Many of Thurstonland opponents in its earliest seasons survive today. This is no small tribute to the enthusiasm for the game of cricket in the Huddersfield area. Indeed, if English cricket is strong when Yorkshire cricket is strong, surely Huddersfield has played a large part in keeping standards high in the county. What teams, then, made up the early fixture list?
Current Central League rivals played in those early days in the 1870’s include Holmbridge and Cumberworth. Opponents now in the District League were Kirkburton, Shepley, Shelley, Scholes, Lepton Highlanders, Armitage Bridge and Almondbury.
Other redoubtable foes were such teams as Farnley Tyas, New Mill, Upper Cumberworth, Cliffe End (Longwood), Lindley Wesleyan and Netherthong, now all sadly defunct.
The earliest traceable scorecard is one for a game on May 6th 1876 against New Mill. It was played at Thurstonland on the first of the three grounds the club has had during its existence. Today it is still possible to see where the square was on the field next to Willie Burgess’s farm near the Rose and Crown off Hawcliffe Lane.
No doubt pre-match talk was as earnest as it is today and afterwards we can be sure that E. Heap’s feat of carrying his bat would be a source of pride amongst the New Mill team whilst for Thurstonland, W. Thewlis took five wickets at the start of what was a most successful season for him. After New Mill he dismissed five at Shelley, Farnley Tyas, Kirkburton and Holmbridge. In addition six batsmen had no answer to him at Scholes whilst his home ground saw him take the same number of wickets against Upper Cumberworth.
J.Booth also did well with seven wickets against Shelley on September 2nd 1876 and the other five left to him by W. Thewlis against Holmbridge.
Here then are the available details for the game against New Mill.
E. Heap, 20 not out D. Taylor 6, F. Tinker 0, G. Hirst 7, M. Pink 1,
S.Booth 0, J. Moorehouse 10, C. Lockwood 2, F. Moorehouse 2, J.
Hinchclifre 2, G. S. Greaves 1, Extras 7, Total 58.
S.Walker 0, J. Booth 2, F. Schofield 21, W. Hadfield 6, W. Thewlis 0,
J.Walker 5, J. Heywood 3, E. Bottomley 4 not out, J. Pontefract 1 not
out, Extras 10, Total 52 (7 wickets).
Others who played in 1876 were L. Hirst who ‘batted in splendid form for his 21’ at Kirkburton, a game won by two runs 69-67, W. Pontefract and N. Gill. Another noteworthy batting feat was by the redoubtable W. Thewlis who was bowled for 22 against Farnley Tyas, making that quite an afternoon to remember for him.
In this season one is struck by the low scores. Only twice did scores pass 80 and both were by Thurstonland. On the 20th May in ‘an easy victory at Shelley’ a score of 86 was made before dismissing the opponents for 35 whilst Scholes could muster only 19 in reply to Thurstonland’s 94 on July 29th. The last two games of the season were remarkably low scoring:-
September 2nd Shelley 38, Thurstonland 34.
September 9th Thurstonland 31, Holmbridge 23.
The ‘Morning Post’ during this season noted a pleasing improvement in the wicket at Lords as they were ‘truer and freer of bumps’. The correspondent goes on to say, ‘We could never see the merit of Lords as it was when the ball bumped and shot in an incalculable manner, and when the batsman had to look to his limbs as well as his wicket’. If this were the case at cricket’s headquarters then one can imagine that local wickets must have also presented problems and this probably accounts for the relatively low scores produced then.
After the season’s close on November 4th J. Pontefract, a playing member, prosecuted a member of the public for poaching on his land. It was not long before a move was made to the club’s second ground at Disney’s Field, situated near the road junction in the centre of the village. This was the club’s home until 1900 when the move was made to the present headquarters. Harris Thewlis was the chief figure involved in building the pavilion.
League cricket in the area was soon on the scene to stimulate competitive interest but at first challenges were occasionally the order of the day. The losers of a game would pay for supper all round so you did not like to lose and two formidable Thurstonland stalwarts, W. Coldwell and W. Thewlis (about whom much has been heard already) used to challenge all-comers to single wicket matches.