In the mid-nineteenth century, man’s ingenuity saw the creation of machines that could transform soft, woven rags into ‘shoddy’ and harder rags into ‘mungo’ and the ‘recovered wool’ industry was borne.
It was between Morley, Ossett and Dewsbury where this fledgling branch of the textile industry was focussed, offering mungo and shoddy to local mills which became blankets and heavy coatings. Hence the area acquired the name of the ‘Heavy Woollen district.’
Originally, the Heavy Woollen district was considered to be, for the purposes of cricket, within a six mile radius from Batley Town hall with professionals prohibited from playing.
Oldest continuous cup competition…
The first year of the Heavy Woollen Cup was way back in 1883; a fact that means it is only just pipped by the Ashes as the oldest cup competition anywhere in the world.
In typically Yorkshire fashion, what it can rightfully claim to be is the oldest continuous cup competition there’s ever been; contested every year come what may; not even two World Wars, industrial depression and inter-club wrangling stopped play.
Batley-born Louis Hall was the inspiration for creating a cricket competition in the area which was called, in full, the Heavy Woollen District Cricket Challenge Cup.
Hall represented Yorkshire as a batsman from 1873 and made a name for himself five years later with 78 against the first Australian XI for the Eighteen of Hunslet (grand name for a team).
Prince of Stonewallers
Speaking of which, he acquired the nickname the ‘Prince of Stonewallers’ which back then was not as damning as it would be today.
Taking 165 minutes to score 12 against Kent in 1865 was particularly impressive. But Wisden records that despite the pace of his innings, Yorkshire grit was at the heart of a successful county career:
‘Since then he has been one of the most consistent of players, and has, year after year, been either at the top, or very near the top, of the Yorkshire averages, the county having certainly been able to boast no other batsman so safe, steady, and dependable.’
Sure enough, some 11,095 first-class runs in 315 matches attest to that; with twelve hundreds including one knock of 160, which you imagine must have taken several weeks to compile.
Hall top-scored in a match between a Yorkshire XI and a soap manufacturers based in Thornes, Wakefield in aid of Dewsbury District Infirmary, and it inspired him to call a meeting at the Royal Hotel in Batley in 1882 to organise a local cricket contest.
The first draw featured 25 teams including what surely must have been a plum tie of Dewsbury United Clerks against Healey Lily of the Village.
We have the spectacular website that is the Cricket History of Kirklees and Calderdale’ project to thank for being able to trawl through old archives of Heavy Woollen Cup matches.
In 1883, Heckmondwicke (136) took on Dewsbury Savile (71) in the first final, which was curtailed by rain. The gate receipts were £82. The match was continued and concluded five days later.
An original clipping reporting the match is a delight in nineteenth century journalism with comments like: ‘With the exception of Moon and Dutton, the remainder of the Heckmondwicke innings calls for no comment, the whole being disposed of for a total of 136.’
We really should write like that still today, I might just kick off a revival.
Similarly, an LBW decision is written up as: ‘Williamson stopped one of Sykes’s straight ones with his leg, and retired for 3.’
The original Heavy Woollen Cup was a spectacular prize; a glorious silver orb with decorated side plinths that each had three cricket bats propped up together. The highest level of the Cup went yet higher still with a cricketer standing proud.
Nowadays, the cricket competition has flung open its doors a little wider and teams need to be within 18 miles radius of Batley Town Hall.
Fast forward to 2013
So, we skip a proud history to 2013 which is the 130th year of the Heavy Woollen Cup. A total of 32 teams began the quest for glory in the first round.
Arguably the tie of that opening clutch of matches was a Bradford League showdown between Pudsey Congs and Woodlands, which Congs edged by 26 runs.
it’s an all-Bradford League final this time round too. Hanging Heaton contest this year’s final of the Solly Sports Heavy Woollen Cup on Sunday 4 August on their own Bennett Lane ground against New Farnley.
New Farnley’s path to the final began uncertainly with a bowl out 2-1 against Delph and Dobcross due to rain. A 34-run win over Morley followed then a five-wicket defeat of the Huddersfield League outfit Scholes in the third round. The semi final was an 86-run triumph over Wakefield Thornes.
Allrounder Nick Walker and keeper-batsman Lee Goddard are two to watch with the bat if available having impressed in earlier rounds.
Fast bowler Nadim Hussain is a threat as is Dave Cummings. Hanging Heaton have former Yorkshire CCC allrounder Gary Fellows in their ranks, who lifted the trophy last year as captain of Wrenthorpe. Fellows hit 75 not out in the seven-wicket, semi final win over last year’s finalists, Townville.
They also boast former county cricketers in pace bowler David Stiff and leg-spinner Mark Lawson who captains them. There is also that added spice of a former New Farnley opening bowler Dan Busfield playing against his old club.
It promises to be a livewire encounter with a packed crowd at Hanging Heaton Cricket Club on Sunday and anyone can make a name for themselves on the day.
It’s an opportunity for us at Cricket Yorkshire to soak up the atmosphere as a neutral and see the culmination of a Yorkshire cricket competition with a deservedly proud history.
Sources: Bradford League website, CK Cricket Heritage, and Mike Butler’s excellent From Batley to Barnsley: A History of the Heavy Woollen District 1883-2005.
*Image: The original trophy is no longer in service with a newer trophy presented to the winning captain.