Horsforth and its History
The Old ball field.
In keeping with modern amenities Horsforth has a number of playing fields of
which the most important are the Hall Park and the Old Ball Field, which is now known as the King George Playing Field. In regard to their age as sports grounds is by far the oldest, and perhaps from a local history point it was mistake to rename the field. When Horsforth hall was a private residence it was only on occasions when the owner Mr.Surr William Duncan, gave permission for the holding of public sports in the park. With the exception of the cricket club it was only that once or twice a year the public had access to the grounds and that was for the Agricultural Show and the Carnival. On the other hand the Old Ball Field has a sports history that goes back into the dim and distant past. The Old Ball Cricket Club has played in the field for well over a 100 years. It is also known that more than one cock –fight took place at the back of the Old Ball. The area was constructed of cloth material supported on posts and mention had been made elsewhere of the Horsforth breed of speckled gamecock, which were well thought of locally for their gameness. Knur and Spell had its followers who used the field for practice and played matches there. In the past many wagers were won and lost on quoits. This a popular game constantly played, and the pitch was along side the wall at the low side of the field. 70 years ago Horsforth Rugby Football Club played their matches across what is now the cricket pitch and their grandstand stood at the low side of the pitch and faced uphill. Galas and Sports meetings were regular features. They were always lively affairs and attracting good numbers of competitors and were organised by the old time Woodside St. James Cricket Club. Local dog fanciers made use of the field to let their terriers run for rats, and more than one small but exciting event took place between lurchers and locally caught rabbits. Before Parliament put a stop to the sport the Old ball field was the scene of many exciting pigeon and sparrow shooting matches, which were held at the back end of the year. To get a supply of sparrows, men, after dark on a Friday night prior to the shoot, visited nearby houses which had a growth of Ivy on the walls, this was common in those days with stone houses as it was said it kept them warmer, the creeper housed the sparrows. The men carried a long handled clap- net, which was clapped (hence the name) on to the ivy, as high up as possible, and then drawn gently downwards.
This caused the roosting sparrows to flutter into pouched part of the net from which they were quickly transferred to a pigeon basket.
As an alternative supply source nearby haystacks were visited but only the sparrows were taken other birds were released. The pigeons were end of season surplus racing stock. During the shooting match the birds, as they were required were placed in a specially constructed