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Club History & Honours 5 of 5

5. The Old Ball Field History

Horsforth and its History
By J.M.Morfitt

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 trap to which a long length of cord was attached. The traps were set at a range of 50 yards for pigeons and a about 35 for a sparrow, sometimes two pigeons were put in the trap together for a quick right and left shot. The marksman used a double-barrelled shotgun and when ready gave the order to the trap man to pull the cord which caused the trap to collapse and so release the birds. Shots were only allowed after the birds took to the wing which sometimes it did only after a number of attempts had been made to flush it out. Generally the birds were killed outright,
but some wounded managed to gain height and fly down wind. As this was as a rule, blowing from the direction of the Hunger Hills the birds went towards the station but did not travel very far and fell into the fields were Brownberrie Walk is now. Knowledgeable local people knew where to pick them up and many a tasty pigeon pie resulted in the shoots.
Calverley v Guiseley
These cricket matches twelve in all in two series were originated in 1872 by Mr. Crossland a schoolmaster in Horsforth. The object was to raise money for the various charitable organisations round about. Helped by the players giving their services and also by the receipt of subscriptions in addition to gate money, a total of £1,318/8/3p was handed over. The first match was played at Horsforth on the 17th June 1872 but subsequent matches were played on the first Monday in July which was then a local holiday.
First Series
Played at Horsforth June 17th 1872
84 Guiseley 54
Played at Farsley July 14th.1873
Calverley 40 Guiseley 39
Played at Rawdon July 6th.1874
Calverley 52. Guiseley 60
Played at Pudsey. July 4th 1875
Calverley 94. Guiseley 76
Played at Yeadon July 3rd. 1876
Calverley 125 Guiseley 86
Played at Calverley July 2nd. 1877
Calverley 122 for 9 Guiseley 133 draw) Guiseley 87 Calverley 121
These matches enjoyed considerable fame but though they were between the
Second Series
Played at Horsforth July 1st 1878 Calverley
Guiseley 366 Calverley did not bat Played at Farsley July 7th 1879 Guiseley 92 Calverley 45
Played at Rawdon July 6th 1880 Guiseley 212 Calerley 84
Played at Pudsey July 4th 1881 Guiseley 132 Calverley 140 Played Yeadon July 3rd 1882 Guiseley 121 Calverley 76 Played at Calverley July 2nd 1883
parishes of Guiseley and Calverley it was only once in the year 1873 that Guiseley players took part and they scored 7 runs. The highest ever was 125 by A.Dobson at Horsforth in 1878
Copied by A.Cockroft 2006