, the first ‘Hopton Mills CC’ was shut down when a local man affectionately known as ‘Uncle Dickie’ – a Mills employee (probable full name: Richard Wheatley) – was spending too much time in the club bar. The authorities at the mills were annoyed with this behaviour because they thought it was affecting productivity and consequently closed the club down as punishment.  
 
As a cricket club linked to a textile company, Hopton Mills CC was ideally placed to compete in the ultimate local knockout competition: the Heavy Woollen Cup.  Originally, clubs had to be located within six miles of Batley Town Hall – and the Hopton/Mirfield-based team duly qualified.

 Hopton Mills’ history in the Heavy Woollen Cup was brief but they had one special year. They took part in the cup in the years from 1889 to 1892, and 1904 to 1915, but 1911 was the year that put Hopton Mills well and truly on the map.

They overcame Spen Victoria in the semi-final before meeting Batley in the Final at Dewsbury. The game entered the record books as the highest-scoring final ever, and carried on for two days, with Batley setting Mills a target of 445.  It was a bridge too far for Hopton Mills, but they did score 283. The gate receipts of £125 were the highest in the competition’s 28-year history at the time.

Following on from the Uncle Dickie saga, a new cricket club was born: Whitley Lower CC. This club had no connection with the mill – it was simply a collection of villagers signifying a geographical rather than occupational identity. There was also a tenuous link with the village church.  A number of ‘Hopton Mills’ players stayed on and played for ‘Whitley Lower’.

For decades the new club competed in the Dewsbury & District League.  It prospered at its picturesque headquarters, Woodbottom, surrounded by luscious greenery and a handsome monkey tree located right next door to the pavilion.
Whitley Lower CC survived right up until 1989 when Hopton Mills Cricket Club was re-born under a different guise.  A merger between Whitley Lower CC and Dewsbury & Savile CC (a very famous club, based in Savile Town, Dewsbury) proved to be a significant chapter in the club’s history.

Dewsbury & Saville had a phenomenal record in the early days of the Heavy Woollen Cup reaching the Final in the first eight years of the competition- 1883-1890. In all they won the cup nine times in an incredible 21 Finals between 1883- 1926.  The first time they actually won the Final was in 1887 when Henry Hill scored 139 helping his team amassed 393 versus Spen Victoria. This was the first century recorded in the Heavy Woollen Cup Final.

The club took part in the Heavy Woollen League in the early part of the century winning it in 1910. Later in 1919 a famous Yorkshire player Edgar Oldroyd featured for them recording 156* in one memorable match.

Oldroyd who was born in Batley was a right-handed batsman, who played 383 games for his county. He made a total of 15,925 runs at an average of 35.15, with thirty six hundreds. He also took 203 catches. His right arm off break and medium bowling took 42 wickets at an average of 39.47. John Arlott commented in 1981 that "one credited Edgar Oldroyd of Yorkshire with being”the best sticky-wicket batsman in the world”.

The Dewsbury and Savile Ground hosted 53 Yorkshire first class matches between 1867 and 1933. However, the ground was abandoned in the 1990s after the club could not afford to renovate the classic pre-war pavilion to modern standards.

The local council refused financial aid without a guarantee that the club, ground and adjoining football field could be used for the wider community. As a small club this was unrealistic to fund and the ground reverted to the council. The ground ceased to be a cricket ground and became a general recreation field and later the pavilion was demolished.
The merger was a complex affair in so far as Woodbottom was the natural home for the new club, and the new name – ‘Hopton Mills CC’ – paid due respect to the geography and industrial history of Lower Hopton. 

The merger also involved two bank accounts closing, a new one being opened, and the tricky issue of the players. There was conjecture as to which Dewsbury players would throw in their lot with the new club, and which club would form the nucleus of the senior sides. 

One of the main rationales of the ‘merger’ was the securing of major-league cricket at Woodbottom, and this was achieved when they were successful in their application to join the Central Yorkshire League.

In 1997 Hopton Mills languished in 10th position in the Second Division. Despite this mediocrity they possessed a player in I Ashgar who had a most productive season with bat and ball. Not only did he score 490 runs at 27.22 he also took 61 wickets at 15.33 with a best performance of 6-52 against East Ardsley.

Like most senior leagues the Central Yorkshire League formed a premier league from their top division, and this was the division the more ambitious clubs wanted to compete in.

In 2002 Hopton Mills came close in reaching their goal of the premier league when they finished third in the First Division. They had the services of an exceptional overseas batsman in Mohammed Bilal who scored a staggering 1,435 runs. Even more amazing was his record of eight successive centuries. This proved to be a false dawn for the club as they subsequently went on to drop a division.

By 2010 Mills were still eyeing the premier league division but needed to get out of the Second division. However, they did not have the strength in depth despite good contributions from Paul Moorhouse (536 runs), Stephen Bland (527 runs) and Richard Myers (40 wickets).

In 2011 they managed to lure their former seamer Michael Carroll back from Wakefield St Michael's. He had performed the best bowling feat in the entire premier league in 2010 by taking 8-18, and it was anticipated he would spark a revival at Woodbottom. He certainly did,- taking 75 wickets at 9.33- the best haul in the entire division, and inspiring his team to promotion.

Carroll was not the only hero in a season that saw a late winning run with a string of successive victories. The leading batters were Chris Scott who scored 567 runs at 40.50, and Mark Ashton who also topped the 500-runs mark and scored the division’s highest score with 162 not out.

Hopton Mills recorded 12 wins in the First Division in 2012 with all-rounder Samuel Gardiner having a virtuoso season. He scored 685 runs at 52.69 and also took 47 wickets at 16.47. Carroll was the leading bowler with 49 wickets at 14.10.

At last the holy grail of the premier league was achieved when Hopton Mills secured promotion in the 2013 season with an impressive 16 wins. They sealed promotion by beating Oulton by 38 runs in September with Tahmidul Islam (63 runs and 3-18) and Richard Myers (5-37) being the match-winners.

The batting was built on the sheet anchor batsman Chris Scott who managed 506 runs at 33.73. Carroll was again the senior bowler with 41 wickets at 12.00 including an analysis of 6-7. Another key performance was from Tahmidul Islam who contributed 552 runs and 34 wickets. The 17-year old Islam, who played for Sydney’s Western Suburbs travelled from Australia to play a season for Hopton Mills to advance his development.

Hopton Mills duly qualified for the Yorkshire Council playoffs falling at the first hurdle in the Supplementary Competition when they lost by seven wickets at home to Darfield (South Yorkshire League). Chris Scott made 84 of Hopton’s 195-9 in 45 overs but the visitors romped home with 17 overs to spare.

2013 marked a significant investment in the club when Sport England provided a grant of £46,200 to build new spacious dressing rooms. Yorkshire player Alex Lees did the honour of officially opening the new facility on May 20th 2015.

The premier league proved to be too tough for them in 2014 with only Carroll standing up to scrutiny with 41 wickets at 17.39.

Determined to return at the first time of asking they were pacesetters for promotion in 2015 with Liversedge. By the half way stage of the season the promotion aim became something very different when news filtered through that the Central Yorkshire League clubs were joining an enlarged Bradford League in 2016. The later aim was to finish as title winners to secure a place in the Bradford League Championship rather than the lower Conference.

The fact that they succeeded was down to a powerful batting side that piled the runs on throughout the season. Stephen Bland won the league batting averages with 485 runs at 44.09, and he enjoyed able assistance from Ashley Mackereth (718 runs), Neil Brown (601 runs) and the consistent Scott (554 runs). Again, Carroll was the most prolific wicket-taker.

The two constants in the Hopton Mills side were Chris Scott and Michael Carroll who could rightfully be described as the backbone of the team in this era. James Glover finished second in the League Wicketkeeping for the third occasion in four seasons- such was his consistency.

Another major happening in 2015 came when Yorkshire’s former England bowler Ryan Sidebottom officially opened enhanced practice facilities prior to the season’s start on Sunday, January 25. Club officials had secured a grant of £46,000 from Biffa Award to breathe new life into its practice facilities.

With Paul Moorhouse skippering the Second Team to two successive promotions Hopton Mills cricket infrastructure had an undisputed depth

Before the season started Hopton tackled a drainage problem at their Woodbottom Ground. In a bid to cure water logging a work force of 20 players and members laid a new drainage pipe the full width of their outfield to get the water away. The trench had to be back filled with pea gravel before the turf was relaid.

On the field, Hopton Mills found the going tough in Championship B and only recorded six victories. Their strength was definitely their batting with South African Louren Steenkamp scoring 514 runs at 30.24, with a top score of 171no against Hartshead Moor.  The best of the rest was Ashley Mackereth (349 runs) and Chris Scott (372 runs). .

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