When people think of sport in Leeds, they are inevitably drawn to football as the most high profile, but Leeds was a cricket and rugby city long before football timidly set about infiltrating the population’s extra-curricular time.
Indeed this was long before rugby was split into union and league, but both cricket and the oval ball game still flourish in the city with professional clubs of the highest calibre (let’s not get bogged down in how superior they currently are to the city’s football team...) and a healthy smattering of amateur clubs thriving in various local leagues and on green pastures throughout the city walls.
Few sounds sum up Yorkshire and summer like the sound of leather on willow and a hopeful and often futile ‘howzat’ appeal combined with hearty laughter from the clubhouse bar.
Most local cricket clubs have a successful and welcoming social scene, and are a great place to stop off on your travels on a summers’ weekend, where the kids can run about and enjoy an ice cream while you have a drink and relax with some ‘sticky wickets’, ‘silly mid-offs’, ‘right arm googlies’ and ‘golden ducks’.
North Leeds Cricket Club
Situated on the edge of Roundhay Park at ‘The Homestead’, the long-established and ambitious North Leeds club has three senior sides and several junior sides. They hold an annual beer festival in their recently-refurbished clubhouse, which gives a professional appearance to this picturesque ground. North Leeds has also been the venue in recent years for the traditional Boxing Day cricket match against the Northern Cricket Society.
The drive down the leafy Lawns Lane towards New Farnley Cricket Club is something of a corridor of uncertainty, but at the end, the club and its tree-lined pitch appears like a utopian netherworld. The excellent pavilion and facilities therein are supplemented by plenty of grassy space around the boundary edge and a seating area for spectators. The pavilion also hosts the ‘Square on the Lane’ café, which is open during the week.
East Leeds Cricket Club
Not far from the city centre on Pontefract Lane and near East End Park is the proud and distinguished East Leeds Cricket Club. Chairman Dennis Nicholson recently won an accolade for his ‘Outstanding Services to Sport’ at the Leeds Sports Awards, which include his organising of all club events, junior training nets and the cricket teams at all levels.
Just a Fred Truman full toss away from Headingley’s home of Yorkshire County Cricket Club (CCC) is St Chad’s Broomfield. This village club in the inner city was formed 130 years ago via St Chad’s Church, and merged with the nearby Broomfield club in 1979. They play on Otley Road adjacent to the Becketts Park university campus and opposite Woodies pub, with the St Chad’s Church providing an attractive backdrop.
Bringing some international flavour to the burgeoning Leeds local cricket scene since 1948 is the Caribbean club based on Scott Hall Road, Chapeltown. The club was first set up by the Jamaican Society of Leeds just after the Second World War, and now boasts three senior teams and a women’s team. Naturally, there are links with some of the famous West Indies players visiting Leeds for test matches, and the current chairman is former Leeward Islands player Harwood Williams.
Another club with a good innings and a history as vast as the sprawling park that it is located in, Horsforth Hall Park was established in 1890 and hence has some 125th anniversary plans for 2015. Prior to the club forming, the Hall Park ground was the venue for a first class match, with Yorkshire CCC playing one match there in 1885. The club was a founder member of the Airedale and Wharfedale Senior Cricket League in 1936, and the well-appointed ground has acres of space for the kids; there's often has a funfair just yards from the boundary edge.
Pudsey Congs Cricket Club
Formed in 1892, the unusual name comes from the gothic architecture of the Congregational Church around which the club originally formed a team. In the late nineteenth century almost every church and chapel in Leeds supported two or three cricket teams, but this particular one has grown to produce several Yorkshire players over the years, including England fast bowler Matthew Hoggard. They now play at the Britannia Ground having moved from Queen’s Park in 1977, and often stage friendlies with Yorkshire CCC, including a recent T20 game featuring Yorkshire Vikings versus a Bradford Cricket League Xl.
Morley Cricket Club
In truth, there are dozens of well-run and typically charming cricket clubs in the many outlying villages around Leeds. We could feature any one from Methley, Guiseley, Gildersome or Carlton Cricket Club plus countless others, but this one in Morley is particularly significant because of its Scatcherd Lane ground. This still hosts Morley rugby union team today but is famous as the venue for the first ever competitive game of Leeds City – forerunners of Leeds United – in 1904. The cricket field is now adjacent to the rugby ground and in-between is the excellent clubhouse/pavilion which hosts a huge annual beer festival, which we can personally recommend.