City Memories – Part One in a series of reminiscences

by  Ian Hemmens

This is a series of articles about my life as a City fan, how it happened and what has happened since. A series of memories, events and reminiscences personal & factual. This is my 54th year as a fan and like every other supporter we’ve been through the whole gamut of events and emotions in that time.

I was born into a City supporting family on Carlisle Place, Manningham in 1960. My paternal Grandad was already dead but my Dad had photos of him obviously. One in particular piqued my interest, My Grandad was stood with 2 other men, written on the back was the information I needed. The inscription said, Bob (my Grandad), Bob Torrance, Jimmy MacDonald, Otley Road 1913. Who were these men with my Grandad. Sadly this photo has been lost amid house moves/clearances etc.

My love of the game had been ramped up to a whole new level by the 1966 World Cup triumph. My Dad had bought our first TV just in time for the tournament & we enjoyed Englands victory together. My Dad showed me my Grandads photo and then produced another, the famous team photo of the 1911 FA Cup Winners with the new trophy resplendent. Sure enough, the same two guys were there! My Grandad knew professional footballers. I had been told he played at an amateur level in his youth before the World collapsed in 1914. I have a team photo of him with his team which is reproduced in Rob Grillo’s wonderful book ‘Late to the Game’.

Of course I started grilling my Dad about the 1911 team needing to know everything about them. Before long, I could recite the names of that great team.

Dad had gone with his Father & Brother to Valley Parade in the late 1920s onwards just as City’s glory days were fading into memory. After his death the Brothers continued their weekly pilgrimage , my Uncle George living on Cliffe Terrace, nowadays where the back of the Kop & the One in a Million School is built. In the mid 50s, George and his family emigrated to New Zealand but never forgetting his roots, he had the Yorkshire Sports Pink sent to him although in those days it would take about a month for him to get the results!

For the 1966-67 season after me pestering him, Dad finally took me to Valley Parade for the first time. I don’t have specific memories of the game but I’ve been told it was either Barnsley or Wrexham. I’m inclined to believe it was Barnsley due to my Mum coming from there so there was the added interest. We stood on the what appeared to a small boy as the vast open Kop but apparently I took little interest in the game, more fascinated by watching the Steam trains arriving & departing from Forster Square station. I was taken to maybe a couple of other games that season but to my young  eyes, Valley Parade was already a magical place. In reality, the old girl was starting to show her age but that never occurred to me at all. I had noticed that City wore colours that nobody else did, the Claret & Amber Stripes & Black Shorts vivid & unique. That Christmas, my most treasured gift was a City shirt bought from Knuttons on Barry Street. I wore it until it fell apart.

The next season, my Dad had started working shifts at the Power Station on Canal Road & a friend & neighbour offered to take me to Valley Parade when Dad was working or in bed. The trains no longer interested me but the game did. My first hero, the first player to catch my total attention wasn’t a City legend, he wasn’t even a one season wonder. Paul ‘Pablo’ Aimson was only at City for half a season, 23 games in which he scored 11 goals leading the attack. He had a great scoring record at lower league football after once being on the books of Manchester City. I was heartbroken later in the season when he & full back Alec Smith were traded to Huddersfield Town in exchange for Denis Atkins & Tony Leighton. The club was also hit by a tragedy with the untimely death of Manager Grenville Hair during a training season. Under caretaker management of senior players McAnearney & Hallett, the club had a strong finish to the season but finished in 5th place just missing out on promotion.

The following season saw a new Manager in Jimmy Wheeler from Reading, the team was a tight unit and hopes were high for a successful season. I was now fully committed to the cause and as a birthday present, I received my first Season Ticket. I’d started playing football at school with moderate success to start with but I was a quick & willing learner which seemed to impress the Coach. The fact I was one of only a few who kicked left footed no doubt helped my cause. Saturday afternoons were free for Valley Parade though. Back then, nobody ever mentioned the likes of Leeds United, Huddersfield Town or Burnley as rivals. From memory, our main rivals were always Bradford Park Avenue obviously, but the others were Barnsley & Halifax Town. We didn’t have a car but our neighbour would kindly take us to games within a reasonable distance. I recall visits to The Shay, Oakwell, Spotland, Doncaster and the likes.

My maternal Grandparents had retired to live in Blackpool, my Grandad being an ex coal miner, the fresh sea air being good for his dust infected lungs. We would holiday on the coast each year and Grandad would take me to Bloomfield Road which I though was even more run down than Valley Parade at that time. I remember being captivated by the bright tangerine shirts of the home team & Grandad introduced me to Jimmy Armfield, an England International & member of the 1966 squad. Wonderful memory & he was such a gentleman to a little kid when he probably met thousands of people.

The 1968-69 season started really with a bit of a hangover from the previous seasons near miss but after Christmas, City hit a run of form which included breaking the club record for games undefeated 21 in all until the seasons penultimate game, a defeat at Brentford. City had to win their final game away at Darlington to snatch the precious 4th spot and gain promotion. We had to be there and a convoy of cars & coaches travelled up the A1 to Feethams to see City victorious & gain the clubs 1st promotion for 40 years. After years of decline & bumping along, making do , selling any players of potential or achievement, the club was finally, hopefully, awaking from its slumbers.

The Promotion team had several much loved players who would go down as bona-fide legends of the club. The team established itself in the higher  level before the usual old problems began to arise  stifling any further progress, usually financial. Star forwards Bruce Bannister & Bobby Ham were sold and new players arrived who would also become legends, significantly Ces Podd & Joe Cooke. Good players were signed with the likes of another personal favourite of mine Gerry Ingram & Allan Gilliver to form an exciting partnership. Local talent Graham Oates was sold but flying winger Don Hutchins arrived in a cash exchange but any continuity was hard to maintain.

City  had had good performances in the Cups also around this period, particularly memorable being the FA Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur, Jimmy Greaves et al, which drew a crowd of 25000 to Valley Parade. The Kop was packed & in those days before fan segregation I found myself hoisted onto the shoulders of a huge Spurs fan to be able to see the game finish an exciting 2-2 draw. This was my first experience of a truly large crowd & the experience was exhilerating. I longed to see my team compete every week in front of full houses. My Dad had seen big crowds usually the Wool City Derbys. He had also been up to Park Avenue on occasion to watch such visiting superstars like Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews & Nat Lofthouse but he never had any inclination to go over to Horton on a regular basis. City was in the family DNA. Another Uncle lived in Wibsey and was an Avenue fan but I couldn’t be tempted to change my allegiance. As the 60s drew to a close , the point became moot anyway as Avenue were voted out of the League after years of struggle before the quietly faded away & died in 1974. The rivalry was a double edged sword. I missed the excitement to local Derbys and the partisan rivalry but the trauma & upset their demise caused their fans never occurred to me at that age.

By now we had moved from Manningham over the Valley to the Bolton area, still within walking distance of Valley Parade, indeed I could see the ground from my bedroom window. I was also personally face with a quandary, I had joined the local Boy’s Brigade & played for them doing well enough to play for Bradford & even gaining a trial for Yorkshire. Should I continue this miss my beloved City? For a while the fixture list was my friend as my home games fell when City were away but it came to a head & I couldn’t let my team mates down & for the first time in a few seasons I missed a few games at Valley Parade. Looking back it was a pretty fallow period for City results wise only brightened by an exciting FA Cup run to the Quarter Finals. We actually bunked off school to go to Norwich in the early rounds where City achieved a historic 2-1 victory over the higher team featuring the likes of World Cup Winner Martin Peters. Norwich boss John Bond had bad mouthed the club in preceding weeks. A flu outbreak had put the club in lockdown & Bond had said we should forfeit the tie. This was all the motivation City needed but goals from Scottish striker Billy McGinley & star winger Don Hutchins caused an almighty upset. It was a long, tiring but happy journey home from Norfolk that night. Another huge crowd in the Quarters saw City defeated by a controversial goal later deemed illegal as they exited the cup to Southampton who went on to win the trophy.

The Cup run had given the club a financial lifeline & a motivational boost for the future.

After falling back into the bottom division after 3 years,in 1972,  the momentum achieved by the cup run saw the team have a wonderful season and once again managed to win promotion in 1976-77 with club stalwarts Podd, Cooke, Hutchins, Downsborough & Johnson to the fore along with influential newcomers like local lad Terry Dolan & centre forward Bernie Wright replacing personal favourite Ingram who took advantage, as many did at the time , of a lucrative contract offer from the USA. One notable personal aspect of the season was it was the first season City had gone a whole season unbeaten at home. I was never one for leaving early but in January with City losing at home to Exeter & the game entering injury time I decided to set off for home, I reached Midland Road & to my horror heard a huge cheer. My hero Gerry Ingram had equalised late in the game & the unbeaten record was maintained. I vowed that day never to leave early & I never have. We have to live & learn. Unfortunately, it proved another false dawn as the team were immediately relegated once again. There was heartbreak again in 1979-80 when the club missed out on Promotion once again but this time it was on the last day of the season after defeat at Peterborough after another convoy of cars, buses & even trains had headed for London Road in anticipation.

By this time as a teenager I’d started going both home & away to watch usually with friend Peter Clarke & we used the City Travel Club & coaches by be legendary Patsy Hollinger. Stories of our travels are probably worth a volume of their own but thats for another place. One tale that merits mention in this case was the 1977 trip always down to Plymouth. City had broken their transfer record twice in a day to acquire full back Mick Wood & striker David McNiven. A coach load of us travelled down. We arrived just as the team did & we managed to a couple of Complimentary tickets from Don Hutchins, a former Argyle player. Watching the game, City were leading through a debut goal from McNiven when the referee had to be replaced due to a health scare. During the delay the skies had darkened and snow started to fall heavier & heavier. The game was abandoned & when we reached the Coach we were informed that there was no way home due to Devon being cut off by the snowfall. Arrangements were made by the Police to house us at the Royal Marine Barracks at Stonehaven in the town centre. The police took names & addresses to let our loved ones back in Yorkshire know we were safe. This was before Mobile phones & Social Media. We were treated very well by the Marines and finally got home on the Wednesday! A longer stay in Devon than anticipated. The whole episode was symptomatic of City’s relegation season, City losing the replayed game 0-6.

1979-80 & the near miss brought home thoughts that City might never again escape the clutches of lower league football. 1922 had seen the last top flight activity & 1937 the last time we had been in the 2nd tier. Were the club always destined to be amongst the also-rans or could there be hope in the future?

Part 2 will see the arrival of an England star & new found hope.

Ian Hemmens [@IHemmens] has written a number of other features about Bradford sport history which can be found from the dropdown menu above

 

Future planned articles on VINCIT will feature former BCAFC manager Jimmy Wheeler, the original development of Park Avenue in 1879-80; the history of sports journalism in Bradford; the politics of Odsal Stadium; the history of Bradford sports grounds and the history of crowd violence in Bradford.

The early development of Park Avenue

Park Avenue: The People’s Park.

Flat land has always been at a premium in Bradford and during the town’s rapid development in the nineteenth century the best sites were claimed by industry and housing. Not surprisingly it was at the expense of fields where cricket or football could be played. A common theme for sports clubs in Bradford during the 1860s and 1870s was the shortage of options for where to play and the demand for sports fields far outweighed the availability. The geography of the town and the extent of urban expansion made the problem acutely felt.

The opening of Park Avenue in 1880 therefore had massive significance. It was the long awaited ‘People’s Park’ – it was nothing less than the ‘promised ground’. To understand the psychological importance of Park Avenue goes a long way to explain the subsequent rivalry between Bradford FC and Manningham FC.

A parallel existed with the situation in 1851 when the Bradford Cricket Club had been forced to find a new ground, the consequence of the advance of bricks and mortar. At that time the talk was about establishing a ‘People’s Park’ – the same language as that of Benjamin Disraeli when he visited Bingley in 1844, endorsing the game of cricket and recreational activity. Eventually the club found a new ground at Claremont, off Great Horton Road but having been made homeless again in similar circumstances at the end of the summer of 1874 from its replacement ground further up Great Horton Road (adjacent Laisteridge Lane), the search for the elusive ‘People’s Park’ began once more. The failure to find a suitable and affordable site led the club to be disbanded. However, in July 1878 newspaper correspondence prompted a renewed effort to find a dedicated sports ground and with it a resuscitation of the town’s cricket club whose origins dated to 1837.

Other than Four Lane Ends there were no other obvious sites to develop a ground near the centre of Bradford. Even if it was not necessarily easy to get to – for example from Manningham – Park Avenue had the advantage of being in a green field, elevated area beyond the pollution of industry and the Leeds Times reported on 26 April, 1879 that it was ‘in a healthful, breezy position, well out of the smoke.’ (The point was not lost on The Bradford Observer of 6 March, 1880 which similarly referred to the ground’s ‘singular immunity from smoke,’ a comment that betrayed local sensibilities.) It thus satisfied the criteria of allowing a prestige development.

In 1874, Francis Sharp Powell had offered a site to Bradford CC on the east side of Laistridge Lane near Horton Green but this was subsequently rejected over concerns about the length of the lease (10 years) and there is no evidence that this site was considered again. The Park Avenue site by contrast would have preferable given that it was adjacent to the newly developed Horton Park.

The experience of athletics festivals at the former Great Horton Road home of Bradford CC had taught that a new ground would need permanent structures and that it was insufficient to plan for a basic enclosure only. Besides, civic pride dictated otherwise. In other words, it was realised from the start that for the new ‘People’s Park’ to be a success it required fixed investment and needed to be utilised by more than just cricket. This created a financial focus not only to raise funds for the development but also to generate profit to repay borrowings. Almost by accident, the new venture at Park Avenue assumed commercial characteristics that defined the future behaviour of what became the Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club.

The ‘Bradford Athletic Sports’ festivals at Great Horton Road had been extremely popular and the Bradford Observer reported on 21 July, 1873 that the event that year had attracted five to six thousand spectators. The success of the festivals encouraged Bradford CC to invest in a new, permanent grandstand that accommodated 700 people:

 ‘The grandstand, which on former occasions has been merely a temporary structure, has this year been erected in a more durable way, it being the intention of the committee to keep it permanently standing for the accommodation of visitors to the cricket matches on the field. It is placed nearer the Ashgrove side of the field than grandstands have been put in former years, and is of larger dimensions than previous erections, being nearly 50 yards in length.’

This commentary provides an understanding of the finances of Bradford CC and infers that the construction of temporary grandstands and refreshment tents had previously represented a large proportion of the expense in staging games. The report of the club’s meeting in the Bradford Observer of 8 November, 1873 states that cost of the grandstand was £210 whereas temporary structures had previously cost £40. The investment reflected the importance of the athletics festival to the finances of the club and in 1873 this alone generated income of £274 out of £1,032 in total. The festival contributed a profit of £151 whereas the profits from cricket were only £35. Therefore, the erection of a permanent grandstand would have allowed considerable future savings and potentially transformed the club’s profitability. Another illustration of the benefit of permanent structures came in September, 1874 when the refreshment tents erected for the All England game at Great Horton Road were blown away (in what the Bradford Observer described as a hurricane).

In January, 1874 the Great Horton Road ground staged the Yorkshire v Lancashire rugby game, organised by Bradford FC, and expenditure on the new grandstand may have been with this in mind. Irrespective, the grandstand would have made the fixture possible.

It is highly unlikely that the grandstand was covered or that it offered more than a viewing platform and I would assume that a permanent structure had never before been erected due to considerations of cost and the fact that the club operated on a short lease. The irony is that the grandstand was not used by Bradford CC beyond 1874 and I suspect that it was moved to the Bradford Albion ground at Horton Green when Great Horton Road was vacated. The surplus provided by the festival in 1873 had made a compelling case for the grandstand and provided more learning for the future. It demonstrated that for Bradford CC – and for Bradford ‘athletics’ – to thrive and prosper, a future ground had to accommodate more than cricket. However, to make permanent structures feasible, security of tenure was required.

The cost of developing Park Avenue

The construction of Park Avenue was funded by a combination of public subscription and debt finance and the fact that this was possible confirms the importance of the ground to public-minded individuals who were not necessarily sportsmen. It shows how athleticism had become idealised as a noble cause in Bradford, not simply for the recreation that it provided but as an expression of civic pride, a means of raising funds for charity and as a unifying force for the people of the town. This was entirely consistent with what Bradford Cricket Club had stood for in the 1840s and the sentiments expressed by the Volunteer movement.

A list of subscribers was published in the Bradford Observer of 6 March, 1880 which listed benefactions in the total amount of £1,498. There appears to have been three categories for subscription. The first was for dignitaries and it was probably deliberate that the serving lord mayor, Angus Holden (who was also nominated president of the Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club) should have made the largest donation of £200. Other donations came from cross-party politicians, Sir Isaac Holden and Arthur Illingworth (both Liberals), Sir Henry W Ripley (Conservative) and notables including Lt-Col Harry Hirst (commander of the 3rd Yorkshire West Riding Rifle Volunteer Corps – the Bradford Rifles – and joint owner of the family brewery) and Henry Mitchell (founder of Bradford Technical College, Weslyan benefactor and prominent supporter of the Conservative Party who was later knighted). The sum of £50 was also received from Messrs Mitchell & Shepherd of which Major William Shepherd was the owner and the same amount from the family firm of J Harper Mitchell JP.

The second category of subscribers were local businesses who were invited to subscribe £21 (twenty guineas) apiece which provided life membership of the club. Included among them were donations from Edward Briggs (whose firm was based at nearby Briggella Mills) and his two brothers, John and Moses. Another was Harry Armitage, later to become president of Bradford City at Valley Parade and a man who argued for merger of his club with Bradford FC at Park Avenue in 1907. A third category embraced more modest donations from private individuals and smaller traders, with amounts listed of between £1 and £10.

The vast majority of the donations came from business sources but what is notable about the published subscribers is the extent to which they reflected a broad spectrum of political opinion as well as commerce. Nevertheless, the extent of generosity should not be overstated. Although the amount donated for the development of Park Avenue was unprecedented (that is to say, as a sports enclosure) it nevertheless represented a small fraction of what was contributed for places of worship.

The 1870s had been a decade of church building in Bradford, matched by the opening of non-conformist chapels and The Leeds Times of 31 May, 1879 reported there to be 36 establishment churches and 94 chapels with capacity of 17,772 and 42,094 respectively. Since 1860 alone there had been 13 new chuches and 32 chapels and a Church Building Society had been formed in Bradford in 1859 to progress construction of church building. Many of the largest Anglican churches in Bradford came from that movement which was funded by individual benefactors like Sir Francis Sharp Powell and this had prompted competition from other sects funded by benefactions such as the Wensleyans (who enjoyed the patronage of Sir Henry Mitchell) and the Baptists (supported by Alfred Illingworth).

To get a sense of the amounts invested in spiritual salvation, in April, 1878 a new Baptist Chapel in Girlington had been opened which cost £8,000 to build. It had an organ worth £650, presented by Angus Holden JP. It could be said that the depression in trade had given many industrialists time to reflect on other matters. To put the fund-raising for Park Avenue into further context, subscriptions for the ground were also dwarfed by what had been raised in Bradford during 1875 for the Asia Minor famine fund. The suffering of people in Turkey had come to prominence as a humanitarian disaster and commentators used the opportunity to contrast governance in the Ottoman Empire with enlighted British rule in India. Just under £4,000 was raised in Bradford through public donations, nearly three times as much as that contributed for Park Avenue.

The Leeds Times of 13 March, 1880 reported that the total cost of construction was in the region of £4,000, principally for the purpose of levelling the ground and constructing pavilions although my estimate is that the total cost may have been closer to £5,500. An appeal for further subscriptions was made but it is unknown how much that raised. To make up the difference, reliance was placed upon debt funding through an overdraft secured by guarantees from individual members.

The subscribers

Perhaps surprising is that whilst names of people formerly associated with Bradford Cricket Club are recognisable, the same cannot be said about former players of Bradford Football Club. Ironically the only name being identifiable as having a football connection was that of W E Scharff, stuff merchant whose son had played with Bradford Caledonian FC in 1875. The lack of donations from former players and in particular, other merchants hints at a shift in the social background of those involved with the new Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club in contrast to the preceding Bradford club. What is notable is that in 1880 it was industrialists rather than merchants who emerged as a dominant group at Park Avenue. It was as if they were attracted to get involved as a means of deriving social prestige.

The mill owners of Bradford were quite distinct from merchants who tended to be of foreign origin, better educated and more cosmopolitan. The following extract written by the author and poet, Humbert Wolfe (1885-1940) about the German community in Bradford hints at possible discrimination by members of Bradford Cricket Club. Wolfe was Italian-born but came from a Jewish family with a German father and lived in Bradford; a former Bradford Grammar School pupil he was one of the most popular writers in Britain in the 1920s. His comments provide a wonderful illustration of the enthusiasm of German immigrants in Bradford to become part of local society, a desire for social assimilation and more than just economic integration.

Writing in his book Now a Stranger, London, Cassell and Company, 1933 (p.126) about German (Jewish) merchants in Bradford, Wolfe observed: ‘In their speech they used Yorkshire phrases, and clipped their vowels. They attempted slow utterance in lieu of gesture and volubility. The men at the weekends smoked unusually large pipes, drank whiskey-and-sodas, and wore Norfolk jackets, alarmingly checked, and the thickest of heather mixture stockings underneath their breeches. They were followers of Lord Salisbury to a man, feeling there was something un-English about the formidable rhetoric of Mr Gladstone. If there had been hunting in Bradford, they would all have been fox hunting men. In the absence of hunting, the elder men took a hand at whist while the younger ones were experts on cricket averages, and would have joined the Bradford club if there had been any chance of being elected. The women went further. They contrived (and without the help of cosmetics) to develop an English complexion…They consented to abandon their natural good taste in dress, and to wear the drab and clumsy apparel habitual among their Christian neighbours. They [p.127] educated their children in the English virtues – reticence, sportsmanship and inattention to thought.

Germans proprietors had previously encouraged the formation of cricket teams among their workers and in the 1860s the sons of German merchants had been involved as players with Bradford FC. After 1880 there is limited evidence of second or third generation German immigrants being involved with Bradford football clubs, almost as if they were excluded from participation or chose to remain aloof. In fact, it was only after the conversion to soccer at Valley Parade that men of German extraction resumed a contribution to sport in the district.

What we can conclude from the list of subscribers to Park Avenue is that this was very much a civic initiative as opposed to being that of members alone. It signified support for the ground and its facilities rather than for the club itself; it was a park for the people and support was a demonstration of being public minded. The sentiment was exactly the same as that in 1851 and likewise the same language of the former Young England movement.

At a later meeting of the Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club, the Yorkshire Post of 26 January, 1882 quoted the club’s vice president, J H Mitchell: ‘There was no doubt they would make a profit from year to year, but he thought there should be some special effort to clear off the present debt, because it was of great importance that the ground should be retained to the people of Bradford forever. They had also got a capital cricket ground, and that should never be lost to the town – but if they once let it pass out of their hands, he could not see where they would get another ground so favourably situated…’ He suggested a bazaar to raise funds: ‘It would be just one of those happy occasions when all classes of people could unite, if only on the ground that there was no chapel or church connected with it (laughter)… If they could only clear off their debt they could, of course, afford to provide sport for the people of the town at a much cheaper rate than now.’

Mitchell was acknowledging religious division in Bradford which was a divisive theme in local politics between nonconformists and Anglicans. Park Avenue was seen to transcend those divisions and help unite the people. Although not described as such at the time, Park Avenue stood for ‘One Bradford’ even if that was to the exclusion of Bradford’s Germans.

The development

The Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club took on a lease of the ground for 14 years from Francis Sharp Powell (expiring in February, 1893). There is no record of what was paid in terms of rent but my guess is that it was relatively low, possibly no more than £50 per annum. In 1891 the club entered discussions to buy the site from Powell, albeit through a 999 year lease. The protracted nature of negotiations leads me to believe that Powell thought that he had been over generous in consenting to a low rental in 1879.

The scheme required the relocation of an existing tenant from the site of Park Avenue which was arranged by J H Mitchell who also provided land for the development. The Leeds Times reported on 31 May, 1879 that: ‘The promoters are greatly indebted to Mr J H Mitchell for the part he has taken in the matter. Had not that gentleman freely undertaken to effect an exchange of land with Mr Booth, the former tenant of the ground, and also to throw into it a considerable portion of his private park, the scheme could not have come before the public in its present shape.’

The ground was literally a green field site and the division between football and cricket was relatively arbitrary with the cricket field taking two-thirds of the area. The allocation had lasting implications. The following are descriptions of Park Avenue from contemporary reports:

The Leeds Times 31 May, 1879: ‘The football ground will be contiguous to Horton Park-avenue, and at its lower end will be 121 yards wide, the width of the upper or terrace end being 145 yards and the distance from the terrace to Horton Park Avenue 86 yards. On this terrace will be erected a grand stand thirty yards in length, having frontages to the football ground and the cricket ground. Dressing and refreshment rooms will be provided.

 ‘The cricket ground will be 166 yards by 137. The ground when laid with turf will have a fall of one yard in 137, so as to allow the water to pass off, but to the eye it will appear a perfect level. It will be bounded by a path four yards in width, prepared for athletic exercises, forming a course of three laps to the mile…At the corner of the ground adjoining Horton Park will be erected an entrance lodge, with living room and bed room for the groundsman, and money-taker’s room.’

The Leeds Times, 24 July, 1880: ‘The new area has an area of over eight and a half acres, and is divided into two parts, the higher part being set apart for cricket and the lower part for football. Two pavilions are being erected on the ground, one for the upper part and the other for the lower.

 ‘The principal structure at the upper portion of the field, has a frontage of 130 feet, and is intended for the use of members and subscribers. It is a two storey building, in a modified Italian style of architecture, with over-hanging eaves. There is a capacious grandstand in front. At the south end of the building, on the ground floor, are dressing rooms for the cricketers, the home and visiting teams each having separate apartments and lavatories. In the corresponding wing are living rooms for the ground men or steward, and ladies’ cloak and retirement rooms, the latter having direct communication with the steward’s apartments. At the back of the building is a refreshment bar, measuring 60ft by 13ft, and in the basement below are beer cellars. At the back of the building also have been constructed ample conveniences. In the upper storey of the pavilion the arrangements are excellent. The south gable affords an approach by a staircase to a large assembly hall or dining room, and is capable of seating over 130 people. The front of this room facing the cricket ground is closed in with a roofed balcony, which will seat about 200. At the south end of the dining hall are a committee room and a commodious scoring box. At the other end of the building are steward’s bedrooms, a room for ordinary purposes, and a room set apart for the representatives of the press.

 ‘The lower pavilion has frontages both to the cricket and football grounds, but is more particularly adapted for the latter. Overlooking the cricket ground is a grandstand capable of accommodating 300 persons, and a similar stand faces the football ground. The internal arrangements of this building are similar to those in the other building.’

Park Avenue 1890

Description of the ground in 1890

An Australian connection?

The dual-facing grandstand at Park Avenue that separated the football and cricket fields was an innovative structure and I am unaware of other examples at leading football grounds in England. By contrast, at Bramall Lane in Sheffield the cricket and football grounds were three sided with a void on the shared side. Ironically the Park Avenue leadership was to later opt for that configuration in its plans for redevelopment of the ground in 1892 but these had to be aborted through lack of finance. Park Avenue therefore retained its dual-facing grandstand and this was again the case in 1907 when the ground was redeveloped for the newly formed Bradford Park Avenue AFC and a new stand constructed. (The same grandstand survived until the demolition of the ground in 1980, by chance 100 years after the original development of Park Avenue.)

The inspiration for the structure at Park Avenue was quite likely derived from the development of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Victoria, Australia. A visit to the MCG with its 100,000 capacity catering principally for Aussie Rules football and cricket offers few clues of it having anything in common with Park Avenue. It surely ranks as one of the most advanced stadiums in the world with facilities that are state of the art. Additionally there is a museum as well as an extensive reference library covering all aspects of Australian sport.

The MCG is testament to the commercial transformation of sport and by the time that a new ground was being considered in Bradford the MCG had already established itself as one of the leading enclosures in the British Empire. Melbourne was well known as a centre of cricket enthusiasm and it had been widely reported in England that the MCG had had a crowd of 25,000 for a game against an All England XI on New Year’s Day, 1862. The MCG was also known for hosting football matches and the Sporting Gazette of 1st September, 1877 reported that there had been crowds of up to 10,000 – an unprecedented number of people, virtually unheard of in England. The scale of expenditure on a new grandstand at the MCG in 1876 was equally newsworthy.

The minutes of the Melbourne CC committee record construction of a new grandstand ‘of ingenious design’ at the MCG in 1876 and what distinguished the grandstand was the fact that it provided reversible seating. The Melbourne Argus reported that ‘The floor of the stand is suspended on hinges along the middle line, so that once certain movable supports have been withdrawn from beneath the top of the incline, the floor can be sloped in the opposite direction, to enable the public to look down upon football play instead of upon an empty cricket ground.’

According to the Yorkshire Gazette of 19 May, 1877 ‘Many folks have laughed at the Melbourne Cricket Club, which for the present has gone to the fore amongst the rival clubs here, and on whose splendid ground the match (with an All England Eleven) was played, for building such an enormous grandstand. It holds 3,000 spectators, and cost nearly £10,000. Since the crowds that have gathered there during the All England match, however, these scoffers will have changed their minds. The committee knew the Australian taste’ (NB in its report of the Melbourne grandstand burning down in 1884, the Bradford Daily Telegraph stated the cost to have been £5,930.) The development of the Melbourne grandstand thus provided an early case study in the economics of sport.

Unlike the stand at Melbourne, that at Park Avenue did not have reversible seating with an equal number of permanent benches facing either side and this meant that in Bradford the grandstand would only ever be half full. The capacity of the Melbourne stand was also greater by virtue that it had a much bigger footprint. According to the Melbourne CC committee minutes, the grandstand accommodated 2,000 spectators and a surviving plan suggest that it was at least 215ft in length. The corresponding stand at Bradford was no more than 100ft long and the number of people who could be seated in the dual-facing stand in Bradford at a football or cricket match was much lower, reported as above to be 300.

In 1880, football was considered secondary to the investment in cricket facilities at Park Avenue and hence what we would regard as a modest grandstand. By the time that Bradford FC had won the Yorkshire County Cup in 1884, football had become the dominant sport. Hence when the lower grandstand was extended in 1885, the seated capacity for football was substantially increased at the expense of cricket accommodation.

The evidence linking Melbourne with Bradford is circumstantial and not confirmed by surviving documentary sources but it seems inconceivable that anyone contemplating designs for a new sports ground would not have heard about the development at Melbourne. For instance, the MCG had recently staged games with visiting English teams in 1877 and again at the beginning of January, 1879. Besides, Bradford had trade links with Melbourne that would have provided familiarity.

Nor would it have been unreasonable for Bradfordians to benchmark Melbourne. In 1880 for example Melbourne’s population of roughly 280,000 was only slightly higher than that of the Bradford district (recorded as 254,124 in 1881). In many respects Melbourne was a British city and its civic architecture dating from that era is indistinguishable from that of an English provincial centre. What it had in common with Bradford was that both had experienced rapid population growth driven by inward migration and both derived wealth from wool (although in Melbourne’s case there had been a gold rush in the 1850s and 1860s).

The civic elders of Bradford and Melbourne shared a similar self-confidence borne out of economic success and by the 1880s they had similarly embraced sport as a form of civic patriotism and expression of British imperial values. For Park Avenue to have copied the development at Melbourne would have been entirely in keeping with the cultural spirit in Bradford at the time, representing a clear statement of ambition and an intent to adopt a leading example of ground design.

The construction of the reversible stand represented a major watershed for the Melbourne Cricket Ground, making it an attractive venue for promoters and the public. It thereby ensured the financial stability of the club and played its part in the commercial transformation of sport in Melbourne. The development of Park Avenue had similar impact in Bradford. A difference between the two is that in Melbourne it was cricket that led the way and in fact in the late nineteenth century, (Australian Rules) football was only played at the MCG on a regular basis between 1879-83. At Park Avenue it was (Rugby Union) football that was the driver of commercial activity.

In 1880 Park Avenue hosted the visiting Australian cricket tourists on two occasions, on 9th August for a match against a ‘Bradford 18’ and the second on 20th September for a game against ‘Players of the North’. The second game appears to have been arranged at short notice and the Sydney Mail of 27th November, 1880 reported lobbying by Bradford representatives at the Oval earlier in September. Given that the Australians were scheduled to visit Dewsbury and Huddersfield it was a matter of pride that a first class game should be played in Bradford and it provided an opportunity for the newly formed Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club to show off its new sports enclosure.

Australian newspapers were consistent in their complimentary accounts about Park Avenue and Melbourne CC officials were sufficiently impressed by Park Avenue that the Bradford Daily Telegraph reported on 10th February, 1881 that ‘A communication from the secretary of the Melbourne Cricket Club has recently been received by the hon. secretary of the Bradford Cricket Club asking for a sketch plan of the cricket pavilion at Park Avenue ground. The Melbourne Cricket Club have had under discussions for some months past various plans for a new pavilion, but none of them has come up to their ideas. The latter states that Mr Alexander of the Australian Cricket Team, has brought over a photograph of the pavilion, and that he was so enthusiastic in his praise of the arrangements of the building, that the writer is anxious to have a sketch of the ground plan and elevation. The Club has now a separate grandstand, capable of accommodating about 3,000 people, but a pavilion is required for the accommodation of members, the number of whom is now around 800. The club do not wish to spend more than £2,500 or £3,000 on the contemplated erection. In a postscript Mr Wardill adds that Mr Alexander’s photograph of the Bradford Cricket Club pavilion had been framed, and was hanging in their pavilion.’

 It was praise indeed and a measure of the development at Park Avenue that it should be recognised in this way. Nevertheless, when a new pavilion was constructed at the MCG in 1881 (known as the second members’ pavilion that remained in use until 1927) it did not bear resemblance to that at Park Avenue and the Bradford design was evidently not adopted. [1]

Park Avenue 1926 Yorkshire v Australians

Park Avenue, 1926: Yorkshire vs Australia

The significance of Park Avenue

Park Avenue was formally opened by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Holden on 20 July, 1880 who declared his hope that ‘the public of Bradford would take an increased interest in the Bradford club so that Park Avenue might be used in the rational enjoyment of cricket and football.’ The ceremony included a military display and the principal guests of honour were officers of the 103 Regiment of Foot (Royal Bombay Fusiliers) who had been garrisoned in Bradford for the previous three months. The Lord Mayor’s toast to ‘the Army, Navy and Reserved Forces’ was a reminder of the traditional influence of the military with sport in the town.

As a result of soft conditions, the opening game of Gentlemen versus Players was played on the adjoining football field due to bad weather. By a strange twist of fate, the first rugby match on 25 September 1880 against Bradford Rangers was played on a section of the cricket field. (In 2014 there was redevelopment of Park Avenue funded by the English Cricket Board and wickets are now sited on the old football pitch, hence not for the first time that cricket has been played there.)

In 1880 the new Park Avenue ground represented the realisation of a long held objective to secure a permanent sports ground in Bradford. It allowed Bradford Cricket Club the opportunity to reassert itself as a leading club in Yorkshire and to stage high profile games in Bradford after a lengthy absence. After the disappointing circumstances in which the club had declined in the ten years prior to becoming dormant, it allowed Bradford CC to relaunch itself with the same lofty ideals that it had promoted in the 1840s.

Bradford CC had been handicapped by the lack of a first class ground until the opening of Park Avenue in 1880 and this had compromised the ability of Bradford to propose an alternative venue to Bramall Lane, Sheffield. It therefore explains why the development of Park Avenue was of such significance not only to Bradford CC but to the town itself. At the celebration dinner for the opening of Park Avenue, the Lord Mayor, Angus Holden declared that ‘establishment of the club was the beginning of a new era in the reputation of the town for good cricket.’ A tradition was inaugurated at Park Avenue with the regular hosting of the Australian tourists from 1880 onwards and there were as many as ten different matches involving the Aussies at Park Avenue between 1880-99 – a mark of the high profile of Bradford cricket. The final decade of the nineteenth century was arguably the glory era of Yorkshire cricket at Park Avenue and whilst those in Leeds claimed the superiority of Headingley on account of size, in West Yorkshire it was generally agreed that Park Avenue and Headingley were both superior to Bramall Lane on account of air pollution in that part of Sheffield. (However, there continued to be deference towards the latter on account of its reputation as the traditional home of Yorkshire cricket.)

The Park Avenue ground also allowed the town to host a representative football club. Had the existing Bradford Football Club not agreed to relocate from Apperley Bridge and become part of the new set up alongside a revived Bradford Cricket Club, it is almost certain that a new club would have been formed. By embracing the original Bradford FC with origins dating back to 1863, it allowed the new Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club to inherit its record and boast of continuity as one of the top Yorkshire clubs.

Park Avenue also harnessed the hopes of Bradford people to secure room at the top, to achieve sporting acclaim for the town consistent with its achievements in industry or commerce. The new Bradford sporting enclosure was itself pioneering in relation to other towns and for the townsfolk provided a source of pride, much the same as other civic buildings or parks constructed in the previous decade. It was for the good of Bradford as a town and for the good of Bradford people, to encourage athleticism and to provide a stage for the best that Bradford could offer. As if this was insufficient the ground existed so that – once the debt funding had been repaid – sport could be applied for charitable giving. It was more than just a ground.

In addition to cricket and football Park Avenue provided for athletics (including short distance cycle races), lawn tennis, archery and quoits. The latter two activities were considered female sports and by accommodating them it could be claimed the ground served all the people. During its existence it also hosted bowling, association football and lacrosse.

Athletics festivals were staged on an annual basis. The first, in July, 1881 is reported to have attracted a crowd of around six thousand and the proceeds of £160 demonstrated the potential of Park Avenue for charity fund raising. It was the commitment to the town’s charities – typically support of the infirmary – that would define the status of Park Avenue in Bradford.  The athletics events became an opportunity for displays of Bradford pride and community, no less symbolic than the charitable purpose. Festivals were discontinued after 1896, a consequence of the controversy over professionalism in sport but were replaced by the annual Park Avenue Children’s Sports Day, the first of which was held on 12 July, 1898, organised by the Bradford Schools Athletics Association to raise money for its own activities. This established a new tradition with school sports events continuing to be staged at Park Avenue until the 1960s.

The prospect of developing a ground allowed the Bradford Cricket Club to be reformed in 1879 after remaining dormant for four years. It provided security of tenure with no risk of the ground being used for housing development, the fate of the Great Horton Road site in 1874 which put the future of the club in doubt. Security of tenure was an issue that concerned most, if not all the prominent sports clubs in Bradford – cricket and football alike – but for the town’s representative club it was a particularly sensitive matter.

We know that in 1880 the ambitions of the Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club were relatively modest in terms of the likely crowds at Park Avenue. The development of the ground was consistent with this, seeking to optimise hospitality rather than necessarily maximising capacity. The limited footprint of the estate had implications in the twentieth century but the original investment in refreshment facilities undoubtedly acted as a spur to the popularity and financial success of Park Avenue, remaining an important differentiator with Valley Parade. By the mid-1880s the facilities would have been significant in making match-day at Park Avenue a fashionable option among the emergent middle classes. The lack of the same at Carlisle Road, and after 1886 at Valley Parade, may have also played a part in defining the self-image of Manningham FC as an enthusiasts’ club in contrast to Bradford FC whose appeal became derived from more than just the football.

Until 1904, Park Avenue remained the only ground in Bradford to provide covered accommodation for spectators and this afforded it a luxury status. It should be noted that when Victorians spoke of ‘pavilions’ they meant a covered facility whereas when they spoke of grandstands it meant an uncovered viewing platform that incorporated bench seating. By the start of the twentieth century a grandstand or stand had the meaning that we now recognise.

The symbolic significance of Park Avenue should not be underestimated and is confirmed by the willingness of people to subscribe to a fund for the land to be developed. The ground assumed a quasi-religious status in the town as an asset – a temple of sport – to be safeguarded by a proud townspeople. In my opinion this state of mind continued beyond the eventual demolition of the football ground in 1980, that of the cricket pavilion in 1986 and the abandonment of the cricket ground as a first class venue in 1996. Park Avenue was entwined with the identity of Bradford and its derelict state prompted the detachment of many Bradfordians with their home city such was its emotional symbolism. Even now, mention of Park Avenue prompts misty-eyed nostalgia among those who attended football and cricket games at the ground, not to mention those who supported Bradford (Park Avenue) AFC whose name was derived from its home.

The status of the Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club became inseparable from its role as guardian of the town’s sports ground, the de facto trustee in possession. This became a key element in the self-image and personality of Bradford FC and bestowed upon it a special importance which had implications for other clubs in the district. As far as Bradford Football Club was concerned, upholding the honour of Bradford and safeguarding Park Avenue gave it a sense of entitlement and privilege. In other words, Park Avenue led Bradford FC to consider itself superior to any other club – Manningham FC in particular, a mindset that continued for the best part of the next hundred years, long after conversion to soccer.

The development of Park Avenue in 1879-80 has to be seen in the broader context of a period which shaped the footprint of Bradford. The 1870s was a decade that defined Bradford’s urban identity through iconic buildings, civic parks and the designs of the Bradford Improvement Act which provided a framework for road building, water supply and town planning. The fruits of that decade have been enduring and included the buildings such as the new Town Hall which came to be regarded as shorthand for Bradford. Park Avenue followed the sequence of new parks in Manningham, Horton and Bowling. It was no coincidence that the name of the ground was derived from its proximity to Horton Park and hence ‘Park Avenue’. By ending the long wait for a permanent sports ground in the town it represented another form of urban improvement, a contribution to what was described in the language of the time as the mental and physical well-being of Bradford.

Sadly, very little remains of Park Avenue as a reminder of the former grandeur of the sports enclosure and the bold venture that it represented.

John Dewhirst

@jpdewhirst

[1] Thanks to the archivists at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for their assistance. Visitors to Melbourne are encouraged to visit the museum and library at the ground. 

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Model in the MCG museum of the reversible stand

JD304331

The MCG in February, 2020

John is the author of Room at the Top (Bantamspast 2016) which narrates the origins of cricket and sport in Bradford and can be contacted through DM to the twitter address above.

Links to other features written by the author about the origins and history of Bradford sport

Other features about the history of cricket in Bradford can be found elsewhere on VINCIT 

VINCIT provides an accessible go-to reference about all aspects of Bradford sport history and is neither code nor club specific. We encourage you to explore the site through the menu above. Link here to other features on Bradford cricket published on VINCIT.

Future planned articles on VINCIT will feature Reminiscences about Bradford City; Bradford’s nineteenth century England RU internationals, the history of sports journalism in Bradford; the politics of Odsal Stadium; the history of Bradford sports grounds and the history of crowd violence in Bradford.

Contributions and feedback are welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

The first visit of Australian cricketers to Bradford

In 1868 an Australian Aborigine cricket team toured England which is now recognised as the first Australian side to have visited England. It was a commercial venture that derived inspiration from the first English team – an All-England XI – that had toured Australia in 1861/62. (That and a repeat tour by English cricketers in 1863/64 were both motivated entirely by commercial gain which set the example.)

Following the opening of Park Avenue in 1880, visits of Australian touring sides to Bradford became a routine occurrence with ten matches between 1880-99. However, it came to be forgotten that the first Australian cricketers were the same aborigine tourists of 1868 who played two games in the Bradford district, the first at Bradford on 10-11 July and the second at Keighley on 27-28 July.

The aborigine tourists had set sail from Sydney on 8th February, 1868 in a ship that was transporting wool to England and which no doubt also ended up in Bradford. Just over three months later they arrived in England and during the next five months played a total of 47 games. Of those, nine were played in Yorkshire and of the remainder: ten in London; seven in Lancashire; four from the Midlands; two in the North-East; one in Swansea; and the balance (fourteen) in the south-east.

The game at Bradford was played on a Friday / Saturday, the significance being that it was regarded as a premier fixture. Indeed, judged by mention in the Sporting Life of 16 May, 1868 it appears to have been one of first to be arranged and reflected the fact that Bradford was known as a centre of enthusiasm for cricket. (NB On this occasion textile industry links do not appear to have been decisive in securing the fixture.)

The same journal reported ‘Since the late George Martin brought Deerfoot from America to contest against English pedestrians no arrival has been anticipated with so much curiosity and interest as that of the Black Cricketers from Australia.’ (Deerfoot was a native America and during the course of his tour had visited the so-called City Sporting Grounds at Quarry Gap, Laisterdyke in August, 1862 where he competed alongside local athletes in competitions as diverse as sack racing, running and pole-vaulting which were the focus of gambling interest.)

The commercial nature of the cricket tour explains the busy schedule and it would seem that other fixtures were arranged at short notice that required adjustment to travel schedules. Thus the tourists travelled to Bradford from Rochdale via Swansea. After Bradford they went to York, Manchester, Bury and Norwich… then to Keighley. We can assume that they came to rely upon Bradshaw’s guide (published as a ‘Descriptive Railway Hand-Book of Great Britain and Ireland’) and the completion of the tour is testimony to the railway network of the era.

The cricket matches were combined with athletic competitions incorporating ‘native sports’ that allowed a display of boomerang throwing. Undoubtedly this added to the appeal of the event to attract spectators but it also gave the aborigine cricketers the opportunity to win prize money. Whilst they were provided with free travel and accommodation it seems unlikely that they were paid, a crucial factor for the viability of the tour. At Bradford there was a display of native sports but with the cricket over-running there was no time for athletic events to take place.

The Bradford fixture was staged at the town club’s Great Horton Road ground, adjacent to Laisteridge Lane. The Leeds Mercury of 13th July, 1868 provided detail of the game entitled ‘The Black Cricketers at Bradford’ and the circumspect reportage is notable: ‘…the match between the Australian cricketers and eleven gentlemen of Bradford was finished on the ground in Great Horton-road. The blacks played better than on the preceding day, Mullagh contributing 55 in admirable style. The stumps were drawn at half-past six, when the aborigines performed for a short time with the spear and boomerang. The attendance was very large…’ [1]

The Bradford Observer headlined ‘The Aboriginals at Bradford’: ‘We had the Australian Aboriginals here on Friday and Saturday, and though they did not show to great advantage on Friday they did much better on Saturday. In fact they kept possession of the wickets so long that there was not time for the gentlemen of Bradford to finish their second innings, and leave any time for the after sports of the blacks. These, it is scarcely necessary to add, were witnessed with great interest by a very full field.’

Fascination with aboriginal peoples may have been a factor that attracted people to the event to see for themselves an Australian native and the suggestion is that public interest in Britain about exotic races had been stimulated by the publication of Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species in 1859. It was equally a form of imperial curiosity not dissimilar to the Savage Africa show at Valley Parade in 1901 involving Matabele warriors or the Somali village attraction that featured in the Bradford Exhibition at Lister Park in May, 1904.

According to the surviving ledger that documented the finances of the 1868 tour, the Bradford fixture generated a surplus of £65 for the visitors which was one of the highest in comparison to other games. The ledger records income of £115 at Bradford compared to £122 at Keighley where paying spectators were said to have numbered 3,500 (this probably excluded women who were typically admitted free of charge). On the face of it therefore the crowd at Bradford was slightly less despite the game being played over a weekend. In fact, the receipts at Bradford were well below the average of other games in the series.

The tourists yielded a surplus of £35 at Keighley and the differential with that at Bradford can be explained by the terms negotiated by the respective cricket clubs. It was the practice for the visitors to charge either a percentage of the receipts or a fixed fee. In the case of Bradford CC my guess is that the club had anticipated a bigger crowd and offered a generous fee to the visitors. There might even have been a degree of desperation to secure the event but whatever the explanation, the net outcome for the Bradford club is likely to have been disappointing even allowing for the fact that local newspapers had reported a good attendance.

Around this time Bradford CC was experiencing a decline in its fortunes and it was said that it lacked suitable leadership. Although it possessed the best ground in the town, clubs such as Manningham CC and Bradford Albion CC were regarded as stronger with better players. Bradford CC no longer had the profile it had enjoyed in the two preceding decades and the loss of public interest in its affairs may have had a big bearing on the attendance.

After incurring losses from the staging of a game with Notts CCC in June, 1866, Bradford CC did not host other county games or exhibition matches with prestige touring sides such as the All-England XI. The financial circumstances of the club made it distinctly risk averse and in 1867 it had dispensed with engaging a professional player. In fact, the Australian game was the highest profile cricket match promoted by Bradford CC in that period and from the following year it resorted to hosting athletic festivals to raise money.

There were 9 aborigine tour games in Yorkshire out of a total of 47 in the tour, as follows:

  • 26 & 27 June, vs Halifax at Halifax (visitors won)
  • 10 & 11 July, vs Bradford at Bradford (draw)
  • 13 & 14 July, at York vs Yorkshire (Yorkshire won)
  • 27 & 28 July, at Keighley v Keighley (draw)
  • 10, 11 & 12 August, at Sheffield vs Sheffield (draw)
  • 13, 14 & 15 August, at Dewsbury vs Saville (Saville won)
  • 24 & 25 August, at Middlesbrough vs Middlesbrough (draw)
  • 27, 28 & 29, at Scarborough vs Scarborough (visitors won)
  • 31 & 01 September, at Leeds vs Hunslet (visitors won)

Of the total 47 games played, the visitors won 14 and lost 14. The high proportion of drawn games was attributed in large part to the weather. Games were typically played over two or three days from 11am to 7pm. Not surprisingly, towards the end of the tour newspaper reports alluded to the Australians being exhausted.

By John Dewhirst

Twitter: @jpdewhirst

 [1] In 1874 Bradford CC lost the use of its Great Horton Road ground for housing and the club remained dormant until the opening of Park Avenue in July, 1880 which is the subject of a forthcoming feature on VINCIT.

[2] Links for further information about the aborigine tour of 1868:

From the BBC website, 9th July 2013

Wikipedia

Daily Mail feature, 21st July 2015

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John is the author of Room at the Top (Bantamspast 2016) which narrates the origins of cricket and sport in Bradford. He can be contacted through DM to the twitter address above.

Links to other features written by the author about the origins and history of Bradford sport

His blog Wool City Rivals includes content about Bradford City AFC as well as reviews of books on local sport.

===========================================

More about the early connections between Bradford and Australian cricket on VINCIT next month (Jul-20)…

VINCIT provides an accessible go-to reference about all aspects of Bradford sport history and is neither code nor club specific. We encourage you to explore the site through the menu above. Link here to other features on Bradford cricket published on VINCIT.

Future planned articles on VINCIT will feature the original development of Park Avenue in 1879-80; Reminiscences about Bradford City; Bradford’s nineteenth century England RU internationals, the history of sports journalism in Bradford; the politics of Odsal Stadium; the history of Bradford sports grounds and the history of crowd violence in Bradford.

Contributions and feedback are welcome.

Bradford City: The Wheeler Years

city_gentFebruary 20th 2020 saw the passing of one Jimmy Wheeler, a former Manager of Bradford City in the late 60’s/early 70’s. Even with the passage of time, I think it would be fair to say that Jimmy wouldn’t be at the top of fans favourite Managers of the past but that would be very harsh on his record.

I started going to Valley Parade in the mid 60s with my Father but as he worked shifts, I wasn’t allowed to go every week until the 1967-68 season when friends Father would take both of us. This article will hopefully pay respect to Mr Wheeler for his efforts in what turned out to be quite an eventful tenure in charge.

stafford hThe eventful nature of things had actually started the previous season when the Manager, dual international Willie Watson resigned in January 1968 to take a job in Johannesburg. The team he had built were actually pushing for promotion, the goals of Paul Aimson, Bruce Bannister & Charlie Rackstraw keeping the side in touch. To try & keep the momentum, Chairman Stafford Heginbotham (pictured) gave the job to Watsons assistant, the former Leeds United stalwart Grenville Hair. A veteran of over 400 games at Elland Road, he was probably unlucky not to gain full international honours but he was in competition with the World Class Jimmy Armfield. He was popular with the City players and everything seemed to going to plan. Hair had decided to freshen up the team for the final push bringing in striker Bobby Ham from Bradford Park Avenue, winger Bruce Walker from Swindon Town & a double deal which sent Aimson & full back Alec Smith to Huddersfield Town in exchange for striker Tony Leighton & full back Denis Atkins.

The very next day after the double deal was completed, 7th March 1968, tragedy struck when during a training session, Grenville Hair collapsed and was pronounced dead before he reached hospital. He was 36 years old. For someone so young & super fit the death sent shockwaves through the club.

Due to the sheer shock and also out of respect, the club decided to wait before appointing a new Manager & skipper Tom Hallett & senior pro Jimmy McAnearney took over the running of the team. Despite losing only once in the last 11 games, the club was to fall just short of its goal finishing in a heartbreaking 5th place.

Wheeler-2-180x200Jimmy Wheeler arrived in June 1968 for his first job in management after being the assistant to former England star Roy Bentley at Reading. Jimmy had spent his whole career at Reading playing over 400 games & scoring over 100 goals. He is regarded as a club legend & is in the Berkshire clubs Hall of Fame. A month later, utility player Ron Bayliss followed him from Reading as his first signing but he was told that the transfer policy must be one-in one-out to keep a control on the clubs finances. The previous seasons near miss meant that he started with a strong foundation to work with. A couple of fringe players were then sacrificed to bring in 2 players who would play a big part in the forthcoming season. Speedy forward Peter Middleton arrived from Sheffield Wednesday & Aussie keeper John Roberts arrived from Sydney club APIA to try his luck in the Football League.

Tony LeightonThe new campaign started off with a 5 match unbeaten run before the team hit an inconsistent patch with results as varied as a 0-6 reverse at Rochdale & a 5-0 victory over York City with Bobby Ham hitting 4 of them. Searching for a winning combination, Wheeler was not afraid to blood the clubs youngsters with the likes of Harney, McNally & Montgomery all seeing league action. The masterstroke that changed the season came with the switch of Bruce Bannister out to the wing in place of Walker, the move of Striker Leighton (pictured) back to wing half & the signing of totem forward Norman Corner from Lincoln to lead the line with the likes of Middleton, Ham & Rackstraw feeding off the big man.

A win away at Notts County on January 11th 1969 saw the team embark on a record breaking 21 match unbeaten run taking them once again into the heart of the promotion battle. 3 games to go and a thrilling match at Valley Parade saw the side come back from 0-2 down against Southend to win 3-2 with winger John Hall getting the winner in front of 11000 fans. A defeat at Brentford in the penultimate game put the side in the dreaded 5th position again, surely not more heartbreak? The final game was the memorable trip to Darlington on 9th May where all points North had an armada of cars & coaches covered in Claret & Amber favours. Despite a wall collapsing due to over exuberance, a 3-1 victory saw the side capture the precious 4th promotion place. Jimmy Wheeler’s first season as a Manager had seen him achieve the clubs first promotion for over 40 long years.

BIG1968-69

Entering the new season in the 3rd Division, with an eye still on finances but also showing faith in the team that got promotion, only one signing was made in utility player Peter McConnell. The club carried the momentum into the new season and were challenging for the top positions before fading away to mid table towards the seasons end. The highlight of the league season being an 8-1 thrashing of Bournemouth at Valley Parade, a Bobby Ham hat-trick amongst the 5 different scorers.

The glory & excitement of the season was to come in the cup competitions. A run to the 4th round of the League Cup saw the highlight of a magnificent 2-1 away win at top division Sunderland. It was a settled side & Wheeler was a big believer in continuity, the only changes usually down to injury. Roberts shared keeper duties with Pat Liney & big Barry Swallow was a more than capable deputy for Hallett at centre half before his departure in the Summer.

BIG1970-71

The FA Cup brought further excitement when the 3rd Round draw saw City drawn at home to the might Tottenham Hotspur, a team full of stars like the legendary Jimmy Greaves, Alan Gilzean ,Cyril Knowles & the rest. The biggest crowd for many years, a crowd of over 23000 saw the team bravely draw 2-2 with the first division giants only a Cyril Knowles goal line clearance saving them from a memorable giant killing act. Sadly, the replay at White Hart Lane saw class tell as City lost 0-5 but the memories of the cup games that season stayed long in the memory. For myself, I can remember struggling to see the game on the packed Kop & I recall a Spurs fan lifting me onto his shoulders to watch the game. There wasn’t a hint of hooliganism & no segregation in the ground, just funny banter between fans. Even the replay defeat couldn’t deflate the excitement of a first visit to London & a first division stadium.

The season had been satisfactory with the early promise & the cup highlights. Once again, Wheeler wasn’t scared to blood youth with the young Graham Oates, England Youth Peter Turbitt & Bob Cullingford becoming the clubs youngest ever player, a record only recently broken by Reece Staunton. A notable late season signing had been influential midfielder Les O’Neill who soon became a fan favourite. Jimmy Wheeler had kept faith in players that had served him well and at this period City had several long serving players who would rightly become legends & household names in Bradford folklore. The likes of Bruce Stowell, John Hall, Bruce Bannister , Bobby Ham, Tommy Hallett and others are still fondly remembered to this day by Bantams followers.

Season 1970-71 was Jimmy’s 3rd in charge after another bright start became a war of attrition with a real danger of relegation before a final finish of 19th. No joy in the cups either to offer inspiration from somewhere. Jimmy had made a couple of ‘big’ signings to freshen up the ageing team with strikers Terry Owen, Father of future England star Michael & Colin Hall arriving after the sale of star striker Bobby Ham to Preston. Neither of the new men had the desired effect as City struggled and faded out of the picture. The only bright spots of the season were the establishment in the side of 2 youngsters, Graham Oates who would later be sold for very decent money in 1974 to Blackburn Rovers with Don Hutchins coming in the other direction & local product Ces Podd started what would be a career to outlast any other City player before or since. He would battle racism from opposing fans to establish himself as a much loved legend and a hugely respected player in the game. He always mentioned that the faith shown in him by manager Wheeler made him stronger and able to contend with all the problems he faced in his early career.

The season of struggle had ended with murmurings of discontent amongst sections of the crowd & despite starting the season with several new signings, the most notable of which was full back Graham Howell, the club faded dismally to finish bottom returning to Division 4 once again. Jimmy Wheeler wasn’t there to see it though. After an early season campaign led to a poor start, he resigned to be replaced by the popular Bryan Edwards.

Jimmy’s time at Valley Parade saw some wonderful success in both league and cup competition & I think he has been sadly underrated and almost forgotten by some fans. The promotion side was wonderful to watch with goals from all over the field. He displayed an honourable loyalty to players who performed for him & yet, as mentioned , he wasn’t afraid to blood youngsters. He was said to be a disciplinarian but Ces can remember him putting an arm round him & encouraging him when he was thinking of walking away from the game. He was approachable to the fans also, recently, long term fan Keith Bruce retold how his late father had spoken to Jimmy at a supporters forum about tactics as viewed from the stands and then he received an invite from Jimmy to join him in the dug out for a match to watch him closely at work. The story was featured in the T&A.

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It would be another 5 years before City gained another promotion but Jimmy never managed another Football league club. It was said he had only been cautioned once in a 16 year playing career but a touchline clash with the officials at a cup tie at Lincoln saw him punished by the FA and ordered up to the stands for several games. The calm pragmatist showed he did have the passion which every knew he had but was rarely shown. He deserves to be remembered for his 3 year tenure, certainly he is by me as it was the beginning of my connection to the club enshrined by that wonderful promotion season of 1968-69. Thank you & Rest in Peace Jimmy.

Ian Hemmens

Tweets: @ihemmens

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VINCIT provides an accessible go-to reference about all aspects of Bradford sport history and is neither code nor club specific. We encourage you to explore the site through the menu above.

Future planned articles on VINCIT will feature the original development of Park Avenue in 1879-80; Bradford’s nineteenth century England RU internationals, the history of sports journalism in Bradford; the politics of Odsal Stadium; the history of Bradford sports grounds and the history of crowd violence in Bradford.

Contributions and feedback are welcome.

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Reaction to Bradford City winning the FA Cup

By Rob Grillo

Bradford City AFC was already a pioneer club: First West Riding team to be elected to the Football League. First to be promoted to the First Division. And then the club only went and won the FA Cup in only its eighth year of existence.

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The English Cup final was highlight of the season, a fitting climax to eight months of competition. A competition that has previously been dominated by the old boys teams had, since 1883 – with just one exception – been won by a team from the north or midlands. Following narrow victories over New Brompton (now known as Gillingham), Norwich City, Grimsby Town and Burnley, City had achieved a resounding 3-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers in the semi-final at Bramall Lane on 25 th March. For the first time, a team from the West Riding was making the biggest headlines. Eleven special trains took City fans to Crystal Palace for the final, in what was universally reported as a disappointing goal-less draw on Saturday 22 nd April. The occasion was reported nationwide, with varying support for the Yorkshire team.

The Leeds Mercury football correspondent Flaneur wrote his piece for his newspaper the previous evening before sending to his office. He was obviously quite excited:

‘London, Friday Night. Let’s to the palace. In a few short hours we who are fortunate enough to have a coign of vantage marked out for us amid the seats of the mighty will be watching the crowds assembling round the famous arena that has been the venue of so many great cup finals since 1895. It will be a familiar spectacle to many of us who have long ceased to wonder at the extraordinary enthusiasm which induces men to stand for hours in great physical discomfort for the sake of ninety minutes’ football, who no longer marvel at the providence which keeps the more daring safe in their perches among the trees that overlook the arena.

‘To the old stager there will seem to be nothing new. He may well imagine that he is watching last season’s crowd gathering again.  He will see the same display of black and white favours, of black and white umbrellas, and even black and white top hat sand coats and trousers. He will hear the same hybrid twang that accompanies the wearers of the colours of Newcastle United, the twang that always seems to be a mixture of Scotch and Yankee; he will hear some good Yorkshire that is utterly intelligible to the man whose milk teeth have been cut elsewhere than in the broad acre. If he be a close observer, the old stager will note that the Yorkshire contingent is wearing the claret and amber of Bradford City, instead of the red and white of Barnsley. Otherwise he will see nothing that he did not see twelve months ago.

‘But to the novice in cup final football everything will be of interest. One’s first final at Crystal Palace is never forgotten. From early morn the crowds hurry through the turnstiles and a continuous stream of people invades every nook and corner of the Palace grounds.’

There was no doubt in anyone’s minds that final itself was a disappointing affair, but it wasn’t the first time that this had happened. However, Sporting Life was less than flattering of the occasion than most, the London broadsheet adopting a high-brow attitude towards the attendance that ‘ only numbered 69,800.’ The reason for this, for them, was obvious. ‘Bradford City is a club with practically little history. It has become one of the most powerful in the land but it has had a comparatively uneventful career. It is not yet a name to conjure with. There is no glamour about it.’  The writer perhaps failed to appreciate, or was maybe unaware of the club’s long history as Manningham Football Club in the Northern Union, and perhaps did not appreciate just how the club had managed to capture the imagination of the whole of the West Riding as its pioneering club took on the might of Newcastle United, cup holders and finalists on several occasions. What is clear, however, that the club was not yet regarded by all as part of the established order.

The newspaper was forced to remark, however, on the ‘extraordinary enthusiasm of the Bradford crowd’, claiming that claret and amber favours outnumbered those of the holders by twenty to one, ‘The great human ring…was ablaze with red and gold.’ The writer had perhaps not done his homework either.

The replayed final, at Old Trafford on Wednesday 26 th April aroused considerable interest too. Given that the match was much closer to home, there were special trains and other methods of travel again put on for the occasion. However, reports confirm that many of those who attended were from other parts of the region. Brighouse station was awash with fans boarding the 11.33 and 1.13 specials to Manchester, many of those doing so sporting the claret and amber of City. Not all will have made it into the ground however, with 66,000 inside, thousands were left outside when the gates were locked due to the ground capacity having been met.

Two day excursions and three half-day excursions were laid on at Halifax railway station, all said to be well patronised, and again by those bearing the colours of the City club. The trains had begun their journeys at Bradford, but extra carriages were put on at either Halifax or Sowerby Bridge en-route, with even the luggage vans full of standing passengers. A hundred or so spectators were left on the platform at Halifax when attempting to board the overcrowded 11.52, although they had only a few minutes to wait for the arrival of the next ‘special’, when they were told ‘Packed in the rear. Try to get in at front.

Efforts to form a Halifax town team were already in full swing, and the occasion will only have added impetus and interest to proceedings. Ironically, a meeting of the ground committee of the Halifax & District Football Association regarding the purchase of the Sandhall ground was held the same evening, with plans in place to form a town team.  In the meantime, without their own team, Calderdale’s football fans were clearly out for a City win.

Of course there was no bigger celebration of the cup final victory than in Bradford itself, and this too was reported widely around the nation. There was no doubting that the club had done the West Riding proud. The Yorkshire Evening Post report the following day waxed lyrical over the evening’s celebrations. In their story headlined ‘Bedlam in Bradford’ the story reported, ‘ Whew! What a night! There is a headache today in the mere recollection of those cheering, surging crowds, intoxicated with the joy of conquest, which thronged the principal streets of Bradford last night to do honour to their gallant football eleven, and to celebrate the great victory they had won. Was there a man in Bradford last night who didn’t turn out and raise his voice with the rest, nay, was there a woman or a child who did not witness the home-coming of the team with the famous English Cup?

‘The whole population was out: hot with excitement, delirious almost with joy, and with sheer wonder of the renown which was theirs. There could not have been a more impressive scene, a more whole-hearted and boisterous enthusiasm no matter what the cause. Truly, he who scoreth the goal was for one night at least ‘greater than he who taketh a city’. If Bradford had taken a whole nation of cities the reception accorded the warriors, one imagines, must have paled before the mighty burst of that great wave of pent up joy, which was like thunder in its volume and like sweetest music in its meaning, which greeted Captain Spiers and his men when they reached home with the English Cup, strenuously won. It was a night such as few, who were privileged to share in the orgie of it all, will ever forget.’

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Charles Crump, the senior vice-president of the Football Association said, while presenting the cup to the victors, ‘I consider it a very wonderful thing that the West Riding of Yorkshire, where Association Football was scarcely known ten years ago, should for two years in succession have at team in the final tie – a great testimony to the determination of the Yorkshire people.’ He was actually half-right. Barnsley (founded in 1887) had lost the previous years’ final to Newcastle, but for footballing purposes was in the Sheffield & Hallamshire boundaries, and Association football was certainly much more than a decade old in the town. Bradford was a different matter, and it was testament to those who had made it happen.

Among the crowds that thronged around Bradford’s Exchange railway station, having spent much of the afternoon hanging around the various newspaper offices waiting for the latest information, were women wearing claret and amber tulips, as well as dozens with their concertinas, Jews’ Harps, Tommy talkers, rattles, big drums and little drums, mouth organs and tin whistles, with the Idle and Thackley Brass Band meanwhile doing their best to match the cacophony of sound. This was civic pride at its best, and it would not have been lost on those just down the road in Leeds who read the Evening Post in their thousands.

While reports into the relative merits of each team’s performance in the replay vary, the same Sporting Life saw it one way, ‘The strength of the winners was their determination and doggedness. The weakness of Newcastle United was their exceptional cleverness. The latter may appear paradoxical, but it is the literal truth. In the opening exchanges the Cupholders were – to use a well-understood phrase – streets ahead of their opponents in all the subtleties and finer points of the game. The Bradford players were in earnest, very much in earnest, and it was apparent that they had made up their minds to spoil the work of their opponents by dash and grit, and to a large extent they succeeded. And yet, while giving the fullest credit to the winners for the manner in which they defended when Newcastle were using all the tricks in their extensive repertoire, the losers did as much towards defeating themselves as Bradford did to achieve a sensational success.’

Rival newspaper, The Sportsman, provided a more positive outlook. Notwithstanding the fact that the replay was a much improved match in all respects, and with a positive outcome at last, reporting that ‘ it wasn’t that Newcastle United played much below their form … but simply because Bradford City put more life into their work, and declined to be kept upon the defensive so persistently.’

The following weekend, cinemas all over the region showed footage from the final ties, where the general public could make up their own minds. Few sports fans in the whole of the north of England could have missed the news of West Yorkshire’s first FA Cup win.

As sweet as victory was, it was recognised that this was a home-grown squad. With the sport still in its relative infancy in the district, it could hardly have been expected that a team of first class Bradfordians, or even Yorkshiremen, could at that stage have been raised.  The team that comprised mainly of Scotsmen had enabled the West Riding strike a shot in the direction of the country’s leading teams, but sustaining such success  – the club finished 5 th in the league that season  – would have been dependent on local talent. What is clear however, is that the decision of Manningham Football Club to abandon the Northern Union less than a decade earlier had proved a resounding success. By the time war had broken out three years later, cross-city rivals at Park Avenue, who had followed Manningham’s lead by abandoning Northern Union in the Great Betrayal had not only joined City in the First Division, but actually finished above them in the 1914/15 season, while Leeds City and Huddersfield Town had established themselves in the Second Division, both with aspirations of matching the success achieved by the Bradford pioneers.

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The fall from grace of both Bradford teams following the Great War is covered in vast detail in other publications, as are the changing fortunes of both Leeds (United) and Huddersfield clubs. Industrial decline affected Bradford more than most, and within a few years that head start in the Association game would count for nothing.

Rob Grillo [@RobGrillo] is author of LATE TO THE GAME, Volume 6 in the Bantamspast History Revisited series which tells the story of the origins of association football in Bradford. Details of his book and online ordering is available from this link.

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VINCIT provides an accessible go-to reference about all aspects of Bradford sport history and is neither code nor club specific. We encourage you to explore the site through the menu above.

Future planned articles on VINCIT will feature former BCAFC manager Jimmy Wheeler, the original development of Park Avenue in 1879-80; the history of sports journalism in Bradford; the politics of Odsal Stadium; the history of Bradford sports grounds and the history of crowd violence in Bradford.

Contributions and feedback are welcome.

 

 

 

Harry Briggs (1862-1920), Park Avenue benefactor

The modern history of Bradford City has been shaped by high profile characters in charge at Valley Parade. Stafford Heginbotham (1965-73 and 1983-88), Geoffrey Richmond (1995-2002) and Edin Rahic (2016-18) will be remembered for their impact on the fortunes of the club – not all necessarily in a positive light.

At Odsal, Harry Hornby (1937-56) was an influential figure whose entrepreneurial energy was crucial for Bradford Northern. In contrast, at Park Avenue Herbert Metcalfe (1969-70) tends to be cited as the archetypal meddling chairman. In particular, his presence may have been decisive in hastening that club’s exit from the Football League in 1970 and undermining the confidence of other clubs as to how Bradford Park Avenue was being run.

Briggs grave Bowling (2)

However, if you had to name the individual who was arguably most influential in shaping the direction and fate of Bradford football it has to be Harry Briggs who died one hundred years ago on 31st March, 1920. (The photograph shows his family tomb at Bowling Cemetery.) Briggs was the man who personified Bradford Park Avenue AFC to the extent that in 1907 the Yorkshire Sports depicted his face on a cartoon character to accompany match reports about Avenue. It was Harry Briggs who forced conversion from rugby at Park Avenue that led to the formation of Bradford Northern RFC and the bitter soccer rivalry with Bradford City. The competition of three senior clubs in the district arguably fragmented sporting effort and financial investment to the extent that all were denied sustained success and became better known for failure.

Harry Briggs’ father, Edward was the second son of John Briggs of Briggella Mills in Bradford and long before the death of his father and elder brother Moses, he had assumed the managing directorship of the family firm. Under Edward’s management the business established for itself a reputation as innovative and commercially successful.

In 1882 Edward Briggs established a huge state-of-the-art worsted factory and model industrial community at Marki near Warsaw, which was then part of the Russian empire. It was one of the first mills in Europe to be lit by electricity in 1883 and Marki became known as ‘a second edition of Saltaire’.

Edward became a founder member of the Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club (BCA&FC) at Park Avenue in 1880 and the proximity of his mill allowed him to offer employment to players of the club (thereby avoiding contravention of the Rugby Union’s regulations on amateurism). He became a guarantor of the club’s borrowings and was instrumental in the club’s financial rescue in 1896 when it came close to insolvency.

As part of its rescue Edward insisted on the club having management supervision and introduced Harry to fulfil the role. Edward died in 1898 and Harry inherited his status as the Park Avenue benefactor. From 1896 until his own death in 1920, Harry came to personify the Park Avenue club (much the same as Stafford Heginbotham was the personification of Bradford City at Valley Parade between 1966 and 1972). Harry never concealed his dislike of Manningham FC at Valley Parade who he considered a financial threat to the well-being of Park Avenue.

From 1905 Harry Briggs championed conversion to soccer at Park Avenue and attempted to persuade the City club to transfer to the other side of town in a new merged organisation. The traditional Manningham supporters were suspicious of Briggs and needless to say the overtures for amalgamation were rejected, culminating in a decisive vote of City members on 27 May, 1907.

Briggs recognised that the city of Bradford could not support two first class association sides but he was determined that the sport be adopted at Park Avenue as a more profitable alternative to rugby. Faced with rejection by the City membership and with family pride at stake, Harry dug himself deeper into an expensive hole and ended up increasing his financial commitment to funding Park Avenue.

Harry’s father was a brilliant businessman as Sarah Dietz (1) has convincingly portrayed. I agree with her assessment that this represented an enormous burden for Harry – his only son – who lived in Edward’s shadow even after his death. Harry was desperate to please his father and there is circumstantial evidence that this extended to playing both rugby and cricket at Park Avenue. The whim may have been accommodated by the club leadership as a gesture of gratitude to Edward and I am doubtful that Harry was selected on merit. (A consistent theme in accounts of meetings of the BCA&FC was the extent of obsequiousness towards the Briggs family.)

Match reports in Bradford newspapers confirm that Harry Briggs made a handful of appearances for Bradford Cricket Club during the 1880 season although there is no evidence of participation in subsequent years. In 1903, a correspondent to the Bradford Daily Telegraph credited him with having bowled the first ball at Park Avenue (in 1880) to the groundsman, Henry Boden (a game that was played on the football ground because the cricket pitch was not ready until the 1881 season). Given the solemnity of the occasion it was notable that the honour should have been granted to an 18 year old whose cricketing skills were never subsequently called upon.

As regards football, he was originally selected in the Bradford FC reserve team in October, 1881 and was selected on four occasions for the first team in January and February, 1882. Thereafter there is no further mention of him which is consistent with the suggestion that he was injured and forced to retire from the game. It was also claimed that when his footballing career came to an end, he donated the £50 insurance proceeds to charities. ‘Injury’ may have been his face-saver.

Harry Briggs saw it as his duty to uphold and even aggrandise his father’s reputation. An incentive for Harry to invest in Rolls-Royce was that it allowed him the chance to prove himself as a businessman in his own right and when it came to Park Avenue, he could not disappoint his father’s legacy. Consequently, Harry opted for the sort of bold venture that he believed his father would have approved of. He knew that if there were two clubs in Bradford it would undermine the profits of both but his chosen strategy was to vanquish the other through underwriting a new Bradford Park Avenue club. Hell would have no fury like a Harry Briggs scorned. By any measure it was a reckless, high stakes response.

For a businessman who stood no chance of financial gain from his benevolence and who publicly acknowledged the financial risk of forming a soccer club to compete with Bradford City, his behaviour seems extraordinary. Yet it was the same obsessiveness that he displayed in his passion for Rolls-Royce racing cars. In C W Morton’s History of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, (1964) there is mention of a claim that Briggs’ ‘enthusiasm for motor cars and his interest in the Rolls-Royce stifled his business acumen.’

During the amalgamation controversy Briggs was successful in alienating most of those around him and it is revealing that the Bradford Daily Argus of 27 May intimated that he was in a minority of one among the Park Avenue leadership in favouring amalgamation. In fact, the paper was later requested to retract that allegation which Briggs would have considered damaging to his cause. Faced with the partisan opposition of Manninghamites the remainder of the Bradford FC committee had come to the belief that the club should launch its own soccer club, independent of Bradford City. By this stage pride made it difficult for Bradford members to prostrate their club to the whims of those at Valley Parade. However, it put further pressure on Harry Briggs because he knew that he would be the man expected to finance the launch of a Bradford Park Avenue soccer club.

Briggs pursued amalgamation to the end and whilst he supported the decision to create a Park Avenue team and appoint Fred Halliday as secretary-manager I believe that he saw this measure as a bluff rather than as an end game. In his interview with the Bradford Daily Argus on 14 May, 1907 Briggs had been explicit about the disadvantage of two clubs in Bradford.

It was not simply partisan prejudice that caused the City committee to oppose relocation to Park Avenue. Harry Briggs was himself the principal obstacle to a fusion of the two clubs. For more than a decade he had wielded power at Park Avenue and on occasions his conduct had alienated players and supporters at his own club as well as those at Valley Parade. (In fact it is tempting to see similarities with a recent chairman at Valley Parade!)

Bradford FC had been known for its high and mighty attitude in the 1880s and Briggs was seen as a continuation of this, the Napoleon of Park Avenue who wanted to impose his will and was used to getting his own way. He quite literally embodied the Park Avenue bogey of old – the attempts by the ‘town club’ to extinguish the insubordinate challenger which was Manningham FC.

For the majority of his adult life Harry Briggs had made it his mission to ensure the ascendancy of Bradford FC over Manningham FC. Readers of Room at the Top will recall the incident in December, 1891 when he had done all in his power to make the Park Avenue pitch playable, spurning the goodwill gesture of Manningham FC to make Valley Parade available so that a game with Runcorn would not have to be postponed. Harry’s devotion to his father served to perpetuate prejudices about Manningham FC which dated from the beginning. It was now a complete volte-face, the man who had wanted to eliminate the Valley Parade organisation was trying to woo it.

Harry Briggs was seen as a playboy who had lived a life of privilege without having had much responsibility – whilst the titular head of his father’s old firm at Briggella Mills, in the background it was his uncle Francis Whitehead who ran the business.

In the absence of trust, he was thus the benefactor that no-one wanted, all the more emotive given the historic enmity between Manningham and Bradford. The irony in this is that Briggs offered major concessions. A degree of pragmatism was shown by the willingness to sacrifice his club’s identity in 1907 (to adopt that of ‘Bradford City’) and four years later to jettison the traditional colours of Bradford FC by adopting green and white as the price to secure Tom Maley as manager.

Should history remember Harry Briggs as a pig-headed fool or as a saint?

Harry Briggs YS graphic

The memory of Harry Briggs has been dictated by the rivalry of Bradford FC and Manningham FC. To the supporters of the former he was a saviour and guarantor. In the eyes of the latter he was considered a Machiavellian character with megalomaniac intent. He is also remembered as the man who had confidence to invest £10,000 in the floatation of Rolls-Royce in December, 1906 and someone possessed with considerable passion for its cars. Rather unkindly this has led at least one writer to compare him to Toad of Toad Hall (2). Author Kenneth Grahame’s character of the Edwardian era was similarly obsessed with motor cars, at that time a product of fancy and for which a mass market had still to be developed.

Yet whilst Briggs – in common with Toad – had enjoyed a privileged upbringing, inherited his father’s wealth and been something of a mid-life playboy, it would be unfair to suggest he was the conceited or lazy buffoon implied by the characterisation. Nonetheless, it is difficult to avoid the observation of him as a somewhat pathetic figure, wholly out of his depth in the leadership role he found himself. Judged from his statements, as well as his actions, there is a sense that on occasions he was gripped by panic and his muddling contrasted with the strategic direction and diplomacy of his contemporary, Alfred Ayrton at Valley Parade. He had never had direct experience managing people and accounts of his conduct suggest that his inter-personal skills were woefully under-developed. No wonder that the conversion process at Park Avenue was such a clumsy affair.

Briggs’ investment in Rolls-Royce and his commitment to soccer at Park Avenue surely reveals a man desperate to carve an independent reputation for himself whilst at the same time gaining the approval of his deceased father. The tragedy is that Briggs may have overreached himself just at the moment that he had committed to his projects. There is the suggestion that by the second half of 1907 he was financially stretched and no longer able to bankroll his new soccer club to the extent he originally intended. Indeed, Bradford Park Avenue failed to make an immediate impact on the Second Division when elected in 1908 and promotion was only achieved at the sixth attempt. The death in March, 1907 of his uncle, Francis (Frank) Whitehead – who had shared the management and ownership of J Briggs & Co. at Briggella with Harry after Edward’s death – led to changes in the Bradford business through the inheritance of Harry’s Polish-based cousin. Circumstantial evidence suggests that all of this tied up his capital, if not depleted it through the transfer of funds out of the firm.

The aggressive funding of Bradford Park Avenue that had been feared by those at Valley Parade did not materialise. Indeed, it was not until the appointment of Tom Maley at the end of February, 1911 that there was new momentum to the Park Avenue venture. Likewise, Harry’s investment – and directorship – in Rolls-Royce may have captured his attention, so much so that in March, 1907 at the time of the Bradford City merger dispute he was simultaneously trying to persuade the company to establish a new factory on his land in Bradford (presumably nearby Briggella Mills and Park Avenue). Instead, Derby was chosen but it might have otherwise had a major impact on the development of the Bradford economy.

Harry Briggs failed to achieve his objective of a merged club at Park Avenue and this can similarly be attributed to the fact that he alienated those whose support and trust he needed. Had he exercised more decisive leadership – or had the benefit of wise counsel – in 1905 or 1906 his goal might have been achieved. (Even so, it didn’t alter the fact that he remained a contentious figure in the eyes of Valley Parade members.) Likewise, in 1899 he could have chosen to sustain the soccer experiment on a low key basis for at least a couple of years more and this might have been the basis for conversion from rugby.

The death of his uncle in March, 1907 may have been significant. It removed a possible restraint on him embarking on what was undoubtedly a sequence of impulsive and risky ventures – not to mention expensive – through the launch of a second Bradford club, investment in redeveloping Park Avenue in 1907, membership of the Southern League in the same year and then, resignation from the Southern League in 1908 without any guarantee of a place in the Football League. In the end Briggs was saved from absolute disaster by circumstance and good fortune. With hindsight his decisions may seem visionary and inspired. All I can say is that if he drove his racing car in the same fashion it would have been pretty scary to be his passenger.

In contrast to many others who became involved with Bradford sport, Harry Briggs should be remembered favourably and deserves credit for his genuine commitment. In assuming the burden, he was not motivated by personal gain or vanity but by duty to his father and the belief that Park Avenue existed for a noble purpose, the creed that it served to promote sport and raise money for charity. His mission was to safeguard the ground that Edward Briggs and his father’s generation had secured in 1879 for the benefit of the people of Bradford. For him, what was on the line was family honour and he applied himself to the task with zeal.

The tragedy for the Park Avenue club was the death of Harry Briggs in 1920 at the age of only 58 (his father too had passed away at the same age). He died on 31st March, just over three weeks after his side had been defeated in the FA Cup Quarter-Finals by Chelsea.

Harry died at his home at Cottingley Manor and is buried in the Briggs Tomb at Bowling Cemetery. It left Bradford (PA) AFC without an obvious successor or bank guarantor and the club was forced to cope without ownership of the Park Avenue freehold. These were fundamental issues that handicapped his club and made it difficult to stand on its own two feet. Briggs knew that Bradford could not support two senior soccer clubs and he recognised the futility of them clinging resolutely to their independence. His assessment proved correct but there is irony in the fact that his behaviour drove a bigger wedge between them.

In 1920 there were signs that Bradford Park Avenue might overtake Bradford City whose finances had been exhausted. Both City and Avenue fell from grace in the 1920s – from being rivals in Division One in 1920/21 to contesting derbies in Division Three (North) by 1927/28. Had Bradford retained its membership of the first division it would have enjoyed a dominant position that Bradford City would have struggled to overcome. Final victory would then have been certain for Park Avenue. His death one hundred years ago effectively put an end to the Park Avenue ambitions and fifty years later his club lost its membership of the Football League that Harry had jealously coveted.

by John Dewhirst

From his book Life at the Top, a history of the rivalry of Manningham FC and Bradford FC pub Bantamspast, 2016. This narrates the circumstances of the two clubs changing code from Rugby Union in 1895 and then from the Northern Union in 1903 and 1907 respectively. He is currently working on a history of the rivalry of the two clubs as soccer rivals in the twentieth century.

Notes:

(1). Sarah Dietz is the author of British Entrepreneurship in Poland: A Case Study of Bradford Mills at Marki near Warsaw, 1883-1939, Routledge, 2015.

(2). Harry Briggs is compared to Toad of Toad Hall by Richard Sanders in Beastly Fury, The Strange Birth of British Football, Bantam Press, 2009. (His book contains a number of inaccuracies about Bradford City and Park Avenue but is readable and puts the story of what happened in Bradford at the turn of the twentieth century into a broader context of what was going on elsewhere in the country.)

 

Link to John’s blog: Wool City Rivals where you will find his features in the current BCAFC matchday programme, book reviews and other content about the history of Bradford City.
Future planned articles on VINCIT will feature former BCAFC manager Jimmy Wheeler, the original development of Park Avenue in 1879-80; the history of sports journalism in Bradford; the politics of Odsal Stadium; the history of Bradford sports grounds and the history of crowd violence in Bradford.
Contributions to VINCIT are welcome. We are code agnostic and feature any sport or club with a Bradford heritage. Links from the drop down menu above. Thanks for visiting!

New membership of the Bradford Cricket League

by Reg Nelson

As the Bradford Cricket League enters its 117th year in 2020, and begins a new decade, it could be an appropriate time to contemplate how things are going since it widened its geography in 2016.

After losing several inner-city clubs in the decade, the chance to replace them with top outfits like Methley CC, Wrenthorpe CC and Townville CC from the Central Yorkshire League must have sounded appealing to the Bradford Cricket League Board. This league was losing more and more clubs to the Bradford Cricket League, and with Methley CC being tipped to be the next one to go, the death knell was sounding. After amicable negotiations it was decided that most of the Central Yorkshire League clubs would join the Bradford Cricket League, and the others would relocate to the Drakes Huddersfield League, or in the case of Wakefield Thornes CC, to the Yorkshire South Premier League.

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It meant that the Bradford Cricket League would acquire the three aforementioned clubs, and also pick up clubs like Hunslet Nelson CC, Carlton CC, Liversedge CC and Ossett CC who had fine grounds. They would also have to cater for some smaller, lower ranked clubs who were perceived by some purists as lacking in real Bradford League potential. This view might turn out to be right, but the likes of Pudsey Congs, New Farnley and Woodlands all emerged historically from a very modest cricket base.

NEW FARNLEY CRICKET CLUB

The new structure was seen in some quarters as a great lift to the league in an era when they were granted ECB Premier League status. The likes of Methley CC, Wrenthorpe CC and Townville CC were formerly the power base of the Central Yorkshire League and were capable of shaking up the old order, and some of the other new clubs would certainly stiffen the second sphere of the league. That had been a bone of contention for a number of years, as the old second division had deteriorated beyond recognition. Now, the league had the honour of being granted Premier League status when it normally only applied to county regions, and had a much stronger base of clubs.

The downside was the league’s inability to provide enough umpires for a league which had more or less doubled in number. There were also widespread murmurings on social media about the increased travelling distances, and also continued dialogue about the strength of the lower clubs that had been accepted. Those making the latter point failed to acknowledge the fact that some of these clubs had no immediate league to go to with the demise of the Central Yorkshire League. If the Bradford League had simply `cherry-picked’ the more fashionable clubs, they would doubtless have had to answer to the Yorkshire Premier League Cricket Board if clubs went out of existence. Some of these clubs might not be seen as top flight sides for the foreseeable future, but they can develop with Clubmark (ECB Accreditation) and find their level as part of the league pyramid.

Another criticism was that the Bradford Cricket League was titled as such in name only, as the membership spread out as far as the outskirts of Leeds, Castleford and Wakefield. There were some calls to rename the league structure West Yorkshire ECB Premier League. However, the Yorkshire Premier League Cricket Board recognised the historical strength of the league, and obviously agreed that its very name carried enough kudos to headline the new structure.

The reputation of the Bradford Cricket League has always attracted new clubs to join, and there has been disquiet in the past about the travelling involved. Yorkshire Bank joined the league in 1974 when there were much less people with cars, and the trek to Moortown was considerable. After a couple of years, players, officials and spectators could not imagine the league without the Bank, as they enjoyed the ground and hospitality. Those that resisted Yorkshire Bank in the beginning would eventually bemoan the situation when the club eventually folded.

Hanging Heaton CC was regarded as a trek when they joined in 1980, but what an asset club they turned out to be, and nobody grumbles now!

HANGING HEATON CC - Copy

The Bradford Cricket League has lost many inner-city clubs in the last few decades, and this number includes Eccleshill CC, Laisterdyke CC, Lidget Green CC, Great Horton CC and Manningham Mills CC. There were also clubs away from the inner cities like Salts CC and Idle who perished. The changing demographic in the city has had a role to play in this, but this is not wholly the reason. The aforementioned clubs ended their days with either an all-Asian team, or very nearly so. In an era when virtually all the `street cricket’ was played by Asian children, it was obviously a good player resource for clubs, and one could acknowledge that they kept these clubs going.

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However, the culture of family members and friends of players keeping the club going by buying raffle tickets, frequenting the bar and helping with basic fundraising began to dissipate. The falling membership of such clubs led to poor administration and shrinking committees, and when crisis dawned, there was a mass exodus of players leaving the club few options to continue. When Salts CC perished it was said that not one player attended the winter crisis meeting.

Z- FORMER CLUBS-SALTS 3 - Copy

The one exception to this theory is Bowling Old Lane, another all-Asian team, who have found a way to not only survive after historic vandalism, but have built their workforce within the community. Astonishingly, they have not been the beneficiaries of any major grants, despite ticking all the right boxes in a deprived area, and surely possessing the right postcode for financial assistance.

In an ideal world, all the inner city clubs would have survived, and the league would have retained more of a Bradford feel to it. But, when a club like New Farnley, who have a Dales Council tradition, can grow as a club like they have in the Bradford Cricket League, there is compensation in spades. Some of the traditionalists will never be convinced, but sport never stays the same.

Look at the West Riding County Amateur Football League- once the most powerful amateur football league underneath the non league feeder leagues in Yorkshire. Now the league does not exist as clubs like Silsden AFC, Brighouse Town, Albion Sports, Hemsworth Miners Welfare, Silsden, Steeton, Campion and Golcar have climbed onto the ladder of non league football.

Campion CC

Some say that the Bradford Cricket League has lost its glint, and is not as powerful as the old days. This could be said about every senior league in Britain given the collapse of U17 cricket, and the declining numbers in junior sides below that level.

Others would argue that it must still be the most competitive league in Yorkshire when one notes how Methley CC struggled all last season against relegation from the Premier League despite having Yorkshire players Matthew Waite and Jarrod Warner in their ranks!

There are still issues and we all have opinions on how we can improve the structure. My take is that the Premier and First Division divisions should remain the same, and the last two divisions regionalised. It’s a fact that the smaller clubs in the lower divisions have more trouble staffing teams to travel from the wrong side of Bradford to Wakefield or Pontefract. This extreme journey might just apply a couple of times a season, but it can be off putting to the less ambitious cricketer, and those that work Saturday mornings.

Regionalisation could be awkward bureaucratically, but non league football can cope with far wider areas to consider. Look at Silsden AFC who have had to move from Northern Counties East to Northern Counties West in the football non-league structure.

On the plus side there appears to be nothing wrong with the Bradford Cricket League when one looks at how many contracted Yorkshire players played in the league last season- James Logan (Farsley), Joshua Poysden (Farsley), Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Cleckheaton), Tim Bresnan ( Hartshead Moor), Daniel Revis (Bradford & Bingley), Matthew Waite (Methley), Jarrod Waite (Methley), Jordan Thompson (Pudsey St Lawrence)and Matthew Revis (Farsley)- to be joined next season by Ben Coad (Townville – pictured below) and Moin Ashraf (Morley).

Warwickshire v Yorkshire - Specsavers County Championship: Division One
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – APRIL 14: Ben Coad of Yorkshire celebrates after trapping Rikki Clarke LBW during the Specsavers County Championship One match between Warwickshire and Yorkshire at Edgbaston on April 14, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Reg Nelson is an unofficial historian of Bradford Premier Cricket League, a Woodlands CC League Delegate, Saltaire CC Life Member and local league ground-hopper. You can read his history of the Bradford Cricket League on VINCIT from this link.

Follow Reg Nelson on Twitter: @regnels1

=================

Thanks for visiting VINCIT, the online journal of Bradford Sport History which is code and club agnostic. You can find more features about cricket and other sports from the drop down menu.

Future planned articles will feature the original development of Park Avenue in 1879-80; the history of sports journalism in Bradford; the politics of Odsal Stadium; the history of Bradford sports grounds and the history of crowd violence in Bradford.

Pictured below Roberts Park, home of Saltaire CC

Thomas Paton: the forgotten man of 1911?

Whilst we rightly laud the achievements of Peter O’Rourke and he is often (rightly) cited as Bradford City’s greatest ever manager, the role of one other individual in City’s golden era, punctuated by the 1911 F.A. Cup win, is often forgotten.

What is overlooked is the fact that the role of a “manager” was very different in the early twentieth century. One of the fundamental differences was that the manager wasn’t responsible for team selection – clubs tended to have a selection committee, consisting of club directors. Though at City we have all-too recent memories of the effect of a club director (with a background in accounting) being involved with team selection, there is a much more positive example of this.

For the period from 1909 to 1911, City’s selection committee was chaired by Thomas Paton. Paton’s role in this most glorious of eras for City has at best been understated and at worst completely disregarded.

Tom Paton was a Scot, born on 26 February 1871 in Ratho, Midlothian to William and Flora Paton.[1]

His first involvement in football administration was as secretary of the St. Bernard’s football club in Edinburgh, a role he was undertaking when only 18 years old.[2] He trained to be an accountant and by the late 1890s his career had brought him to the West Riding.

He was appointed secretary of the Bradford based Yorkshire Woolcombers’ Association (Limited) in November 1899 and then went on to set up an accountancy practice, initially on his own but eventually in partnership with others (the firm of Paton, Boyce and Welch).

His first publicised involvement with City appears to have been in 1906 (though it seems likely that he had been a member of the club since its outset). At that time, the club was run by a committee elected by its members and Paton put himself forward to be elected to that committee at the club’s Annual General Meeting in May 1906. As it happens, at the AGM, it was resolved that a report be commissioned into the club’s financial affairs (which were not in great shape) and the election of new committee members was postponed. Whether the report was at the behest of Tom Paton isn’t clear, but his expertise as an accountant would have assisted. He led the report and presented it at a further meeting in June 1906. The end result of this process was the decision to incorporate the club as a limited liability company (albeit that didn’t happen until 1908).[3] The other important recommendation made in Paton’s presentation was that a “Team Selection Committee” of three members be formed.[4]

Following the report, Paton withdrew his nomination for election to the committee.[5] However, he continued to be a member of the club and was clearly an important figure behind the scenes. He was a prominent figure in calling for amalgamation with Park Avenue in 1907.[6] In 1908, the Athletic News reported the following:

“On January 20, this year, the directors and players of Bradford City were entertained to dinner by the members of the club. Mr. Thomas Paton was the chairman and referring to professionalism, he said that if a man had a gift for playing football, and it was a gift, he saw no reason why he should not earn as much in ten years by the game as he could have earned otherwise in thirty years. But what Mr. Paton wished to say to players was that they should live upon the wages they would have otherwise received at their ordinary occupation and save the extra money they got out of football. It was the duty of the selection committee to see, as far as possible, that the players provided for the inevitable rainy day, so that when their feet had lost their cunning they would not look back on football as a curse, but as a blessing.

Those are words of wisdom. Mr. Thos. Paton has a lifelong experience of the game and players.”[7]

These were fairly enlightened views for the time (the Athletic News noting “If Bradford City can find the time to show such a real interest in the welfare of their players, other clubs can do the same”).

Paton was elected to the board of the club on 26 February 1909 (receiving 179 votes from the shareholders).[8] The next month he was appointed as chairman of the team selection committee (and was also appointed to the club’s finance committee).[9] However, Paton’s influence on player recruitment likely pre-dates this formal appointment. It can be no coincidence that James Logan and Jimmy McDonald joined from St. Bernard’s in 1905 and 1907 respectively. Peter Logan and Harry Graham would also arrive from St. Bernard’s after Paton’s appointment.

Perhaps his first masterstroke following his appointment was the capture of Dicky Bond in May 1909. Bond was already a well-known player, an international and regular in the top flight for Preston. The likes of Jimmy Speirs, Mark Mellors, Frank Thompson and Archie Devine would follow – many of these players forming the bedrock of City’s success over the next few seasons.

Paton’s contacts back in Scotland were invaluable. The recruitment of Scottish players was a very deliberate policy, it being considered that English players were more costly option. Paton himself (being interviewed prior to the 1911 Cup Final) said:

“For instance, to get a player of equal capacity to Bond, we should have to pay an English club at least a thousand pounds. But we can go into Scotland and get uncut stuff cheap and polish it up here. And when we’ve got it and made it into a footballer, even then the anxieties of the directors are not at an end. Only when the season is over can we say to ourselves ‘Well now, it is done with for a bit, anyhow.’”[10]

There is however a sense that, by 1911, the duties were getting a little too much for Tom Paton. At a shareholders’ meeting held at the Mechanics’ Institute in February 1911, he stated that it was with “great diffidence” that he was agreeing to continue as a director and that he found his work as chairman of the Team Selection Committee more than he had bargained for.[11]

The cup success of course followed this a couple of months later. Paton was rightly acknowledged as an architect of this success in the press, the Athletic News describing him as being part of a “Triumvirate”, saying:

“For some time past three men have been instrumental in the building up of Bradford City. I refer to Mr. Pollack (the chairman), Mr. Tom Paton, and Mr. O’Rourke… For a long time Mr. Paton of the well-known firm of Paton, Boyce, and Co., the accountants, was the man behind the scenes. He was the motive power, but there came a day when Mr. Pollack talked of resigning unless Mr. Paton consented to join the board of directors. Since then there has been no concealment of Mr. Paton’s handiwork. The sleeping partner became more active than ever – and probably most of those who have sat with him will agree that Mr. Tom Paton has been the brain of the machine – particularly in the engagement of players and the selection of the team. Combined with the shrewdness and tact of his race – he is an Edinburgh man – he has a high sense of honour.

Moreover he is the very pink of politeness unless his sense of honour is offended. When he is vexed he speaks his mind. He once wrote a letter to the chairman of a famous club in this country which concluded thus:-

“A certain poet once said that man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn. I am one of the countless thousands, but having learnt my lesson I hope I shall have the common sense to see that that strictly conscientious club, of which you have the honour to be the active head, shall not be provided with a second opportunity. If anyone does an unfair thing to me I blame him: if he does it a second time I blame myself.”

These are the words of a man whom it is very advisable to secure as a friend by straight and honest dealing. His enmity is, I should say, something to be avoided, although he is slow to anger.

It is impossible to overestimate the work that Mr. Paton has done for Bradford City. He threatened to retire if ever the City won The Cup. The directors must see that he breaks his word. Once upon a time Mr. Paton was connected with the St. Bernard’s club, Edinburgh, when they won the Scottish Cup. Removing to Bradford, he has fallen in love with the great game a second time, and has played a hand in carrying off the English Cup. But he must not be allowed to withdraw into the privacy of his official sanctum. And he will be so annoyed that I have written this about him but I cannot help it.”[12]

Despite these words, the pressures of being chairman of the Team Selection committee manifested themselves following the cup success. In July 1911, the Athletic News reported:

“The annual meeting of the Bradford City F.C. was a happy function, as might have been expected. Yet there was one fly in the pot of ointment. It is not disputed that no man has done more towards the success of the Bradford City team that Mr. Thomas Paton, who last season was chairman of the selection committee. But having done so much, Mr. Paton feels his own profession must in future have a greater share of his attention and he will not be chairman of the selection committee next season. It is a serious loss to the club.”[13]

Tom Paton resigned as a director the next year. However, that was not the end of the story.

By 1928, City were in dire straits, both on and off the field. Tom Paton had already agreed to act as a consultant to the board in May 1927.[14] At the end of the 1927/28 season, the club were in the bottom division of the league and had run out of money. It appeared that the club were heading for liquidation. Local journalist William Sawyer takes up the story:

“It so happened that on a certain day in May I accidentally met Mr. Tom Paton in the Midland Hotel. He had a travelling rug on his arm and was about to join a train for Scotland to commence his summer vacation at his home on the Ayrshire coast. He had no more than a minute or two to spare. “Well,” I said to him, “It looks like the end of the old club.” “It does,” he replied, “and it’s a pity.” Then he had an idea and with characteristic briskness he said “Look here, Bill; if you can get the board to resign and form a new board, including yourself I will provide you with sufficient money to see you through the close season, but you must get all you can elsewhere and keep my name out of it .” With that he went down the private run-way to the station[15] and I did not see him again for some months. I knew, however, that he was a man of his word and I could rely on his promise.”[16]

There is, I believe, a certain amount of journalistic licence in Sawyer’s retelling of events! It had already been well-publicised in April 1928 that Tom Paton had offered to find £6,000 to keep the club going over the summer (albeit the scheme proposed by Paton had fallen through due to the club’s bank being unwilling to agree terms and Paton, consequently, withdrawing his offer).[17] The City supporters club presented a petition to Paton effectively begging him to provide assistance.[18] There was therefore not really any possibility of Paton’s name being kept out of things.

What is clear is that it was Paton’s money that helped keep the club going that summer. He made a loan to the club totalling around £1,250 which allowed the club to survive (this would be around £78,000 in today’s money).

The detail of that period and the amazing season that followed can be read here https://bradfordsporthistory.com/2019/05/21/1928-29/.

This wasn’t the only example of his generosity in 1928. He had also contributed £1,000 towards a fund to build the new Bradford Infirmary at Daisy Hill (this being a donation rather than a loan).[19]

Despite not being on the board, it is clear that Tom Paton was involved behind the scenes. Herbert Chapman, the Leeds City, Huddersfield Town and Arsenal manager said “In the season when Bradford City were promoted from the Third Division, Mr. Tom Paton was the power behind the club, and it was largely through the energy which he threw into the task that promotion was achieved”.[20] That Paton was highly regarded by one of the greatest managers of the inter-war years speaks volumes.

Such was the turnaround in City’s fortunes, they were able to repay Paton in full during the 1929/30 season.[21] It was reported in 1930 that Tom Paton was going to re-join the board of directors but that doesn’t appear to have come to fruition.[22]

Whilst it was reported in 1925 that he was to retire to take up permanent residence in Girvan[23], this appears to have been a very loose concept of retirement! In the 1930s he moved to Middlesex but continued with his business interests in Bradford. He remained a director of Paton, Boyce and Welch until 1945 and at various times he was a director of Salts (Saltaire) Limited, the company running Sir Titus Salt’s great mill.[24] He died (“suddenly” according to the death notice placed in The Times[25]) on 11 September 1946 at the age of 75 (some newspaper reports erroneously gave his age as 78). His effects were valued at £24,476 17s 5d (around a million pounds by today’s standards).[26]

The accountancy firm that he founded in Bradford eventually became Bostocks Boyce Welch. That firm continues in business to this day and fittingly, its managing director, Alan Biggin has, like Paton, been involved at boardroom level at City for several years.

Given that he was very much a “behind the scenes” man, the above probably only scratches the surface as far as Paton’s contribution to the history of Bradford City goes. Thomas Paton deserves to be much more than a footnote in the history of Bradford City and his name should be up there with the likes of O’Rourke and Spiers as greats of the early decades of the club.

by Kieran Wilkinson

 

[1] Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 database.

[2] Scottish Referee – Monday 01 July 1889.

[3] Shipley Times and Express – Friday 22 June 1906.

[4] Leeds Mercury – Friday 22 June 1906.

[5] Leeds Mercury – Friday 29 June 1906.

[6] The Jubilee Story of the Bradford City A.F.C. by W. H. Sawyer, 1953.

[7] Athletic News – Monday 25 May 1908.

[8] Leeds Mercury – Saturday 27 February 1909.

[9] Leeds Mercury – Thursday 11 March 1909.

[10] Leeds Mercury – Thursday 20 April 1911.

[11] Leeds Mercury – Friday 24 February 1911.

[12] Athletic News – Monday 01 May 1911.

[13] Athletic News – Monday 03 July 1911.

[14] Leeds Mercury – Thursday 05 May 1927

[15] The “private run-way” remains in situ (notwithstanding that the station which it served has been moved northwards) and is well preserved. The author’s photographs of it can be seen here https://flic.kr/s/aHsk1BMTBU.

[16] The Jubilee Story of the Bradford City A.F.C. by W. H. Sawyer, 1953.

[17] Nottingham Journal – Saturday 28 April 1928.

[18] Leeds Mercury – Friday 04 May 1928.

[19] Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Tuesday 17 April 1928.

[20] p151 Herbert Chapman on Football, Herbert Chapman, 1934.

[21] Leeds Mercury – Friday 28 February 1930.

[22] Lancashire Evening Post – Saturday 22 February 1930.

[23] Sunday Post – Sunday 20 December 1925.

[24] Shipley Times and Express – Wednesday 13 June 1945.

[25] The Times – Friday 13 September 1946.

[26] England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995.

Shutdown!

The Sad Demise of Bradford Northern 1963-64 by Ian Hemmens

Over recent years there has been a terrible feeling of deja-vu with regards to the troubles faced by the city’s premier Rugby League club. As the Bradford Bulls, the club had reached the very heights of the sport reaching the pinnacle as World Club Champions, Serial Super League and Challenge Cup Winners. Over ambition, dubious ownership and the eternal problem of Odsal have conspired a downfall few would have forecast during the glory days.

Now, transport back to 1950, the then Bradford Northern were arguably the sports premier club having just achieved a hat-trick of appearances in the the prestigious Challenge Cup, a playing squad full of internationals featuring some of the biggest names in the sport. If you had said to one of the faithful back then that within 13 years the club would have been liquidated after a terminal decline which culminated in a pathetic attendance for one game of a paltry 324 in the vast Odsal bowl that had just 9 years earlier held a World Record crowd of 102,569 for a Challenge Cup Final Replay, you would have been laughed all the way down Manchester Road!

Before we get to that sad occasion we must go back to the glory days of the immediate post war era, the great players of that era started to grow old together and although certain ones were replaced by arguably stronger players who would in turn become club legends, the club slowly lost ground on its opponents, selling players to rival clubs, not replacing proper quality like for like. Huge stars like Ernest Ward & Ken Traill were allowed to move on, others like the great Trevor Foster finally bowed to old Father time and retired. Charismatic Chairman Harry Hornby pulled 2 rabbits out of the hat with the signings of Kiwis Joe Phillips & Jack McLean who went on to become bona fide club legends but they weren’t replaced but the same quality and then when even the lesser players were sold off, the quality dipped even further. The club took a massive hit in the mid-50s when Harry Hornby had to step down due to ill health. Without its major backer and his entrepreneurial ways the club became almost rudderless.

Set against these problems, the post war years had seen a change in lifestyle by a population worn down by 6 years of war. People were wanting a brighter future than had been given to the population after the carnage of the Great War where promises weren’t kept, life was a huge struggle and the Great Depression of the 1930s killed off much of the trade people relied on for just basic living. By the 1950s, Northern were still having to compete with the Citys 2 professional Soccer clubs, 2 dog tracks, a successful Speedway side, a reasonable Rugby Union side at Lidget Green and this was all before non sporting activities begin to be brought into consideration. A boom in picture houses, dance halls, pubs & clubs as well as milk & coffee bars for the ‘new teenagers’ that ‘appeared’ with the arrival of Rock ‘n Roll from the USA. Homes were starting to be able to buy televisions, cars were becoming more affordable and all these things had a pull on the monies people put aside for leisure activities.

We also now have to face the problem of the ‘elephant in the room’, Odsal Stadium itself. The huge bowl has always seemed to have a life of its own climate wise the cost of maintaining such a huge area has always been a millstone for Northern & the Bulls. Even though the likes of Speedway, Stock Cars, Kabbadi & all others sorts of events brought in valuable income, they also brought with them additional costs due to safety aspects pertaining especially to the motor sport events. In the late 50s the club ran a successful pools competition, a precursor to todays lotteries but in their wisdom they dispensed with its creator who took his idea to Keighley RL and created similar success over at Lawkholme Lane. The club had to go cap in hand to the council twice in a 4 year period to try & renegotiate their rental position and to ask for help and although these gave a temporary respite, the financial spiral was still in a downward direction. Crowds had plummeted from an average of 15000 in 1950 to barely 2500 by the late 50s. These would continue to fall as the fare on offer declined. At shareholder meetings, disgruntled fans would ask why the best talent was continually being sold off, why wasn’t there any visible investment from the Board and what were the Boards plans for halting the decline but sadly there weren’t any answers coming from the Board. They seemed trapped in the downward spiral and unable to find solutions.

1963 saw the low point when a meagre 345 souls turned up to see Northern lose 0-29 to Barrow in a game which brought in just £30 in gate receipts. The clock was now ticking and only one more fixture was fulfilled against Leigh before the full truth of the situation emerged to shocked fans. The headline in the T&A on Tuesday December 10th read ‘The End of the Line for Northern’, Money Difficulties mean we can’t go on. The whole Rugby League community fell into shock, never mind the Bradford public. The RL were informed that the club were unable to fulfill their fixtures as there simply wasn’t any money in the kitty.

Trevor Foster-1964-59

Within days, club legend Trevor Foster (pictured) and assorted business associates offered to take over the club if the present board would resign & liquidate it. As 1963 moved into 1964, meetings were had with the Foster consortium and the RL, shareholders, creditors, the Council to find a way forward but the RL dropped a bombshell announcing that as Northern hadn’t been able to fulfill their fixtures, their membership of the RL was at risk and their players could be classed as free agents & able to sign for other clubs as their contracts hadn’t been respected. This blow raged on into the March of 1964 when it was announced that with no further progress in respect of protecting the players contracts, the RL had no other option but to terminate Northerns membership. March 18th 1964 ultimately was the day the founder member of the Northern Union became extinct.

Club legend Joe Phillips had now joined the fight with Foster to save the club and explore any possible avenues open to keeping Northern going. A consortium was quickly formed and public opinion was gauged before approaching the council about the Odsal problem. The authorities thankfully gave their permission for the bowl to be used if the consortium could form a new club. March 23rd saw them then approach the RL for membership for the new club. A public meeting at St Georges Hall attracted over 1500 to hear the consortiums plans. There were pledges of support from former legends Ernest & Donald Ward, Eric Batten & Vic Darlison. Former Coach Dai Rees also sent a telegram with the inspiring message of ‘Its a long way from Birch Lane to Wembley, it can be done again’.

St Georges Hall 1964

A sum of £5000 was needed by the RL as assurances against the fixtures and other requirements. A £1 share option was started to run the club day to day whilst other donations flooded in along with further promises of assistance. Such a success was the share issue that the consortium were able to officially announce the formation of the new club on 20th April 1964. It would be named Bradford Northern (1964) Limited. By the middle of May the sum required by the RL had been reached and membership was granted for the new club. The prompt & proactive action by Trevor Foster had proved vital as any delay might have seen public enthusiasm & also that of the RL wane & possibly die. Even after such a problematic period, there was still an appetite for professional Rugby League in Bradford.

A ground to play on, fixtures to be looked forward to, the new club was up & running but it now needed a team that would be competitive. Fellow RL clubs were approached for any available players whilst from the previous club, only 6 were retained but they were only squad players. A better class was needed and the 1st signing was Jack Wilkinson from Wakefield Trinity who became Player/Coach. New players arrived almost daily with some of good quality & good potential also. The players such as young Scrum half Ian Brooke also from Trinity, Welsh forward Idwal Fisher along with others such as Levula, Lord, Rae finally saw the squad take some shape for the new season. They made their debut in the Headingley Sevens to create a familiarity between the new players. To the surprise of everyone the new squad took the tournament by storm winning the contest by beating Huddersfield 16-7 in the final. Northern were back!

1st Game -1964-25

The months of worry & trepidation, the hours of hard work to build the new club all came to fruition on Saturday 22nd August 1964 in front of a magnificent crowd of 13,542, the opponents being the beaten 1964 Challenge Cup finalists Hull Kingston Rovers which despite a valiant & honourable fight by the new club saw them succumb to a 20-34 defeat. The spirit shown gave the newclub home that they could at least be competitive. 2 more defeats followed both away at Hunslet & Featherstone before finally on 2nd September a first victory was gained with a 20-12 win over Salford.

1st game v Hull KR

Over the season stability was maintained and a final position of 17th out of 30 clubs was a very creditable & respectable return to the sport. Initial struggles in that first season gave the management an idea of the standards required and it was quickly decided that new blood would be required to compete. Of the 1st starting 13, only 5 would be still there at the final game. Names who would become well loved by the Odsal crowds, Dave Stockwell, Terry Clawson, Alan Rhodes & Tommy Smales amongst them. A mammoth cost of £24,500 had been spent on team building brought a seasonal loss of £20,550 which was £12,451 over that which was the debt when the club had collapsed. The news of these figures brought about fears that another collapse was on the horizon. Such a large debt was surely unsustainable but by any means possible they managed to continue. The council in the meantime had kept its promise to upgrade Odsal and a massive bank of concrete terracing was laid at the Rooley Lane End. On the field the team started to gel the faithful fans were rewarded by a success in the 1965 Yorkshire Cup beating Hunslet 17-8 at Headingley.

RG-1964-115

After being back in existence only a matter of 14 short months, it was a great reward for everyone who had helped to reform the club and the fans who had backed them. Over the next few years, less choppier waters were entered and the club began once again began to progress towards the upper end of the table. Players of undoubted quality like Welsh stars Berwyn Jones & Terry Price arrived, Geoff Wrigglesworth & Ian Brooke all attained International class which in turn kept the club progressing and the turnstiles ticking over. For now, the club was back and although, several times in the future, problems of varying degrees and severity would hit the club, there would also be a couple of periods of real glory & reward for the club. Rugby League in Bradford is always and has always been a turbulent affair never far way form crisis but also glory to the highest the game can give.

As we speak, the club is again in a dark period of its existence and in fact not even present in Bradford with games for the forthcoming season due to be played in Dewsbury. A mixture of RL politics, bad ownership and the perennial problem of Odsal all no nearer being resolved. Who knows what the future holds, if there is indeed any future but looking back to 1964, it seemed like the end back then until honest people with the club at heart stepped up to save the club from extinction.

by Ian Hemmens

Ian is a regular contributor to VINCIT and has written widely about different sports in the district including boxing, soccer, cricket and speedway. You can find links to his other features about Bradford rugby from this link. Tweets: @IHemmens 

The drop down menu above provides links to features about Bradford sport history. This site is neither code nor club specific! Contributions welcome. 

The Bradford Rifles

We remember the serving and former players of Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue who gave their lives in World War One [1] yet it has long been overlooked that the connections between sport and the military in Bradford go back much further [2]. Remarkably it has been a theme completely overlooked by others in the study of the origins of Bradford sport, even by those with local knowledge claiming academic credentials. We know of Third Lanark FC, a club in Glasgow with military origins. English League club Macclesfield Town is another, descended from the 8th Cheshire Rifle Volunteers formed in 1874. Locally, the Bradford Rifles FC had similar roots although by accident of history it is now an unfamiliar and long forgotten sporting identity.

Soldiering and Bradford’s military heritage

No-one talks about a military heritage in Bradford and few would consider that it had ever been a military town. However, in the second half of the nineteenth century joining the territorial army – or Volunteers as it was then known – represented a leisure activity. A consequence of this is that the identity of our football clubs became closely associated with popular support of the military.

The origins of the Volunteer Corps dates back to 1859 when a new territorial militia force was established in response to the fear of invasion from France. Bradford’s Volunteers comprised separate ‘rifle’ and ‘artillery’ corps and their history is particularly relevant as the movement was possibly the single most influential factor in driving the development of football in the town by popularising the game. This is not necessarily surprising given that the early history of clubs in Huddersfield and Hull during the 1860s was closely linked to the Volunteers and the use of drill fields to play on. The Halifax club, founded in 1873, had similar connections and originated out of a gymnasium which had connections with the Rifle Volunteers in the town. In Scotland where the volunteer movement was particularly strong, placenames in towns provide the clues – ‘Volunteer Park ‘or ‘Drill Field’ being common.

Yet the extent to which the militia shaped the sporting culture in Bradford has seemingly been overlooked and forgotten. The memory of Jimmy Speirs and other serving or former players of Bradford City who were killed in World War One thus needs to be seen within the context of a much longer tradition.

The Volunteers amplified local patriotism in Bradford which became infused into the culture of the town’s leading clubs and Bradford FC in particular. The Volunteers promoted athleticism as a force for good and another dimension to this was the notion that sports events were for the purpose of charity fund raising. It was not simply about playing the game and nor was it just about winning. Bradford FC assumed the same sense of civic duty and purpose that the Volunteers espoused in their own faintly comical manner that appealed to the vanity of many Bradfordians. Exactly the same sort of bombast which characterised the local leadership of the Volunteers in the 1860s and 1870s can be recognised in the ‘high and mighty’ attitude of Bradford FC in the 1880s.

Local Volunteers Corps

3rd WYRV Bradford crest

Unlike the yeomanry cavalry established in 1843, the Volunteer militia formed in 1859 was not intended to respond to civil unrest. Its role was entirely focused on national defence such that it could provide support to the army in the event of a national or imperial emergency, possibly also providing recruits. The specific role of the Artillery Volunteers was to manage coastal batteries and the Bradford corps regularly trained at Scarborough and Morecambe.

Rifle Volunteer battalions were first raised in Bradford in September, 1859. In April, 1860 the original companies of Rifle Volunteers in Bradford were re-designated from 5th and 6th Yorkshire, West Riding Rifle Volunteer Corps to the 3rd Yorkshire, West Riding Rifle Volunteers Corps (3rd YWRRVC) [crest illustrated above and cap badge below] and in October of that year amalgamated with the 24th Corps from Eccleshill. The 39th Corps (based in Bingley, formed in 1861) was associated with the 3rd YWRRVC and relocated to Saltaire in 1871, disbanding in 1875. In 1887 the 3rd YWRRVC became the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment which continued to be based at Belle Vue barracks and a detachment served in South Africa between 1900 and 1904. (Detail from ‘The Rifle Volunteers’ by Ray Westlake, published in 1982).

The 2nd Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteer Corps (2nd YWRAVC) was formed in October, 1860 and in 1874 it amalgamated with units from Heckmondwike and Bowling. In 1898 it became the 2nd West Riding of Yorkshire Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers). The Rifle and Artillery Volunteers were distinct from the Yeomanry Cavalry. Although all three corps were comprised of volunteers and had representation in Bradford, the 2nd West Yorkshire Yeomanry Cavalry was not based in the town. Another more fundamental more point of difference was that eligibility for the latter was the possession of a horse.

The historical background of the Volunteer movement is that it came at the same time that a growing number of men were seeking recreational opportunities to make use of increased leisure time arising from the reduction in working hours. A consequence of the 1850 Factory Act was that workers had more leisure time thanks to the reduction in factory hours and a half day Saturday holiday being introduced. Opportunities for recreation were otherwise limited and the Rifle Volunteers met this demand in addition to providing various social activities.

What seems surprising is that a militarist organisation could command cross-party support in a town such as Bradford that had such a strong Nonconformist background. The consensus support is confirmed by the record of attendees at various events organised by the local Volunteers – balls, dinners and prize awards for example – from Conservative politicians such as Francis Powell, Henry Wickham and Henry Mitchell to Liberals and Nonconformists including William Forster and Titus Salt (who had two sons in the Volunteers). Ditto Henry Ripley who was first a Liberal MP, later an Independent MP and then a Conservative candidate.

Prominent industrialists were also involved. Forster was himself behind the formation of a Volunteer unit among his employees in Eccleshill in 1860 (later merged into the 3rd YWRRVC) and held the rank of Captain. Likewise, Major Ripley of HW Ripley & Co, based at Ripleyville in Bowling was closely involved with the 2nd YWRAVC. Harry Armitage, whose family business was also involved with dyeing (the same Lieutenant-Colonel Armitage, later President at Bradford City in 1907) was an officer in 2nd YWRAVC. Key figures in the 3rd YWRRVC were Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Sagar Hirst and Major William Shepherd whose family firms were involved with brewing and worsteds respectively. Both Hirst and Shepherd were members of Bradford Cricket Club. Both were active in the Conservative Party.

One reason why the Volunteers commanded local support is quite simply that, because the movement was popular and politically influential on a national basis, Bradford could not allow itself to be left behind. Apart from contributing to the defence of the realm however, politicians and religious leaders recognised that the Volunteer movement offered a positive example in terms of social conduct and physical well-being. It was also celebrated as a vehicle to foster better relations between the classes and could almost be described as a Boy Scouts movement for men.

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The Bradford Observer of 23 May, 1861 reported that a bazaar was held at St George’s Hall in aid of ‘the project for erecting a permanent armoury, drill room, and other offices for the Bradford Rifle Volunteer Corps, on ground between North Parade and Lumb Lane’ – the origin of Belle Vue Barracks. Stalls at the bazaar had the following slogans which summarise what the Volunteers saw as their guiding principles: ‘Be ready when wanted’; ‘Our hearths and homes’; ‘For defence, not defiance’; ‘To preserve peace, be prepared for war’; ‘For our Queen and country’; and ‘Labour conquers everything.’ The displays provided a succinct illustration of what the Volunteer movement stood for, allowing people to express their emotional attachment to Britain as well as to Bradford in defence of what people held dear to them. Patriotism in the wider sense was more than just the love of one’s country.

To get a sense of the spirit in which the Volunteer movement was established locally, the following quote by Revd W Busfield, rector of Keighley Parish Church at a meeting held to establish a Volunteer Rifle Corps for Keighley (Airedale Rifle Corps) in the Leeds Intelligencer of 25 August, 1860 is pertinent:

‘Apart from the importance of the rifle Volunteer movement, I may perhaps be permitted to state one or two reasons why it is an eminently wholesome and salutary one. The Anglo-Saxon race from time immemorial have been fond of vigorous exercises and outdoor amusements. Our gentry will have their hunting, their moors, and their stubble fields; our middle and lower classes their cricket, foot-ball and wrestling matches. Well: let them follow out these active tastes, by combining the useful and agreeable. Let the useful and able of our population devote a few of their leisure hours to drilling, playing, (if you will) at soldiers, but showing, should any serious occasion arise, that they can do something more than play. Again, in these manufacturing districts a little diversion from the everlasting din of trade might be pleasant. The first Napoleon used to call us a nation of shopkeepers, and though there is nothing discreditable in the honest pursuit of commerce, we may be too entirely and exclusively absorbed in it.

‘…whatever tends to union and brotherhood is most desirable. We have class arrayed against class, to the formenting of mutual jealousies. Something has to be done to mitigate this estrangement. There is a growing toleration of diversities of opinion, and a meeting together of ranks on something like terms of equality. In our churches and chapels the rich and poor meet as one, with the conscious acknowledgement that ‘the Lord is the maker of them all’. Here is an opportunity for joining hand and heart on the same drilling ground, with no other rivalry than who shall be best and soonest fitted for serving his country in the hour of need.’

The general sentiments were consistent with those of the Bradford Cricket Club fifteen years previously and the Volunteers followed the same track as a focal, classless institution in the town which also promoted sporting activity. Hardly surprising perhaps that the leadership of the Rifle Volunteers was filled by prominent members of the cricket club, ironically to the detriment of the ‘Old Club’ which was deprived of their active involvement.

The culture of the Volunteer movement was aligned with that of sport because it fostered – indeed encouraged – competition between different corps who were de facto representatives of their towns. They competed with each other in a number of ways through shooting contests, membership numbers or the attainment of skills and by the late 1870s there were football games with corps raising their own teams. In so doing the Volunteers helped to institutionalise rivalries and this was seen to be in the interests of raising standards of military preparedness for the love of one’s country. Competitive rivalries of this kind were considered a positive phenomenon and equated local pride and patriotism with that at a national level.

Bradford’s volunteers

A good reference on the national Volunteer movement is provided by Hugh Cunningham’s book, The Volunteer Force (published in 1975). The point he makes is that to be a Volunteer required commitment of time, effort and money and despite the fact that membership invariably entailed some financial outlay, there was considerable enthusiasm amongst the working class. Cunningham observed that ‘the Volunteers were fired not so much by love of Britain as by pride in, and a sense of belonging in, their local community’ and indeed this was definitely so in Bradford. His further comments are equally relevant to Bradford: ‘More important, the local corps did not stem from some fringe element in the community, but were from the beginning associated with the local elite. They thus quickly came to play a part in local functions, and their success or failure was seen as a commentary on the civic or village leaders, and on the community as a whole.’

In January, 1860 there was a meeting at St George’s Hall to encourage membership of the Volunteer movement in Bradford on a par with Liverpool and Manchester. It invoked people to put as much energy into the movement as they did with regards to their business, above all emphasising pride in Bradford and the willingness of its people to undertake a patriotic duty. Politically, membership of the Volunteers would have promoted a conservative, unionist outlook.

Cunningham describes the Volunteers as ‘the spectator sport of mid-Victorian Britain’ and again this was true in Bradford. In June, 1862 fifty thousand people witnessed a review of the Volunteers at Peel Park during the Whitsun Gala and three years later, in 1865 sixty thousand watched a mock battle. In October, 1862 there was a ‘sham battle’ in the Upper Park at St. Ives near Bingley with 3rd YWRRVC contesting participating alongside corps from Guiseley, Keighley and Bingley and the day’s events were followed by band music and a firework display. It was described in the Bradford Observer of 9 October, 1862 as an ‘exciting but bloodless battle‘ and the scene of ‘an action fought under General Fairfax, in 1642, and where he encamped.’ The event was reported to have created great interest in Bingley with flags and banners on display and attended by a large number of people from visiting towns that raised £60 from the entrance fee.

The Volunteers brought a sense of pomp to events of the time being prominent in the parade for the opening of the Town Hall in 1873, the formal opening of Lister Park in 1875, the funeral of Sir Titus Salt in January, 1877 or the Royal Visit in 1882. There had been a tradition of military bands playing at Bradford CC games in the 1840s and this was inherited by the band of 3 YWRRVC who regularly played at the club’s Great Horton Road ground. (NB the Royal Visit in 1882 was commemorated by the Norman Arch at the corner of Lister Park in 1883 – the current stone structure replaced the original wooden edifice erected in 1882 and it was constructed with stone from Christ Church on Darley Street, Bradford which had been demolished in 1879).

The Artillery and Rifle Volunteers mobilised public support for donations and prizes, and encouraged attendance at events, whether band concerts, reviews in the park or dress balls. In this way they promoted a Bradford identity and loyalty. The Volunteers embraced civic consciousness and represented the town as its contribution to national defence and as a display of patriotism in Bradford. In short the Volunteers represented the pride and honour of the town on a national – it could be claimed, imperial – stage. Furthermore, if Bradford CC had been an early example of ‘Bradfordism’ and local patriotism, the Volunteers helped raise it to a new level and there would be a natural succession of this sentiment to the town’s senior football club.

Where the Volunteers had a direct impact on football was through the promotion of athleticism and physical activity. The philosophy was that to be effective in their duty, it would require more than military technique. This was as much to do with physical training as the need to make the Volunteers an integral part of the community from which they had been drawn. Speaking at the bazaar in May, 1861 (reported in the Bradford Observer) Lt-Colonel Lister, Commandant of the Rifle Volunteers spoke thus:

‘They wished to see the ground (ie Belle Vue) a place where, during the summer months, those citizens who felt so disposed might witness the drill of the corps from time to time, and also listen to the playing of the band. They proposed also, that the ground should be rendered instrumental for the encouragement of all kinds of manly games. For his own part, he should be glad if they could form a good cricket club. It was true that there was one club in the town which had rendered good service in this respect, and it might be that this ground could be rendered of value to the same end, either in connection with that club, or in some other way. His sole desire was to see this ground so employed that it should conduce to the healthy exercise of the population. There was nothing so clear as this, that we were too incessantly engaged in work which was destroying the mind and the brain, and that it would be a great gain to the community if we could regularly obtain such a variety of out-door relaxation as would tend to counteract this detrimental tendency.’

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From the outset therefore sport was identified as a means of providing an esprit de corps as well as an antidote to urban life and an example to all. In the 1860s, the leadership of the 3rd YWRRVC adopted a proselytising role to promote athleticism. Again, there is a parallel with what Bradford CC had previously considered to be its role in promoting recreational activity in the town from the 1840s.

The Rifle Volunteers were synonymous with the annual athletics festivals held at the Bradford Cricket Club’s Great Horton Road ground between 1869 and 1874. The festivals provided an invaluable public relations opportunity and members of the Volunteers (and the 3rd YWRRVC in particular) were omnipresent either as contestants or band musicians and its officers both organised events and awarded the prizes. Lieutenant-Colonel Hirst acted as President of the co-ordinating body, Bradford Athletic Sports.

The Volunteer movement was at the forefront of athleticism in Bradford and gyms were incorporated in the drill hall at Belle Vue in 1861 and at Hallfield Road in August, 1878. Membership of the Volunteers thereby provided access to facilities that were otherwise only available through private subscription. Involvement in gymnastic displays and athletic festivals provided an opportunity to promote athletic prowess and derive attention, not least recruit new members. For individual Volunteers it was also a great way to show off and derive local fame.

Perhaps not surprisingly, in August, 1875 a football club was established for members of the 3rd YWRRVC although, as mentioned previously there is no evidence that a Rifles cricket club became established to the same extent. The story of that club is told in a succeeding section and it had an important role for the corps in both recruiting new members as well as generating support for the Volunteers from the Bradford public. Football was justified as a suitable form of winter activity with drill tending to be confined to the summer. However, the officers may have also considered preparation for a football or cricket game as a better way to motivate the Volunteers than the repetition of marching or cleaning rifles.

The Manningham drill hall

The Bradford Observer of 5 December, 1861 reported the opening of the new drill hall by Lieutenant–Colonel Lister of Manningham Hall and its description of the building evokes the image of a Tintagel Castle in the midst of Manningham. The glamour of the building would have encouraged new recruits and its popularity is confirmed by the fact that season tickets were sold to the public allowing entry to the parade ground to watch the weekly parades.

The premises are fenced in with substantial stone walls, and are entered by gateways leading from Manningham Lane and Lumb Lane. The parade ground, which is upwards of an acre and a half in extent, is covered near the building with asphalt. The building, which is constructed with stone from the neighbourhood, is in the Italian style of architecture, and presents towards the parade ground a front 150 feet in length; it rests upon a raised terrace twelve feet wide, roofed in so as to form a covered walkway or verandah. The front and sides of the building are flanked with loopholed turrets so constructed that each face may be commanded by the rifle, and the whole, if necessary rendered defensible. The turrets are surmounted with flagstaffs, and the building with ornamental ventilators.

The building internally comprises a drill room, 97 feet by 60 feet and 30 feet high to the apex. For evening drill the room will be brilliantly lighted with gas. In an elevated recess there is a gallery capable of containing about forty musicians; it is also adapted as a platform for speakers. Communicating with the drill room is the armoury, 44 feet by 20 feet, against the walls of which are about 400 rifles. Corresponding with the armoury on the opposite side of the drill-room, there is the gymnasium, 44 feet by 20 feet fitted up with all the modern requisites for gymnastic exercises. There are also within the main building an officers’ orderly room, committee room and store room, all of ample dimensions. To the rear is a stable for the officers’ horses and at the side near Lumb Lane a very comfortable two storied dwelling house, occupied by the drill sergeant. The total cost of construction is £2,000.’ In 1893 the building was replaced with a more utilitarian structure described by contemporary observers as reminiscent of a mill building.

The following illustrations date from 1893. The architectural style adopted in 1893 was consistent with other Volunteer Barracks in northern cities. The best surviving example of which I am aware is on Norfolk Street near Bramall Lane in Sheffield and there is another in Hulme, Manchester which still exists as a territorial centre.

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The 2nd YWRAVC was originally based at Riddiough’s Hotel, Peel Park Hotel and the 5th  YWRAVC (from Bowling) at Bowling Iron Works. The amalgamation created urgency to relocate and at the annual prize awards in December, 1874 it was announced that the corps was seeking a building of its own, ‘more convenient and in every way suitable.’ Correspondents to the press complained about getting to Eccleshill, a factor of Bradford’s urban geography and deficient cross-town connections. In 1878 the Artillery Volunteers moved to new premises at Hallfield Road, occupying a school property that had been vacated following the opening of the new Bradford Grammar School in June, 1873 and donated by its commanding officer Major Ripley. Later, in 1894 the 2nd YWRAVC moved to larger premises off Valley Parade, immediately above and parallel to South Parade. The choice of this final address demonstrates that Valley Parade was regarded as accessible due to its relatively central location, and is confirmation of the site’s contemporary appeal.

The adjacent Belle Vue Hotel inevitably had close links with the barracks and served as a meeting room for officers. It was similarly associated with the history of Manningham FC and later that of Bradford City. [3]

Other public houses with links to the barracks included the Volunteers’ Arms on Green Lane and the Barrack Tavern on Lumb Lane. A connection with Manningham FC was that two of its celebrity players, Rob Pocock and Fred Clegg were the respective landlords in the 1890s.

The appeal of the Volunteers

It is quite possible that sport was the principal reason why men joined the Volunteers. As regards football, the 3rd YWRRVC had its own ground at Girlington and it would have provided many with an induction to, and enthusiasm for, the game.

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Recreational opportunities were a big attraction to joining the Volunteers. Other than football and athletics, rifle shooting was particularly popular with prizes available for winners of contests on Baildon Moor. Major Shepherd promoted target shooting through the West Riding Rifle Association, linked to the National Rifle Association and comprising many former members of the Volunteers.

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Membership of the Volunteers would have provided a degree of respectability and social prominence that would not otherwise have been accessible to people. The uniform itself was appealing to many, a handsome uniform being described as ‘the passport to the heart of a dame’ by the Bradford Observer in December, 1859. The original uniform of the 3rd YWRRVC in 1859 was reported in the Bradford Observer to be dark grey with black facings, beaded in red. This was changed to dark green in 1863 but in June, 1875, at the request of the members (and with benefactions from Lieutenant-Colonel Hirst, Major Shepherd and Major Muller), scarlet jackets with green facings were adopted to look more like regular soldiers. That same year the new Bradford Rifles Football Club then adopted scarlet and white as its colours.

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Attendance at annual camps, mainly at Scarborough, were also popular judging from participation levels which averaged around 90% of total members. Commenting on the reduction in membership of the 3rd YWRRVC in 1877, Colonel Hirst was quoted in the Leeds Mercury of 20 December, 1877 that one reason for this ‘was that the corps did not go into camp at Scarborough this year, and he was sorry that the heavy expense prevented the corps going every year.’ The following year the Volunteers returned to Scarborough and coincidentally enjoyed a recovery in numbers.

Additionally, the Volunteers participated in national events, including shooting competitions at Wimbledon and regular social occasions, such as dress balls that were heavily reported in the press. National and regional reviews were organised on a regular basis which appear to have been memorable occasions. As at Peel Park, displays by the Volunteers were well attended and established a precedent for mass spectator events. One such review was that of West Riding Volunteers at Doncaster race course in August, 1862 which involved 4,000 participants or which 270 from 3rd YWRRVC. The popularity of the event was demonstarted by the attendance of 10,000 spectators including what was described by the Bradford Observer as the ‘elite of the county’. The following month there was a review at Huddersfield involving 1,300 Volunteers and attended by 15,000 spectators.

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Subsequent reports of the Doncaster event suggest that it was a fairly riotous excursion with guns having been fired from the windows of railway carriages. The Bradford corps had been particularly disappointed by the fact that not only were they delayed in boarding their return train at Doncaster but several of the carriages booked by them had been filled with civilians and part of the Leeds corps. ‘The officers and privates had left great quantities of refreshments in the carriages for their return which included wines of various kinds…To their great disappointment, a large portion of the refreshments had been stolen. Of a large quantity of wine, only about half a bottle of claret was left.’ A commotion on the platform had involved the police and the Bradford Observer noted that: ‘The Bradford corps was treated with great rudeness by the officials connected with the Great Northern Railway.’ The train eventually arrived in Bradford at 1am having left Doncaster at around 10pm.

Much of the staple activity however was military drill which primarily involved marching around Bradford. This served a double purpose of making the Volunteers visible as well as keeping the men occupied and which conjures mental images of the childrens TV programme, ‘Trumpton’ combined with the grand old Duke of York. The suggestion that it was marching for the sake of marching is supported by a letter from a disgruntled member of the Volunteers wrote to the Bradford Observer on 1 November, 1873 complaining about ‘route marching’ around Bradford which ‘the officers interpreted as a march through the streets, stumbling along slippery paving stones, and visiting some of our charming back streets, and then back, tired and grumbling to the barracks.’ The lack of enthusiasm about marching may have encouraged the formation of a football team in 1875 as a means of raising morale.

Public exposure was also maintained by band performances in Lister Park. On the other hand, shooting practice in the park was less well received. In April, 1874 correspondence to the Bradford Observer referred to ‘the nuisance thrust upon us whether we like it or not – parading the best part of the park, frightening our children almost into fits, and wasting our money in useless cracking of guns – is more than I can swallow.’ Another writer asked: ‘Is the presence of our valiant defenders of the volunteer corps absolutely essential to the safety of those who frequent Manningham Park…There must be several other places in the neighbourhood of the town, where these men can play the soldier without being an annoyance to the peaceable and music-loving frequenters of Manningham Park.’

Attitudes to the military

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The Volunteer movement nationally was held to a degree of ridicule as a result of a member accidentally shooting a dog in Wandsworth Park, London in 1860 that led to the cry ‘who shot the dog?.’ Those in Bradford were not immune and the Leeds Times of 22 December, 1883 recorded a speech at a prize giving event in Bradford: ‘At the beginning of the Volunteer movement, and for years after that a Volunteer could scarcely walk the streets without being scoffed at, if not by men, at least by boys.’

However, the fact that the Volunteer movement was enduring confirms that it was both popular as well as credible. Cunningham comments that recruitment peaked when there were imperial crises and the record in Bradford was consistent with this. Notable was the surge in recruitment in 1884 at the time of the Egypt / Sudan crisis.

The attitude of the Bradford public to the Volunteers stands in contrast to that in respect of the regular army. In the 1840s, the popularity of the military in Bradford had been compromised by the anti-social behaviour of soldiers billeted in the town, one of the reasons behind the formation of the yeomanry at that time. Proposals to establish a military camp on Rombalds Moor in January, 1873 provoked considerable opposition among local people prior to being finally rejected in August of that year. As an alternative the barracks at Bradford Moor were expanded and instead of Rombalds Moor, the War Office selected Catterick which is now Europe’s biggest garrison town. How history could have been different.

The Bradford Observer of 8 January, 1873 reported that ‘an announcement was made some time ago that it was the intention of the Government to establish a military encampment on Rombald’s Moor’ but that recently ‘an inspector from the War Department has been in the district inspecting the locality, and it is generally understood that he has recommended that a tract of moorland of from 6,000 to 8,000 acres should be selected for a military camp on Rombald’s Moor, and that the land to be acquired will stretch over from Ilkley across the moor to Bingley.’ The choice was determined by the railway links in both Airedale and Wharfedale as well as the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Bingley ‘for the purpose of conveying the explosive stores.’

The suggestion drew opposition from people in Ilkley who feared ‘it would be disastrous for the town as a place of resort for visitors who there seek to be reinvigorated.’ A meeting of townspeople was told that it was to be the Aldershot of the north with up to 30,000 soldiers encamped and this prompted concern that ‘Satan would find mischief for idle hands’ who happened to be in the prime of their life.

A committee was formed comprising residents of Ilkley and Keighley to protest against the camp and in a letter to the Secretary of State for War included among its objections the ‘pernicious influence of young female lodgers.’ Specifically, it referred to the ‘peculiar temptations that would beset the large number of females who, owing to the higher scale of wages now prevailing, are enabled to live in lodgings and thus withdraw from parental authority and guardianship.’ However, the inveterate correspondent ‘Hortonian’ declared his support for the encampment in a letter to the Bradford Observer on 13 March, 1873 and suggested that apart from generating trade for the district it would be convenient in the case of rioting in Bradford.

Finally, on 9 August, 1873 the Bradford Observer reported that the War Office had abandoned the proposal on account of the uneven land and the ‘severity of the weather to which troops would be exposed during the colder months on such an elevated position.’ The women of Ilkley were safe.

The Bradford Volunteers were never called upon to fight. However, in 1884, at the time of the Egyptian crisis there was heightened excitement that provided the background to Manningham FC adopting claret and amber, the colours of the West Yorkshire Regiment. There was widespread speculation about a possible French invasion and in the event of Yorkshire troops being sent to Sudan, the Volunteers were on standby to provide cover at home. (NB The Bradford Rifle Volunteers of the 3rd West Riding Corps based at Belle Vue – in close proximity to Valley Parade – had close links to the West Yorkshire Regiment.)

How popular were the Volunteers?

On the face of it, the numbers involved with the Volunteers seem low. In 1871 the population of Bradford was 146,000 whilst at that time there were only 800 members in the various Bradford Volunteer corps. Hugh Cunningham wrote that Volunteers represented around 2% of the male population in Yorkshire, aged 15-49 between 1862 and 1881 whereas my estimate for Bradford in 1871 is that less than 1% of the population in this age group were members at that time.

Nevertheless, the statistics are misleading at face value and understate the significance of the movement. In 1884 it was reported that a total of 5,350 men had been members of the 3rd YWRRVC (excluding the artillery corps) since 1861. This number is broadly consistent with Cunningham’s analysis that the average period of membership was fairly low, often no more than three years and likely the period of adulthood before marriage. By that measure alone the proportion of adult males in Bradford who had been members at some stage of their life would have been much higher, possibly 8% (one in twelve) or more.

The significance of the Volunteers was more to do with the level of participation in the constituency from which they were drawn, by coincidence the same group behind the popularity of football in the 1870s. Cunningham concluded firstly that the median age of Volunteers was youthful – typically late teens to early twenties – becaming younger towards the end of the century, and secondly that the Volunteers tended to be drawn from middle class and artisan backgrounds. My estimate is that the total number of males aged 15-30 years in 1861 would have been around 20,000, increasing to around 24,000 in 1871. Of those I doubt that more than 7,500 were in the core catchment demographic at any one time and that being the case, underlying participation in the Volunteers in 1871 would have been in excess of 10% (ie more than one in ten of young males from middle class and artisan backgrounds).

In practice, participation in the Volunteers was restricted to those within close proximity of a drill hall (in Eccleshill, Manningham or Bowling) which means that the effective participation rate was even higher, maybe between 15-20% (which is to say one in seven, maybe one in five). Specifically, in a district such as Manningham where a drill hall was within easy reach, participation would have been greatest and if my estimates are correct it implies that membership was both fashionable and relatively commonplace.

Generous column inches in the local press was a product of media management but it also alludes to the popularity of the Volunteers in Bradford among the same socio-economic group that purchased those newspapers – again, the same group or constituency behind the take-off in football in the 1870s. Hence my strong belief is that among members of the middle and skilled working classes, the Volunteer movement was an extremely influential agent in shaping their behaviour and leisure practice and in Manningham, particularly so. What it meant is that the Volunteer movement helped popularise football, facilitate participation and encourage interest in the game.

Judged from reports of annual prize awards there is no evidence that the Bradford Rifle Volunteers suffered a loss of membership in the 1870s as a consequence of football offering an alternative attraction, a phenomenon that Cunningham says occurred in other parts of the country. A possible reason for this was that there was limited capacity within Bradford football clubs for additional members, a factor of land constraints that put a cap on how many clubs could exist (or teams fielded) in the first place. In my opinion the Volunteers retained and continued to recruit members locally for the very reason that the 3rd YWRRVC provided the means for its members to play. In other words there was hardly any incentive for someone to leave the Volunteers on account of wanting to play football because he had a better chance to do so with them. Besides, such was the reputation of the Volunteers as being at the forefront of athleticism in Bradford that it would have helped retain members. However this did not continue and by January, 1891 it was reported in The Yorkshireman that members were being lost to football, cricket and cycling.

In my opinion the significance of the 3rd YWRRVC in particular is that they made playing football a legitimate, respectable and also fashionable pursuit through promotion of a cult of athleticism as the basis of military preparedness. The Rifles club introduced many Volunteers to football and team listings in newspapers confirm that a number of individuals moved on to play with local clubs, including such as Manningham Clarence FC, a forerunner to Manningham FC.

Officers, Non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and privates serving in the 3rd YWRRVC were active members in each of the early football clubs, Bradford FC included. This went some way to define the nature of class relations between players of different backgrounds in the same teams but, equally as significant, it would have lowered the entry barriers for (skilled) working class players to participate in the game. An illustration of how the Volunteers democratised football is provided by the fact that when the Bradford Rifles played its first game in March, 1875 the team comprised two officers and nine NCOs. By the time of the fixture with Bingley in February, 1877 there were two officers in the side but only four NCOs.

The Volunteers encouraged a Bradford identity and the notion of a sense of purpose about their activities. Quite likely the Volunteers brought with them a military, objectives-focused attitude to the game that culturally paved the way to professionalism. In other words, their influence was as much to do with democratising football in Bradford as making it even more single-minded, played less for the sake of playing and more for the purpose of winning in fulfilment of a civic duty.

In the absence of member details it is impossible to gauge the numbers concerned but anecdotal evidence suggests strong representation of Volunteers within both the Bradford FC and Manningham FC teams. Members of the Volunteers and players from the 3rd YWRRVC football club were heavily represented among new joiners to Bradford FC in 1879 and in my opinion were behind a subtle shift in culture at the club following its relaunch at Park Avenue in 1880.

Manningham FC likewise had members from the same background and this goes a long way to explain why the club adopted claret and amber. The proximity of Belle Vue barracks similarly explains how Manningham FC (and later Bradford City) operated with minimal facilities at Valley Parade for so long and how the links with the Volunteers were sustained. The gym facilities were used for training and similarly the barracks were adopted as changing rooms until 1903 when facilities were finally constructed at the Bradford End of the Valley Parade ground. It was also the practice for Manningham FC to rent the Drill Shed for annual club meetings. (In 1906 the club adopted the Artillery Barracks on Cottingley Terrace off Valley Parade as its headquarters prior to the development of offices at the bottom of Burlington Terrace two years’ later.)

An advert in the Bradford City AFC programme for the fixture with Everton on 29th March, 1913 for the National Service League confirms the sympathy among the club’s leadership for military training as a form of patriotic duty. The National Service League was established in 1902 and lobbied for compulsory military training for home defence. For the generations involved with the Rifle Volunteers this would have struck a chord and is another illustration of the political outlook of the Valley Parade leadership that was strongly Conservative and imperialist in its support [4].

National Service League 29-Mar-13

Bradford Caledonian FC

A good number of the Volunteer soldiers were members of Bradford Caledonian FC during its short existence between 1873-79 and the connections between the two bodies provide good reason to assume close cultural and social affiliations. In turn, alumni of that club were hugely influential in the early history of both Bradford FC at Park Avenue and Manningham FC at Carlisle Road and later, Valley Parade. The name provides clues of the Scottish ancestry of certain members with Bradford Caledonian clubs having been long-established in Bradford since the early decades of the nineteenth century.

Among them were Arthur Perkins (a former member of Bradford Zingari FC) who moved to Bradford FC in 1877 and later acted as secretary of that club, most notably at the time of the infamous dispute with Manningham in March, 1887 and James Freeman, later President of Manningham FC. WF Frost, who first played for Caledonian in 1874 and then the Rifles in 1875 (and who also guested for Bradford Zingari in 1877), later joined Bradford FC and served as a committee member at the beginning of the 1890s. The Heron cousins – Albert and Ernest – who lived on Hallfield Road and Salem Street, undertook administrative responsibilities for Manningham FC and Bradford Caledonian respectively. Ernest’s occupation as an office assistant probably made him qualified by default.

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Others included the three Sim brothers who had been brought up on Southfield Square in Manningham. Their father, a minister of the United Presbyterian Chapel on Simes Street in Bradford, had died in 1864 when the boys were in their early teens. William in particular established a reputation as a keen sportsman, representing Manningham Albion Cricket Club in 1868 and then Bradford FC between 1870 and 1874. In 1874 he also played for Bradford Juniors possibly as a guest player to make up the numbers. At the start of the 1874/75 season he joined Bradford Caledonian and was instrumental in the launch of the Bradford Rifles club in August, 1875 of which one of his brothers was also a member. By the 1878/79 season he was captaining Bradford United and for the final two seasons of his career he played for Bradford FC once more. In total he played for at least five different Bradford sides and what appears to have led him to leave Bradford FC in the first place was its relocation from Girlington to Apperley Bridge in 1874.

By 1874 William Sim had been promoted to sergeant in 3rd YWRRVC and was active in its affairs, regularly winning prizes in rifle contests. He personified a local patriotism and hence his enthusiasm not only for the Rifles football club but later Bradford United and after 1879, Bradford FC.

The medal is that of Sergeant Slater of the Bradford Rifles awarded in a shooting contest in 1880. In 1875 he had been a founder member of Bradford Rifles FC.

The Belle Vue Barracks

In 2016 the Belle Vue Barracks on Manningham Lane were closed, thus ending a military heritage dating back nearly 155 years. With suitable investment and the sort of imagination that our Victorian forebearers displayed, the site could be utilised as an indoor training facility or sports centre. It would be a fabulous way to renew a sporting tradition and the link with Bradford City and a better alternative to the prospect of it becoming derelict.

John Dewhirst

From his book ROOM AT THE TOP (Bantamspast, 2016)

The author is keen to make contact with local collectors and/or historians with Bradford Rifles artefacts or relics in their possession.

Contact: johnpdewhirst at geeeeeeeeemaillllllll dotttt commm / tweets @jpdewhirst

NOTES

[1] Features about the serving and former BCAFC players who died in the Great War can be found on the author’s blog as follows: Feature on Jimmy Speirs; Feature on Bob Torrance; Remembrance Day reflections.

[2] The forgotten military heritage of Bradford sport: feature in the Bradford City AFC programme vs Plymouth Argyle on 11-Nov-2017

[3] The following link provides a history of the Belle Vue Hotel on Manningham Lane which had its own part in the history of both the Volunteers as well as Manningham FC / Bradford City AFC.

[4] The political allegiance of the Valley Parade leadership pre 1920 is discussed in this feature on VINCIT.

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Tweets: @jpdewhirst or @woolcityrivals

Other online articles about Bradford sport by John Dewhirst including those on VINCIT

John contributes to the Bradford City match day programme and his features are also published on his blog Wool City Rivals