|Secretary: Bruce Lunn|
|League Representative: Rod Heyhoe|
|1st Team Captain: Jonathan Wilson|
|2nd Team Captain: Gareth Stevens|
|Division Two Champions: 1939 1985S
Second Teams Division One Champions: 1957 1958 1967 1968 1970
Second Teams Division Two Champions: 1961 1995
Priestley Cup winners: 1926 1937 1950 1955 1964
Priestley Cup runners-up: 1936 1972 1977
Priestley Shield winners: 1929 1968 1979
Lightcliffe Cricket Club was formed in May 1875 and their first match was at Leeds Grammar School. Originally they played at West Field, almost a mile along Wakefield Road from the present ground. The outstanding player in these years was batsman Seth Foster.
In the early 1890s the club moved to its present ground and in 1894 became founder members of the Halifax District League, in which they competed until 1914, when the Halifax Parish League was formed. In that year they created a Parish Cup record score for a game started and finished in one afternoon, making 419 against Greetland, who were bowled out for 109. Wilfred Aspinall, father of Herbert scored 138 not out.
In 1919 Lightcliffe joined the Halifax section of the Yorkshire Council, before entering the Bradford League in 1924, under the captaincy of W. H. ‘Bert’ Foster, who subsequently became league president. A prominent player was Harold Sharp who was then nearing the end of a long career at the club. He began keeping detailed records of every match from the entry into the Bradford League.
The appearance of the ground was little different from today. There were three tennis courts and a flourishing tennis section, which continued until the 1970s and the present pavilion, in red and white, had been opened in 1922. There were many more benches 80 years ago because there were more spectators. A minute of a committee meeting in 1926 records a decision to erect a canvas barrier above the wall on the bottom side of the ground to prevent locals watching matches without paying! This was the final year of Foster’s captaincy, and he was succeeded by opening batsman Ronnie Somers, a fine athlete, who was a county hockey player and very fast in the field.
In the same year, 1926, Lightcliffe recorded the first of their five Priestley Cup successes, beating Lidget Green by 133 runs. Sam Cadman, a professional from Derbyshire, scored 103 not out and W. Hirst took five for 33 in 30 overs. Two charabancs travelled from Lightc1iffe to Bradford Park Avenue for the game, one of them being paid for by club president Algernon Denham, who also provided two bottles of champagne for the players and committee. The cup was subsequently placed on view in the windows of a number of local shops.
Lightcliffe’s most prolific cricketer, Albert Hartley, made his debut in 1925 as an 18-year-old. During his career he played 572 games, scoring 10,490 runs, taking 1,028 wickets with his slow left arm spin and making 306 catches. His best season was 1949 when he scored 607 runs at 33.72 and took 79 wickets at a little over 12 apiece. He missed occasional seasons when he was a professional at other clubs, most notably Nelson, where he succeeded Learie Constantine.
Only Roger Stead, with over 600 has beaten Hartley’s number of appearances, and Martin Radcliffe (1959-81) passed Hartley’s runs total in his final season, finishing with 10,722. Hartley was a key member of the Lightcliffe side which defeated Great Horton by 74 runs in the 1937 Priestley Cup final. He was a contemporary and close friend of the dapper Charlie Young, who played from 1928 to 1949, and was captain towards the end of his career.
They brought with them to the club a young neighbour who was making a reputation for himself as a promising cricketer and footballer. All-rounder George Bottomley made his first-team debut in 1933 and played his final game in 1962. Like Hartley, he occasionally played elsewhere as a professional and, it was while he was at Pudsey St. Lawrence in 1955, that he played against Lightcliffe in the Priestley Cup final. Lightcliffe won by four wickets!
As a footballer he had the chance to sign for Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal but took his boss’s advice and made a career with local carpet firm T F Firth and Sons. He stood down as club chairman in 1998, but continued to be an active member of the committee.
Another stalwart during the early decades in the league was Harry Taylor, a master at Bradford Grammar School, who opened the batting with Somers. He won the league batting in 1928, his first season. The leading bowler was Joe Hirst, whose sons, Donald and Raymond, were at Lightcliffe from 1948 to 1951 before playing for many years at Hartshead Moor. They were both members of the 1950 cup-winning team, as was Albert Smith, the former league president. They defeated East Bierley by one run.
Herbert Aspinall played his first game in 1940 and went on to make 501 appearances before he finished in 1967. He was captain from 1949 until 1966, a period during which Lightcliffe won the Priestley Cup three times, 1950, 1955 and 1964. As a player he is best remembered for a brave knock of 43 in the third of those finals, when he held together a foundering Lightcliffe innings in a game eventually won by just 12 runs again against East Bierley. However, he was much more than a player. As long-serving secretary and league representative he supervised all aspects of the club with a military efficiency. He was also groundsman for the last two decades of his life.
In the early years of Aspinall’s captaincy the all-round talents of Hartley were the pre-eminent force in the side, augmented by the runs and wicket keeping skills of Roy Booth. When he later joined Worcestershire Booth was replaced by Donald Garside, a young wicket keeper from Triangle in the Halifax League. In a career lasting from 1955 to 1979, Garside made 554 appearances.
In the late 1950s and for most of the 1960s Lightcliffe had its own ‘Three W’s’ to rival Worrell, Walcott and Weekes. These were Alan Warren, Brian Whitham and Harry Waterhouse. Warren and Waterhouse were consistently heavy-scoring batsmen – Warren won the league averages in 1965 with 768 runs at 54.87 – second was Lewis Pickles, then at Pudsey St. Lawrence, with an average of 41.78. Off-spinner Whitham, still playing friendly cricket in his seventies, took 529 wickets in his first ten seasons at the club.
From 1963 Lightcliffe had 14 seasons in the First Division, their longest spell in the top flight. A cornerstone of this side was Radcliffe, remembered not only for his 10,000 career runs, but also as fine a cover-point as any in the league. Indeed, he was once compared on the old Home Service with Sir Jack Hobbs as a fielder in that position. With Bruce Deadman and Peter Westerby he led the way in an athletic fielding side. All three were captains of the team. Radcliffe became, in 1978, the first amateur batsman to make 1,000 runs in a season. At the time this was a rare achievement; in fact, he was only the sixth in the history of the league to reach 1,000 runs and most of the others had been Test cricketers.
Mike Bore took more than 100 wickets in the same season, a figure not achieved since then. Lewis Pickles, doyen of opening bats, joined Lightcliffe in 1970, and played for 16 seasons, often making as important a contribution with his off-spin as with his runs. For some years he, leg-spinner Vijay Modgill, and off-spinner David Atkinson bowled many of Lightcliffe’s overs. It is a testimony to the skill of wicketkeeper Garside that, in 1979, his final season, he won the Stan Longbottom ‘ Safe Hands’ Trophy for most stumpings in the league.
Rodney Heyhoe first came to Lightcliffe Cricket Club, wearing short trousers, in the early 1950s to be coached by Major Wade, who organised junior cricket at the time. Rod has, until recent injuries, played first and second team cricket as batsman, underused bowler and occasional wicketkeeper. He was club secretary and league representative and unpaid groundsman for many years, putting a prodigious amount of time and craft into the upkeep of the field, buildings and machinery. With a talent for hard work, and an acceptance of only the highest standards, it is true to say that Lightcliffe could not be the club it is without his selfless contribution.
Roger Stead’s career spans five decades, his debut having been made in 1968 when he was a tearaway young fast bowler. With maturity his pace has decreased but not so his ability to hit massive sixes. He captained the side for many years in the 1980s and 1990s and still regularly plays for the second team.
That Lightcliffe manages to survive in a high standard of cricket has always been partly due to the quality of its local amateur players and the willingness of committee members to organise the many different activities of a busy cricket club. Despite the problems caused by a short-term lease, and the need to rely on voluntary efforts for income, the club is in a strong position, with three senior and six junior teams. There are also ambitious plans to extend the pavilion to provide improved changing and social facilities. Lightcliffe will continue to be a village club playing in a professional league.