Spen Victoria

Secretary: Peter Jackson
League Representative: Malcolm Hirst
1st Team Captain: Adam Brown
2nd Team Captain: John Ireland

Joined League: 1931
Division One Champions: 1944
Division Two Champions: 1943 1968 1979 1987
Second Team Division One Champions: 1977
Second Team Division Two winners: 1968
Priestley Cup winners: 1936 1944 1990
Priestley Cup runners-up: 1939 1956 1969 1971


The club was formed in 1862 and was originally associated with the Cleckheaton Wesleyan Chapel. Their home ground was at Whitecliffe Road. All of the members of that inaugural team had to attend chapel regularly to play and this meant they often struggled to field a side.

In 1865 the club moved to its current home at Spen Lane in Gomersal and they decided to call themselves Cleckheaton Victoria. In the following year they engaged their first professional, Mr B Doughty. The ground was purchased in 1902 and the club decided to build the existing pavilion and clubroom. It was officially opened in 1909.

Spen played in the Yorkshire Council and won the Heavy Woollen championship three times, in 1914, 1927 and 1930. They also won the Sunlight Cup – now the Heavy Woollen Cup – in 1894 but were defeated in the finals of 1889, 1905, 1914 and 1920.

It was in 1931 that Spen joined the Bradford League and they finished runners up in their first season. AC Rhodes topped the Bradford League batting averages with 46.88. They were also second in 1933 when Yorkshire and England batsman Wilf Barber was a key member of the side. The club recorded its first Priestley Cup triumph when Harold Mortimer led them to a 32-run win over Lightcliffe in 1936.

Despite the determined efforts of the consistent Clifford Sykes, Spen were relegated to Section B in 1942. Rather than being a disaster it proved to be the springboard to the club’s finest hour.
Armed with probably the strongest bowling attack in their history which was spearheaded by Derbyshire and England paceman George Pope and Yorkshire left arm spinner Arthur Booth, they romped to the Division B crown. Booth took 78 wickets and Pope (71).

Back in the top flight, Spen then enjoyed their greatest ever season. They won the Division A and Priestley Cup double as Booth and Pope again weaved their magic for a side which was shrewdly led by Sykes and included the talented batsman Arnold Hamer who scored over 605 runs while Pope took 67 wickets and Booth 61. Pope was the star of the Priestley Cup final. He top scored with 76 and took six for 36 as they defeated Yeadon by 72 runs.

After the war Spen experienced leaner times. They were relegated in 1949 but bounced back as runners up in Division Two in 1956 when they were also beaten in the Priestley Cup final by Pudsey St Lawrence, despite a hat-trick from their great opening bowler Percy Watson. He joined the club in 1954 from Salts after being recommended by Pope and was to play at Spen Lane for 17 years. During that time he was to gain most of his tally of more than 1,000 Bradford League wickets and in 1962 he recorded the best ever Bradford League bowling figures of ten for 11 against Yeadon.

Spen were relegated again in 1957 and had to wait until 1968 before returning to the top flight as Division Two champions. The yo-yo existence continued. Relegation in 1977 was followed by another Division Two triumph in 1979. They reached the Priestley Cup final in 1979 and 1981 but suffered defeats to Bingley on both occasions.

In the 1980s Spen’s ups and downs increased. They were relegated in 1982, 1985 and 1988 but hit back to make the top flight in 1983, 1987 as champions, and 1989. In 1990, inspired by the fast bowling of John Wood, Spen crushed Pudsey St Lawrence to lift the Priestley Cup.
Solly Adam was the captain of a talented side which included three players who were to go on to play first class cricket, Wood (Durham and Lancashire), Tim Walton (Northants and Essex) and Mike Smith (Gloucester and England).

The side also included Indian player Tosh Arothe who was part of a long line of overseas players who have enriched the cricketing landscape at Spen Lane. The first was the West Indies Test player Enoch St Hill, a fast bowler who appeared during war time, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s that the club invested consistently in overseas talent.

Iqbal Qasim and batsman Mansoor Akthar had both played for Pakistan at Test level before joining the club but it was Spen’s success at signing talented young players which was to bear fruit. Vinod Kambli, a fledgling left hander who had set a world record opening stand with Sachin Tendulkar in Bombay schools cricket, lit up Spen Lane in 1991 and made his Test debut against England the following winter hitting a double century in his third Test.

India has also capped Wasim Jaffer, who played for the club in 1998 and Rohan Gavaskar – son of the great Indian star Sunil Gavaskar. Lalchand Rajputt. Shaheed Butt, Jimmy Sangani, Abdul Jabbar and Seraj Bahutoule were other Indians to make their mark at Spen Lane. But one man – opening batsman Chris Pickles – dominated the 90s. The former Yorkshire all-rounder was a prodigious run scorer and topped 1,000 in three consecutive seasons from 1994-96.

The club won two Heavy Woollen Cups in 1996 and 1998 and after relegation in 1999, returned to the top flight at the first attempt as runners-up to Undercliffe in 2000. That promotion owed much to one man, Australian all-rounder Grant Lambert. He was so disappointed at seeing the club relegated during his first season in1999 that he set about restoring their top flight status in stunning style.

Lambert literally ripped up the Bradford League record book in the 2000 season. He set a new league scoring record of 1,683 runs, beating the previous best by over 200 runs, he hit a record seven centuries, and made the highest score of 170 against Manningham Mills. Lambert finished the season with an incredible average of 120.21 to easily top the league batting averages. For good measure he topped the bowling average too with 31 wickets at 7.77 each.
Lambert was engaged for a third season in 2001 and despite having to return set off for home in August to take up a contract with New South Wales, he scored 688 runs and took 38 wickets to help Steve Bethel’s side re-establish themselves in the top flight.

The 2002 season saw the club engage Pakistani fast bowler Rao Anjum as their overseas star. He topped their batting and bowling averages in a season when Spen’s young side finished ninth after an inconsistent campaign. Anjum starred with the bat in 2003 as Spen surprised everybody and finished second behind Pudsey Congs, but the loss of a passport while on international duty meant he missed the 2004 campaign when Spen narrowly avoided relegation on the last day of the season.

They weren’t so fortunate in 2005 when after losing many of their experienced side they were relegated after winning only two matches.

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