East Leeds - Heritage Club of the Week
A Leeds East End Cricket Club is recorded as having been in existence as early as 1885 with a ground in the densely populated “Bank” area of Pontefract Lane, barely a mile to the east of the city’s parish church.
There was also an East Leeds CC competing in the 1890’s, however it would appear that both clubs had folded by the end of the century.
It is certain, however that the present East Leeds club was founded in 1900 by the local Conservative Association under the guise of East Ward Cricket and Athletic Club. The first competitive games were played within the South Leeds League, however following the dissolution of this competition; a move into the Leeds Second Class League brought welcome reward with two championships and four Holliday Cup triumphs. In 1922, the club moved into the more senior Leeds section of the Yorkshire Central League becoming champions a year later.
East Ward’s success attracted considerable attention and a loyal band of workers, headed by Charles Lister and Tom Wilson set about transforming the ground, previously a strip of bare wasteland. A new wicket was laid together with a cinder path encircling the playing area; terracing was installed on the railway side of the ground with modern seating all the way around the boundary edge. The ground became known as the “East End Enclosure” and was located in a triangular tract of land to the north of a cinder track known as Temple Newsam Road. Beyond the track, (known locally as “Red Road”) there were small agricultural plots and the Leeds and Selby Railway, newly absorbed into the LNER following the amalgamation of the nation’s railways into the “Big Four”. Rhubarb farms and small holdings existed to the East of the ground with the mineral railway serving the Waterloo colliery to the South-East.
The land, which was a part of extensive estates, (including Temple Newsam) had passed, on the death of Emily Meynell-Ingram, to her nephew, The Honourable Edward Wood in 1905. Wood was the eldest surviving son of Emily’s brother Charles, (Viscount Halifax) and was an ambitious politician, entering parliament as the member for Ripon in 1908. Wood’s subsequent career included cabinet roles before his appointment as Viceroy of India in 1926 at which time he was created Lord Irwin and it was in advance of his move overseas, that he instructed his land agent to set about selling off the estate. An agreement was reached with East Ward C&AC leading to a conveyance effectively transferring ownership of the land to the club in December 1925. The conveyance did however contain a number of restrictive covenants, namely that sport should be played on the property at least once a year and that no alcoholic beverages should be sold within the precincts of the ground.
The endeavours of the members to transform the facilities and the general standing of the club were soon recognised with an invitation to join both the Leeds League, (the area’s pre-eminent competition) and the Leeds Evening League for the 1924 season. The name of the club was changed to East Leeds Cricket and Athletic Club in 1926 and the good years were about to unfold.
The arrival of John W Hemingway as President provided the impetus for a golden period for the club. Hemingway was a prominent local figure, active in politics and good causes as well as being the head of the family brewery based on York Road; his patronage of the club attracted other local notables such as Charles Tetley whose firm would eventually absorb Hemingway’s in 1968 and the President’s interest and generosity was such that he funded a new pavilion in 1934; the match to commemorate its opening featured a number of high profile players including a young Len Hutton who had just broken into the triumphant Yorkshire side.
Sheer batting strength gave East Leeds the 1926 league championship with skipper Herbert Brook, ex Hunslet man, Walter Maskill, (league batting prize winner) and keeper Harry Close, (father of Yorkshire, Somerset and England star Brian) proving able to chase almost any score they were set.
In 1927, the club’s shrewdest signing came with the addition of Horace Fisher from Denby Grange Colliery. A left arm medium pace bowler and reliable bat, Fisher later achieved fame for Yorkshire as being the first man in 1st Class Cricket to take an all LBW hat-trick. In the three years Fisher played at the club, he won the league batting prize twice and also took the bowling honours in 1928 with a best performance of 8-12; perhaps his greatest feat came in his first season when he made 109 and took 6-23 against a strong Burmantofts side. During this period, the club won the league title twice and the Hepworth Cup in a low scoring contest against Hunslet. It came as a great blow to the club in 1930, when Fisher was instructed by Yorkshire CCC, to play his club cricket in the Yorkshire League; East Leeds’s loss was definitely Barnsley’s gain. In the same year, the club awarded a benefit to Charles Lister in appreciation for his 30 years as club secretary. It was at this time that East Leeds could also boast the first of its two internationals, albeit in Rugby League when Hunslet and Great Britain forward Harry Beverley added pace to the bowling attack.
In 1933, East Leeds won the league title again; 1934 brought an Evening League title and in 1935 achieved the league and cup double with a high scoring final at Pudsey Britannia where Gildersome’s 288 was still 28 runs shy of the East Leeds total.
Flushed with success, the club departed to the break-away Leeds Central League winning the Shuttleworth Cup in 1938 courtesy of a mesmerising spell of 5-31 in 21 overs from Maurice Kilvington. The 2nd XI also won their cup competition, (the JW Hemingway Cup) in 1936 and 1938.
The break-away league was fairly short lived as there was considerable acrimony between the Leeds League and the Leeds Central League; a way forward was eventually found, (brokered by Hunslet skipper Irving Shuttleworth) which led to a new combined competition, the Leeds and District Cricket League from 1939.
The array of talent on hand at this stage was considerable with the likes of George Wilson, Hylton Shaw, Ronnie Shaw and Ronnie Robinson providing an exceedingly strong batting base, however the onset of hostilities in 1939 led to a break-up of the team and the club was never to recapture the glories of its pre-war 1st XI sides.
World War 2
In common with may other clubs, war brought significant challenges to sport; indeed the ground narrowly escaped requisition, however allotments were restricted to the rear of the pavilion where the tennis courts were dug up “for victory”.
The ground was made available for good causes amongst which were the Red Cross charity matches arranged by Leeds League secretary Jack Appleyard and a number of fixtures involving both the local Home Guard and the Anti-Aircraft unit which was based further down Pontefract Lane.
On the cessation of hostilities, the club started to rebuild and whilst competitive, the pre-eminence of the thirties was beyond them. The death of Charles Lister in 1939 and John Hemingway in 1944 were both body blows to the club and whilst John Hemingway Junior succeeded to the role of President, his interest was never as great as his father’s.
The key development during this period however was the establishment of the Leeds Junior Cricket League; East Leeds was a founder member and the opportunity for junior cricket led to Alan Raw, a member at Seacroft CC bringing his son, Geoffrey to the club; Geoff Raw would become the most influential figure of the post-war period; a stylish right hander with all the shots, principal amongst which was a stinging square cut, he remains the club’s highest run getter and his tireless work on behalf of both the club and the junior league ended only upon his death on 2009.
Other long serving members also emerged at this time; Ken Wardman, Dave Wharton, and Jack Render would all score in excess of 5,000 runs for the club; Syd Rich and Denis Steel would both take over 800 wickets and Terry Caine would combine almost 9,000 runs with over 500 dismissals behind the stumps.
Whilst East Leeds, on their day, were a match for any team, the Leeds League was dominated by Holbeck CC during the 1950s who benefitted from the services of East Leeds old boy, Horace Fisher, however the 2ndXI, under Derek Wardman took the 2nd team league title in 1957; the icing on the cake being that Wardman, himself would pick up the league batting prize.
A couple of Dunn Trophy wins for sportsmanship aside, the 1960’s were barren in terms of on field achievement however changes were being made around the ground; Leeds City Council took the decision to locate the new city abattoir on the rhubarb farm adjacent to the east end of the ground; this led to the compulsory purchase of a parcel of land which had previously been the club’s domain as well as a widening of Pontefract Lane. These moves altered the character of the ground considerably; gone were the wooden advertising hoardings on the Pontefract Lane side which had kept out the casual spectator, bringing an end to charging for admission as the replacement concrete based chain link fence afforded no such privacy and, at the same time, the 40 yards permanent site-screen was erected to the east which has become synonymous with East Leeds. Few if any clubs can have had the dubious privilege of both a “Pavilion” and “Abbatoir” end.
Into the 70s – Honour Restored
A number of new players were recruited at the turn of the decade including Jack Wilson, (Mirfield), Tony Bryant, (Normanton) and Jack Gahan, (Whitkirk) strengthening both sides and leading to a Hepworth Cup final in 1970; unfortunately, and despite a spell of 6-27, Gahan retained an unenviable distinction of running out on the losing side in each Hepworth Cup final he played in; this was his sixth and last such disappointment as East Leeds managed only 73 to lose to Rothwell by 14 runs.
Whilst both Wilson and Bryant returned to the Yorkshire Council after 1971, the dissolution of the LICS club and internal strife at Woodhouse led to some further useful recruiting; John Mellor took 51 wickets in his first season with the club and, perhaps more importantly introduced his three sons, Keith Neil and Michael who would go on to score over 7000 runs and take almost 1000 wickets between them. Bill Quirk (and son Michael) also arrived from LICS while the experienced trio of Alan Child, Eric Harris and Dave Greaves joined from Woodhouse.
East Leeds were top of the table going into a grudge match with nearest rivals Woodhouse in early August 1976; despite a thrilling 63 from John Bowden, the visitors came off second best and as form tailed off afterwards, Woodhouse were crowned champions.
The 1stXI reached the Hepworth Cup final again in 1977, (soundly beaten by Whitkirk) and 1978, (narrowly edged out by Carlton).;
The strength of the first team filtered down to the seconds however and between 1975 and 1979, they picked up 3 league titles and 2 Wood Cups as well as league average prizes for Dave Wharton, Colin Benson and John Bowden with the bat and two bowling prizes for Denis Steel.
Similarly, the junior sides were successful in the (U18) Shuttleworth Cup under Neil Coggin, (1971) and Howard Eccles (1975) as well as the Patrick Forbes Cup at U14 level under John Steel in 1977.
The emergence of juniors making the leap to senior cricket was encouraging throughout the 70s; indeed six received 2nd XI caps in 1979 as the older guard spent more time to tend their aching joints.
One of the key developments of the 1970s was the opening of a bar and, with a loan from the initial supplier Vaux Brewery, the building of a brick extension to the west end of the Hemingway Pavilion.
1980s – The Rise of the Overseas Player
A number of long serving players had hung up their boots by the early 80s and the sides of the time were dominated by East Leeds juniors of various vintages as a consequence.
In order to bolster the side, the club ventured into recruiting players from beyond LS9 and LS15; indeed Graeme Lynch and Simon Blick came around the world from New Zealand to play in 1986 with Graeme returning the following year and Simon in 1988; the highlight of that season being a club record total of 430-9 away at Farsley Celtic’s compact Throstle Nest ground which included a century for Paul Clarke and 50s from Blick, John Bowden and Steve McGuire
It was 1989 which saw the full effect of overseas recruitment however; an international blend of Steve Linton, (Barbados), Kim Hancock, (New Zealand) and Glen Broughill, (Australia) had the combined impact of bringing East Leeds back to the top flight; Linton’s 79 wickets in 1989 (breaking Jack Wilson’s 78 wicket effort from 1970) remains a club record as does the 235* he made the following year against Highbury.
With other clubs also recruiting abroad, (particularly Nostell who had two then current Australian test players in Dean Jones and Tony Dodemaide for the ’88 season) action was required and the Leeds League introduced a restriction of one overseas player per club.
East Leeds were a force to be reckoned with throughout the early part of the decade with 1995 perhaps being the peak; both New Zealander, Dale Jemmett and ex Rothwell Simon Booth topped a 1,000 runs and whilst the 2nd Division title was secured, a keenly anticipated Hepworth Cup ended in heavy defeat to Carlton.
Jemmett and Booth’s performances were put in the shade by 1996’s overseas recruit, Glen Edwards whose 1,426 run tally is unlikely to be challenged.
The East Leeds junior sides continued to experience considerable success, early in the decade it was Dan Thewlis, Johnny Long, John Dyson and Matt Surtees leading the way followed later by the club’s second RL international, Danny McGuire, Andy Coyne, James Watling, Dean Atkinson, Allan and Mark Olbison and Michael and Neil Roberts all capturing representative honours.
By the second half of the decade however, an element of discontent was being felt with the direction of the Leeds League and the club opted, (perhaps unwisely) to join the Central Yorkshire League for the 1999 season. Sadly for the Leeds League the initial trickle of defectors, Whitkirk, Carlton and East Leeds became a flood leading to a need to merge with the West Riding League before eventual extinction. The absence of a Leeds centric league is still keenly felt with former members cast far and wide into the Aire Wharfe, Bradford, Pontefract, Central Yorkshire and Wetherby leagues.
Despite gaining promotion in 2002 when Australian Troy Arendarcikas scored 1,130 runs, East Leeds were never truly competitive against the best that the CYL had to offer; financially the club was well founded due largely to the rental paid by a local private hire company and the erection of a telecoms mast, but diminishing returns on the social side and the absence of the level of sponsorship from which other clubs benefitted meant that, sporadic overseas players aside, the club was essentially amateur in nature. The closure of the local comprehensive school and changing demographic of the LS9 area also led to the club being unable to attract the number of players required to continue to run the junior sides which had been the lifeblood of the teams in previous decades.
That said, cricket continued to be played and enjoyment had by the loyal band of players but times were changing; the death of Geoff Raw in 2009 was felt by both the club and the junior league he had served faithfully for many years and the number of retired players maintaining an interest was dwindling.
The saving grace at this time, (and now) was the work undertaken by a committee, led by the energetic Dennis Nicholson (whose father-in-law Les had been steward in the early 1980s). Despite not being a cricketer, Dennis, with faithful and solid support from a number of others continued to ensure that the club could continue to fulfil its remit as a community sports club.
As noted, the dearth of junior cricketers could have brought about an end to the club, however the growth of the city centre and the influx of young professionals coming to live and work in Leeds has done much to address membership issues; the fact that the club has Leeds in its name and is the closest ground to Leeds Parish Church makes it a google friendly option for players seeking a new club.
The club remains alive and kicking over a century from the days of Wilson and Lister; a proud heritage and a record of survival where others have disappeared – long may it continue.