While we were researching the history of current cricket clubs as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund-sponsored ‘Cricketing Heritage of Calderdale and Kirklees’ project at the University of Huddersfield, we naturally came across many clubs that once existed but have now folded. It is hard to quantify how many we have come across but it is definitely in the hundreds, perhaps in the thousands. The reality is that, in yesteryear, most villages had several cricket teams, whereas today most have one, perhaps two.
But during our project work we could not really devote time to studying these old, former clubs because we were so concerned with the clubs that still existed and which were thus the subject of our exhibitions and general research. Now, though, we can switch the focus slightly and explore the world of former or ex-clubs.
What points can we make?
First, I have tried to vary the historical evidence I have put forward in this booklet. Some clubs are proving elusive and I have not found any historical evidence to prove that they existed; but with the ones included in this booklet, I have been able to locate a historical source of some description to prove that the club did exist. It could be a team photo, a league handbook entry, a piece of club memorabilia or something else.
But each club has something.
Second, as I have already intimated, this is work in progress. Lots more research needs to be done on the former clubs of Calderdale and Kirklees and I intend to do this in the next couple of years. It is a fascinating and exciting area of study. This booklet is 48 pages long; expect a publication of 480 pages a few years hence! So, we are necessarily scratching the surface but I hope this publication gives you a flavour of the clubs that are now no more.
Third, this is a topical subject. When we began our research in 2004 there were 100 clubs in Calderdale and Kirklees. Now there are 92. Eight have fallen by the wayside since we began our research – Inter- Caribbean, King Cross, Mytholmroyd Methodists, Queen’s Road Muslims, Ruddlesdens, Salendine Nook Old Boys, Staincliffe and Thornhill. This is a very sad state of affairs but it is the reality too. Most of these now-defunct clubs were urban rather than rural ones – and this tells its own tale. It is now very difficult to sustain a club in urban areas with all the associated problems – crime, vandalism, anti-social behaviour and such like.
Fourth, this leads on to a big question: why do clubs become extinct? Is it issues at the club in question (such as lack of players, financial troubles, problems with the ground, or failure rather than success on the field) or is it external factors (such as social change, local decision making or the impact of world war)? Again, more research needs to be carried out.
Fifth, the question of ‘lost clubs’ raises the question of ‘lost grounds’. Every club that folds has, or had, a ground and it is now a major challenge to trace where all these lost clubs played their home games. Again, this will be a major part of forthcoming project research. Sixth, given the amount of clubs that are folding, and have folded, I suppose it emphasises more than ever the role that historians need to be playing in chronicling the history of local sport. Some recently departed clubs have been famous local institutions and I suppose it is important that local historians and cricket enthusiasts play a role in safeguarding archive material such as scorebooks, minute books and
Finally, I have enjoyed putting this booklet together but it has also been a task that has been tinged with sadness. So many famous and not-so-famous clubs have gone to the wall and each and every time one goes this happens it is time for genuine regret. I remember exactly where I was when I heard that King Cross – possibly the most famous club in Halifax – had folded a few months ago and I was genuinely upset
and shocked. So famous a club - and we had dug up so many fascinating photographs and documents relating to their illustrious history. So, genuinely, a very sad moment.
I hope you enjoy the booklet and, as I say, there will be more to come on ex-clubs in the future.
Peter Davies, September 2011