Tuesday 4 October 2011

Cleckheaton Football Club - Part Two

Cleckheaton did not join the Northern Union until a merger with Liversedge in 1900 when, under the Liversedge name, the club took part in the Yorkshire Senior Competition. The Cleckheaton section was the dominant partner and, even though the club was known as Liversedge, games were played at Cleckheaton's Whitcliffe Ground. The Cleckheaton colours of red and white were adopted and the club had Cleckheaton based officials. The name was changed to Cleckheaton at a meeting at the Punch Bowl Hotel on Monday 18th August 1902. The club continued until 1905/06 in the Yorkshire Senior Competition and then in the Yorkshire Combination. In the final season, Cleckheaton took part in a series of Workshop Competitions.

During the 1890s the Spen Valley clubs were great rivals. Local derbies and Yorkshire Cup-ties at Whitcliffe often produced large attendances. In March 1892, a Yorkshire Cup game against Leeds Parish Church had an attendance of over 6,000. The Whitcliffe Ground in 1892 was described as 'well looked after'. It had baths and turnstiles and the boundary had been improved. The hoardings around the field had been repaired and the boards at the White Chapel end of the ground moved back to allow more spectators.

The 1894 Ordinance Survey Map showing the Cleckheaton Ground

Cleckheaton's decision not to join Liversedge and Heckmondwike in the Northern Union was thought to be one of the causes of the club's decline during the late 1890s. The local derbies had ceased and, because of the Northern Union opportunities offered at Liversedge and Heckmondwike, the fortunes of the club were described in 1900 as at 'a very low ebb' by Mr Balderson, one of the members. According to Mr B. Roberts, the club treasurer, at the 1902 Annual General Meeting, not joining the Second Division of the Northern Union in 1900, as the players had wished to do, had resulted in a missed opportunity for Cleckheaton.

Soccer began to dominate the sporting scene in the area in the early 1900s and, following the demise of Cleckheaton, it was many years before rugby could regain some of the ground it once held in the Spen Valley.

Trevor Delaney has written a very interesting 'Brief History of Liversedge Old Rugby Club', including mentions of Cleckheaton, in issue 11 of a publication called Code 13 that appeared in June 1989.

I will be writing some articles about Liversedge that will be posted on this site in the coming weeks.

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