Richard Wells looks back at 45 years of league cricket in Sheffield and beyond.
Cricket has been in my life from my earliest memories, on the beach at Filey with Grandad or in Hollinsend Park with brothers, cousins and school pals.
We had old kit from Intake Methodist CC and it was expected we would eventually turn out for them in the Norton League but that never happened.
So, when the brother of our neighbour, having seen us playing on the drive, asked if one of us fancied a game for Leadmill Old Boys, I was nominated as the oldest, if not the most talented of three brothers.
Leadmill Old Boys merged that winter with Norton Oaks and for some reason, the call to play the following season never came.
Another neighbour asked if we fancied playing for Hollinsend Methodist, also in the Norton League and I jumped at the chance.
Now, at 61, I look forward to my 45th year of league cricket in 2021.
So many things have changed in those 45 years but not my love of the game. The Norton and District League boasted around 12 divisions and was considered the fourth tier of league cricket in Sheffield.
The Sheffield League would be next then the Yorkshire Council and the Yorkshire League was the pinnacle.
Our home ground was Richmond Park, one of many council parks that had not just one but often two or three cricket pitches, mostly used by Norton League teams.
Rudimentary changing facilities bring your own teas and no shelter for supporters. The large parks, Graves and Concord, would have so many pitches that to see which you had been allocated, you had to study a large board in the pavilion and then work out where pitch 7, say, was situated.
The teams we played were often originally associated with local chapels but now only Hollinsend retain the Methodist tag once so commonly seen.
We shared the pitch at Richmond Park so when I had dragged along my brothers, cousin and school mates to join, a second team was needed.
This started life on Mather Road but we would all return to the Normanton Springs pub for a beer post-game and re-christened it ‘The pleasure dome’ for some strange reason.
Hollinsend had ambition; we wanted to be better cricketers and play against better cricketers on better grounds. To facilitate this, we entered the Midweek Alliance league and arranged Sunday ‘friendlies’ mostly in the surrounding Derbyshire villages.
We once played Sheffield Caribbean in the midweek cup at a time when players who had left their Norton League Saturday team returned to play midweek.
Facing Devon Malcolm
The game was at Richmond Park on a pitch that was never rolled and not really cut. Bowling uphill was a 16-year-old Devon Malcolm, fast but a bit wayward. Downhill, a guy called Steve Taylor, faster and more accurate.
We had several players hit and for years, I believed I hadn’t even batted but the scorebook reveals I got 1 not out, so traumatised I don’t even remember facing a ball!! A couple of years ago, I met Devon and mentioned the game, he claimed to remember it but perhaps he was just being kind?
Hollinsend Methodist Cricket Club moved to Fox Lane so both teams could share a ground. There were no changing rooms, just a portacabin and the pitch had not been used for a few years.
We built the clubhouse ourselves and started to improve the pitch. The next step was to play at a higher standard.
Having been rejected by both Sheffield League and Yorkshire Council, we found a home in the Doncaster League until it too merged with the Sheffield League to form the South Yorkshire Alliance.
We enjoyed many a game against the likes of Kilnhurst, Armthorpe, Hatfield Town and Barnby Dun.
If you ask our members, we are very much a Yorkshire club but getting noticed by the county when you are unfashionable and playing at its southernmost border is not easy.
A switch to the Yorkshire & Derbyshire League seemed a natural home but sadly that has also seen a reduction in clubs and both standard of ground and opposition in recent years. We still have a 2nd XI and 3rd XI in that league but have moved our Firsts to the Derbyshire County League.
Crossing the Derbyshire border
Perhaps those old rejections from established Yorkshire leagues still hurt or simply that trips to Bakewell, Cutthorpe or Ilkeston remain appealing.
I am not sure my 17-year-old self envisaged being Chairman of a club with four weekend sides, juniors from under-9 to under-18 and a midweek XI, an electronic scoreboard and the state-of-the-art outdoor nets. He would have been happy with sightscreens, never mind the artificial pitch!
I’m proud that while so many cricket clubs have fallen by the wayside in the last 45 years, the one I chair continues to go from strength to strength.
A thousand wickets and counting…
Thanks to Richard for that trip down memory lane and a look at how things have changed for Hollinsend Methodist over the years.
Many of you in Sheffield cricketing circles will have played Richard and he let it slip in email conversation that he had over a thousand wickets!
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