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Lost Clubs: Eccleshill

Lost Clubs: Eccleshill

The origins of the name Eccleshill are uncertain. At the time of the Domesday Book the area was known as Egleshill, probably meaning 'eagles hill'. Legend also states that it was named after a Saxon landlord called Aikel or Eckil — alternatively it could mean Ecclesiastical Hill.

The cricket club was formed in about 1860 when the village team, then called Eccleshill Clarence, played on the village ground.

The club then moved to a ground belonging to the old Ring O’Bell's pub, before moving to their eventual home The Oval in Harrogate Road.

Eccleshill were accepted into the Bradford Cricket League, along with Bankfoot, Dudley Hill, Shelf and Undercliffe when they joined forces with seven clubs from the West Bradford League in 1902.

A group of cricket officials convened at the Queen's Hotel, Bradford, in September, 1902, and the new league was born, and ready to start in 1903.

The club’s 88-years in the league were eventful, and whilst never a dominant club, they had their moments with some players that would go down in the folklore of the league.

The uninspired beginnings

It all started in 1903 when the club finished a respectable half-way in the new league. The opening home game against Manningham Mills was noted for an early start to accommodate an after-match garden party, local dance, and brass band.

In the second over of the match Eccleshill took a wicket, thus the first taken in the league’s history.

Another first was when Eccleshill’s batsman Joe Rogers enjoyed the distinction of scoring the first century in the league in his team’s clash with Great Horton.

A superb bowling season from A Crawford led to him being the leading wicket-taker in the entire league with 69 at 8.33.

However, their fortunes would dip somewhat, and lowly positions were the order of the day for the next nine years.

Two notable performances came from T Bland who finished second in the league bowling averages in 1905, and J Nelson who was third in the batting in 1910 with an average of 31.88.

An even better feat came from J K Booth in 1908 when he took all ten wickets for 30 runs against Great Horton.

In 1911, Eccleshill’s T E Sheard registered the highest individual score in the Priestley Cup that year with an innings of 92 runs against Mountain Mills. Sheard proved he could also bowl when he took 8-26 versus Baildon Green in 1913.

Things started to look up when they finished fourth in the `one division’ league, in both 1913 and 1914.

In 1918, despite having the services of Surrey’s Bill Hitch, the club finished in a disappointingly low position. Hitch, who had an innings of 99 runs that season against Idle, took an impressive 1,397 First Class wickets, and made seven appearances for England.

Irvine Boocock helped to improve Eccleshill’s position in 1919 when he finished as the league’s third best bowler with 30 wickets.

However, they were on the wrong end of an extraordinary low scoring affair at Queensbury that season.

N Naylor was the main instigator of Queensbury being bowled out for 59 when he took seven wickets at little cost, but his batting teammates let him down as they were routed for 28 all-out.

Low positions continued, but fine individual performers still cropped up. In 1924 South African G M Parker made an impact with the ball taking 8-12 in one match.

Norman Sugden finished as the league’s second most successful bowler in 1927 with 46 wickets at 10.17, while four years later in 1931 he had the best analysis of the season when he took 8-20 against Pudsey St Lawrence.

A Lister was a fine batting talent, and he proved it in 1928 when he was one of the leading players in the league with an average of 43.92.

Throughout the thirties the club still struggled in the league and found themselves in Section B. Despite finishing in a lowly position in 1936, J W Lamb had the league’s best bowling performance with a sensational 9-14 against Farsley.

At last, major silverware came to Eccleshill in 1939, despite their customary low position when they won just four league games; they won every match in the Priestley Cup.

Their opponents on final day were Spen Victoria who were surprise finalists themselves. Spen batted first and made a workmanlike197 which gave them a real chance of victory.

However, Eccleshill’s opening pair T R Barker (71) and Harry Hardcastle (116no) put on 188 for the first wicket which virtually won the match as they got home by  nine wickets at 198-1.

The club were put in Section B for 1940 after a poor league season in 1939. They just about managed to finish in the top half, largely thanks to G Brooke who took 87 wickets at 11.70.

In 1942, Ronnie Scarborough, who had played at Thornbury, was tasked to get the club promoted at all costs.

It did not appear to be a huge task with county and Test players available in Ellis Robinson (Yorkshire), George Cox (Sussex), Jack Crapp (Gloucestershire), George Duckworth (Lancashire), Cyril Washbrook (Lancashire) and Arthur Fagg (Kent).

However, it was an almighty struggle to hang on to the second promotion place with Eccleshill just edging the run aggregate rule from Yeadon after both finished on 31 points, one ahead o Lightcliffe.

The stars might not have been available every match, but they were there in abundance in one game that season against Baildon Green.

The committee asked Scarborough to drop himself down the order to accommodate the star players, and being a blunt, principled Yorkshireman, he flatly refused the request. He opened the batting with a relatively unknown young local lad, and they got off to a fine start. Scarborough competed an impressive century, and all the stars failed,

Back in the top flight in 1943, they finished fourth after Ellis Robinson helped their fortunes greatly with 51 wickets for an average of 8.58.

Eccleshill went one better and finished in third place in 1944. Jim Bailey of Hampshire was the big star winning the league batting prize with an aggregate of 482 runs at 60.25.

Bailey was a genuine all rounder at First Class level, having a career best innings of 133 runs, and an astonishing best bowling analysis of 7-7.

The league went one divisional in 1946, and Eccleshill finished in sixth position. More importantly, they managed to win the Priestley Cup for the second time in seven years.

Thar season they were fortunate to have several top county players in their ranks. They had 23-year-old left arm spinner Johnny Wardle (above), who would play test cricket for England as well as county cricket with Yorkshire. He mesmerised Great Horton in the semi-final with a match-winning analysis of 6-12.

Wardle was one of England’s greatest spin bowlers of all time and took a massive 1,846 First Class wickets.

In the final against Baildon Green, Eccleshill only scored a modest 150-7 batting first. Fortunately, they had Yorkshire’s Sandy Jacques opening the bowling and his 5-47 spell ensured a 25-run victory.

Jacques was 41 years of age when he played in the final, and his peak in the league was eleven years earlier in 1935 when he almost single handed propelled Undercliffe to the title.

He topped the League Bowling Averages in 1935, with 93 wickets at 8.24 and his best bowling performances in that year were:

9-25 v Bradford Park Avenue
8-14 v Keighley
8-25 v Bankfoot

Jacques played 28t games for Yorkshire from 1927 to 1936, taking 62 wickets in all at 31.20, with a best return of 5 for 33 against Essex Sir Leonard Hutton said that Jacques had the finest fast bowling action he had ever seen.

In 1947, Eccleshill came closest in their history to winning the league title, when they finished just six points behind the champions Salts in third place.

G Curry had a wonderful season with the bat scoring 813 runs at 45.16 to finish third in the league batting averages. The record books indicate that he made the Highest Individual League score that year of 164 not out against Windhill.

After finishing fifth in the table in seasons 1948 and 1949, decline set in and after being relegated in 1950, they endured a torrid decline,

In 1953 they very nearly went out of existence as they were deep in debt and morale was at rock bottom. The long serving captain, Ronnie Scarborough, ensured they would not perish despite their bottom place in the Second Division.

He sparked a revival in the club, and they gained promotion in 1955 after he himself carried the batting with 822 runs.

The real strength was the bowling as Harry Rider won the W H Foster Jubilee Bowling Trophy with the best average in the division, and with P Roantree (64 wkts), ensured they kept the opposition’s batting at bay.

There were other bright sparks in the fifties for Eccleshill- two batters recorded the Fastest Fifty in the league-

D Healey (29 minutes) in 1956

M Colley (40 minutes) in 1958.

Another notable individual achievement came in 1958, when Roantree took 49 wickets at 9.90 for an Eccleshill side that would finish fifth bottom in the Second Division.

Eccleshill also had the services of David Dobson and Eddie Slingsby in 1959 and 1960 - both widely acknowledged as amongst the leading batsmen in the league at the time.

Dobson had been a prolific run-getter for Pudsey St Lawrence before joining Eccleshill, and in 1959 scored 682 runs at 40.12 for the club. He followed this by scoring 700 runs in the following year.

He joined Idle in 1961 before being the main man at Great Horton for several years.

Slingsby made his name at East Bierley after leaving Eccleshill, but he did top 500 league runs in successive seasons at the Oval.

The opening of the new facilities in 1960

The sixties decade was bittersweet with low positions in the Second Division, followed by a promotion season in 1965, as champions.

But the decade had started so promising with the erection of new dressing rooms in a handsome building perched looking down on the action.

It was a decade of achievement for David Sullivan and Brian (Archie) Askham who were top bowlers in the league.

The promotion season of 1965 saw them both fill the top two places in the League Bowling Averages with Sullivan topping the list with 42 wickets at 6.74, and Askham close behind on 67 wickets at 7-97.

Askham was awarded the W H Foster Jubilee Bowling Trophy on account of him being classed as an amateur, rather than Sullivan who was the official pro.

Askham who had won the same trophy in 1961 was a bit of a legend at Eccleshill - an extremely competitive seam bowler who stayed loyal to Eccleshill, and became a leading committee man

Another legendary character was Keith Debaughan, a large man with an icy stare, who worked as a bouncer in the Olde Crown pub in Ivegate. In 1968 he won the League’s Fastest Fifty Award in the little matter of 22 minutes. Ten years later Frankie Williams replicated the feat to the exact time.

Earlier in 1961, Eccleshill’s Bill Rhodes held the distinction of the Highest Individual Score in the League when he scored 153 not out against Windhill.

Eccleshill CC 1963 Standing  J W Pickard, C Lancaster, D Bates, B Askham, R Baldwin, A Wain. Seated left to right D Hetherington, J Cracknell, R Kendall (capt) D Sullivan, T Burton.

Eccleshill CC 1970 - Back (from left) T Stilgoe, T Brassington, B Askham, B Terry, D Hetherington, D Sullivan. Front B Wilson, J Cracknell, J Pickard, D Hallett, D Cockle.

To view more Eccleshill team picture click here

The seventies saw a further decline, but by 1980 they had confounded all the Bradford League pundits to pip Hanging Heaton for the Second Division title.

Hanging Heaton were a team of all-stars who had been the dominant team in the Central Yorkshire League for several years and were trying their hand in the Bradford League for the first time.

They were probably aggrieved that they did not finish top after going through the season unbeaten, but they were undone by a series of frustrating threepoint draws.

There was no indication in 1979, when Eccleshill finished third bottom, that their fortunes would be revived so stunningly.

However, Michael Heaton (652), Brian Shirley (608) and David Jones (514) all scored runs consistently, while Frankie Williams (51) and Michael Robinson (46) took the decisive wickets. Another noteworthy effort came from Numan Shabir who chipped in with both bat and ball.

They comfortably preserved their place in the top flight in 1981, finishing in fourth position, after Des Wyrill averaged an impressive 54.52 with the bat and in so doing won the W H Foster Jubilee Batting Trophy.

Brian Shirley won the League’s F Milton Watmouth Wicketkeeping Trophy for most victims, while Wayne Glebel won the A Waddington Fielding prize in 1982.

Things got even better in 1982 when they were very unlikely winners of the Priestley Cup. It was no easy route having to get past Hanging Heaton, Pudsey St Lawrence and East Bierley, before meeting a very good Yorkshire Bank side in the semi-finals.

It was a real thriller and after Yorkshire Bank had made 196 all out batting first, it appeared to be anybody’s to win. However, after the first eight overs of Eccleshill’s reply they had scored just five runs.

However, skipper Des Wyrill (46) and Wayne Glebel (36) gave their side impetus, and with 12 ers left they were on a tantalising 128-5.

Peter Vallance, with a rapid 30 gave Eccleshill a chance, and in an unbearable tension, Barry Firn and Peter Haslam cobbled together 28 runs in the last five overs to win the match. Firn hit the winning boundary on the third ball of the final over.

Eccleshill had to face their more glamorous neighbours Undercliffe in the final, and in most pundits’, books were the underdogs. However, both sides finished in low positions in the league, with Eccleshill slightly higher.

In the final at Park Avenue, Eccleshill batted first and openers Dave Hallett and Brian Shirley rattled up 50 from the first ten overs. Shirley scored went on to score 50, and with Wyrill contributing a stylish 68 they looked to be heading to a respectable total.

However, a late acceleration of scoring from Peter Vallance, who ended with an unbeaten 52, ensured the considerable score of 234-5. Undercliffe were certainly not out of it and were nicely placed at 94-1 at the half-way mark.

Eccleshill’s great hope was their excellent seam bowling attack of Andy Wilsdon and Mick Robinson, and they began to slowly strangle the batting. The Park Avenue crowd was enthralled, and there was a tangible tension in the air as the run-rate began to rise.

The Eccleshill supporters celebrated with gusto as the `big guns’ Undercliffe eventually succumbed to 198 all out.

Robinson had bowled 22 overs for his five wickets and was deservingly named the man of the match. He had the perfect foil in Wilsdon who bowled immaculately for his four wickets and gave the batters little to hit.

Robinson was a bespectacled, big man who had a long run-up, but would almost stop just before he was in stride to bowl.

His stock ball was just short of a length and he would often engender a steepling bounce for the batsman to encounter.

Wilsdon would go on and enjoy an illustrious career with Undercliffe, challenging for trophies most seasons, and winning the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy.

This was the last trophy Eccleshill would win and the team that day at Park Avenue was- D Wyrill (Capt), B Shirley, W Giebel, N Shabbir, P Vallance, C Raper, B Firn, P Haslam, A Wilsdon, M Robinson.

ECCLESHILL CC 1986 - Bradford League Second Division contenders and Priestley Cup finalists.

Eccleshill were relegated in 1984, but in 1986 they reached the Priestley Cup final again, this time as a Second Division side.

However, on this occasion they were well beaten as Ronnie Hudson took the game away from them with a brilliant unbeaten 152 for Hanging Heaton.

It was the semi-final at East Bierley that Eccleshill will be remembered for and the Telegraph & Argus writer David Markham at the time regarded it as a shock win.

The usually free scoring Bierley were dismissed for only 118 as Colin Raper took four for 24 in 19 overs.

Eccleshill struggled all the way and at 80-8 were second favourites. However, wicketkeeper Dave Hallett showed great character to fight back, and struck three sixes in an invaluable knock of 35 not out.

He helped to put on 25 with Nigel West for the last wicket, and after they had reached their target the Eccleshill supports raced on to the pitch to mob their cup heroes.

After these exciting times things would never be the same again, despite some impressive individual players in their ranks.

Raper was one of several signed from the York area who were quality players- the others were Mally Pringle and Dave Riley.

A notable feat came from Amir Ahkbar in 1986 when he won the League’s Fastest Fifty award (31 minutes).

Often a Bradford League match at Eccleshill would see and hear a group of alcohol fuelled spectators giving the umpires and players the benefit of their opinion. It was all in good spirit - the Eccleshill folk knew their cricket, but by the 1990s they were a dying breed.

They had a dynamic overseas bowler in Waheed Niazi, who took 68 wickets at 15.15 in 1989, and 79 wickets for 14.38 in 1990. This allowed him to win the Stafford Heginbotham `Castle’ Trophy on both occasions.

Another individual trophy winner in those years was Graham Sivyer, who won the League’s Parkside Wicketkeeping Trophy.

In 2020, he modestly stated, “I attribute my `keeping’ success of that time to Niazi, Tanvir and West, three excellent bowlers”.

In 1991, Shahid Tanvir proved to be an accomplished all-rounder scoring 598 runs and taking 39 wickets.

Eccleshill entered 1992 with little thought that it would be their last. They had a poor season and had to apply for re-election but had decent performers in Haji Khalid Mahmood who scored 402 runs, and Nigel West who took 30 wickets.

The social side remained strong, but the likes of Brian `Archie’ Askham was without tangible support on the cricket side.

Just 10 years after winning the Priestley Cup they were voted out of the Bradford League after seeking re-election for the first time in their history. A minor clerical error on their part appertaining to registration signalled the end when the voting took part. This transformation of fortunes is unprecedented in the league's history.

The club that was served by stars such as T E Sheard, Harry Hardcastle, Dickie Watmouth, Cyril Washbrook, George Duckworth, Ronnie Scarborough, Don Brennan, Johnny Wardle, Harry Rider, Brian Askham, Mick Robinson, David Wyrill, and a superb overseas man in Waheed Niazi departed the scene is sad circumstances.

After leaving the Bradford League merged with Grattan and stumbled along in the Bradford Central League to little success. That modest alliance folded to be replaced by a thriving amateur Rugby League section.

Cricket was no more. They were founder members of the Bradford League, but when the chips were down there was little local interest.

Eccleshill Roll of Honour

Division Two Titles: 1965, 1980
Priestley Cup Winners: 1939, 1946, 1982

Thanks: I acknowledge the assistance of David Magson who is a member of the Facebook group `Eccleshill Cricket Club Dedicated to Ex players and members’.

I also thank Andy Wilsdon, Graham Sivyer, Ziarat Nasa Hussain, Dean Skillicorn and Mo Hussain for their input.

Footnote: If anybody has any information about the club that I have not been able to research, please contact me at regnel1950@gmail.com.