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The Salts story is a real shaker - champions to strugglers in 59 eventful years

The Salts story is a real shaker - champions to  strugglers in 59 eventful years


Salts experienced the highs of five league titles and a Priestley Cup win and the lows of five re-election applications in six years during their eventful 59 years in the Bradford League.

They were the dominant force in the early post-war years before their fortunes waned dramatically in the eighties and nineties as they became marooned  in  the twilight zone of Division Two with little optimism.

The death knell was sounded for the once mighty club when a crisis meeting in September 2005 was allegedly snubbed by all their playing members.

The ageing committee had been slowly losing heart, and the new influx of players left on mass when the `chips were down’ for the club. Norman Fazakerley, and later his son Peter, were sterling workers who deserved a better outcome.


The ground was resurrected a few years later by Shipley Providence who worked diligently on the facilities, and now have an excellent venue for Dales Council fixtures.

To tell the full story one must go back to 1853 when Titus Salt opened his textile Mill, and built the model village of Saltaire for his 3,000 workers. He wanted a cricket club solely for his employees – the result being the formation of Salts Cricket Club.

They were established as an authentic league club, as opposed to a glorified works team, in 1923, at the Salts Playing Fields.

Their early origins as a league club are a little vague, but they did play in the Yorkshire Council for many years. Little is known of their playing success in the Council in the absence of any retained records of the league.

Further up the river, a bit further towards the model village, Roberts Park housed Saltaire Cricket Club, who had enjoyed untold glory in the Bradford League.

Salts Cricket Club applied to join the Bradford League for season 1946, and their excellent facilities were gladly accepted by the league.

Salts consolidated in fifth place in their first season with steady batting performances by Jack Firth and Miles Coope. It was a commendable achievement to finish as high as that in a `one division’ system containing all the member clubs. The final position of fifth afforded them a Division One place for 1947.

They meant business in 1947 with the signing of left arm seam bowler Percy Watson, who travelled in from York. He was deadly accurate and bowled big in-swingers at leg stump, and often had three short legs waiting to pounce for the catch, such was his control. Sensationally, they won the First Divison title in only their second season in the league.

Watson took a crucial 59 wickets, and with Firth scoring enough runs to secure him the fourth spot in the league averages, they clinched the title after a close run fight with Yeadon.

This sent shockwaves through the Bradford League, and now Salts were one of the big players after just two seasons.

Watson took a further 53 wickets two years later in 1949 when they won the title again, but his best years were later with Spen Victoria.


He went on to hold the record of the league's best-ever bowling figures of 10-11 against Yeadon in 1962, His career league tally of 1,161 wickets averages out at 13.97 per wicket- the lowest of all the bowlers taking 1,000 wickets in the league.

Salts were good cup fighters too, but have the unenviable record of losing two finals when scoring over 300 runs.

1947: Yeadon 365 Salts  307 1948 Salts 325 Keighley 326-8.

In 1948, they failed to retain the title, but finished fourth with runs coming from county batsman Freddie Jakeman (623) and wickets from Herbert Smith (58). The 28 year old Jakeman was quite a draw for the neutral spectator with his aggressive left-hand batting.

He played 134 First Class games in all, dividing his career between Yorkshire and Northamptonshire. In all he scored 5,952 runs at 32.00, with a best score of 258 not out against Essex. He scored eleven centuries in all with 42 fifties.

The 1949 title win was an incredibly tight race between three excellent sides.


1 Salts 22 42
2 Bowling Old Lane 22 41
3 Pudsey St Lawrence 22 40

Watson’s 53 wickets were obviously crucial, but there were other players of influence in the title win. Another bowler, D Fletcher, took 44 wickets, and in the batting R Giles excelled with 600 runs to take third place in the league batting averages.

Two years would pass before they reclaimed their reputation again as the dominate side in the league.Meanwhile, their great rivals Saltaire were relegated in 1946, and suffered two re-election pleas in 1948 and 1951.

The most interesting facet of seasons 1951 and 1952 was the all round form of John Cownley. He played two matches for Yorkshire in 1952 and most unusually, two more first-class games for Lancashire ten years later. A left-handed batsman, he scored a modest 64 runs at 12.80 in all games, and took three wickets with his right arm medium pace and occasional leg breaks.

The 1953 and 1954 title triumphs were built largely on the shoulders of Bryan Stott, Joe Phillips, Alex Hodgson, K Speight and Alec Broadbent.

The 21-year old Stott, above, scored 579 runs at 44.53 in 1954, while Bradford Northern rugby league star Phillips accumulated 585 runs at 45.00 the season before.

Stott made the grade at Yorkshire and played 190 first-class matches, scoring 9,248 runs at 31.45. He was a solid left-handed opening batsman who made 186 against Warwickshire and 181 versus Essex. His best season came in 1959, when he scored over 2,000 runs and helped Yorkshire, under Ronnie Burnet, win the County Championship.

Phillips, who had several season at Bradford, was one of the leading batsmen in the league. He would have undoubtedly played first-class cricket in his native New Zealand but for his emigration to England to play rugby league.


Salts  were the undisputed major power in the village, with their local rivals across the water looking over their shoulders at glories from the distant past.

The late 1950s saw Salts finish eighth, eighth, second and second as they continued their competitive nature. Left hander Alec Hodgson was the star performer, topping 500 league runs per season with his best in 1955 with 777 at 45.71, while Broadbent was the chief wicket taker with the ball.

Silverware did come to the club in the shape of the Priestley Cup for the first time. In the final they brushed aside Lidget Green by restricting them to 134-9 before knocking the score off with just two wickets down.

At the dawn of the sixties Hodgson’s star shone even brighter as he finished second in the league batting averages with 56.13, as Salts finished eighth.

Hodgson had a reputation for being the hardest batsmen to get out in the league. He had a very tight defence and would have an uncanny knack of accumulating runs at every opportunity. Before the end of June he had bagged four centuries


With a side packed with stars it was no surprise when Salts were crowned champions of the First Division for the fifth time at the end of the 1961 season.

The real catalyst for this triumph was the 22-year old left arm fast bowler Barry Stead. He bowled with a rare hostility for league cricket and snapped up 40 wickets at 12.62 each. His best return was 9-15 against Brighouse.


Stead made his first-class debut playing for Yorkshire in 1959, and in his first game took 7-76 against the touring Indians at Bradford.

He joined Nottinghamshire in 1962, and in 1969, topped the national first-class wicket taking list, with seventy one victims.

His career best innings bowling figures of 8 for 44 came against Somerset during 1972, which included a hat-trick. in a year he took 98 wickets.

Other main contributors to the title win of 1961 were Joe Phillips, Alec Hodgson, Peter Gott, A H Clarke and Eric Sutton who won the F Milton Watmouth Wicketkeeping Trophy.

The Salts ground was used for Yorkshire 2X1 matches in the mid-sixties, such was the excellence of the facilities and spectator seating. The elevated view behind the bowler’s arm at the railway line end was probably the best view of cricket in the league.

In the fifties when train spotting was all the rage for schoolboys, they would perch up there, whilst their fathers would watch the cricket. 

Salts 1963: Back, from left H Barber, K J Turley, R Dolphin, A Broadbent, D Kendle, P Scott. Front B Gartland, A Padgett, E J Sutton (captain), A Hodgson, T Rowe. 

Salts 1965: Back, from left J Wood, P Warner, D Thomas, R A Rowe, T Long, A Broadbent. Front G Robinson,
R Dolphin, E Sutton (captain), R Hurley, K Illingworth. 


The team began to break up and they were relegated in 1963, despite having the same points as Farsley who luckily escaped. A run aggregate formula had obviously been implemented by the League Executive at the time.

Things got worse in 1965 when they finished in the bottom two of the Second Division and had to apply for re-election for the first time.

Broadbent had a good year in 1966, taking 55 league wickets, and also scoring a half century in 20 minutes to win the Fastest Fifty Trophy. For years, Broadbent’s seam bowling caused batsmen all kinds of trouble, and he was a model of consistency for the club.

There were also a good level of consistency from seamer Tony Rowe was took 175 league wickets in the struggling seasons of 1963-1966.

A few quiet seasons followed with Keith Illingworth emerging as a top player. In 1967 he won the W H Foster Jubilee Bowling Trophy after taking 46 wickets for 8.15 each with his spin bowling.


Salts 1969: Back, from left T Gill, P Warner, B Mason, G Blackburn, M Mawson, B Sugden. Front R Blomfield, P Gott, E J Sutton (captain), D Evans, M Swift. (1)

Other good players to emerge were Trevor Gill, Malcolm Swift, Malcolm Mawson and B S Wood who won the F Milton Watmouth Wicketkeeping Trophy in 1970 and 1971.


Salts 1971 - Division Two Champions. Back, from left B S Wood, N R Bradley, J Hall, C P Fordham, J Gordon, A Walter. Front T Gill, D Robinson, M J Robey (captain), M P Clegg, M Mawson.

Salts were back in business when they won promotion in 1971 from the top place in the Second Division

The left-handed Mawson won the W H Foster Jubilee Batting Averages with 765 runs at 47.81, while Gill (689 runs) was also a key batter. Paceman Chris Fordham snared 66 wickets, while Roger Bradley took 46 wickets with his spin bowling.


After two seasons they were relegated in bottom place, and the following year finished last in the Second Division, never to return to the top flight.


In the mid to late seventies they were drifting in lowly positions, but they did possess three fine cricketers in Keith Illingworth, Roger Bradley and Frankie Williams.

Salts 1976 - Back, from left R Bradley, B Murphy, J Gifford, B Robinson, S Mitchell, J Dollimore. Front M Richardson, K Illingworth, R Bickley (capt), D O’Keefe, F Williams.

Remarkably, the prestigious Sir Learie Constantine All Rounders Trophy came to the club in successive years.

In 1977, Illingworth scored 553 league runs, and took 54 wickets to secure the trophy, while in the following year Bradley won it with 438 runs and 41 wickets.

Illingworth’s son, Richard, started making waves in the first team as an 18-year old in 1981. He scored 534 runs, and also took 58 wickets. Much to the chagrin of the club, he joined Yeadon in the following year.


Illingworth, above, went on to enjoy a twenty-season county cricket career, firstly with Worcestershire, and the last two years with Derbyshire, and a spell playing Test cricket for England.


In First Class cricket he finished with 831 wickets at an average of 31.54 with his left arm spin. In addition he scored more than 7,000 runs at 22.45, which included four first-class centuries. Now he is one the ICC's elite panel of Test umpires.


Salts 1980- Back, from left A Hutchinson, M Evans, R Illingworth, M Richardson, D Arnold, B Robinson. Front M Dent, M Boocock, K Illingworth (captain), R Sacchetto, P Buckroyd.


In the first part of the eighties decade the side was competitive without being serious promotion contenders.

However, they had several quality players the envy of most clubs in the league.

Peter `Golly’ Oldham was the league’s Young Cricketer of the Year in 1982, when he had a season to remember with 804 runs and 37 wickets, while Mark Boocock won the league’s Young Spinner of the Year award in 1983 after taking 42 wickets.

Martyn Evans had a good season in 1982 scoring 685 league runs.

Left arm seamer Jamie Robinson started slowly in 1983 with 32 wickets, but really came of age the following year taking an impressive 96 wickets at 14.33.

He followed that with 63 wickets in 1985, before moving to Cleckheaton where he won
the Second Division League Bowling Averages with 69 wickets at 8.93 in 1988.

His younger brother, Richard, had begun his career at Salts and went on to have a glittering career in the league, topping the all-time run-makers chart. 
Another notable performance was by the little known Dean Dodgson who scored 917 league runs in 1984.

In 1987 the side had to seek re-election, but that did not stop Stuart Rose taking 67 wickets to share the Castle Bowling Trophy with Saltaire’s Robert Hodson for `most wickets’ in a league season.

Ironically, Hodson cut his teeth at Salts, but moved to Saltaire in 1980, and had a fine career there before moving on to Yeadon. He bowled genuine out- swinger’ at a lively pace.


In the next decade there was no improvement at Salts Playing Field with a further five re-election pleas up to and including 2000. A once proud and powerful club was now down on its luck, and struggling to keep its better players.

In 1990, seamer Greg Colehan made an impact with 50 wickets, and he would be a 40-wicket a season man for three more seasons before moving on to Windhill. He would close out his first team career three decades later at Bankfoot with over a 1,000 league wickets.

Another Salts player who would have a brilliant career was Richard Gould who scored 759 runs in 1993. He would eventually top 16,000 league runs in a career spanning Farsley, East Bierley, Gomersal and Keighley.

In 1993, an Australian overseas player Paul Clark had a remarkable season scoring 885 runs, and taking 30 wickets.

Greg Colehan remembers him well. He said: “Paul Clark was your archetypal Aussie from Melbourne, big lad who played the game big, both on and off the field."

The next season, overseas player Mohammed Arshad scored 658 runs, and took 45 wickets, while in 1996 Australian Craig Hillgrove made a big impression when he recorded 730 runs and snared 40 wickets.

Hillgrove, above, came from Geelong, Victoria, and enjoyed his one season at Salts He said: “l was a fast/medium right arm bowler and right hand bat, and I mostly opened the batting and bowling at Salts, but would come in at 3 or 4 at times.

“l do recall the ball getting thrown back to the Salts ground after I put a few over the river (somehow getting through the trees). It was a very short boundary straight, and I was quite an aggressive opener/batter for that period in the 90s”.

The following year he played Division One cricket at Idle and finished sixth in the league’s batting averages with 841 runs at 46.72 and a top score of 133 not out.

In the late nineties Salts were struggling on the field, despite heroic efforts from Mohamed Ahmed who rarely disappointed with bat or ball.

They had to apply for re-election in 1999, and again in 2000, making it ten times in their 59-year reign in the league.

About this time, it was mooted that Saltaire, who were pessimistic of obtaining a grant to bring their facilities up to date, would rehouse into Salts Playing Fields.

However, it was never seriously discussed between the two committees, and the two clubs kept their separate identity.

By 2001, Salts were predominately an all-Asian side, and although they were never serious promotion contenders, they began to steer away from the two bottom re-election places.

They had two good overseas players in Kamran Hussain who scored 804 runs in 2002, and Kamran Younis, who scored 715 runs and took 41 wickets in 2003.

In 2005 they finished twelfth, but the team was in disarray and most of the players decided to leave.  


DIVISION ONE CHAMPIONS: 1947, 1949, 1953, 1954, 1961


Footnote: Researching the Salts history, I found that there was little recorded information, and anecdotal evidence about their early days, particularly when they played in the Yorkshire Council. There was also nobody to assist me in many of the first names of players in the early years in the Bradford Cricket League. If there is anybody out there willing to assist you can contact me on- regnel1950@gmail.com Twitter- @regnels1

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