The Cricket History of Calderdale and Kirklees project began in 2004 when its founder and inspiration Peter Davies obtained a £43,000 grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund and other assistance from Huddersfield University.
Through its website (just stick cricket heritage in a search engine), cricket followers can access an archive of documents and photographs describing the origins of cricket in West Yorkshire, its links to community organisations, particularly churches and histories of individual clubs, many of which alas are no more.
As part of the project, Peter ran an evening course at the university called Bat and Ball. Beginning in January 2006, some of its keenest students, dubbed by Peter ‘the three musketeers’ were a trio of Yorkshire’s greatest ‘professional cricket watchers’; Tony Hutton, Brian Senior and the late Mick Bourne. Peter had come across these three on many previous occasions, for sharing their passion for local cricket he had bumped into them watching cricket on out-of-the-way grounds around Yorkshire.
Peter, whose enthusiasm for cricket knows no bounds, is a hard man to resist and soon he had persuaded the ‘pcws’ to keep a diary of their cricket watching. These were published in early summer 2007 as a now elusive book, ‘Off the beaten track, Three Men and a Cricket Season.’
I remember clearly being sold a copy by Mick Bourne from the boot of his car at a game at Stamford Bridge and it remains one of the most precious books on my shelves.
Peter soon saw the next step and set up ckcricketheritage.blogspot.com to which he made the first posting in December 2008. The 2009 season was recorded electronically although in its first and second seasons it appeared in print as well.
‘Two men and a blog’ was written by Peter and Tony and in 2010 they were joined by Brian Sanderson and ‘Bloggers on the boundary’ was the result. During the winter of 2010/11, I offered my services as a blogger to Peter and he welcomed me to the team and I made my first posting in March 2011.
Just past its fifth birthday, the blog has had over 50,000 hits. Now in the hands of Brian and me, it is still essentially a diary of our cricket watching at all levels but mainly weekend club cricket. As a relative newcomer to the broad acres, I began my apprenticeship as a ‘pcw’ with a fairly blank canvas but now know my Langbaurgh from my Nidderdale and my Aire Wharf from my Dales Council.
A typical Saturday for the blogger involves visits to four or five grounds spread across one or more leagues.
Of the four leagues mentioned above, the least well known may be the Langbaurgh. The first reports of cricket in this competition appeared in the North East Daily Gazette in 1921 although there is an opinion that it had begun a year before.
Whatever the case, it had eight founder members clustered round the A19 and A172 roads as they head northwards towards Teesside. With no journey of more than ten miles, it was truly local league cricket.
Just four of the originals remain but the league more than survives, spreading its tentacles as far as Hartlepool in the north, the Cleveland Coast in the east, Scruton west of the River Swale and to its southern outpost at Kirby Sigston near Northallerton.
The current membership is divided into two divisions with promotion and relegation. Should Kirby Sigston play at Hartlepool Power Station (above) they would have a round trip of sixty miles but who would not want to play under the shadow of a nuclear power station, especially if your home ground is isolated from the scattered homes and farms that make up the Kirby Sigston community? Despite this isolation and the absence of running water, I enjoyed a splendid tea there in 2012.
I will start the 2014 season with just three Langbaurgh grounds unvisited and one fine Saturday afternoon should see the job done. It should be straightforward although mistakes can be made. Why should Swainby not play in Swainby? Because somebody built on their ground so they now play on the pretty former ground of Carlton CC.
If you fancy a visit don’t rely on sat nav. The postcode in the handbook will take you to the secretary’s house in Great Ayton. Guess how I know that….
If you want to know if I manage to ‘tidy up’ the Langbaurgh, then please follow us on www.ckcricketheritage.blogspot.com. You will join seventy or so other followers spread across the world with postings all the year round.
BY JOHN WINN (@Johnloshed)