Huddersfield – a Yorkshire county out the ground from the past. As with Headingley, the cricket ground was joined onto a rugby league ground Richards, Greenidge, and Tavaré all had their day here. The WCM article was interesting to me, many years later old pavilion is now a mosque.
Paul Bolton laments the abandonment of a ground that knew Hirst and Rhodes YORKSHIRE’S list of venues for 1983 has one notable absentee which will be greeted with both disappointment and relief. Relief, for the Fartown ground at Huddersfield, is neither picturesque nor comfortable. It sits on top of a slight incline above the town and affords members a view of slate-grey roofs which slope gently away to the town center, where they merge with the chimneys of the textile mills.
For the paying customer, there is a more scenic view of wooded slopes which stretch away to meet the moors which surround the Pennine town. The playing area is dwarfed by the towering green and yellow stand of the Rugby League ground — a dominance that is reflected off the field. In recent years Rugby League has been the sport at Fartown, with cricket increasingly becoming the poor neighbor. Dwindling finances at the cricket dub have added to
the problem. The responsibility of pitch preparation has moved from a full-time groundsman to a volunteer force of club members. It is the pitch that has made the news recently, but it is for other reasons that Fartown will be remembered. Seating on the ground is both scarce and at best primitive. The rotten wooden benches which must have been laid out long before Wilfred Rhodes was born to get fewer each year, being replaced by the seating of a more temporary but equally uncomfortable nature.
Further discomfort is caused by ash from a perimeter track which obscures play and, when the wind blows, gives spectators the appearance of miners. Unfortunately, Fartown and wind seem peculiarly synonymous. Despite the lack of facilities Fartown will be sadly missed — not least by the Yorkshire treasurer. For Fartown always meant a full house: 1977 saw a record for paid attendance on a Sunday, and 1981 brought an arctic day but a 5000 crowd complete with blankets and raincoats. Fartown never lacked atmosphere. The ground has not been one on which
the home county has met with much success. After steady use up to 1955, the county made only brief friendly appearances until Sussex was defeated in a Sunday League slog in 1969. No further action then until 1974, but this started a sequence of matches which was unbroken until now. Yorkshire’s only victories in this period were easy wins over Northants and Derbyshire in 1974 and 1975. However, this lack of success was more than compensated for by spectacular individual performances.
While members with longer memories might look to the 1940s as the golden era at Fartown, the younger members will warmly remember the more recent past. Two innings by Chris Old in 1975 and again the following year will long stay in the memory. Few of those present could believe that a cricket ball could travel so far, or that it was a cricket bat and not a blunderbuss which Old was wielding. In 1977 the Yorkshire bowlers were carved up by a partnership of 144 by Messrs Richards and Greenidge, who launched a blitz upon the adjoining bowling green and the chapel across the road.
Sheer butchery. Possibly the most spectacular innings came from a most surprising source. In the 1981 fixture, a certain C. J. Tavare stroked 97 runs in just one hour at the crease. So relaxed and effortless were the innings that those present will never believe that the same player has difficulty driving the ball off the square in Test matches. Surely, he must have a twin brother. The curtain fell on this latest chapter of the Fartown story with a gripping match in 1982.
A game that swung sharply one way and then the other saw Worcestershire snatch a last-over win with a driven six by Phil Neale, a shot spectacular enough to equal many of those played over previous years and a fitting end to cricket at Fartown. Or is it? While Yorkshire has decided that three West Yorkshire venues are too many, other moves are afoot to try to keep top-flight cricket at Fartown. A local restaurateur has offered a reported £15,000 prizemoney for a double-wicket competition. If this goes ahead then Fartown will again see the world’s best: and no doubt a large crowd — and the wind — will welcome them.
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