ALL OUR YESTERDAYS
THE HC&AC STORY
The 3rd and final part of our story about the club and team that has been the most successful ever in the history of bowling in Huddersfield.
The HC&AC Yorkshire Cup-winning team of 1966 (photo courtesy of Paul Rangeley).
Left to Right (back row): R. Taylor, G.Cowgill, F. Spivey, A. Schofield, B. Rangeley, A.R. Young, W. Davies, D. Blacker (front row): R. Clegg, P. Murgatroyd, G. Townsend, Club president – name unknown, H. Rowe, J.W. Binns, G.A. Hirst
One of the oldest and the most successful bowling clubs in the area in the last 120 years was the now defunct Huddersfield Cricket & Athletic Club (HC&AC) or as they became known, ‘Fartown’.
In the Huddersfield Veterans League they won the Section 2 title in 1982 after lifting the Section 3 title four years previously and were Team KO Winners in 1981. However it was in other competitions that they really made their mark with a string of top awards in local, county and national competitions. They lifted the Huddersfield League’s top team competition, the Subscription Cup, 12 times between 1924 and 1980.
Then the ultimate prize of the Yorkshire Cup was won on six occasions (as well as being runners-up four times) the first being in 1897 when they beat Chapeltown at Ilkley and the last in 1970. The last win came about by a concentrated effort to bring the best bowlers to the club specifically to win the County title and, with the financial support of the Sellers family who were generous supporters of the Fartown sporting hub, they achieved that aim.
In recognition of reaching that Final the team was kitted out in new plum coloured blazers, slacks, shirts and Panama hats with ‘Fartown’ banding around the rim. The team were expected to wear the full outfit when travelling to any away game the year following their last success to intimidate their opponents. Ken Atkinson was a member of that successful side and he recalls one occasion when the team was congregating to travel in their resplendent outfits that another team member, the unique Jack Hewitt, announced that they looked like a brass band on the road.
Besides Ken (Elland C&BC) and Jack (Lindley Lib) other current Veterans League bowlers who played at HC&AC were Alan Hirst (Thongsbridge), John Wright and Chris Squires (both Milnsbridge BC). The captain of the last County Cup winning team was Fred Whitehead from Wakefield who was a local bowling legend. Also remembered as a great tactician with good man-management and motivational skills. His list of individual honours from the sport is huge but included the Champion of Champions title twice, in 1964 and 1974, the Huddersfield Merit in 1970 and the Talbot championship at Blackpool in 1968 eventually culminating in the title of All England Champion in 1974.
The HC&AC club was first formed in 1875 by the amalgamation of St Johns’ Cricket Club and Huddersfield Athletic club. The club was located at the St Johns site, on Spaines Road in Fartown. Crown green bowling came along a little later and two bowling greens were built on the HC&AC complex. The big bottom green [50x40 yards] was used in the sixties and seventies for the prestigious Websters Brewery Northern Counties handicap. Playing 31-up off a maximum 7+ handicap on Sundays it attracted bowlers from several northern counties. Later a green wide scorers shelter was erected at the end across the lane from Fartown WMC’s green.
The smaller top green [45x35 yards] was a tricky green favoured by ‘homesters’. Both now gone with the rest of the sporting infrastructure that harbours so many sporting memories for the many sports that thrived there including football, rugby league, all forms of athletics, cricket as well as crown green bowling and not forgetting the indoor sports with a snooker hot-bed developed on the back of a number of tables being installed.
The subsequent decline of the bowling club paralleled the decline of the Rugby section. In 1984 HC&AC club was taken over by the late John Bailey and renamed ‘Arena 84’. The club’s snooker tables had been sold when the late Jack Broadbent turned up to play a competition match. This leading to further reduce support of the club was the last straw and the decline was well and truly on but not before the two greens were among the 16 greens selected for the 1986 Easter Handicap with an entry list exceeding 300 bowlers but by then the greens were fast deteriorating and it was to be a swansong before the ultimate passing of Fartown into Huddersfield’s sporting heritage.
Below is the HC&AC St John’s Stone featuring Hercules which was originally sited above the entrance to the Apollo Gymnasium on St John’s Road for over a 100 years and is now resting in the memorial garden at the John Smith Stadium.